Honesty time: I overthink almost everything. It took me awhile to realize that my procrastination issues were a result of overthinking and getting stuck on this idea that everything needs to be perfect. Once realizing that, it started to be really easy to catch myself and take a step back – its still a struggle.
I'm telling you this for two reasons: 1. I've been struggling with social media content. Over the weekend I finally realized that I'm overthinking it and should really just share what I'm doing or going through. Which leads me to reason number 2; I'm creating a new portfolio and have almost nothing to put in it. Meaning I'm forced to create my own projects – meaning there's a huge door open labeled “OVERTHINKING” for me to walk into.
If you take a second to google "self-initiated graphic design projects", you'll find pages of ideas that you can use to build your portfolio, such as: recreate the branding of your favorite restaurant, or create a personal icon set. Let’s be honest, we've all seen those and while they're good projects I think it’s time to take it to the next level. Sidenote – most people think you only need self-initiated projects if you're a beginner with no work. Not true! A lot of my current professional work isn't exactly the type of work I want to bring in and show off. Your portfolio, no matter the profession, should showcase the type of work you want to get hired to do. Do you hate presentation design? Then don't put those in the portfolio, you'll save yourself in the long run. To change that, I've come up with a list of self-initiated projects that can accompany my existing work. Here are a few examples of sample projects and a couple of tips of how I came up with them.
Fill the Void
Find what's missing and fill the void. The catch is, don't think simple. You don't have to start with the mom and pop shop (unless that's what you're into). Think about your dream jobs. Let's say you want to be an illustrator in the fashion industry. Go pick up the latest issue of your favorite magazine, find an article that didn't include original artwork, and create the artwork as if it were assigned to you. You already know the magazine, you're familiar with its design, and you have the content to base the work on. No brainer! Once you have it completed: promote, promote, promote! If you're posting on social media, be sure to tag the brand - you never know when they may need a designer. I love the brand Refinery 29, and freelancing for them (because I'm too poor for NYC), is on my list of dream jobs. My plan is to find an article that didn't include original artwork on Refinery 29's site and create my own illustrations to accompany that article. I vote we all be bold and take it to the next level (as you should do everything). Do you really love what you made? Find a unique way to package it and send it to the company. Remember there are a million ways to get in contact with someone, and social media is no exception.
CHALLENGE YA SELF
Do a self-initiated challenge. Don't pick just any ol’thing, push yourself forward and do something that's completely in-line with a dream job you have. For example, I want to design in the music space. I have a few ideas around designing one album cover per day, or picking an album I like and creating a separate cover for each song on the album per day. The challenge forces you to complete a design in a certain time period and gives you a body of work that is aligned with what you want to do. Again – do it, post, and share! *Tip: When targeting people and brands I definitely believe in aiming high, but remember that a person/brand with a huge following may have less of a chance to see your work. Aim high, but also include the middle men.
Make it up
Technically, most self-initiated projects are made up but still based on a brand’s current content - sometimes you may need to pull something completely out of thin air. If you've checked out my art direction board on Pinterest, you can easily tell that I'm drawn to set design and photography that incorporates bright colors. *Tip: Figure out what you're drawn to and copy it. I don't mean rip off the person, but find inspiration to create what you see and make it your own. Since I've identified that I'm really into set design I've created a project that allows me to play with that. The first thing I figured out was the concept. Imagine working for a magazine or on a set and they tell you the grand idea behind the work. Create that grand idea! And, actually, it doesn't have to be grand - it can be really simple. I chose the idea of “vices”. Now that I have the concept I can create the set based around my inspiration items. These concepts can be applied to anyone, creative or not.
I can talk about projects all damn day, but one of the biggest things I want you to remember is that you are your own creative director/boss for these assignments. Anything that you're drawn to you can create for yourself. Don't allow the lack of variety of projects in your professional life deter you from the type of work you really want. On the flip side, don't sit around and wait for the grand opportunity, create it for yourself. If you need any help with brainstorming projects (because that's kinda my forte), let me know. No matter the profession.