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Sheelah Brennan

Self-taught Design: Possible?

I recently came across an article about the possibility of becoming a designer without going to design school and found it fascinating. I’ve always heard that it’s possible but never heard all the details of a particular success story.

Karen Cheng tells the story of how she embarked on teaching herself the fundamentals of design — from learning to draw, to graphic design theory, to using the key digital tools (Photoshop and Illustrator), to finding a design specialization, to completing a portfolio.

Having taken some graphic design courses recently, I know that embarking on this would definitely not be the same as going back to school for a bachelor’s or master’s (or even associate’s) degree, but I think the article provides a nice (and doable) framework for those wishing to build their design skills. It’s particularly heartening to think that it’s something that can be done on the side while working full-time, as Karen did.

I especially enjoyed the part of the article that talks about exploring the possible specialties in design. It’s such a broad area – from logo design, to web design, to mobile design, to UX. And in 10 years, I’m sure there will be even more specialties.

With the goal of self-improvement, I’ve started with one suggestion in the article. I’m reading the You Can Draw in 30 Days: The Fun, Easy Way to Learn to Draw in One Month or Less book. So far, it’s been a lot of fun and I highly recommend it. I think it will be useful down the road for improving my UI sketching/paper prototyping abilities, which is always a good thing :).

One resource not mentioned in the article is If there were more than 24 hours in my day, I would spend it there! There are currently 395 courses on design alone and many more on all kinds of development topics like CSS, SASS, Javascript, PHP, Python, etc.

Here’s to the life-long learners out there! It’s never too late to learn something new.

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