It's been a tough year, but we've got through it, and at Creative Boom, we remain amongst the optimists. Below, we share essential lessons learned by fellow creatives in 2022 to help you make the next 12 months the best they can be.
Sure, it hasn't been the best year ever for the world in general. But let's look on the positive side. As creatives, we spend every working day doing what we love in a profession with better pay and more opportunities to progress than most. Despite all the gloom, we've worked hard throughout 2022, kept our clients happy, and found ways to stay creative and motivated. In short, we should be damn proud of ourselves.
Plus, whether your personal year has gone well, badly or somewhere in between, you'll have learned some important lessons that will help you become better at what you do in the months and years to come.
That said, every individual will have had different experiences in 2022, so the lessons each of us has learned will vary considerably. So we figured it would be useful to combine all these lessons and share them with the community.
We asked our followers on Twitter to reveal their most important learnings from the last 12 months, and as ever, they delivered in style. We'll share some of the best of their contributions below, while you can see the full thread here.
1. Remote isn't always the best way
Most of us have been doing much more remote work over the past year. But that's not always the best way. Freelance graphic designer Kat Summers, for one, has been working remotely throughout 2022 but has started to realise what she's been missing.
"I'm quite happy squirrelling away on my own at certain stages of the design process, but looking back at my agency days, I've realised how much I learnt through osmosis, chatting and collaborating with talented creatives," she says. "I'm ready to be part of something bigger in 2023. Next year, I'll hopefully be making a big move to a new country, so it's my mission to put in extra effort to get involved in the creative community and have some fun."
Roly Grant, founder of Without Studio, provides another take on the move to remote working. "Our message from Sicily, where we're working with a new client, is that just because it can work for studios, don't assume remote is the ideal for clients," he says. "A drink, a laugh, a shared experience can be as valuable for projects as the work itself."
And others are just enjoying leaving the home office at a more fundamental level. "The importance of getting back out and enjoying a much wider range of references has been the main lesson of 2022 for me," says Elinor O'Brien, senior designer at &Walsh. "During the pandemic, I was stuck inside a lot. This year, I learned to look wider afield for inspiration: nature, galleries, and totally random things, rather than relying on sites like Pinterest or Instagram."
2. Tough times demand flexibility
Even in the most stable of times, in the words of the Scottish poet Robbie Burns: "The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft a-gley [often go awry]". And in the tumult of 2022, that truism has become more relevant than ever. So one of the biggest lessons we've all learned this year has been to expect the unexpected and stay flexible in our approach to work.
"The last few years, particularly with the pandemic and then the economic turmoil that followed, have proven that you really can't plan anything," says freelance photographer Jon Enoch. "So I've learned that it's important to be flexible, resilient and bold and to never stop working on your skills."
3. Don't fear recession
Many people are predicting a coming recession, which has made many of us fearful for our futures. But Jon believes we shouldn't worry too much: if it happens, it may contain as many opportunities as downsides.
"In previous economic downturns, I actually found doors easier to get through," he points out. "Clients started questioning existing bloated relationships and were happy to meet new people who could provide a better end-product with fewer resources or bring more agile working methods to the table. As many doors open as shut."
Jon adds that whatever happens, you should: "keep planning your own projects to showcase your creativity and your strengths, without the restraints of client briefs." For him personally, he says, "Next year is more of the same. Keep working hard, showcase my best work and always take my work to the next level."
And when things go wrong, says graphic designer Patrick Hengartner, just keep calm and carry on. "There is another day," he says. "There is no point in getting annoyed or angry. Nobody died from being unable to deliver on the deadline because of unforeseen circumstances."
Clients started questioning existing bloated relationships and were happy to meet new people who could provide a better end-product with fewer resources or bring more agile working methods to the table. As many doors open as shut.
4. Count your blessings
The constant stream of bad news from the media can really get you down, especially when things like price and interest rate rises affect you directly. But it's important to maintain perspective. News journalism always has and always will prioritise bad news because it's what people are interested in. Yet terrible events, however awful, remain thankfully rare: that's precisely what makes them newsworthy. And there's still a lot to be joyous about, both personally and globally.
"For me, it's a question of preserving some joy," says Jim Sutherland of Studio Sutherland. "Keep informed, but stop watching endless negative news. Protect your mental health. Avoid the gloom mongers, energy wasters and naysayers. Seek and find the joy around us. And maybe that's by turning our talents to amplifying voices and causes that cannot be heard or are falling on deaf ears."
He adds, "We are fortunate to be working in a creative industry. So we should all do what we can to improve our lives and the lives around us. We should endeavour to play more and enjoy our work and life."
5. Deepen your relationships
If times do get tough next year, those with the deepest relationships will often survive and perhaps even prosper. In Jim's case, "Nearly all of my work comes from existing contacts or referrals. So it's important to appreciate those clients that appreciate you. Nourish those relationships more than ever; I think that's how we can ride out harsh economic times."
Other relationships, such as those with collaborators, can be equally important. "I think next year will be a time for specialists working together building teams of experts, not faceless monolithic studios," says Jim. "We should all be meeting more people, physically when possible, from all walks of life. Widening our net, collaborating more, and with more interesting people."
6. Ask for help
Remember, relationships aren't just about finding work; they also come in handy when we're having problems and need support.
Growth strategist and educator Darnell Brown says that in 2023 he plans to "stop leaning on only my own wits and experiences, and just simply ask for help when I'm hung up on things. Additionally, I'll nurture my relationships more, check in more often with my peeps, and be a resource without any reciprocity required. A great colleague can clearly see what we miss due to our inherent blindspots and hubris."
7. Think about who you want to be
With the world in turmoil, many of us have realised that the careful plans we've laid out for our careers might be blown off course. But there's a positive flipside to that: it's forcing us to think more deeply about what we really want and who we really want to be.
"I think a lot of designers, and students, are questioning what they are working on and for whom," says Jim Sutherland. "They have higher expectations from a studio: the clients, the projects, the benefits, the working practices. Time feels like it's speeding up, so we should all make the most of every day and work out where to invest our energy and with whom."
Part of that, for many, has been rediscovering their inner passion. "I've come to realise that the current artists I admire most have one thing in common," says portrait artist Naava Katz. "It's not style, medium or subject matter. It's that they are unequivocally themselves. They found their artistic voice and leaned into it deeply. That utterly inspires me."
In that light, some creatives are taking a step back rather than making grand career plans and rigorously pursuing them. Artist and illustrator Anne Corr is among them. "The lesson I've learned from 2023 is that growth is sometimes under the ground: unheard and unseen but offering a future," she says. "So I've been listening to my quiet this year: less clamorous for doing, more open to being."
Mei Wing Chan, associate creative director at Siegel+Gale, tells a similar story. "This year, more than ever, I've learned that creativity doesn't always happen when you're working," he says. "So my advice to others is to let ideas run riot in your head during everyday moments. For me, next year, there'll be less 'I'll get to that project task over the weekend' because life should fuel your work."
8. Double down on your passions
Indeed, if some of your work isn't making money, that's a sacrifice many are willing to take to develop more fully as a creative. "This year, I've come to believe that every painting will have its time," says artist Steve Randall. "The trick is to create the opportunity for my work to be seen and create enough work to be collected, not just bought. I lost my way a little in 2022, creating random works. I've ended with a flourish."
"Your creativity doesn't have to make you money," agrees Stacey J Sheppard, author of interior design blog The Design Sheppard. "You can also be creative for fun, even if you're bad at it. Monetising your passion isn't always the best idea, especially if it sucks the joy out of it."
Because, after all, isn't joy what we should aim for in life? That's certainly how artist Julie Bonner feels. "Creating art for myself is what I will continue to do more of in 2023," she says. "It's crazy how a year can go by, and I'm designing for others most of the time. We renovated our home this year, and I enjoyed painting murals throughout."
Lettering artist Alanna Flowers adds that for her, in 2023, "It's been so beneficial for me to continually ask myself 'Does this work look and feel like me?' This will help me develop my unique style and artistic voice over time. As I grow and develop, this will lead to more well-aligned commissions."
9. Celebrate what you've achieved
As creatives, we often beat ourselves up about our perceived failures. But if you really want to produce great work, it's more productive, let alone better for your mental health, to focus on the positives instead. And if you're honest with yourself, you'll find plenty to be positive about.
"I went freelance just under a year ago, but only in the past few months have I started giving myself credit for the hard work and hours that I've put in," says designer and illustrator Kate + Coast. "This, in turn, has seen my creativity soar, and my confidence too, both when dealing with clients and in my ability and work. In short, I've learned to compare less, create more and have more respect for myself."
Rather than a one-off, it's good to make this process a regular habit, says designer and illustrator Kevin Tiernan. "Stay in tune with your feelings and regularly check in with yourself," he recommends. "It's okay to step back and reassess why you create art or anything. Ask yourself: do you miss it while you're away? How does it make you feel at the end of the day?"
You can also be creative for fun, even if you're bad at it. Monetising your passion isn't always the best idea, especially if it sucks the joy out of it.
10. Give yourself a break
Focusing on personal work can be a great way to reinvigorate your passion for creativity. But that said, there's not always time… so if that's the case, don't beat yourself up.
"I work full-time in an agency, but I haven't had time for personal work this year, and that made me feel so guilty that I wasn't keeping up appearances online," says Meagan Hyland. "But then I realised it's okay to take time to not be creating." The lesson here, then, is that: "Your productivity is not your worth. Just because you're not creating all the time doesn't diminish what you've already accomplished or will in the future."
And remember, above all, that you don't need to be working all the time you're awake. "Slow down more and embrace the downtime," advises Andy Bell, founder of Set Studio. "In years gone by, I'd fill my schedule to the brim with client work or side projects. But this year, I've finally learned that, instead of trying to fill gaps, they're really useful to recharge and re-organise."
11. Stay optimistic for 2023
When you're feeling depressed, remember the phrase, 'It's always darkest before dawn'. As copywriter and journalist Lauren John points out: "You never really know what's going to happen and when. For instance, after a slump that had me feeling a bit down, I was contacted by a client I'd previously worked for a repeat booking, and someone else more recently has already gotten in touch with a commission."
Artist Chris Cyprus had a similar experience in 2022. "The uncertainty of everything this year had a profound effect on me creatively, and I was considering giving up my art career if things didn't pick up towards the end of the year. Thankfully it has, and I want to create new amazing art opportunities for myself." His advice to others in 2023, then, is simple. "Believe in your work and the emotions it evokes. Keep knocking on as many doors as possible. And don't take no for an answer!"