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30 Creative Goals for Designers in 2020

It’s a new year … and we’re excited (read: geeking out!) to announce that it’s the year we’ll be celebrating the 30th anniversary of HOW Design Live! To kick 2020 off right, we pulled together a list of 30 of our collective goals as designers. (It goes without saying, of course, that you should also join us in Boston May 4–7 for the 30th HOW Design Live, where we can check in on how everything is going—and even and tick off a couple of the boxes below.)

Make 2020 the year that you invest in your creativity and career. You owe it to yourself—and we’ll be right there alongside you.

  1. Take a day to look over the past five years. What went right? What went wrong? Hindsight is 2020—so put it to use.
  2. Take a day to envision the next five years.  What’s your ideal work life—and how can you design it?
  3. Start a side project. As Jessica Walsh, Timothy Goodman and so many others have proved, following side projects and passions can lead to extraordinary things.
  4. Don’t work. Take a day off for yourself where you design absolutely nothing. Your creativity will thank you for it later.
  5. Connect with a new creative. Whether online or in person—or, say, at a conference —get out of your comfort zone and meet a new mind. That person might just offer a new perspective that could take your work in unexpected fresh directions.
  6. Do a book report for yourself. Spend a day researching the work of a design master. Dig into their style, their evolution and their total output, both hits and misses. Assess what you like—and what you don’t. For both, figure out why.
  7. Find a new designer. Discover a new-to-you contemporary designer. (We love People of Craft and Women Who Draw.) Like and follow their work—and share it online, if you’re so inclined. The design community is at its best when we lift each other up.
  8. Complete this prompt: “My dream project, the one that could truly fuse my passions with my skills, would be: ___________________.” Consider: What could you do to move one step closer to that project this year?
  9. Go to an art museum. Or a history museum. Or a science museum. You’ll find design inspiration in all of them.
  10. Schedule time outside. Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is leave your workspace and head out into the real world. Schedule time into your calendar to do just that. Not only is nature impeccably designed, the world beyond your computer tends to refill your creative tank.
  11. Abide by the “one-a-month” theory. Each month, aim to create one piece that you can add to your portfolio. By the time 2021 rolls around, you’ll have a totally revitalized portfolio.
  12. Empower yourself and ask for a raise. Worst case scenario, they tell you it’s not in the cards. Best-case scenario: Money! You deserve it.
  13. Identify five concrete new skills you want to pick up in 2020. Be they design-related or life-related, what can you do to step up your game?
  14. Identify five behaviors you want to STOP in 2020. Procrastinating? People-pleasing? Smoking? How can you be better? Include starting steps that offer a path to actually getting there.
  15. Read a new design book or design magazine. Head to the bookstore or the library and see what the latest dialogue on the craft is. (Our current favorite: Cliff Kuang and Robert Fabricant’s book User Friendly: How the Hidden Rules of Design Are Changing the Way We Live, Work, and Play.)
  16. Celebrate wins. Don’t be shy (hey, everyone else on your timeline sure isn’t). Tell the world when you have a win. You’ll be surprised by how many people will cheer you on.
  17. Mix things up. How could you change your process to introduce newness and chance into it? If you always design to music, experiment with silence. If you’re used to sitting while designing, try standing. Leave your office and work somewhere else. Sometimes the smallest tweaks can trigger big returns.
  18. Stretch. Breathe. Eat well. When your mind is hard at work, it’s all too easy to forget about your body. Maintain balance, and aspire to your own definition of health.
  19. Complete this prompt: “A barrier between me and my goals is: ____________.” How could you eliminate that barrier?
  20. Design the worst possible logo you can. Design is fun. Remind yourself of that.
  21. When Thanksgiving is near…Design a Rule29 hand turkey.
  22. Fix something. Ponder something that desperately needs to be redesigned—from the clock on your wall to an app on your phone to the US tax system. Brainstorm a new solution.
  23. Create something knowing that no one else but you will see it. A painting, a logo, a poster—how is the result different from your regular work? Is there any merit to exploring that further?
  24. Thank a designer. See something cool while surfing the web or out in the world? Figure out who designed it, and then send a note of appreciation. It just might mean the world to that designer—and hey, you never know when you might karmically be the one receiving the note next.
  25. Stand up. If you’re able, reach out to a cause you believe in and offer to do a pro-bono piece.
  26. Grab a bucket of chalkboard paint. If you have the OK from your spouse, boss or landlord, turn a wall into your real-time ideation center. Creativity flows when it’s fast and loose and the environment is conducive to it. If walls aren’t an option, grab a good Moleskine or a pack of Field Notes. Your ideas deserve it.
  27. Speaking of workspace improvements, consider: What can you do to make yourself more comfortable and conducive to productivity? Is it having a stash of Lacroix or tea nearby at all times? More color? A plant? Design your workspace so that you have a symbiotic relationship with it. The best ones give back.
  28. Unsubscribe. One of the best ways to relieve stress and prevent it from pinging you in tiny increments throughout the day: Unsubscribe from junk emails. (Pro tip: If your Gmail has grown unwieldy with unnecessary junk piled up like ours has, do a mass delete from individual senders.)
  29. Update. There’s nothing worse than being in the zone, and then being blindsided by 400 programs all bemoaning updates that you haven’t done. So do the dreaded and take an hour or two on a Friday afternoon to update everything each week.
  30. Travel. Dive into the unknown—even if you’re only able to escape to the next town over or a nearby forest. Explore, and see what might find its way back into your work. And hey, if you need an excuse to go to Boston