Stop Twittering and Start Designing For Yourself

Did I get your attention? Probably with such an outlandish headline. I’m not saying you should run off and cancel your beloved Twitter account, but I am proposing that instead of tweeting, surfing the web, playing farmville on facebook or chatting on Adium you should take some time each week on just Designing For Yourself.

Many propose you should design something every day, but personally I don’t think your own personal creativity should be set within such a rigid guideline. I love what I do and I have great clients but I still need a creative outlet to just experiment and have fun and I don’t want the pressure of forcing myself to do it everyday as I only want to design for myself when I feel inspired to do so.

Although if you are one of the determined folk doing a Design Daily 365 (like this fantastic logo based project), kudos to you and keep on going!

So each week I take some time to create, learn, experiment and let loose on a simple design project. Lately I’ve been obsessed with Collage and in particular combining this with vintage photos and views from bygone eras.

My latest piece is the first in a Collage based series called ‘Yes Dear’ which is a playful look at the role of women in post-war Britain. It was actually inspired by an ad featured in 15 Sexist Vintage Ads.

The amazing stock images were from ThinkStock which gives me access to a huge collection of images and illustrations. I aim to create a complete series of 6 over the next month, but hey, if takes a little longer, that’s cool because it’s just for me!

I’m Not Alone

I asked on Twitter if others were creating for themselves, and if so why and got some fab replies:

@psdesignuk I design for myself all the time for practice and to keep my portfolio fresh with new ideas. Some are successful, some not.

@SeanHood Yes, I get inspired by sites and try to recreate them in HTML+CSS to test my knowledge and learn new techniques.

@DanielApt I always experiment while designing, if you don’t experiment, you become stagnant as a designer.

@prestondlee I actually try to experiment and design outside the box even when I’m working on client projects. People like to be different.

@AtiKuSDesign I do. I find that it keeps my mind fresh and I learn new techniques I would otherwise have no opportunity to try.

@PaintedPages Yes, I do play w/ design / experiment in my free time – it relaxes me quiets my thoughts calming meditative even.

@daxjustin YES. Unorchestrated, spontaneous, freedom = Best learning.

@refreshcreation Yup, It’s fun to do and it sure helps to improve my skills at designing. When you come up with something neat, it can always be used later on for a client/tutorial write-up.

@tkenny I do because being in full control of personal projects is the only way I can truly and 100% enjoy my work.

@sbparks Yes, sometimes I like to design things for people just to make them laugh or smile, so that could be a custom card or an e-card.

@alanhornedotcom I do it in my spare time, as at the moment i also have a full-time web dev job.

@OppDes I definitely design & experiment for myself in my free time. it’s part of what keeps me loose & constantly learning.

@danredding Yes! It’s important to have fun. I also think it’s crucial to show people pure expressions of my design personality.

@hidobrado Most of my time is spent design/experiment for myself because I’m just starting out. It’s the best way to learn skills!

@kumailht Just to get away from clients and realize how much you actually love design.

@mustardamus Yes. Primary: curiosity. Secondary: Learn new things and see if ideas work out. Hacking around is fun!

@gavinelliott All the time because I love what I do.

@designjunction Why ? Its like a daily work-out & it helps me explore styles/ideas to come-back later on & do some nice personal projects.

@pixeldeath Always experimenting with design, free time or work time. Got to keep things fresh and sharpen the skills.

As Designers (or developers), it’s important to shut out social media, unplug the phone and just be spontaneous, unorchestrated and free by creating something just for us. The upside is that practice makes perfect – the more we use our skills the better we become and it reminds us all just how much we love design.

Flickr Group Project

I’ve created a Flickr Group called Me, Myself & Photoshop where I would love all of you to upload some of your creations (which I will be doing as well). It doesn’t have to be created in Photoshop either!

I’ve also created a new Flickr account just for posting design work, so feel free to friend me on it or my photographic account.

Do you step away from client work to design for yourself? If so what motivates you and what form does it take?


  1. Hi Grace,

    Yes I think it’s really important to do some of your own design projects. It’s a great way to learn more about stuff your interested in and to stretch yourself. Many designers will have great clients but the work might get a bit “samey” after a while so to avoid burnout and to have fun start making your own posters or collages or whatever. I’ve found that designs I’ve done for fun have found their way into my paid work because I feel I’ve tested ideas out.

    Anyhooo, thanks for the post.

  2. Alan says:

    Ohh i made it on your blog 😛

    I completely agree though, trying to do a new design everyday just isn’t feasable in most peoples lifes, like tonight im babaysitting a 7month old baby, so sitting on Photoshop isn’t going to happen, lol.

    But as long as you constantly have something in mind and do things here and there, your creative juices get an outlet.

  3. Yari says:

    It’s always such a treat to have time to design for yourself. To literally let loose and do whatever you want, however you want to.

    Sometimes, its hard to find the time, so I try to justify my for-fun designs by designing projects that I want to get more of (ie. if I don’t have enough book covers, CDs etc in my portfolio, but would love to work in those areas). This way, I’m not only having a little fun with a project, but I’m also building my portfolio to have more variety. I’ve gotten a few leads on projects I’ve created on my spare time, so I strongly recommend making some room in your schedule.

    Great article Grace!

  4. Ryan Loomis says:

    Hi Grace,

    Thanks for the post. I definitely think being creative outside of the realm of client work is necessary, if not mandatory. I cannot imagine having too much longevity in a creative field without doing so.

    While client constraints can be good sometimes, it is also nice to be creative for sake of being creative. And, with any luck, we explore and learn techniques along the way that can be applied to client work in the future.

  5. Great post Grace! I completely agree, there’s something different about doing something creative when it’s just for fun. With me I try and create abstract pieces that randomly pop into my head whilst also trying new techniques I have read, and because your not restricted with a brief or a deadline, the design takes lead and you end up with something really fantastic.

  6. Matt Shaw says:

    I agree with your post. I’ve always got ideas and things going on in my head, but sometimes waste so much time just reading articles and showcases! Often they are just consigned to my sketchpad, which at least lets me get them out of my head and onto paper!

  7. Chykalophia says:

    No. 1. You definitely got my attention from your this blog tittle :p
    No. 2. Completely agree with you, making/designing something for our own satisfaction can help ourself reducing the stress from deadlines projects, ^.^
    No. 3. Joined your group on flickr 😉

  8. A great reminder grace. Specially with my short attention span, I find myself digging further into articles, great examples and latest tech news and events. So much, that I find myself with a wasted day. It’s so easy to do

Leave a Comment