Three months ago I decided that I was no longer going to suck at design.
This seemed like an impossibly daunting task at first. I started with a project: redesigning the MHVLUG website. Then I went to Amazon looking for a book on web design. Some searching, reading reviews, looking at related/recommended books, and I bought a bunch of books. And I spent the next couple of months reading through them. The best books out of the lot have been The Design of Everyday Things, Don’t Make Me Think, and The Non-Designer’s Design Book. I read more than that, which is an important point. If you want to learn something new you’re going to need to read more than just 1 book.
Basic design, like most other things, has rules and patterns. Just knowing rules and patterns isn’t going to make you a great designer, but it will keep you from sucking too much. Having a basic theoretical framework gives you something to work with besides the really scary blank page. These books definitely did that for me.
Books will only get you so far, because you can nod along when reading a book, assuming that you understood, but until you go to apply it, you have no idea if you internalized it. Fortunately I had a project, so after a couple of months of reading, I dove into the project, doing the bulk of the work over Thanksgiving Holiday, with a lot of tweaking since. The results, I think are pretty good.
You don’t need to suck at anything. If there is something you wish you were better at, it’s within your control to get better at it. It takes hard work, time, and practice, but that’s just life.