As a recent design bootcamp program graduate, I knew looking for a great design job would be a challenge. I anticipated that after I finished school, I wouldn’t be working my dream role immediately. I’d be happy having a job at a good company with teammates that were decent enough.
What I didn’t anticipate was being 3 months out of school without any job at all. To preserve my ego I will blame COVID entirely. But really, what company would want to take a chance on a brand new designer in a time where taking a chance on anything seems especially risky? In my recent experience, even finding freelance or volunteer design work is a major challenge.
So here I am, a UX/UI Designer with no job but a desperate desire to prove myself and gain experience. I know based on my cohort of fellow bootcamp graduates that I am far from the only one in this position. But if we are struggling to find freelance or volunteer design work and companies aren’t jumping at the chance to hire a brand new designer, what can we do to keep learning and maintaining our skills?
I don’t know about you, but my pre-quarantine brain and mid-quarantine brain differ drastically in motivation. Yes, I want to do more design work. And yes, I have a list of side projects I’d love to start on. But to be honest, I’ve had about enough time alone with my own brain. I want to be inspired by ideas and problems I’ve never considered, from people with completely different perspectives.
Luckily there are a ton of brilliant (and free) design challenges available online, and I have them to credit for pulling me out of the uninspired and directionless slump that is my quarantine brain. Here are 10 of my personal favorites.
Daily UI sends you an email a day that contains the challenge for that day — anything like designing a payment page or a digital boarding pass. While it is probably better to show your design process than a stand-alone screen, I like completing these to see what kind of creative spin I can put on a concept that is pretty well established already.
Dribbble Weekly Warmup
30 Day UX Challenge
Put together by the team of 3 brilliant women of UX Boot Camp, this is a month-long comprehensive challenge that keeps you engaged and knowledgeable about the UX design process. It brushes you up on topics like UX strategy, the importance of persona creation, wireframing, and overall best practices. While the purely visual challenges are a lot of fun, I got a lot of value from seeing how they outlined their process and comparing it to my own.
WTF Should I Letter
Daily Logo Challenge
The Daily Logo Challenge is another subscription service that will send you a logo prompt each day. If you’re really aiming to hone your branding and visual design skills, I recommend trying your hand at some logos through this challenge.
Sharpen.design isn’t exactly a challenge in the way most of these other options are, but it’s a great way to find some inspiration if you’re wanting to work on some UI skills but don’t know where to even start. For me, coming up with an initial concept or problem is the main place I get stuck. Sharpen helps me get the creative juices flowing.
Okay so full disclaimer: I haven’t actually completed one of these challenges yet, but I really want to! They put out regular challenges where you can do things like a LinkedIn redesign or building out what the ideal team management dashboard would look like. You can submit your challenge entry, have your submission voted on, and compete to have your design featured in the UpLabs newsletter for over 1 million design professionals to see.
100 Days of Product Design
This is a newer challenge, but I love the idea behind it. Each lesson builds on top of the last, so you learn as you go through the 100 days. So far it seems to highlight more UX principles than UI, but I’m excited to see where it leads since the author is only on Day 34.
Sketching for UX
I’m including Sketching for UX because of the free newsletter this source puts out, which includes a 5–10 minute sketching challenge. I always judge my own sketches pretty harshly, so I was excited to try something to make my sketches a little cleaner, clearer, and more universally understood without always having to accompany them with words.
The last challenge I want to include is UX Challenge. This doesn’t send you any emails or reminders since you don’t have to subscribe to get these, which is a positive for me. It supplies you with awesome real-world problems for you to solve with your design. This challenge was so fun because each case study can drag you through all steps of the design process and can lead you to create a completely new site or app.
I hope you find these challenges to be as inspiring, thought-provoking, boredom-reducing, and educational as I did. Happy designing!