Overcoming the Fear of the First Design Challenge
Overcoming imposter syndrome, finding inspiration, and putting your designs out there opens a world of possibility and closes the door on fear.
Upon graduating the Flatiron School’s UX/UI Design bootcamp in late March, I gained a certificate of completion, but I lost the daily structure and guidance that enabled me to be productive.
I’m sure a lot of people looking for full-time jobs now, like me, are aware of the discipline and determination necessary to productively get through the day. While I still struggle to stay on track even now, pushing myself to complete at least one UI challenge a week from Daily UI has certainly helped.
Completing one of these challenges a week has rebuilt my confidence as a designer, inspired me to blog about designs that I’m passionate about, and driven me to network with other designers. I’ve even been fortunate enough to pick up some contract work since I started.
While I know my job search is far from over, I began moving forward the moment I decided to start my first UI challenge. However, getting to this point has been a personal journey, full of twists and turns. The greatest hurdle for me was simply starting.
What is inspiration? What does it mean to be motivated to create? I watched my inbox fill up for weeks with daily UI challenges that I ignored, paralyzed by fear and self-doubt. At the time I wasn’t ready to put my work out there. Browsing Dribbble only served to intimidate me with work completed by professional designers. In the face of professional work, I couldn’t bring myself to even open Figma or Sketch.
It wasn’t until I saw this post on Bungie.net, called A Bunker Built for Two that I found my own personal inspiration and motivation to keep creating. The article details how Bungie’s senior concept artist, Dima Goryainov, brings such iconic visual design to the Destiny franchise.
I’ve been playing Destiny and Destiny 2 since before I decided to pursue a career in design, so the article piqued my interest. What I wasn’t prepared for, was the flash of inspiration Dima’s designs would instill in me.
Dima Goryainov’s concept art for iconography found in science facilities in Destiny: Rise of Iron. This aesthetic has become inextricably linked with Destiny and Destiny 2’s world building. Image source: Bungie.net
I wasn’t just looking at a collection of designs, I was practically looking at a Destiny UI kit. I stared at this image for several minutes, admiring the color-scheme, the simple linework, and how it all came together to build a memorable and iconic experience. Dima’s work amounted to something much greater than the sum of its parts.
As I read on, the article discussed Dima’s inspirations for a new game hub location, in which the player character would interact with an interplanetary network of supercomputers known as Rasputin.
Destiny had previously portrayed Rasputin as aloof and distant to the plight of humanity. His reclusive and reticent nature formed a gap between the player and himself, that Dima wanted to explore and bridge with the design of this new social space.
The dark-lit, intimate, and thoughtful mood that Dima created intended to have the player relax and reflect while Rasputin curiously monitors them. Image Source : Bungie.net
Dima wanted to create a specific mood, referencing Deckard’s apartment from Blade Runner. He wanted his focus on dark lighting and silence to generate a feeling of relaxation, introspection, and intimacy.
Dima and his creative team had to find a way to share that space between the player and Rasputin, and did so in subtle ways. Various inspirations from film, games, and the real world found themselves in Dima’s reference board, as seen below:
Dima himself was inspired by Blade Runner, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Alien, and various other sci-fi and real world designs. Image source: Bungie.net
I began making connections to Dima’s reference board, which most designers would call a moodboard. It reminded me that talented designers and artists take ideas and inspirations to create something unique and new.
The fantastic designs on Dribbble that previously deterred me from even trying became products of inspiration. Not because I was intent on emulating them, but I began to strive towards the polish and passion designers like Dima proudly put into their work.
I wanted to be proud of my work too.
Taking the First Step
I resolved to open the folder where I had shoved the Daily UI emails and to pick just one to start. I decided that first and foremost that I wanted to have fun, or else I’d view these challenges as a chore. I settled on designing a boarding pass, and quickly decided that I wanted to put a twist on it to challenge myself. What about a passport… to space?
It was interesting to think what kind of information would be needed on a boarding pass to space. I thought it would be ironic to mock up such a futuristic pass on what looks like a painfully low-tech piece of paper. From there, I began thinking about making it look kind of retro and hopeful for the future. I felt like I could tell a story with this ticket, and I knew exactly where to get some visual inspiration.
I had a lot of fun borrowing and modifying Dima’s designs. I loved his tan, gray, and blue color scheme, which simultaneously seemed forward, grand, and retro. I tried to bring that grand quality to the swooping “V” of Venture, the name of the presumed spaceliner.
Dima’s use of circles with strong stokes made me think of planets, and I used that to indicate interplanetary travel. Lastly, I upgraded the ticket with a string of incomprehensible symbols and shapes to be read by some kind of complex scanner. I also threw in a bar-code because I wanted the design to feel both high and low-tech.
It’s not perfect. It may look a bit too similar to my inspiration and some of this text can be hard to read. I became aware of its shortcomings, and resolved to improve for future designs.
Though I was able for the first time in a while to look at something I made and I felt happy and a little proud. Above all I had fun and it reminded me that I still have the passion, drive, and skill to keep creating, learning, and improving.
Keeping up With the Challenge
All I needed to get the ball rolling was to find some inspiration and reframe my design journey and job hunt not as a lack of skill, but as an abundance of opportunity to become a better designer.
That fear, anxiety, and imposter syndrome is always going to be there, but I’ve learned to treat it as a step in the design process that I need to acknowledge and move past. I’ve since completed four design challenges and I’ve been spicing them up with animations. I try to push myself just a tad farther each week, all the while having a blast.
So thanks Dima, and thanks to all the designers who put their work out there for all of us to enjoy. It’s an inspiration and it has made a difference for me and many other junior designers.
My Second Daily UI Challenge — Subscribe Page
My Third Daily UI Challenge — Design an Upload Icon/Interaction
My Fourth Daily UI Challenge — Design a Promotion