Every so often I answer questions on Quora.com and re-publish my answers here. This question was originally published at http://qr.ae/TyZbS.

My background is in design. I’m an Interactive Creative Director who has augmented his skills with front-end development, photography and writing.

First, a Note on Developing Taste
There’s a great quote from Ira Glass that I see quite often on Quora. It’s applicable here because you’re at that point where you can give up, but you’re not. Your actions should be applauded and encouraged. Here’s what Ira Glass said:

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

I’m guessing you know a good design when you see it. The next best step is to start identifying the components that make you say WHY it’s appealing to you. Then move to another design you like and deconstruct again. Do this for all of the designs you like. The goal of this exercise is not only to figure out what elements make a good design but to also discover your personal design style. 

Look back at your notes, look for the trends in what components make good design and you’ll discover the frontier of your design taste. It’s an ever-shifting landscape that you will shape for the rest of your life. And it’s exciting. It’s what will separate you creatively from the rest.

Developing your own style will do two things: 1 – Your design style will guide you forward in your projects and 2 – (more importantly) you avoid simply copying someone else’s work.

Developing Your Skills
Learn everything you can about typography. So much of the web is type. Learn about kerning, leading, ratios, attractive line breaks, conrast, type styles (serif, slab serif, geometric sans serif and so on). Just like looking at web pages critically, pick and choose the typefaces that you like.

Learn basic composition rules: Rule of Thirds, golden ratio, etc. Composition rules will help the general shape of the page and positioning of elements.

Color, Contrast and Lighting
Learn about how colors work together. Same with contrast. Learn how lighting can affect design (e.g. how it affects color casts, how it affects the emotional tone, learn about color temperature)

Self Editing
Be prolific. By this I mean do a ton of design. Some of it will be good. A ton of it will be crap (at first.) Don’t be ashamed to point out what doesn’t work with your designs. You learn through bad choices as much as good ones. Once you get the hang of editing your work, you’ll be able to identify good stuff while you work, not just after you make it. Even better, editing will also help you learn to avoid pitfalls during planning.

The best part of learning to self edit is that you’ll learn how to make smarter and more relevant decisions.

Best of luck and keep us posted on your progress!

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