Learning at the Speed of Technology


If you've been using design software for as long as I have, you will no doubt have more than a few obsolete skills up your sleeve. Those of you who have mastered the notoriously difficult QuarkXPress will know what I mean. Dropping to a 25% market share, behind InDesign, many Quark users found themselves having to learn a new piece of software just to stay relevant in the workforce. With the current speed of software updates, how can you be sure that your skills will stay relevant in the future?

1999 - My Final year of High school - I was teaching myself Photoshop 5 (editable type was a new feature!)

Feeling Left Behind?

If you're not up to date with the latest software packages, you may feel left behind. For example. back when I was a Jr Graphic Designer, I graduated from university at a time when QuarkXpress was the software package of choice, four months later when I started looking for work, knowledge of InDesign was minimum requirement for all applicants. This made it extremely hard to break into the industry.

Unable to find myself employment, I spent the next year developing my style in Illustration. In 2006 I enrolled in a Post Graduate Design class and spent as much time as I could asking questions and producing the best projects I could.

If you feel that your skills need some sharpening, short courses, further education (such as post graduate degrees) and online tutorials can help. Assess your current skill set in relation to what you would like to learn and how fast you would like to learn it. Online Tutorials are always a great resource, if you need an extra boost Premium Tutorial Subscriptions and short courses can help. If you're looking to learn something completely new, you may consider further education.

2000 - 2004 - I was an Undergraduate of Multimedia Design - Software Overload! I was Learning Photoshop, Dreamweaver (before CSS) Illustrator, Flash, Premiere, After Effects, Lightwave, Director, Fontographer and QuarkXPress!

Is There Such as Thing As Future-proof Design Skills?

While you cannot predict the future of Design Software (10 years ago, who would have guessed that Adobe would purchase Macromedia?) you can guard against industry change that will leave you behind.

The following tips will help you keep an eye on the industry while preserving the common sense and best practices of timeless design.

Good Design is Timeless

If you look back over the history of Design and Illustration, you will see that the art of good design is timeless. What ultimately makes good design, is a well thought out concept and a visually pleasing composition. There are many blog articles that claim computer aided design and crowd-sourced feedback has made Design School unnecessary, I don't completely agree with this. Attending a Design class or learning from a mentor is a great way to build the foundations of your design knowledge. Many people may disagree with me, but I believe design is an art form and it helps to learn from masters.

No matter what medium you're using, you should strive to have the best layout skills and creative concepts possible. This is a great way to stay relevant in the field of Illustration and Design. Technical skills can be built on and improved, design sensibility takes time to master.

Keep One Eye on the Industry

If you had to apply for a job tomorrow, would your skills be in demand? Regularly check employment ads in your field to stay up to date with the kind of employee people are looking for. Its easier to learn new skills at your own pace than trying to learn as much as you can when you need to. You can also attend industry events and conferences and sign up to industry leading blogs and newsletters. To stay up to date with the software package of your choice, you can follow it on Twitter or join a Facebook Group.

Never Stop Learning

Once you join the workforce, you shouldn't consider your education finished. Always push your skills, always try new techniques and never stop learning! If you're reading this, then you will already know how easy it is to find a great wealth of tutorials and case studies online. If there's a particular skill you would like to learn, formulate a plan, start with the basics and work from there. It may seem simple, but with the variety of subjects available, it's extremely easy to become sidetracked. If you make a plan you can stay focused and track your progress. You can find a great selection of basic to intermediate tutorials via the Tuts+ Network

2006 - I enrolled in a Post Graduate Communication Design Course - Back to Basics, Photoshop, Dreamweaver (CSS) Illustrator, InDesign (Night School)

Comments or Questions?

Do you have any comments or questions? If so, we would love to know about them. Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below.

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