Sure, some people might seem as if they’re naturally creative, but everyone must hone their eye for design. In fact, no matter you are or what you do for a living, anyone can develop their creative intuition, as long as you’re willing to put in some time and focus into to tapping into your creative promise.
“I don’t know of one great designer who came out of the womb knowing it all,” says Liz Toombs, a certified interior designer and president PDR Interiors. She adds, “The creative world, design included, is very subjective. Creatives are influenced by the world around them and constantly learning, so it only makes sense that their eye continues to develop as they are exposed to new and different ideas.”
In other words: even if you feel like you don’t have the “magic touch” quite yet, don’t give up. There are ways you can better develop your eye for design and we’ve rounded up some suggestions for how to begin.
Step 1: Observe Trends
The best place to start when honing your eye for design is, well, right where you’re standing. Look around you and let everything in eyesight inspire your creative senses.
“The world is filled with so much for us to visually absorb, whether its colors, textures, or lines. All of these things come into play when designing,” says Lauren Brokaw, a stylist, jeweler, and the founder of Stella and Bow. “Being visually stimulated by something and translating that into your own creative medium allows for a new perspective.”
Observing trends can be as straightforward as thumbing through your Instagram, Tumblr, or Pinterest feeds, checking out blogs and YouTube channels, traveling the world, walking through your neighborhood, or hitting the art museum or a local gallery. Toombs agrees with the “learn by osmosis” approach to developing your creative eye and notes that one of her preferred ways to observe trends is via magazines.
“There are niche publications that focus on different design styles. Elle Decor is contemporary and edgy, Architectural Digest is grand, Better Homes and Gardens reflects mainstream and DIY style. These are just a few of the publications available Read them all and soak in the information,” she says. “You will be a better designer based on your vast knowledge of styles, even if you don’t work within them all. I started in my teens watching design shows and reading all the magazines.”
Step 2: Refer to the Greats
You can also learn and gain inspiration from some notable figures in your preferred creative industry. Brokaw says, “Look to the greats. Historical figures and the world around us are filled with new lessons. I’ve been able to create entire collections inspired by architects and artists.”
Read their biographies, see what their lives and creative journeys looked like, familiarize yourself with their work. Toombs agrees that looking to others for inspiration is a great way to develop your eye for design, and notes that “the greats” don’t have to be from decades gone by. You can just as easily gain inspiration from talents in our modern world.
“Who are your favorite designers? Watch the TV shows they are on, follow their social media accounts, read their books, and take their classes,” she says. “You don’t want to copy their style, but you certainly can learn what makes them tick and use that info to create and discover your own aesthetic.”
Step 3: Immerse Yourself
You might find perusing design trends to be helpful to your creative eye, but immersing yourself can expedite the learning process. Think about it as if you’re trying to learn a foreign language; you can learn all the German basics in the comfort of your own home, but you’d pick up the language a lot faster if you lived in Munich or only watched German movies. Immersing yourself in your desired field — whether it’s interior design, watercolor painting, graphic design, or pottery — will help you learn that much faster in much the same way.
“If you are serious about becoming a designer, reach out to local interior designers and offer your time to intern,” suggests Anita Yokota, an interior designer with a background in psychology. “It’s a great way to gain a hands-on education. Most designers need assistance in some way or another and you can see first-hand how professionals utilize their design skills.”
Step 4: Practice Makes Progress
Whether you’re an aspiring fashion designer, painter, graphic illustrator, or interior designer, practice is really the only way you can continue to develop your eye for design. You may feel like you’re not quite ready to dive in, but you have to start somewhere. And any mistakes you might make? As frustrating as they might feel, they are simply part of the creative process.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, Yokota recommends starting small. If you’re an interior designer, for example, she says it’s wise to begin with a low-key project in your own home.
“Experiment with pillows, throw blankets, and wall art. Make small vignettes in a corner and style it until you are happy with it,” says Yokota. “Do this often and before you know it, you will start developing your own style.”
Even if you change that vignette 50 times before you’re pleased with it, (or scrap a dozen canvases before you finally paint a piece you feel is worthy of hanging) you’ll be honing your eye for design. Which brings us to our final tip: Stay open, be willing to experiment, and take big risks; by doing this your evolution as a creative person is practically assured.
Want to start honing your design skills today? Aaron Draplin’s Skillshare Originals class, Logo Design with Draplin: Secrets of Shape, Type, and Color is a great place to start.