What should you do to become a better designer?

If you're like me, you've struggled with what you should do to become a better designer, day after day. Is your energy spent on the right things, or are they dead ends?

I got in touch with some well-known and well-respected designers. I did not originally plan to share the responses, so I did not ask for permission to do so. For that reason I haven't included their names here.

Having said that, if you're a UX designer, it's very likely you've heard of each of these designers. I'm very surprised and humbled that they even responded to me.

Here's the question I asked

Throughout your career, have you had a strategy or approach to becoming a better designer? If not, looking back on your growth as a designer, have you noticed any patterns in when you had big leaps forward? I've been thinking about this a lot recently, so I'd like to get an outside opinion. To set a baseline, my current approach is "Start reading and don't stop".

Here are the responses

I grew the most by wrestling and struggling to build things or solve real problems. I always viewed making stuff as the real work and the reading as a side hobby. Slowly I used the ideas from all the reading to frame and explain what I was doing with my hands, but I believe the hands always come first.

I think for me, the big work has been to start to be clear on what I wanted to achieve with the designs I created, then spend a lot of time looking to see if I achieved the goals. From my perspective, learning about design starts with delivering designs. That's when the real research begins and the big insights come.

I didn't [have a strategy] as I was learning, but in hindsight, here's what I did and what I teach to my apprentices and interns that want to get better at design: design something every day. It doesn't matter what it is. Being a good designer is like being a good athlete. Wanna be great at basketball? Shoot 100 shots every day. The same is true for design. If you design 1 thing every day that pushes you to learn something new, in 6 months you'll be a significantly better designer than you are today.

Few things:
- learn the other disciplines that go into making a product: engineering, PM, etc. helps round out a more complete picture of decisions that ultimately shape end result
- make time to relax your brain. My best design ideas have come to me while slugging up a long climb on my bike, mind goes blank, ideas show up