I feel that I am good at writing code in bits and pieces, but my designs really suck. The question is, how do I improve my designs - and in turn become a better designer?
I think schools and colleges do a good job of teaching people how to become good at mathematical problem solving, but let's admit the fact that most applications created at school are generally around 1000 - 2000 lines long, which means that it is mostly an academic exercise which doesn't reflect the complexity of real world software - on the order of a few hundred thousand to millions of lines of code.
This is where I believe that even projects like topcoder / project euler also won't be of much help, they might sharpen your mathematical problem solving ability - but you might become an academic programmer; someone who is more interested in the nice, clean stuff, who is utterly un-interested in the day to day mundane and hairy stuff that most application programmers deal with.
So my question is how do I improve my design skills? That is, the ability to design small/medium scale applications that will go into a few thousand of lines of code? How can I learn design skills that will help me build a better html editor kit, or some graphics program like gimp?