Why I Make Education The First Thing I Focus on Every Day

When it comes to the topic of education, I feel really passionate about it. Now, it’s not just the benefits of staying educated that I find so critical to the success of being a designer, but more importantly I find it’s critical for you to also teach and share your knowledge with other designers as often as you can. Why do I feel this way?

Many experienced designers say that you’ll learn the most about yourself and the career your first year out of college. I do agree that during that time you’re a sponge and are focused on taking in anything you feel will benefit you long term. However, I also feel like I learn more about myself as a designer every time I’m teaching or talking with other designers about their struggles, or the industry. It’s in these conversations that I have eureka moments of my own. Which is why I decided to create this blog and share my experiences with you all, and to create conversation around your frustrations and opinions on the industry as a way to help you all where I can, but in the process learn more about myself as a designer. This blog is just one small piece to the bigger goals I’ve had around education.

My Experience:

The idea of teaching and sharing my knowledge with other designers is not new to me. When I was in college, I would speak to seniors in high schools about what to expect once they went off to design school. Shortly after graduating from college, I was reviewing portfolios and sharing my experiences with hundreds of college seniors in order to ensure they got off the ground with confidence. I suppose you can say I’ve been working towards this blog for a while now.

To be honest with you all, I love teaching more than I love the actually craft of design. The reason is that I too have weaknesses and probably the biggest weakness for me is I like to give. Sometimes too much, but giving and sharing is what teaching is all about. The reward is the immense gratitude I get in meeting and hearing everyone’s stories and helping them move forward in their careers.

What started out as just a personal brand and blog to help designers has turned into a commitment to not just you all (the design industry as a whole), but future designers to come. The positive feedback and interest I’ve been receiving from everyone has confirmed that perhaps I should be trying to reach more designers and freelancers. So, with great enthusiasm I’m excited to announce that I’m working on developing a number of tools and resources that will help support and further enhance the lessons I’ve been sharing with you all in this blog. And to start things off, I want to announce the The Designer’s Handbook which will become a guide to helping you navigate the design industry. It’s not designed to teach you the craft, but it will focus on the most important lessons of the industry and come packed full of interviews from other notable designers. If you want to stay up to date about the progress of The Designer’s Handbook and be notified when it launches, you can do so by joining the email list. As a bonus, you can also subscribe to my free course on The Art of Presenting Your Design Concepts at that time.

In the weeks and months to come I’ll be sharing with you more of the cool things I’m working on to help you all grow and reach your goals as  designers. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out!

What I’ve Learned about Education:

  • Experience is different than education: Experience comes with time, and as you grow as a designer you’ll have more experience, but that doesn’t mean you’re more educated. Education is when you continue to grow at your craft and stay current on what’s happening with the latest trends, software and processes. Whether you’re a young designer, coming out of college or a designer who’s been in the industry for a number of years, you can’t afford to not stay educated. It will catch up with you. The most successful designers are the ones who work on both gaining experience and staying educated.
  • Utilize the right tools and your network: If you’ve ever had the opportunity to interview a student in school, you can quickly see that they are constantly tuned into what’s happening in the industry, often times leaving you feel like you have some catching up to do. The good news is that with new technologies it’s easier now then ever to stay educated. Besides the basics like Treehouse, Twitter, RSS and blogs, be sure to look towards your network for education. Often times by just asking “What new tools have you been using lately?” opens you up to new things you never knew before.
  • Learning never stops: There was a time when I honestly thought that since I went to college I learned everything there was to know about the industry and it would stand the test of time. As you guessed it, I was wrong and I quickly learned that education and learning never stops and you need to make it a constant part of your day and routine if you don’t want to fall too far behind. If you can remember from my post a few weeks ago about time management, I make time every day for education. I’m not saying you have to be a machine and consume everything that comes your way, because you truly can burn yourself out. But just make it a point to try and be aware of what’s happening around you.
  • Everyone has something to teach: There’s a stigma that in order to teach you must have earned the right to teach and share your insight with the world. Yes, I suppose for certain industries you may need to have some qualifications, but for the design industry we’re not picky. We’re eager to learn from you, so look at what you’re doing today. Is there something you’re doing that you feel may help others? Write a blog post about it or make it a downloadable PDF. Whatever you do try and make the time to teach others. It really is rewarding and you’ll too learn something about yourself and others in the process.  
  • Stay educated in every aspect of your life: Don’t just focus on staying educated on design, but look at other aspects of your life. Are you lacking education in other areas? As you network and progress along in your career, you may never know when you’ll end up in a discussion about a topic that is not design related. This often times happens when you move past the role of the designer, and into a role of interacting with clients and vendors. After a while, small talk about the weather just doesn’t do it.
  • Your education doesn’t have to be formal: The industry is really excited for talent and great ideas. This talent doesn’t always have to come from having a formal education. Yes, it does help, but I’ve encountered a number of great designers who are doing great things and have never once stepped foot into a classroom. The internet is an amazing resource, and if you have the drive, determination and skill, you can learn the skills to make it in the industry. Remember, the skills can be taught, it’s the drive and determination that separates most.

My Takeaway:

The topic around education is pretty simple. It’s a two-way street. You want to be sure you’re always learning and also trying to teach and give back to others in the process. This can be done at different levels, but the feeling you’ll get from just knowing you’re well-educated gives you the confidence to take on new challenges with ease. With my book The Designer’s Handbook my goal is to do just that. Share with you the things that me and other designers feel matter most, so that you can navigate the industry with confidence.

Fear usually stems from the unknown and the more you stay educated the less unknowns you’ll encounter. Knowing what’s around the corner will provide you with the motivation and confidence to move forward.

What’s Next?

Now that I’ve shared with you why I like to spend time staying educated, next week I’m going to share with you the importance of moonlighting on projects outside of work.

Communication is important to me, so I’d love to continue the conversation with you all in the comments below. What resources do you like to use to stay educated?

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