Very few people are going to say this to you, so I figure it’s up to me. If you want to make a change in your life, you have to grab it, because the world owes each of us nothing. You’re going to have to go and steal your education.
I’m not talking strictly about school or college, that’s only the beginning of the path. College is okay for getting started (if you’re lucky), but your education lasts an entire lifetime. Stealing your education involves a lot of work, discipline, and desire. You’ll have to ask questions that have might have uncomfortable or cryptic answers, you’ll have to find mentors, and read a lot of books.
Don’t Just Take My Word For It
Andy Rutledge is often controversial, but no one can deny that he is a both a professional designer, and more importantly, a design professional. In this video, he talks about the sacrifices one must make to get a design education. Another designer who has walked the long hard road for his craft, James Victore, has also talked extensively about having to reach out and grab knowledge instead of waiting for it to come to you.
Different Types of Knowledge
Today, between the library and the internet, finding technical knowledge is more convenient than it been at any time in human history. For designers and developers, there are a million sources for foundational knowledge. Sites like Treehouse, Lynda, Udemy, Skillshare, Code School, and Codecademy are all good sources of web industry knowledge that I recommend. There are other types of knowledge that come with life experience—things like understanding people, psychology, critical thinking, ethics, and empathy. If you can learn some of these things from a mentor, than that is a route I would encourage. Realize that no matter what stage of life or degree of success we achieve, we will always need mentors that have already been where we are going.
Generalist or Specialist?
Almost a hundred years ago, Napoleon Hill correctly stated that specialized knowledge is where the riches lie, but that’s only part of the story. To become an effective designer, I truly believe that you must learn many aspects of your craft first, and move towards specialization as you progress. In other words, we are supposed to be generalists, and many designers choose a particular silo or two to spend the majority of their time in as time goes on.
Bringing It All Home
While finding tutorials on how to build things is pretty easy, gaining insight into why you would build things a certain way is a little trickier. Try to find people deeper and more established in the craft and industry and pick their brain as to why they made certain decisions. Listen twice as much as you speak. Become a student of design, of knowledge, and life. Read voraciously, and read a variety of subjects and authors. Above all, stay hungry for knowledge. Stay humble, be contented, but never be satisfied.