When I decided to learn design, I had no idea where to start. So I did what most people do: I asked people with experience (designers in this case), and I searched the internet. Both proved to be very helpful, and here’s why:
Of the eight emails I sent (four to friends, four to designers I didn’t know) I received eight responses! One even scheduled a forty-minute phone call. I received advice like: “You can teach yourself,” “There are tons of resources online,” “Call me anytime – I’ll help you.” Their advice proved to be true, and they all lived up to their offers to help.
Not surprisingly, the internet was also a great resource. Below are the five resources that were most helpful to me as a beginning designer. Lists of more than five exist, (like this one, and this one) but I recommend starting with a few and grow from there.
- Lynda.com provides amazing training videos on a variety of subjects. The 7 day free trial proved to be so helpful that I subscribed for several months. And I HARDLY EVER subscribe for things. I knew that Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop were the main programs used by designers, so I started with tutorials on Photoshop. I learned quickly, created several things, and put together my first portfolio.
- Dribbble.com was, and still is where I go for inspiration. Here, designers of all types show what they are working on by posting small screenshots of their work. It’s great. Don’t just go here and copy – go to be inspired. You can sign up for an “entry level” account, but you can’t get a legit account until you’re invited. There are Dribbble competitors like Behance and DeviantArt, but Dribbble is the no-brainer top choice for me.
- At least half of the searching I did online about learning a particular skill led me to Smashing Magazine. This site features great tips and materials that have been very helpful to me. Like this article on effective web design or a great list of free WordPress themes. Take a look and I’m sure you’ll find something useful.
- I used this site for walk-throughs on various projects. Basically, people create tutorials (video and non-video) and post them on this site. You pick something you want to make, follow the tutorial, and you’ll end with a finished product and improved skills to create similar projects.
- You may have expected this one, but Google searches have been my saving grace more times than I can count. “How do I turn off guides in Photoshop?”, “What should I include in my design portfolio?”, “How do I pick colors for my logo?”. Google helped me find great answers to all of those questions. Thankfully, there are great people out there who post and answer questions online, and many of them have the same questions that you will have. So when you have a question, its a great idea to Google it.
As a designer, its very important to learn things like Color, Typography, Texture, Usability, etc. So I recommend making that a regular part of your learning. HTML and CSS skills are also things that very few designers can, or should be without. I took a few HTML/ CSS /Java Script classes in college, and have been learning here and there so I haven’t had to learn these from square one like some do. But if you need some resources, there is a great list here. I regularly use WordPress to build my websites so haven’t had to code many things from scratch, but even with WordPress, programming skills come in handy. Even so, for certain things WordPress just doesn’t cut it, so you may need more coding skills than I have.
Make sure to schedule consistent and focused time for learning and creating.
I spent an hour every other day (minus Saturday and Sunday) with tutorials of one sort or another, and then 30 minutes to an hour creating anything I wanted. I would spend the other days doing things that brought in cash. Until I landed a few paying jobs, this was 100% devoted to creating my own portfolio and to posting ads on Craigslist and KSL Classifieds.
Above everything else, the best advice I can ever give in all of this is: Make Stuff
You’ll learn more by doing than you ever will by talking, planning, dreaming, or reading. Start with simple things. They may look crappy, but you’ll get better. Remember, everyone had to start from the beginning at one point or another.