This is a question I have been asking myself a lot, particularly over the last year. One of my greatest fears is to stagnate in design. I am a firm believer that the moment you feel you are no longer learning it is time to make a change, and to keep on challenging yourself. It is a conscious decision that you as a person, have to make - it’s not something that will always be waiting for you.
While doing research recently into how to improve myself, be a better designer, and become more creatively minded, I realised that how to achieve this is a very broad statement as there are multiple things we can do to improve.
Fundamentally I believe that it is about understanding humans and knowing how to connect on a personal level. Everything we ultimately design is for humans (for now), how can we be good designers if we don’t understand how people think?
I’d like to focus on one small step that each of us can take that will make us better at something or, in fact, many things. It is the notion of the “100 Hour Rule”:
“For most disciplines, it only takes one hundred hours of active learning to become much more competent than an absolute beginner.”
Malcolm Gladwell’s 2008 book Outliers: The Story of Success mentions that it takes 10,000 hours to reach the top 1% in any given field. The 100 Hour Rule was then developed. We only need a mere fraction – 100 hours - to go from knowing nothing to knowing more than 95% of the population. It’s amazing that just one hour per day over three months, is enough for you to learn something completely new and be considered quite competent.
This can be applied to any field and I’d highly recommend everyone to try it, but as a designer, this is the perfect excuse for that personal project you’ve always thought of but have never gotten around to doing.
The idea is to choose something you’re not proficient at and learn it for 100 hours. By choosing to do it for one hour per day you create what is known as a “micro habit” or a “keystone habit”. These habits tend to create a ripple effect on our lives. A simple example of a ripple effect is when I started running in the mornings. I just wanted to be a little healthier. I ended up waking up much earlier, which meant earlier nights, which also meant a change in my diet. As a result I have more energy, so I run more which means I’m much fitter. So now my weekends are full of more active things like hiking, swimming, paddle boarding etc.
The idea is to use a micro habit in order to commit yourself to creating on a regular basis. Soon this will be so engraved into your routine that once you have worked on one thing for 100 hours you’ll be eager to move on to the next, slowly building up new skills and learning new things.
It is important that we expose ourselves to new and different things - often our inspiration will come from things completely unrelated to what we do. It allows us to ensure that we are not being pigeon-holed into a specific genre and or style and gives us the opportunity to explore other areas. Also you will find it more often than not has a positive effect on your quality of life.
The key is to choose something you are interested in and pursue that. As a Digital Designer my next 100 hour project will be solely based on Type. With current trends, we are slowly moving towards the freedom that a Graphic Designer has, despite being an area that, historically, we did not get much exposure to due to restrictions. I will share my progress throughout. What will be your 100 hour project?