This blog article is based on my own personal experience with multiple online challenges I've done that are in the creative sphere (though not all are in the design sphere). It mostly breaks down the main things I learned from each challenge rather than the challenge itself though, so this is a purely opinionated piece that focused on my own experience and growth.
There are some really good online challenges out there that are marketed as another way to better yourself while having fun. The thing is... I did multiple of these and that is not what I learned from them. Mostly. Here's what my experience was like with each of the challenges I've done and the main thing I learned from them.
This challenge gives you a brief every day for thirty days for you to create a logo. I decided to try it out last year when I was bored and I learned two main things: 1) the questions I ask my clients before creating a logo are much more in-depth than the briefs provided and 2) I take my client's opinion into account.
This was such a fun challenge in the sense of creating letters and having fun with illustrator, but I didn't like it was a one-letter-a-day challenge because this killed my creativity and drive. The main thing I learned here: 15-min a day every day may work for some, but I prefer to get sucked into a design and work on it for hours at a time.
This is a writing challenge to get to 50,000 words in a month (meant for novelists mostly) and while a good motivator as a final goal to get published (and cool prizes) here are my two main takes from this challenge: 1) I love the fact that it let me decide how much to write a day, though it did give me recommendations, and focused on a final goal and 2) the community involved in his challenge as we were all doing it together was a bigger endorphin rush than reaching those daily goals.
There are multiple versions of this, but I did the XD one because I wanted to better my skills with that program, as that's the one I use the least. What this led to is: I realized I'm not that bad with XD. What this also led to is realizing that I don't use XD "as intended" but I do use it as my clients require.
Another fun challenge, this one was to draw something in ink for every day of October based on a list of prompts. Here are the things I took away from this challenge: 1) I draw as a hobby and for fun - you give me a schedule and force me to do something and it's stressful, not fun, and 2) while prompts can be fun and can spark amazing ideas, taking that prompt in a different direction definitely made it more fun personally, though did pull me out of the community quite a bit.
So the main thing I learned: I get much better with people being involved rather than challenges. Now, for some of these, I completely ignored the community aspect and instead focused on my own growth and evolution through them. I'm sure this had a big impact on how I participated in the challenge, especially when compared to the other challenges where I was heavily involved with the community.
I also know that the community for each challenge is completely different. In one of them, I was encouraged daily (hourly towards the end!) by like-minded individuals who only focused on bringing me up! In another one, I got told off for not doing it every day with a "but, whatever, your choice", which really put a sour note. In yet another one, when I shared my results with the community instead of getting the endorphin-high of a well-done completed job, I got critiqued. Now, I don't mind constructive criticism (I love it!) but I would have liked to know beforehand that this was a "daily critique" challenge and not a "share your progress". That definitely took a lot of the fun out of it.
Having said all that, I've decided to try out one new challenge I found out about not that long ago: Daily UI design challenges and maybe some of the other Behance challenges to fill gaps in my knowledge. Going into this, I will be focusing on things I've learned from the previous challenges:
Doing it at my own pace
Focusing on learning, not a daily checklist
Learning about the community beforehand
So, I want to think of challenges as courses to take with homework - yes, I'm handing in the homework late, but who hasn't done that in school?