Ask DN: How do you practice?

over 5 years ago from , Product Designer

How do you practice a programming language or framework? design? or anything else that you aspire to do?

They say practice makes perfect and to better your skills/knowledge of something the obvious answer is repetition, but do you invent problems to solve to actually practice? Do you look for real problems to solve? If so, where or how?

I'm curious to see what others do to advance their knowledge. What works for you? What's your "process" of practice?


  • Dirk HCM van BoxtelDirk HCM van Boxtel, over 5 years ago (edited over 5 years ago )

    Side-projects.    Obviously not speaking for others, but for me personally, that's the answer. I find something I want to be able to build, and I build it. Do everything it takes to learn it. Start small, solve problems as you go.

    If it's a language you want to learn: ask yourself what you want to do in it, and then build exactly that.

    I've started hundreds of side projects over the past 10 to 15 years (still sitting on a couple dozen registered domain names!) and literally none of them ended up being "final". Some made it very far, some didn't at all. But I've had tons of fun doing them, and learned such a gigantic amount of things that I can confidently say that half of what I learned came from there. (The other half is divided into 95% industry experience and 5% school).

    In other words: even though I've never properly launched one of my side-projects as a product, I've learned TONS of stuff that I still use every single day.

    .edit: Having said that, there are metric shit tons of great resources out there. From the Lynda.com's of the world to simply searching designernews or hackernews for resources on particular subjects. If you break your problems down into small enough parts, someone, somewhere on the world will have solved your problems before. Learn from them!

    14 points
    • Christopher Mansfield, over 5 years ago

      I tend to agree, recently after my first 3 years as a Designer I have thrown myself back into reading a lot of books in areas I wanted to improve. With some experience under my belt I feel I am able to learn more this way, I know my weaknesses and can apply knowledge within the context of past experiences.

      3 points
    • Thanh Chung, over 5 years ago


      1 point
    • James DoddsJames Dodds, over 5 years ago

      You had me at "Side projects".

      1 point
    • Mark Shiel, over 5 years ago

      Love your post.

      After being out of the industry for around 10 years and having only dabbled in it before, I am trying to figure out how to get back into it.

      For me it certainly seems building actual projects seems to be the way to go, but I am having trouble trying to find an idea to work on!

      2 points
  • Roberts Ozolins, over 5 years ago

    Reverse engineering anything and everything in your path. It's the single best way to get into other designers' shoes. It forces you to think what grids (if any), what colour combinations, what typography/fonts and their sizes where used and why.

    0 points