15 designers' New Year resolutions for 2017

Get stuck in to 2017 with inspiration from these top designers' resolutions.

Good riddance 2016, you sucked! Let's make 2017 the antidote to 2016's ills. Obviously, if you're in a good place that's just fab – but if you want to raise your game in 2017 and hit new heights, New Year resolutions are a good place to start nailing down those goals for the year ahead.

We spoke to 15 top designers to find out what their resolutions are, and they gave us as insight into their hopes and plans to share with you. Let's see if they can inspire you into giving your design life a boost in the coming year.

01. Make a list of dos and don’ts

"Generally I am not one to make New Year’s resolutions, but since 2016 was such an awful smack-in-the-face kind of year, it doesn’t seem like a bad idea to think about how to help make next year better," reasons Emily Oberman, partner at Pentagram New York

"DON'T: panic, whine, complain, fret, stress out, grumble, cave, compromise, take things for granted, second guess, get too comfortable. DO: work hard, laugh hard, make stupid puns, speak up, speak out, say yes, sit up straight, and give way more of a fuck about what happens in the whole world – not just my world. AND ALSO: stop cursing."

02. Broaden your mind

"My resolution is to travel, even when I’m not,” reflects Kath Tudball, design director at The Partners. "The negativity and isolationism of 2016 has made me feel like escaping, and I like what travelling does to my brain. That heightened sense of surroundings, taking in the view, seeing the tiny details, being excited and uncomfortable at the same time, appreciating strangeness, feeling slightly disconnected from time and tasting weird food.

"Wandering and wondering are both great for creativity," she adds. "In 2017, I'll take every opportunity to experience the unfamiliar. And when I’m in London I'll remember to open my eyes, take an unknown route, get lost, notice more and maybe even chat to strangers (but never on the Tube). It's time to fall in love all over again with my global city, for all its beautiful difference and diversity."

03. Have a good clear-out

For Clem Halpin, creative director at Turner Duckworth, the studio's upcoming move will provide a useful opportunity to take stock of what's important: "I type this surrounded by contact reports, old print-outs, half-drunk bottles of whisky and out-of-date chocolate bars," he confesses. "I'm going to clear away the rubbish. 95 per cent of everything we do is on screen, yet I don't have room to put down my tea cup." 

"I'm going to get away from the computer. I need to accept that Pinterest, Twitter or Instagram are not going to come up with any original solutions. The new space will allow me more freedom to actually think. I'm looking forward to having more meeting spaces, more walls to stick up concepts, and leave them overnight. More consideration, less rushing to vacate over-booked rooms. The most important resolution: to stop using our cramped studio space as an excuse to procrastinate, to be indecisive and unoriginal."

04. Find a life-work balance

"My resolution for 2017 is to learn how to be a dad and be a designer," reveals Gav Strange, senior designer at Aardman and head honcho of JamFactory. "This coming January me and my wife are expecting our first child, a tiny human baby boy. We're so excited and we're so curious."

"As well as balancing becoming a mum and dad for the first time, my wife and I are really curious to figure out how we retain our creative endeavours too. Jane is a jewellery designer and maker and I'm a designer with an obsession for side-projects. We have no idea how to find the balance, but we know that's a lifelong pursuit of every creative ever, so it's really about finding a brand new balance that works for us."

05. Share with your peers

"Globally, 2016 will always be remembered for many wrong reasons but luckily, on a personal level, I've had a few great moments to cherish," freelance designer Radim Malinic, aka Brand Nu. "I became a dad, wrote and published a book, spoke at many events and worked with some amazing people. I am ready to do it all over again in 2017, and I want to do it even better.

"It has become clear to me how imperative it is that we share our stories and findings with each other," he continues. "Though anyone can buy a ‘manual to design career' based on tried and tested rules from the industry folks, we also need inspirational stories and insights that make others wanting to succeed in everything they do. We are capable of so much more - every one of us."

06. Be a positive force

"This year, how I behave, what I say, who I work with and my actions will matter to me more than ever before," believes Lisa Smith, creative director at Wolff Olins' New York office. "I only want to be around people that want to make a real difference, who really give a shit about society and what they are saying.

"At work, I want to collaborate with leaders and companies that don't believe in discrimination in any shape or form, who are truly democratic and uncensored," she adds. "It's time for me to take a stand, and I'm going to have fun whilst making it happen!"

07. Try your hand at writing

Although Animade co-founder James Chambers says his resolution for 2017 may not be the most glamorous on the list, it's something that's easily attainable: "I want to write more regularly," he reveals. "I've written occasionally on my blog over the last year or two, but consistency has always failed me. I need a system. A plan of attack.

"From 2017 onwards, every time I open my laptop in the morning I'll write at least two sentences. Without fail. Come rain, shine or a full calendar," he smiles. "I'm trying to make the habit of writing the goal, rather than the quality of the writing. It's a small goal. It feels achievable. Time will tell."

08. Mix work and play

"Resolutions are there to be broken," admits SomeOne's Simon Manchipp. "But next year I've got one that I suspect will be tough to not want to follow through with. While it sounds easy, superficial and rather at odds with creating effective and innovative design work, it's increasingly becoming more and more useful.

"The best work we've done has been united by a single element, and that's the idea. The ideas behind the work help elevate it to another level. They make the brands we work for stand up and be counted. They help organisations, products and services stand out. But to get these ideas, it helps enormously if you (and those with you) enjoy the process. So my new year's resolution is to amplify the amount of play we apply to projects."

09. Use design to heal rifts

"I live life under a constant set of resolutions intended for self-improvement, but I think self-facing resolutions are not the way to go, we should be more outward looking," argues freelance illustrator Jon Burgerman. "This coming year, I will endeavour to share more, care more and actively try to reach out to those disenfranchised with their lives through my work.

"We saw in 2016 that there's a lot of people who are not happy with the status quo and the repercussions of their dissatisfaction has lead to a lot of right-leaning leaders and policies," he continues. "This is bad for the people and the planet. We need to use our creative talents to help, heal and protect what we care about because 2017 looks like it's going to be another tough year."

10. Do more of what you love

It's more of the same from the founder of Sutherl& studio Jim Sutherland: "I want to read more, see more and understand more," is his pledge for 2017. "I also want to travel more, and lecture more; meet interesting people, and collaborate more on interesting projects. Write, design, illustrate and publish more books. Design more. Play more. Experiment more. Create more and delight more. Do more work for more good. Find more joy in every moment. I may also take up scuba diving or surfing. And I'd like to ride a horse."

11. Make the world more beautiful

Iconic designer and Sagmeister & Walsh co-founder Stefan Sagmeister has a simple but inspiring manifesto for 2017: "Our desire for the new year is to bring more proper beauty into the world, and in this process possibly convince other designers around the world that beauty is neither only concerned with the surface or cheap, but deeply part of what it means to be human."

12. Learn to follow your gut

"My creative resolution for 2017 is to listen more to my gut instinct," resolves Sydney-based lettering specialist Gemma O'Brien. "I think I fell into the trap this year of saying ‘yes' to more commercial work that didn't push me creatively, and I often found myself repeating work I had made before.

"To combat this in the new year, I want to allow more time for experimentation to let new styles and approaches emerge and to push back on repetitive briefs or offer a fresh alternative."

13. Treat your team

New York-based studio Vault49 will be celebrating its 15th birthday in 2017, and for co-founder Jonathan Kenyon, this means spoiling the team rotten. "We're going to celebrate in the most outlandish manner we can conceive of (well, ‘within reason', says our finance team).

"For starters, we're going to be flying our entire team of 30 to Mexico for a week-long retreat in the summer, and something special will be planned on the 15th day of each month. The US is also an interesting place to us to be operating in the current climate, and we're determined that next year we'll be much more focused on outreach and the positive impact we can make on others beyond our own walls."

14. Experiment with technology

"I am working towards creating immersive experiences through my art, using technologies like virtual reality," reveals Delhi-based illustrator Archan Nair. "I've been working towards new projects where I am using digital tools to create 360-degree content, and also working on larger projects to bring my art to life.

"It's time to transcend the boundaries of the flat surface, and merge the dimensions of probability and possibilities," urges Nair. "I want to create content that makes people question and contemplate existence."

15. Stop kidding yourself

There's some worthy, thought-provoking and inspiring stuff on this list, so we'll finish it up with a slightly more light-hearted twist from Liza Enebeis, creative director at Dutch agency Studio Dumbar. "As far as I can remember, I always had some sort of new year resolutions: go on a diet, stop drinking, start exercise," she recalls.

"Most of these resolutions were definitely attainable, as long as I had the willpower. Without doubt, I never achieved any of them, and I would end the year with disappointment. This year, I have decided to set resolutions that I'm sure I will never achieve even if I tried, so I can end 2017 on a more positive note: travel to Mars, grow taller, and become a camel jockey. And I will make sure this doesn't happen."

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nick Carson is editor of Computer Arts magazine.