Designers' New Year resolutions for 2015

How do you plan to improve your design life in 2015? We asked 14 leading designers what changes they plan to make for the New Year.

Happy New Year! We're not quite sure how 2015's come around so quickly; it seems like only a few weeks ago that we were cheering in 2014, all shiny and filled with promise. How did it work out for you?

Whether last year was a non-stop cavalcade of success, an unmitigated disaster or something comfortably in-between, now is a great time to take stock and think about what you feel you ought to change in 2015. Whether it's a new way of doing things, expanding your skillset, ditching something that just isn't working out for you or something else entirely, a meaningful New Year resolution can be just the thing to give your design practice a much-needed shot in the arm (or kick up the arse).

No matter if you're a creative director or a jobbing designer, if you're short on ideas then we have just the thing for you; we asked 15 leading designers and artists what their New Year resolutions for 2015 are. Here's what they had to say...

01. "Be more picky"

Johanna Basford

"I had a baby this year and my somewhat naive plans of 'business as usual' (working in the studio whilst she slept peacefully at my side) have been shattered," says illustrator Johanna Basford.

"Now, more than ever, I value my time and realise I can't take on every job that comes my way. I used to say yes to just about everything, but now I need to be a bit more selective. If it's a dream client, an amazing brief or an opportunity to tackle something super scary, then I'm in."

02. "Work for an agency"

Joao Oliveira

Portuguese designer and illustrator Joao Oliveira spent a lot of 2014 building the foundations for a major shift in his professional and personal life, and in 2015 he's putting his plan into action.

"My main resolution for 2015 is to move from my home city (Porto) to London and start working for an agency or studio," he tells us. "It's definitely something that I've been planning for a couple of years, with all the experience I've amassed during the past years working as a freelancer this desire to work more with teams and create bigger projects started to appear, so I can't wait to make this shift and start working as an art director."

03. "Get back to traditional printing techniques"

Holly Sims

Having spent the past few years becoming confident with her Photoshop and Illustrator skills, Holly Sims feels that she's been neglecting the way she used to create her work, so this year she's going back to basics and using traditional printing techniques again.

"It's something a lot of illustrators and designers always advise to get off the computer and get back to your sketchbook and it's totally true," she says.

"Going back to that way of working and mixing it with the things I've learnt over the past few years should help build upon my style in the coming year. I've even bought a screen printing set, something I haven't done since A level, I can't wait to get stuck in!"

04. "Only work with people I like"

Fred Deakin

"Once too often in the past I've overridden my first instincts and embarked on projects working with individuals that I didn't have any kind of enthusiasm for," says Fred Deakin, ex of Airside, half of Lemon Jelly and now running collaborative organisation Fred & Company and teaching at Central Saint Martins.

"Invariably these projects, no matter how good they looked on paper, ended up being a total waste of my creative energy and produced little or no financial recompense, despite the attractive carrots that were flourished upfront."

And so in 2015 he has a simple plan: only work with people he likes. "I've learned a lot and had a great time working with clients from many diverse backgrounds that I had no obvious connection with," he explains, "but in hindsight I nearly always felt a positive energy, an intangible excitement coming out of our initial discussions that made me keen to get stuck in.

"This year I'm trusting my instincts more: saying yes to projects if I feel that spark, no matter what their profile or budget is, and saying no when it doesn't feel right, regardless of the state of my bank balance. First thought best thought!"

05. "Learn JavaScript"

James Hollingworth

James Hollingworth, the web designer responsible for Creative Bloq's looks, has recently been designing websites in the browser with Sass rather than pushing pixels around in Photoshop, but he wants more.

"Working in code suits an agile workflow and my passion for refining web typography," he tells us, "but I lack experience and knowledge in JavaScript, so I really want to push the boat out next year and get stuck into learning it and stop bugging my developer friends when am stuck."

06. "Become truly fearless"

Melissa Brunet

For the past couple of years Paris-based illustrator Melissa Brunet has been carefully building up a personal body of work, while working, teaching and adapting to motherhood.

"My work is getting where I want it to be," she says, "so I need to pitch it to a select list of dream clients. It will take a certain amount of fearlessness to contact and convince them as I'm quite shy and sometimes intimidated by those I admire.

"As a creative, I've always been inspired by Stefan Sagmeister. For me, he embodies true fearlessness, both in business and creatively. He is the litmus test I measure my own work, values and ethics against. What would Sagmeister do?, I ask, when faced with a dilemma. Motivating indeed!"

07. "Do more"


2014 didn't quite go as Matt(H)Booth was expecting. "As I turned 40 in 2014 and December marked my 20th year in the industry, I wanted it to be a big year of change, moving away from the kind of work I get asked to do on a daily basis. Unfortunately, real life and work got in the way, which means I still don't have the studio of my dreams."

And so this year he intends to do more: "More personal, self-initiated projects, and turn these projects into real products, whatever form that takes. More collaborations with people that interest me, that can add another dimension to my work or take me to new places.

"Basically, do more stuff. The more I do, the more fulfilled I'll be as a designer and the happier I'll be in life. The great thing about our wonderful creative industry is that we can make these changes, we don't have the constraints and one dimensional work path other experience in other industries."

08. "Work less"

Sam Gilbey

"The danger of loving what you do and working for yourself is that it can be hard to let go sometimes and just, y'know, stop working," says illustrator Sam Gilbey. So I'm going to be much tougher on myself, with evening and weekend working kept to an absolute minimum.

"Sometimes it can't be helped, of course, but I'm also going to be up-front with clients, and won't be agreeing to any of those last minute 'it's Friday afternoon, must be done by Monday' jobs. Instead I'll be playing with my son who's nearly two, getting more exercise, and no doubt, more inspiration for when I am 'back at it'.

09. "Draw more"

Nick Abadzis

For writer and artist Nick Abadzis, 2014 turned out to be mostly about writing. "I've written a lot of Doctor Who comics and a 200 page YA graphic novel for First Second," he tells us.

"My work life is usually divided up between writing and drawing, and the game of mental tennis that goes on between those two disciplines. If my writing brain can't solve a narrative problem, it'll lob it over the net to my drawing brain, and so it goes, back and forth ñ problem, solution, problem, solution, etc. Well, I still do that, I just don't do the thumbnailing or next stages now."

This year Nick intends to do more drawing. "Not necessarily comics," he explains, "but to start the day with some doodling or get out and do some life drawing. Whatever I do, I find the meditative practice of drawing helps cohere my thoughts and focus my direction, even if the end product is simply a script. Drawing is as vital to me as breathing, and you can only hold your breath for so long."

10. "Dedicate time to personal projects"

Priya Mistry

Character designer, illustrator and animator Priya Mistry often promises herself that she'll spend more time on personal project, but that doesn't always work out.

"I'll fool myself into thinking I'll work on something in my 'spare time'," she says, "but spare time rarely comes by. As a result, I often find myself trying out small things here and there but never really commit myself to starting and finishing a substantial piece of work. So this year, I'm planning to schedule time each week to work on these projects, in the hope of challenging myself creatively, developing a strong visual style and ultimately build a richer portfolio."

11. "Learn to say no!"

Jeffrey Bowman

It's become harder and harder to turn down work this year," says Millican's new creative director, Jeffrey Bowman.

"In some cases having said yes to too many things has created a lot more stress and inefficiency in my practice. For the New Year I want to be more confident in saying no, as I think this will allow me to produce much better work!"

12. "Better work-life balance"

Harriet Gray

"In 2015 I'd really like to have a better work-life balance," says freelance illustrator Harriet Gray. Since setting up my little business three years ago, I've worked from home and although it's nice to be able to work in pyjamas, I have found it quite challenging.

"Despite having half the living room set up solely for working, being the procrastinator that I am I can always find lots of distractions when work needs to be done. And yet at the same time I never feel like I can switch off, because work is always surrounding me.

In the hope of adding some structure to my daily routine, I’ve decided that 2015 is the year for a separate studio! I hope my new work space will allow me to focus on on my never-ending 'to do' lists, but also enable me to switch off at the end of the day and enjoy the fruits of my labour."

13. "Push the studio"

Thiago Maia

Cookie Studio director Thiago Maia comments: "As we are re-branding 'Cake' to 'Cookie Studio', I would like to use it as an opportunity to push the studio and explore some new personal projects to be used on the rebrand in 2015.

"For me, it is always important to keep some internal projects to challenge ourselves and show what we love to do. It is always tricky to get some free time when you are running a studio, but if we keep organised and plan the year, we can always find the extra time."

14. "Launch a product series"

Svein Haakon Lia

"In 2015, together with my partners at Bleed, I want to initiate the launch of a product series, starting with a Perfume brand called Son Venin," says Bleed creative director Svein Haakon Lia.

"It has been a while since we last made a product (the Alta Bike) and it is a great learning experience for designers, to not only help others, but make and bring to market our own ideas.

"I would recommend it! Making this happen will be hard work, and will use our experiences from all the great clients we usually work with. The scents have already been done in 2014, and it has been a long and rewarding process in itself. Time to make it come alive!"

Words: Jim McCauley

Jim McCauley is a writer, editor and occasional podcaster, and is available for children's parties.

Like this? Read these!