5 Savvy Ways to Keep Learning Design

Photo. An older man writes notes while reading textbooks in a classroom.

New year, new beginnings! The field of design is constantly changing. Every day there are new color and graphic trends, creative techniques, software releases and updates, and more. This is a fast-paced field, which makes it great for people like me who love learning design.

Over the past year, I’ve been working hard on completing my second Bachelor’s degree to include formal education in web development this time. My degree is a great foundation for the basics of design and development. Yet, I was disappointed to see nothing of working with Content Management Systems (CMS) like WordPress or Drupal. Nor differences between coding for websites, emails, mobile apps, and native apps. Not even User Interface/User Experience design, or digital analytics, or even project management. It’s a reminder we must never cease to be students, even after school.

Fortunately, you don’t need to go back to school to keep learning graphic and web design!

Here are five (5!) savvy ways to keep learning design:

Graphic. Grab a few CEUs--continued education credits!

1. Enroll in Continued Education.

Several colleges offer Continued Education courses precisely to keep professionals in the field up-to-date on the latest industry changes.

Some fields, like computer science and engineering, may require completion of a specified number of Continued Education Units (CEUs) to retain certification. The creative industry doesn’t require anything like that, but Continued Education courses in design still offer many advantages.

Continued Education courses allow you to learn design because they are:

  • taught by a professor,
  • provide a structured schedule (complete with deadlines for extra motivation, if needed),
  • pair students with like-minded peers, and
  • much, much cheaper than enrolling in a university’s for-credit course.

Plus, the design topics covered by Continued Education often include learning hard design skills, like learning Adobe Photoshop or WordPress. Visit your local college’s website to see available listings. Around here, ed2go has been a popular adult learning platform for learning design.

Graphic. Learn online, on your time.

2. Subscribe to online courses.

Online courses provide another low-cost, highly accessible alternative to learning design after school. Depending on the platform, they may or may not be free, and the instructors may or may not be industry leaders. One popular platform is Lynda.com.  Pay an affordable monthly fee, and gain access to thousands of instructional video courses in design, development, marketing, analytics, and other technological fields. Lynda.com screens its instructors for expertise and credibility, so oftentimes professors from prestigious universities, big names in the industry, and C-suite executives from famous companies teach the course. Another option is HOW Design University. Online courses offer more variety than Continued Education courses online and tend to be more up-to-date on software versions. However, online learning certificates don’t provide official credits of any kind and cannot be used to obtain certification.

Graphic. Tag along at professional associations in your area.

3. Join a professional design association.

Professional trade organizations allow designers to connect with peers, meet industry leaders, and learn about the latest news and trends. Most are limited to major metropolitan areas, but if a chapter event is a day-trip away, consider tagging along. Many events are open to the public, and tickets are cheaper as an official member. Plus, since several professional associations are also nonprofits, membership dues may even be tax-deductible. Some fields may even overlap, depending on interests and skill sets, providing even more professional opportunities. Since Washington, DC is a two- to three-hour drive for me, the DC chapters of several associations are accessible to me.

Professional organizations for learning design include:

American Advertising Federation, Washington, DC (AAF DC)
The professional association for all advertising disciplines.

American Institute of Graphic Arts, Washington DC (AIGA DC)
The professional association for design. Read about an AIGA DC event I attended on web development, “Designers in Code: A Panel Moderated by John Maeda.”

American Marketing Association, Washington, DC (AMADC)
The professional association for all marketing disciplines.

DC Web Women (DCWW)
The professional association for a wide variety of Web-related disciplines, including computer science, digital marketing, web design and development, analytics, multimedia, SEO, blogging, and more.

Society for Experiential Graphic Design (SEGD)
The professional association for interaction design and environmental graphic design.

User Experience Professionals Association (UXPA DC)
The professional association for user experience designers.

Graphic. Do a bootcamp at a design academy.

4. Join a professional academy.

Design academies offer a fast-paced, rigorous introduction to creative fields like web development, digital marketing, and analytics. They are like smaller-scale trade schools, with options to attend online or on a physical campus. A program focuses on a core topic and expounds on with videos, lectures, and exercises for a few months. Although academies are more costly than Continued Education courses, they are specifically formulated to equip their students with all the hard skills necessary to land relevant and competitive entry-level jobs. For example, options around the DC-metro area include General AssemblyIGNITE Academy, and Iron Yard. (Update: Iron Yard has since closed.) They are great options for learning design.

Graphic. Grab a coffee--with a mentor!

5. Conduct informational interviews.

One doesn’t design in isolation. A great way to meet peers and make connections is conducting informational interviews. For instance, consider local companies that inspire you. Do some research about who they are, their mission, and their latest projects. Then reach out to someone from the company and ask if someone would be interested in sharing his or her experiences in the industry over coffee some time.

Many questions you might ask are similar to ones you might ask during a reverse job interview. Remember though: this is not about asking for a job. Rather, get to know the person and why he/she decided to do things certain ways. For instance, ask about what a typical day looks like. Another example, if he/she ever decided to switch fields (say, from graphic design to user experience design), ask about why. Further ask what kind of problems does he/she encounter in the field, and what are the most and least favorite and least parts of the job. Finally, be sure to send a thank you showing appreciation for the time spent with you.

Overall, informational interviews are useful to share the experiences and foresights. For instance, learn about unfamiliar industries, career paths, and emerging trends. Additionally, you may learn something you hadn’t realized or even find new topics to research and explore.

You can learn something new every day. Don’t stopping learning after school, keep going and growing!

**This is not a sponsored post. I am not affiliated, paid, or compensated by any of these organizations in any way.**