Rule #1: Make something every day. 365 projects. No exceptions.
Rule #2: Make it public. It’s like quitting smoking. The more people you tell about it, the harder it is to cop out.
After following a long and meandering route through higher education, lofty aspirations, and unlikely career paths, I found myself in an somewhat enviable position. After an agonizing post-grad job search, I had comfortably settled a full-time design job (two, in fact).
After a rough streak of dull corporate clients, it seemed like my professional career was going to consist of interesting ideas getting veto’ed for bland solutions, and drowning in the ocean of production on applications I didn't like in the first place.
To keep from getting stagnant in my 9-5 (which was kindly paying my rent), and to stave off creative laziness, I undertook a year-long personal project.
Every day I had to make something “cool”. It was fun and terrible and amazing and exhausting. Years later I created a 200 page book about the project, the process, and the many things I learned. The book features every project, along with background information, as well as a number of essays on the project and creativity in general.
More recently, I've given a number of talks about what it was like, forcing oneself to be creative, and how some of that can apply for folks in both creative and traditional roles.
June 1st, 2015 (11 min)
When you have a set of skills and techniques at your disposal as a designer, you use them. In the course of day-to-day work, you adapt this style and learn new techniques to meet the individual demands of your clients (or at least you should). Remove client’s demands and become accountable only to yourself though, the need to grow and adapt can vanish. It becomes easy to fall into making the same few things over and over again, but with different content. That's where the challenge lies.