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Staying Educated as a Designer

As designers, the learning process never ends. Unlike less creative and evolving fields, the trends, tools, and information we need to be aware always seems to be changing. Especially if you’re a self-taught designer like myself, you’re always discovering new things you need to learn to fulfill your clients’ or employer’s needs. Whether you have a full-time design job or are self-employed as a designer, it’s likely up to you to determine how to acquire the skills needed for your work. Even if you have an employer paying for your continued education, investing your time and effort into the right resources and teachers is ultimately in your hands.
Author Jessica Comingore

It’s one thing to stay creative and inspired, but as a creative professional, it’s also important to keep your skills and strategies sharp enough to implement your work—especially in a field like design where it can feel like things are evolving every day. In addition to foundational work like reading books, getting outside, and seeking balance, it’s important to aim to improve your technical skills as well.

Wondering where to begin? Below are some of the ways I seek out professional development for my own business and career:

Subscribing to industry newsletters

An easy and free thing you can do right now to start learning more about design on a regular basis is to subscribe to industry-related newsletters. Look for resources on both the design field and the industries or verticals you design for. Since newsletters are very recurring and regular, you’ll continuously find important news and information in your inbox. I suggest creating folders for your favorites—even if they aren’t relevant right now, they could contain the perfect tip for a future project or needed inspiration boost.

For example, I like to subscribe to a lot of typography newsletters that introduce the latest in typefaces and provide inspiration on how and when to use them. The emails sent by the American Institute of Graphic Arts are also a favorite. They’re incredibly robust in terms of educating and directing you towards important industry shifts and changes.

Surrounding yourself with experts

In addition to finding email resources to learn from, it’s also crucial to surround yourself with other experts in your field. Even solopreneurs cannot truly work alone, and as a designer, you often find yourself collaborating with a variety of creatives and other roles, like copywriters, developers, and more. Don’t undervalue having a talented team at your disposal—take advantage of the experts around you, and find opportunities to learn from them.

Take the different developers that I work with to build websites, like Brandi Bernoskie at Alchemy and Aim. While our studio specializes in visual design versus coding and developing, Brandi and her team are up to speed on everything evolving with websites these days, and can educate us on the more technical side of things. For example, I’ve learned a tremendous about SEO optimization and responsive design through my collaborative work with Brandi which has only made the work that Marbury produces stronger and better serving of our clients.

Seeking out continued education

Lastly, you can easily seek out continued education events and opportunities, which lucky for us, is often free these days. Whether you find workshops at a local school, attend industry conferences, or watch courses on Lynda and Skillshare, be sure to build this time into your schedule. Especially when so many trainings are virtual, on-demand, and free or affordable, it’s easy to dive in at anytime and glean a few new nuggets of practical information.

I’m an avid fan of these types of courses, and will sign up for them often. For example, one reason I love Brandi is because she hosts informative lunch and learn sessions. I also attended an excellent webinar recently all about how to design websites that are well-optimized for search engine rankings. And Spruce Road’s Share-worthy Design for Freelancers course was wonderfully helpful, even taking it four years into running my business.

What are your own favorite resources to improve yourself as designer? Share any helpful courses, websites, and more in the comments below.

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