Newer designers don’t get told enough that they should get out there and show what they’re working on. We’re all super critical of our own work, but we’re also naturally fearful of what others think and continually strive to impress people.
Austin Kleon’s “Steal Like an Artist” and “Show Your Work!” should be mandatory reading for anyone interested or currently in the design field. His philosophy of “wear your inspiration on your sleeve and put yourself out there” is a refreshing change and a great motivator.
Austin’s first book “Steal Like an Artist” is all about wearing your inspirations on your sleeve and facilitating a creator’s mindset. I don’t want to dive too much into the entire content for the book because I hope you go out and read it. The thing that really stood out to me was to embracing your influences and track down what influences them.
“What is originality? Undetected Plagiarism." - William Ralph Inge
Find out what your heroes are watching, reading, and following online. Everything is a copy of a copy; use that to your advantage when you’re building your body of work or designs. Look at a great interface and see what patterns are working and why they’re working. Share your influences with your friends and ask them for help if you’re stuck.
Austin specifically talks about creating a “Swipe File.” A repository of images, videos, and writing that inspire you or have elements that you’re going to use for reference on your next project. With modern tools, it’s easy to create a nice Swipe File that lives on the cloud and can be shared with your peers. Check out these tools:
This overarching objective isn’t the only useful tip in the book and he’s not suggesting you directly plagiarize someone, but rather that you become a curator of great ideas and mash them together to create your work.
Some of the other great advice that really jumped out to me covered how to stay focused, taking care of yourself, and being nice to each other. With abundant design communities out there, our world is shrinking and our record lasts a lifetime.
##Stop hiding. Let the world help you become a better artist.
###Share Like an Artist:
While Austin’s first book is filled with great tips and tricks which are always helpful, his second book “Show Your Work!” is something I wish I had read years ago. He dives into things I’ve ultimately learned over years of experience, but when I was first starting out, this would have been the best kickstart.
As creatives, we’re always waiting until everything is perfect before we share it, and we never want to reveal our secret sauce. Austin pushes us to release, not only the work early and often, but to share the process along the way. Allow others to see your technique, tricks, and share tips with others, and you might learn more about yourself and your work than you ever thought.
There are plenty of great places to share your work starting with your own website, but don’t forget that some of the best places to show your work is on social networks and the many design-focused communities out there.
“Part of the act of creating is in discovering your own kind. They are everywhere. But don’t look for them in the wrong places.” - Henry Miller
The internet is filled with great design communities; find one and start sharing your work. Give and get feedback on your latest piece or a work in progress. Here are some communities we recommend:
Each one is filled with people of all skill levels looking to learn and share their knowledge with others.
I believe that both of these books should be required reading for any designer. They’re both quick reads filled with great ideas and processes to learn from, whether you’re new or experienced. Austin specifically calls out creative types, but anyone can learn from these great tips and really expand their skill set and develop the habits to continually share their work and process.
If you want to join the book club to read and learn together, sign up by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org! We meet once every month and discuss concepts in the chosen book, as well as how we can start applying key learnings to our process, startups, and life.
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