Home » Articles » 8 tips for improving your design thinking today

Learning about design and branding can be an overwhelming task, if you don’t know where to start. Huge and complicated subjects like symbols, logos, typography, color theory can take more than a lifetime to master. The market is flooded with “…. for dummies” books that can teach you about the tools and software, but there are not too many books that teach you about design processes, let alone design thinking.

Imagine you can improve your design skills tomorrow. Even without all the fancy software, costing you thousands of dollars. Without the years of expensive education.

Guess what? If you are communicating visually with other human beings by sketching, writing notes, keeping a diary, you are already doing design. All you need to do is be mindful of the process, and engage in such activities regularly. Keep doing focused work, and you can become great faster than you think.

You can improve your design output dramatically, once you start treating your works like projects — understanding what you do, how you do it and why it matters.

I was never naturally gifted in art or design. I also don’t believe in the concept of talent. What I was good at very early on was logic, thinking and understanding different processes. It is no wonder that while in school, I was good in programming. Understanding creative process, and finding what works for you is what can helps you continually improve and become better in everything: sketching, cooking, dancing, writing, programming, you name it.

Without having a goal, and a process of achieving it, there is no way to getting there. And no way of feeling the sense of achievement you need, in order to persevere.

So if you are serious about improving your design skills – set goals for yourself, and dedicate regular and focused time into achieving them. Here are a little pointers on where to begin:

Choose your tools

Start  a project with tools that are not intimidating or complicated. The simpler the tool, the faster you get to results. Try a ballpoint pen, or a marker, or a simple pencil. Try colored materials. If you can draw a concept or idea with a simple tool like a pen, you can create it in any software.
Forget about Photoshop. Forget about Illustrator. They are only tools. Knowing how to swing a shovel does not make you an architect.
If you have no message or no ideas, software is worthless. Like a Ferrari with no gas in the tank.
Start with software, and you will be sucked in a world of unnecessary complexity.  You will be confused, frustrated and missing the whole point – to learn communication through symbols and images.

Keep a sketchbook


Train your eye. Start taking note of things. Shapes, lines, colors, textures. Jot them down in a sketchbook. Best way to understand an object or symbol is to try to recreate it on paper. Analyse it, dissect it, recreate in several times, until you understand the subtleties. Write down your thoughts. Follow your logic. Keep a diary. Think on paper.
If you can sketch, or write about a concept, you can understand it. If you can understand it, you can communicate it to others.

Learn the basics

Develop an interest in reading and learning about topics like drawing, composition, typography, color, psychology. Internalize the principles you learn, by applying them in your projects. Search for books on the subjects. In the bottom of this post you can find a couple of reads to start with.

Find classes and tutorials on the internet. I find Skillshare.com to be an excellent resource for huge variety of design related topics. Even a simple Youtube video can sometimes do the trick.

Read a lot. Watch movies.


It’s not all about your skills and attributes. Develop curiosity. Understand the world and people around you.
What good is writing, if you have nothing to say? What good is designing, if you have nothing to communicate?
Try reading about subjects like history of art, psychology, self-help and actualization. Read fiction and non-fiction literature. Subscribe to blogs that interest you. Watch movies and documentaries. Listen to podcasts or TED talks. Anything that moves you, excites you and inspires you.

Create your visual library


Remember that your output is only as good as your input. So focus on creating a visual library for yourself. Find works which inspire you, collect them, analyze them, see what makes them great. There are a variety of websites where you can find the latest and greatest of design. I personally use Pinterest to collect all the works that inspire me into easy to access visual libraries.

Become a part of a community

Startup Stock Photos

Learning by yourself can be hard. Solitary. Frustrating. Don’t play the part of the lonely genius . Find like-minded people. It will keep you motivated. It is also tons of fun. Consider joining a class, or a club. Go to events, exhibitions, gatherings. Learn from your peers. Find a mentor for yourself. Someone who has what to teach you, and is willing to help. If you are very serious about your intentions of becoming a professional, consider formal education. It is not mandatory, but it will help you improve fast, create a social circle of people sharing your goals, and aspirations.

Help people

Clusterflunk stock photo.

The only way to become a professional, is by doing work, that other people can benefit from. I don’t advice you taking on payed projects in the beginning of your journey. Start small – help friends and relatives. Find charities and non-profit organization that could use your help.
Understanding your clients and solving their problems is an art of its self. Start doing it as soon as possible, and you will get the confidence to start working on  projects with clients who pay you for your work.

Show your work


Your work has value regardless of what skill level you have. Be proud of what you have done and share it with the world. The more you share, the more opportunities will open in front of you. Let people know that you are serious about what you do.

This is in no way a complete guide to how to become a professional branding designer. But it is a place to start. Start walking the path, and you will find new opportunities and resources. The hardest and most important part is to just persevere. Keep thinking, sketching and working on projects. Everything else will fall into place. Good luck!

Resource recommendations:



Video tutorials:

Podcasts, Blogs, Conferences:

Design inspiration, comunities and platforms