Bring FUN back into your AEC job. Starting July 1, participate on our Friday Fun Day challenge! For 15 weeks, we’ll post challenges that will help you get better at your graphic design skills.
Trial and error is the best way to learn how to use graphic design software, implement design theories, improve your skills, and get comfortable with your style. So set aside time and join us to create and improve.
If you decide to take part in this AEC-industry graphic design challenge, share it with us on Instagram. Be sure to tag us @marketlink.aec, because we would love to see what you create!
1. Create a color palette for spring, winter, summer, and fall.
Color palettes allow consistency across all applicable designs, and ideally include compelling color combinations that reflect the intended content. Most design programs have built-in systems for saving and incorporating color palettes; research how to create, save, and/or upload different color palettes, then try your hand creating one for the different seasons for practice.
2. Design an inspiration board for your existing branding standards.
Inspiration boards do exactly what their name says and more. Design project inspiration boards include a collection of pictures, concepts, quotes—whatever works—that the designers can always come back to throughout the project. This allows designers to consistently remember what the baseline ideas and inspirations have been for each design project, and encourages cohesiveness, consistency, and visual direction throughout a project. Create an inspiration board for your branding standards that you can always come back, or add to, if the inspiration strikes.
3. Design a Pinterest graphic for one of your firm’s projects.
As with all social media networks, Pinterest has a certain brand and user-base interest that should dictate the design approach of your graphics—not just its dimensions. Take time to understand the aesthetics of Pinterest. Take note of what stands out while you explore, and design a graphic from there, covering all the details you can to make the most of the network's tools.
4. Design a business card for a firm principal.
Business cards are the distillation of a single brand, whether that be a person or business. Over the years, there have been many different approaches to business card design, but simplicity and—dare we say—a compelling color palette have been integral. It's a small space to do the most work, and there are many ways to go about it. Research business card designs, save the ones that you think work best or that you find the most inspiring, and work from there.
5. Design an Instagram post based on a corporate value.
As with Pinterest, Instagram has a user-base brand that extends throughout the network. What works on Facebook won't necessarily pique someone's interest here. Surf different brands, aesthetics, and brand identities to understand what works and what doesn't—and likewise what stands out and what doesn't. Then create a post informed by those observations. Make sure to take notes for your future self, so you can always come back for reference (no need to reinvent the wheel).
6. Create a web mockup for one firm project.
Website mockups allow designers to see and fiddle with their website without the risk of messing up something delicate in their existing website. Most designers use web mockups to draft a website's layout and design, experiencing and creating the best UX possible before coding begins. As a result, their ability to see information architecture, the working color palette, visual hierarchy and layout, user flow, etc., is integral to drafting an ideal site design. In this case, you can use a web mockup to do the same on a smaller scale, experimenting outside of the usual format and familiarizing yourself with the elements of your current branding standards.
7. Design a media kit for a project ribbon-cutting.
Media kits are your promo packages, collecting anything and everything a media outlet might need to promote a firm or company. With everything from biographies to case studies and downloadables, media kits are tools that make increasing brand awareness a painless process. Learn what media kits look like, collect examples, and make one for a hypothetical ribbon-cutting.
8. Design a set of information icons for your firm’s services.
Icons are another distillation, where a broad subject is reduced to something small, simple, and compelling. There are ready-to-use, known icons already, but they may not fit the exact services of your firm. Get creative, use your color palette, and see if you can make icons users want to click on.
9. Design a logo for your marketing department.
Logos are icons that are meant to be remembered—they both define their subject and are defined by their subject. Look up logo design principles. As with many design aspects, there have been different logo movements throughout history, and it's up to you to both make something that stands out and is cutting edge. Experiment, and let your department give feedback and vote on this challenge to your skills.
10. Design a geometric pattern using your firm’s branded color palette.
This is a simpler exercise that allows a designer to familiarize themself with how the colors in a palette play with each other. Which colors are better as accents? Which ones can take the center stage? How much is too much?
11. Digitize your handwriting.
Adobe, Procreate, and other programs have tutorials on how to digitize handwriting, and knowing the ins and outs of this exercise will expand a designer's creative toolbox. Not only that, but seeing your writing in a fixed typeface will allow you to see the important elements of spacing, size, and consistency in typography.
12. Design anything outside of your typical aesthetic.
Push your limits and test your boundaries—there are dozens of reasons why. When designers and artists are in any kind of creative rut, either going back to what they love or challenging their skills for inspiration is invaluable. In the latter, there are opportunities to learn new skills, tools, shortcuts. You may find something you like that you never thought of before, or learn what not to do, or find a new approach to your familiar ways. Try it. You're bound to learn something.
13. Design a fee schedule for your firm’s hourly rates.
This may seem a little outside the regular designer's wheelhouse, but something like a fee schedule is meant to be read easily, quickly, and well. Design is integral in readability, and learning how to make informational documents easy on the eyes and brain is crucial. Test multiple designs and look for feedback.
14. Design an infographic describing your firm’s history/timeline.
With firm bios and other firm information, the default is an infodump. A more creative approach is far more compelling. Try making an infographic that draws viewers in while also being easy to read and use. It's harder than you might think, but worth it.
15. Design a proposal cover.
The bare minimum rarely cuts it. As with other activities in this list, research what others have done for their proposal covers. This time, make categories for designs that do work and ones that don't, and perhaps also one in between. With your department, discuss and sort these designs, then analyze what you want in your own proposal cover. Draft ideas together.