After being a designer for over 15 years, I think back to the subjects that were offered at design school (2 years of life drawing, how to paste up a layout, how to use squeakers and my favourite as a left hander, hand lettering). I remember being told “computers will never take over from traditional design skills” or “what happens if the computer breaks down?”. Comments like this were common when I was studying way back when.
Fortunately I had family working for Apple in the early days, and took a few trips to the USA in my college holidays and saw first hand how the world was changing and how fast this was happening. This gave me the confidence to ignore the technological naysayers, generally teachers who were fearful of what they didn’t know, and take my technical education into my own hands.
A close friend of mine, Mike, and I used to have total nerdfest nights playing with Photoshop, Illustrator, Freehand and Quark Xpress comparing random keyboard shortcuts and knowledge. It were these sessions that taught me more than my years of study. Practical hands-on experience in a creative environment works for the way I learn.
As my career advanced, I kept my technical knowledge relevant through peer learning sessions, as well as the tutorials offered by Adobe and more recently Lynda.com . I also learn in the fly, whilst working, applying my new knowledge in my working practice.
When the web came in I was so excited. I could see the infinite possibilities of a unified world of knowledge and information. Sure, in the early days it was clunky and limited to low image quality graphics, but my imagination swooned at the future before me. I scoured source code to figure out how sites were made, in the same way people immerse themselves in a culture to learn a language. I became engrossed in technology as a way to communicate beautiful ideas.
Many of my peers of the same generation avoided web and digital design, hoping that it would go away, but it hasn’t and they have been left behind technically, often forced to handover out thousands of dollars for “catch up” courses in designing for the web, UX and UI design.
My advice would be to learn and embrace change as it happens so the learning curve isn’t so steep and instead broken down into bite sized portions, and not having to swallow decades of knowledge in a short space of time. Accept that change is inevitable, incorporate learning it into your regular work practice and stay on top of knowledge, trends and techniques.Keep it ongoing and don’t become complacent. Knowledge and skills are tools to make you more creative, so with time you can transcend technique and create inspiring ideas and design solutions.