One of the most universally shared and longest standing traditions in the history of human civilization is the new year resolutions. The Babylonians would make promises of improvement to their gods at the start of each year. The Romans made a promise to the god Janus (side note: origin of January). The knights of the medieval era took what was called a “peacock vow” at the end of each Christmas season as a way to recommit to chivalry. We as humans have consistently, throughout time, seen the new year as a chance to begin anew, to improve, or to grow.
Traditionally, one of the main ways we have sought to improve ourselves is through knowledge and education; we have also traditionally have sought to acquire both through an individual like a mentor to an apprentice or a teacher to a student and of course we have built institutions for various stages of life to educate at a mass level. The unprecedented new frontier of course is the birth and growth of the internet. Never in the course of human history have we had access to this amount of information. After experiencing the recent American presidential election, many might believe this to not entirely be the best thing for us as a species. However I think most would agree that this has largely been beneficial to us as a whole.
I write about the history of new years resolutions and education to you and to myself because there is no longer an excuse, it’s time to learn and to get better, it’s time to master your craft, you don’t need anyone to do it anymore. It’s entirely up to you. If you don’t do it it’s your fault, if you are reading this you have access to the internet and literally no excuse can be made not to make this your time to start mastering the skills you want to earn to do what you love to do.
Here are some tips to get you started:
- Be Obsessed! When I was 26 years old I was floating around junior college, doing the bare minimum, creating mediocre abstract paintings and trying to write articles for an art magazine I helped start. I was avoiding responsibility and maturity. That all changed when around the same time I took a graphic design class because one of my best friends did it for a living and that sparked my curiosity. I fell in love instantly with design that very fist day of class. Not only was I in love, but I was obsessed. Being obsessed has helped me focus on exactly what I want to learn and get better at. The internet has a lot of clutter and opportunities to learn an infinite number of things, it’s up to you to specify what you want to learn and get better at. Over the last 6 to 7 years I have focused and narrowed down further what areas of design I want to focus on. A healthy obsession leads to a healthy focus, and focus is what is needed most when using the internet for anything productive including learning. Also what you want to learn and be obsessed with does not have to be a hands on skill. Lately I have been obsessed with design’s relationship to brand, ux, and business strategies. This obsession has zero to do with the Adobe creative suite or Sketch but I know it’s going to make me a better designer, and that is what I am obsessed about.
- Be Curious! This probably goes without saying but I will say it anyway. You have to be curious, you have to want to learn. For me obsession has made this part easy to me and one leads to the other. I am always wondering what technique or design principle I can discover that can make me better at what I want to do. I ask questions, I read, I discover, and all of these things have lead to a lot of personal and professional growth. Don’t forget you are always one google search or raised hand away from getting a little more knowledgable and skilled at your craft, don’t take that power lightly.
- Be patient! This is true if you are especially trying to learn a “hands on” skill(lettering, illustration, layout etc.). In general though learning and mastering anything takes quite a long time and to not forget, a considerable amount of experience to couple with the knowledge that has been acquired. I have to admit that being impatient is one of my biggest flaws, I think it’s partly because I always privately feel that I got started with design much later than most people in their lives and I am scrambling to catch up. Whatever the reason is I am impatient and I need to learn to be in the moment and to acknowledge what I have learned and what I can do while still striving to improve and to grow. Being in the moment and being patient will lead to slow but steady acquisitions of knowledge and skill that overtime will make you the experienced and knowledgable professional you wish to be.
Finally as I eluded to earlier, it is virtually impossible to sift through the amount of information we have access to today, and by no means am I going to attempt to do that now. What I can do is share with you some avenues that have worked for me. If you aren’t a creative professional, or aspiring to be one, these resources may not interest you. Either way I hope you find them useful:
Type-Ed: http://type-ed.com/ : Michael Stinson was my teacher for that very first day of design class that I mentioned earlier in this article. I would not be designing if it were not for his teachings and mentorship. Michael and his partner Rachel Elnar run a boutique typography education studio called Type Ed. As you may have guessed there resources are completely centered around the art of type and typography and include workshops, lectures, and events both in real life in Los Angeles and online.
The Futur: http://thefuturishere.com/ : The Futur has been an invaluable resource for me and it has been the spark to my obsession that is the design of business and the business of design. Its founder, Chris Do, provides what is seemingly an infinite amount of resources on design and running a creative business. You can also check out theskool.com where Chis collaborates with Jose Caballer on resources and information.
Skillshare: https://www.skillshare.com : Skillshare offers a wide variety of classes in a diverse array of fields that include design, photography, writing, and more.
Creative Pep Talk: http://www.creativepeptalk.com/ : Andy J Miller, host of the CPT, generally focuses on art and creativity rather than design specifically but is a great resource for anyone looking for a little pep in their art careers!
Creative South: https://www.creativesouth.com/podcast/ : Hosted by Jason Frostholm, the Creative South podcast acts as great support for the creative conference of the same name. Jason consistently posts 1–2 episodes per week of interviews with a wide array of creative professionals.
The Design of Business, The Business of Design: http://designobserver.com/designofbusiness : Legendary designers Michael Bierut and Jessica Helfand host this podcast where the title speaks for itself. Bierut and Helfand interview members of the design, business, and political communities on how design interacts and intersects with the business world.
PLUG ALERT: Creative Honey: http://www.creativehoney.org/ : Maria Bougioukos and I chat about design, creativity and interview guests on a wide range of topics that center around the world of creativity.
(To also note The Futur has a podcast to check out as well.)
Creative Strategy and the Business of Design by Douglas Davis: In this book Davis focuses on bridging the age old gap of the creative and design departments with marketing teams and C-suite executives. Give this book a read if you are designer who wants a seat at the table during the big board meetings and strategy sessions.
The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst: Many designers consider this the bible for typography and I must admit that I haven’t read it cover to cover but I consistently refer to it when I have question or I am curious about something related to typography.
Don’t Get a Job Make a Job by Gemma Barton: The title speaks for itself, this book encourages you to not limit yourself to finding employment but rather create opportunities for you to showcase your skills and gain experience that would not otherwise be given to you after you’ve graduated from school or even at your current place of employment.
Of course I am just listing a few of my favorite sites, podcasts, and books. Whatever your favorite resources are, find them and utilize them to the best of your ability. On that note I would love to learn from you as well. What resources can you share with me that I may be able to use to better myself?