Happy New Year! Today, we’ve got a nifty guide to resolutions that are specifically for designers. What changes do you hope to make in 2018?

Did you know that people have been making resolutions to improve themselves and their lives since the time of ancient Babylonians? I’ll admit to making a few of these myself… now if I could only manage to keep them all year! Good luck with your resolutions and have a wonderful New Year.

1. Update That Portfolio

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Admit it. You haven’t added a new project to your portfolio in a year – or maybe more. If you are like me, paying gigs are always a priority over things like updating that portfolio. “I’ll get to that later when I am not so busy,” I say all the time.

But when have you ever not been busy? Is that even a real thing? Updating your portfolio can help generate business and is a great way to look back on the accomplishments of the past year. So, go find your favorite project of 2017 and put it in your portfolio. (It’s that simple to make a resolution and not break it!)

2. Write a Blog Post

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There’s nothing like writing about the craft of design to make you appreciate it. Resolve to write a blog post this year. Whether it’s a guest post on a blog or website you love, a post for a work-related blog or just a personal essay for your own website, get writing!

Writing will help stretch your creative muscles in new ways and help you think more deeply about a specific topic. Not sure where to start? Consider writing a tutorial or post that shows off your expertise and helps others learn something new at the same time.

3. Learn Something New

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And speaking of learning something new, make a point to educate yourself and pick up a new skill this year. If you already have a learning plan… go for it!

If not, consider brushing up your skills so that you can work with some of the trends that we expect to be popular in 2018. (You can see them all here.) From using a bright color to asymmetrical grids, to working with SVG images or voice and natural language search, plan to do something different and new.

4. Design with Emotion

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Sometimes work design projects turn into just that – work projects. They can sometimes feel stale and flat. Make sure to inject more emotion into your work this year. Some projects can be really tough to get excited about, but think about the end users and create emotional connections for them.

The best ways to establish that connection are through great storytelling, amazing imagery and a fluid user experience that works invisibly.

5. Drink a Little Less Coffee

coffees 10 New Year’s Resolutions for Designers design tips

The caffeine-drinking designer stereotype exists for a reason. Cut back on the coffee (or tea or soda or energy drink) habit in some way this year.

If you buy drinks on your way to work, buy one less per week and do something awesome with the extra pocket change. If you make drinks at home, set a goal of one less cup to get through the day.

While caffeine isn’t always a bad thing, there are better ways to energize yourself when you tend to sit at a desk all day. Wear a fitness tracker that will annoy, um remind, you to get up and move each hour. Walk around the block during lunch. Get outside and read a book or listen to music.

The energy boost from all of these things isn’t followed by the low of the caffeine crash. You might even be more productive.

6. Make Something Beautiful

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You should want to create something beautiful all the time, but projects don’t always allow for a purely beautiful design.

Hopefully, you’ll get lucky and a paid gig will have the potential to be visually amazing, but if not take it on yourself to create something that you find beautiful.

Take a photo, make a new business card, design an app. Do something that you love, even if it is just for you.

7. Create Something Functional

calepino 10 New Year’s Resolutions for Designers design tips

At the same time, remember to create websites and designs that are functional. Too often designers can get caught up in the grid (I’m guilty!) and lose track of how things really work.

The challenge is that standards can change all the time. And it can be tough to explain to a client how users are engaging with websites today versus their old-school notions of how people click and move in the design.

Think about function for desktop and mobile versions of the design. How do they mirror in experience and how can you create unique elements for each device?

8. Don’t Procrastinate with Paperwork

The least fun part of design-life for most of us is the paperwork – contracts, invoices and all kinds of documentation. Whether you work at an agency, a small shop or are a freelancer, chances are there’s plenty of paperwork to do. Don’t let it pile up. Take care of paperwork as it comes along.

Freelancers: This is especially important for you and a resolution you need to make. Delaying paperwork can result in lost revenue and higher taxes (if you forget to file and itemize properly). Set aside a little time each month to make sure all paperwork is caught up and in order.

9. Take a Pro Bono Project

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I’m the first to tell young designers that you should not work for free. I say the opposite to designers with a little more experience in the field – take on a pro bono project for a worthy client or cause at least once per year.

This doesn’t have to be a full-scale, 50-page website design. But you can help create a business card for a friend in the non-profit sector. You could make a t-shirt design for a fundraiser or group you care about.

Pro bono projects are a good way to give back a little something to the community that has supported your career. It can also help a deserving group understand the value of design services, and you never know how that might get paid forward in the future.

10. Have More Fun

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Finally, make a resolution to have a little more fun this year. Work doesn’t always have to be a drag. Listen to music in the office, revamp your workspace to be more creative, join a professional or social networking group and hang out with “work” people that you enjoy.

The world can be a scary place, and being able to inject a little fun into the grind of daily life can mean a lot to you and those around you. Wouldn’t you rather work alongside a group of smiling, happy people? Be one of them. It’s contagious.


What are your design goals for 2018? I’d love to know. Share them with me and Design Shack using #designgoals2018. (We might even get this thing trending on Twitter!)

The best resolution to make in 2018 is to be the best designer you can. Be honest, use your expertise to help clients and others and make something amazing.