Every creative knows that stepping outside your comfort zone and getting your teeth sunk into an extra-curricular project is good for expanding your skills and firing up those dusty, unused neurons. But without the rigid structure of a client’s needs, sometimes it’s difficult to know where to start.

Here fifty of the world’s best artists, designers and animators have racked their brains to develop inspiring and challenging briefs to test your mettle. Some are inspired by real-life problems, others are whimsical adventures into imaginary worlds – but all will get your creative juices flowing.

Ranzie Anthony

An increased use of infographics in our daily lives presents an opportunity to create much more engaging and interactive ways to display travel information. So consider how you might help people access useful data beyond the station displays – be that while on the move or at home sitting in front of the TV.

Creative Director at Purpose, purpose.co.uk

Ben & Julia

Watch our film Kak&Kook and the Valley of the Farting Hens (vimeo.com/12484158) and create an animated film about what their next destination or adventure might be. At the end of the film our protagonists are stuck in the hens and one of our ideas was that it becomes a mothership, but you’re free to go in any direction you like. Impress us.

French-Swiss art directors, benandjulia.com

Neil Bennett

The NHS is under threat, not just from  the encroachment of the private sector, but also from the largely unchallenged premise that competition, presented under the banner of ‘Choice’, always delivers the best results.
I put it to you that doctors and nurses, hospitals and GPs’ surgeries work better through collaboration rather than competition – and I challenge you to persuade others through a poster, short film, interactive project or other media.

Editor, Digital Arts

Scot Bendall

Global protests are now a reality; ordinary people are standing up and demanding democracy and fairness. Imagine if every one of these protests united under a single graphic flag – a clear and defiant visual device, held high to display unity and pride no matter where you are. Design that flag and, in so doing, subvert the device used by armies  to signify power, strength in numbers and unity.

Creative director at La Boca, laboca.co.uk

Matthew Blease

The guidelines for designing anything linked to the Olympics are restrictive to say the least, so try to create a screenprinted poster that celebrates and commemorates the London Games without using the rings, ‘2012’, ‘Olympics’ or ‘London’. The finished size should be 594 x 420mm and use no more than three colours (four if you include the paper colour).

Illustrator, mattblease.com

Jon Burgerman

Grab a pen or pencil and a large sheet of paper, close your eyes and start drawing. Think about anything you like but keep that pen moving at all times. Perhaps play some music and marry the feel of the sounds to the gestures of your mark-making.

Don’t open your eyes until you’re finished with that drawing. Scan in the drawing, chop it up, add more to it, whatever you like, don’t be precious. Surprise yourself by creating something you didn’t really know you would create.

Illustrator, jonburgerman.com

Leandro Castelao

Take some minutes to look around your studio and your neighborhood or city. Take in the details: people who work or live with you, friends. There’s always something special within your environment.

Now try to represent everything in a single piece – it can be text-based, a drawing or an animation. The idea is to show the DNA of everything that surrounds you, somehow.

Illustrator, leandrocastelao.com.ar

Johann Chan

Last year’s London riots brought to our attention the disparity between different classes within our society and their frustrations. I spent a lot of time wondering if a piece of design/artwork could successfully communicate some of the complicated issues behind this disparity.

Using either graphic design or illustration, create a poster which voices some of the concerns surrounding that unfortunate time, preferably in a constructive way.

Art editor, Digital Arts

Phil Curl & Wes Anson

How can we de-commercialise Christmas? Having been through the festive mill and spewed out the other side, it seems worryingly obvious we’re on the slippery slope towards an undesirable destination, one where we have completely lost sight of fantastic age-old traditions in favour of selling more and more products and services.

So, create a campaign to re-instil Christmas traditions. It could be a rebranding of Christmas or be a guerrilla marketing campaign. The approach is up to you. Use any form of media to get the message across.

Creative partners at d.studio, d-studio.co.uk

Mike Dempsey

People walk out into busy roads or zebra crossings without looking because they are texting, chatting on their mobiles, or half-engaged in conversations with friends while reading tweets. We are depriving ourselves from being in the ‘here and now’. Design something to encourage people to engage more with the world around them and not just those little screens that hypnotise them into submission.

Designer, studiodempsey.co.uk

Jamie Ellul

The Speaker’s Advisory Council on Public Engagement gives informal advice to the Speaker of the House of Commons. The council’s chairman, Professor Jonathan Drori, recently said that Parliament’s portcullis logo is seen by the public “as a gate to keep them out”. Your brief is to create a rebranding of Parliament, one that gives it a more transparent and accessible image.

Creative director at Magpie Studio, magpie-studio.com

Jack Featherstone

Create a series of images that depict one of your favourite pieces of music, without the use of words or representational imagery.

Illustrator, jackfeatherstone.co.uk

Chris Harrison

Who doesn’t find the Internet distracting? It’s a great place for inspiration, but before you know it your kids have grown up and left home – and you missed it all because your head was stuck in Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter or Flickr. Design an app (yes, it’s meant to be ironic) that helps you spend more time in the ‘real world’, and less time online.

Creative director at Harrison & Co, harrisonandco.com

Lisa Hassell

Inkygoodness visited Antwerp earlier this year for the Fiend Projects Art Festival, and witnessed a little craze of illustrators creating characters on beermats. I challenge you to create your own beermat character and enter it into a competition to exhibit with us later this year.

We will pick our top 50 designs for the show. To enter, post your beer mat to the Inkygoodness HQ (14 Royal Road, Sutton Coldfield, B72 1SP) by June 29.  

Creative director at inkygoodness.com

Rian Hughes

The protest/hacker group Anonymous have adopted the Guy Fawkes mask from V for Vendetta as their identifier. In the original graphic novel, Alan Moore and David Lloyd pitched V against a fascist British government.

Recent events in North Korea show that an autocracy is not just an Orwellian fantasy. Your brief is to come up with a poster for a resistance movement to totalitarian ideologies. It should feature an original slogan and a simple image, and must be something you can stencil on a wall – so needs to be simple and use two colours at most.

Typographer, designer and illustrator, devicefonts.co.uk

James Hurst

According to some, December 12 2012 marks the end of civilisation as we know it. Some associate this key date in the Mayan calendar with catastrophe, while others are more sanguine – consider Terence McKenna’s Timewave Zero interpretation of the King Wen sequence in the I Ching. Design tools that will help civilisation embrace and understand the potential of this new chapter in our history.

James is part of the Figtree Creative Network, figtreenetwork.com

Kai & Sunny

Our last show was called The Flower Show. We would like to ask how you interpret the word ‘flower’. How does it make you feel, and what does a flower represent to you?

This could be taken literally, emotionally, ambiguously, or in an otherworldly way. For us this word has an endless meaning. In contrast to our flower series we would like the image you produce to feature colour.

Illustration duo, kaiandsunny.com

Alan Long

‘You learn something new everyday’, the saying goes. So draw what you have learnt today.

The dimensions are up to you, but there are two rules: Your interpretation must be hand-drawn and you cannot spend more than five minutes on it – be honest, we will be watching!

Creative director at Sane & Able, saneandable.co.uk

Simon Manchipp

Greggs is one of the last remaining constants on the high street. While the rest of the retail trade struggles, Greggs continues to supply one of the UKs most important staples – bread. But another franchise, Paul, is offering continental breads and stealing Greggs’ customers. Greggs must fight back. Your task? Create a rebranding for Greggs that isn’t simply a logo.

Creative director at SomeOne, someoneinlondon.com

Luke Manning

We are constantly battling certain clients regarding the benefits of design and how time and money should be invested in the creative stages of the design process.

Create the strategy and identity for a brand that acts as an ambassador for the benefits of design, and educates people to be much less budget-driven in their decisions.

Creative director at Pencil, pencilstudio.co.uk

Mr Millerchip

Narrative-based illustration requires an understanding of how graphic images are used to communicate a message or simply to tell a story.

By applying imagination and developing an interesting layout within your own personal style and skill set, illustrate a personal narrative that depicts a journey from start to finish. But it has to involve a person and a beast – how you interpret that is up to you.

Illustrator, mistermillerchip.com

Tom Muller

Comic books are one of the few pop-culture genres where bespoke typography and type design form an integral part of the experience – in good and bad ways. They draw on a very rich history of hand-lettering and custom fonts.

Your task is to create a logo for a comics publisher, one that is modern and relevant but also respectful of the visual heritage of comics.

Graphic designer and art director at helloMuller, hellomuller.com

Kenn Munk

Pretend you’re on an expedition. Find a place you haven’t been to before. It should take you a day to reach, explore and return from. Plan to leave in two weeks’ time or more.  Make a detailed visual record of your expedition. Bring everything you need with you. Return with a souvenir.

Illustrator and brains behind arts organisation A Secret Club, schhh.org

Rob Nicol

We are undeniably part of the universe but we tend to forget it. Produce a set of illustrations that remind the viewer about the incomprehensible vastness of space and the ultimate futility of life. But make sure you don’t make them miserable.

Illustrator, robert-nicol.co.uk

Joana Niemeyer

Britain has failed to get more young people into sports despite the London 2012 Olympics. Maybe the sports featured in the Olympics are just not that attractive to young people? Skateboarding is one sport not recognised by the IOC.

Your task is create a poster that promotes a sport that has not yet made it into the Games, such as korfball or wushu.

Designer from Studio April, studio-april.com

Michael Place

As a fan of architecture, when I came across Tadao Ando (tadao-ando.com) I was blown away. His work has an inherent calmness, a sense of restraint, of a master of material and space at work. Often what is not there is as important as what is.

Design an A1 portrait poster for this exhibition and that includes this text: Tadao Ando, Surroundings, March 1–June 4, 2012. The Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53 Street, New York, NY 10019. Use only squares and circles, two colours (including black) and the typeface Courier.

Creative director at Build, wearebuild.com

Steve Ramsay

Due to the rapid expansion of the London Underground and the immediate need to ensure it can cope with demand during the Olympics, it is evident that the tube as we know it will become even more crowded, less personal, and ultimately more frustrating for the London commuter.

Design a concept of ‘commuter engagement’ that eradicates the negative thoughts the passenger experiences throughout their journey. TV, radio, film, and music streaming are not allowed.

Creative director at Convio, convio.co.uk

Chris Ratcliffe

Hate reality? Love animals? We have the perfect project for you: the Fantasy Zoo. The concept is quite simple: We give you an imaginary budget of £10,000. You trawl the free ads, local papers and internet to find animals for sale that you can collect to build your own fantasy zoo. (If you don’t have time to search, I’ve prepared a shopping list which is available from digitalartsonline.co.uk/downloads).

Using your very own artistic genius, visualise the zoo in any way you like.

Designer at Garudio Studiage, garudiostudiage.com

Nik Roope

While I’m committed to dancing around the leading edge of media, I am concerned, like so many others, about the effect technology is having on us as people, communities, cultures and societies.

Think about a design that acts as an antidote to this. If all of this rapid adoption of new technologies and behaviours is like gazing up at bright, colourful triffids landing on Earth, then what can we use, refer to, look at, drink, or do to purge this poison?

Creative director at Poke, pokelondon.com

Graham Roumieu

Book a trip to see a friend that lives at least a few hours away. Bring a fresh sketchbook. While travelling, create an illustrated mini-book relevant to the person you are going to see. It could be their life story or, if they’re into bats for example, you could write down and draw everything you know about bats for them.

It doesn’t have to be polished: it just has to be as thoughtful and enjoyable as something can be that was made during a journey to see someone worth making a little book for.

Illustrator, roumieu.com

Carl Rush

The human race has discovered life on another planet, and NASA has been assigned the job of making first contact with this alien race. Create a piece of communication that is a ‘first point of contact’ or a ‘hello’ card if you like. The piece can be printed, digital or whatever you feel would be best as an introduction to planet Earth. Funny, serious, welcoming, threatening – it’s up to you.

Creative director at Crush Creative, Crushed.co.uk

Matt Shelley

Brands are omnipresent, and can represent products, people, organisations, towns and cities, countries and even religions. At what point does a brand become unnecessary and impractical? Taking this to its ultimate conclusion, how would you brand the largest thing we can experience – the Earth?

Senior designer at Deep, deep.co.uk

Nick Sherman

The labels on bottles of Dr Bronner’s liquid soap (drbronner.com) are a typesetter’s nightmare – every square inch is covered as densely as possible with esoteric rhetoric. Improve the design of the bottle without cutting any of the text, content or barcodes. Treat this as, essentially, an extreme typesetting challenge.

Brooklyn-based typographer working for Font Bureau and Webtype, nicksherman.com

Michael Smith

Children used to play in any open space. Then councils put up ‘no ball games’ signs. A generation (or three) later, children don’t play outdoors. Create a replacement for the old signs (photos of which I’ve uploaded at noballgames.posterous.com), something that encourages children to play and enjoy the outdoors.

Creative director at Cog Design, cogdesign.com

Murray Somerville

I’ve outlined a layout for one page of a self-contained comic, called Mipsy and Bogart’s Treasure Hunt. Using the image you can download from digitalartsonline.co.uk/downloads, complete the comic using the characters in the three drawn panels at the start – and make sure that your story ties in with the final panel.

Illustrator, murraysomerville.blogspot.com

Tom Tobia

Create something – anything – to help busy parents entertain and spend time engaging with their children without the use of a screen.

Designer, tomtobia.com

Stuart Tolley

The year is 2055 and a major gallery has commissioned you to create the promotional artwork for a retrospective exhibition looking at ‘the defining moments of life in the first decade of the 21st century’. Your artwork can take any form, including print, digital, video or sound installation.

Creative director at Transmission, thisistransmission.com

Jack Teagle

Create a narrative either in one image, or through series of images or panels that tells a story. To generate ideas and thoughts outside of your comfort zone, write a bunch of nouns, adjectives and verbs onto cards and put them into three sets, then randomly pick cards from each and create a narrative from your selection.

Illustrator, jackteagle.co.uk

Tomi Vollauschek

An intriguing challenge I was told about recently was to do something unusual at least once a week. I challenge you to top that by doing something you never did before every day for one month. I bet this experience will be reflected in your creativity. Stay healthy and legal though.

Creative director at FL@33, flat33.com

James Webb

It is the winter of 2014 and Scotland has declared independence from the UK. The beleaguered coalition government fears Wales and Northern Ireland will follow suit and has asked you to redesign the Union flag to represent England as a single sovereign state.  Will it have a nickname like ‘Union Jack’, and how will you present your ideas to the people of England so that they will accept your proposal?

Designer at Webb & Webb, webbandwebb.co.uk

Paul West

We all know the scenario: we’re catching a train, and we have only a short time to buy a ticket at the station. Do we join the massive queue at the ticket office or try the ticket machine? We tackle the machine. Instant confusion: when is Off Peak, Anytime? The Request Receipt button is tucked away top right and easy to miss. Now there’s a queue behind you.

Through effective information graphics and typography, design a sequence of interface visuals that are informative, legible and easier to navigate when buying a train ticket.

Partner at Form, form.uk.com

Michael Wolff

Hotels often have baffling and barely legible emergency notices, usually dealing with fire and little else. Now that there are TVs and telephones in most hotel rooms, devise a technical and graphic strategy for giving information in various emergencies – from fire to bomb attacks – and in a variety of countries. Show how the sequences of events you design are practical and also an expression of a well-known hotel brand. Focus on the guests’ experience, making sure they don’t panic, and then on what your ideas will achieve for the hotel.
Designer & creative advisor,

wolff.eu.com

Ed Woodcock

Brazil, Russia, India and China will soon be among the world’s largest economies. Now, any self-respecting global currency needs its own symbol. The Indians have commissioned one for the rupee. But what about the renminbi (besides the sometimes-used ¥), the rouble and the real?

Strategy director at Aesop, aesopagency.com

Create and win

We’d love to see what you create based on these briefs, and to encourage you to show us, we’re giving you to the chance to win some fantastic prizes. We’ll be announcing the full set of what’s up for grabs over the coming months, but to whet your appetite we can reveal that some of the best entries will receive top design books, courtesy of Laurence King (laurenceking.com). These beautifully published hardback tomes include our favourite book of last year, Saul Bass: A Life in Film and Design, revealing the work of the king of 50s graphic design  – and the new edition of the David Carson monograph The End of Print. Rediscover design’s roots in Graphic Design: A History, or for a less serious read there’s Rad Rides: The Best BMX Bikes of All Time, which showcases the favoured mode of transport of teenagers and creatives countrywide (and Digital Arts’ own Johann Chan). Laurence King is also offering one of Patrick Thomas’ Protest Stencil Toolkit silkscreen prints, as the publisher kicks off its first series of limited-edition prints featuring work from artists featured in its books.

Also up for grabs are five year-long Vimeo PRO accounts (vimeo.com/pro), letting you showcase up to 50GB of your motion work in HD in an online space you can design.