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Keep Learning. A requirement.

Demand for expertise has spawned numerous schools and classes.

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Graphic designers work within a spirited digital revolution that, just to keep up, requires immeasurable learning, acclimatizing and study. Many of us began our careers in pre-digital times and, therefore, we faced countless technological changes as they emerged, but the process taught us two important words: Keep learning.
I began my graphics career in the pre-digital era, as a kid, working in a chemical-laden darkroom, or over a light table stacked with process-camera negatives, a loupe magnifier and retouching ink, with a brush and X-Acto knife for tools. However, as soon as they came on the scene, I learned the “new,” digital-assembly workstations, and this launched my lifelong practice of continuous learning. I’ve loved every change and the continual growth that the industry has provided.
Today’s constantly evolving technology requires ongoing training, which may sometimes appear overwhelming, but it’s also critically important. And, because you’re learning about new tools and processes, it’s equally exciting.
Do you set aside time for study? Do you budget for skill development and invest both time and money in ongoing learning?
The good news is that demand for technology expertise has spawned a training industry that offers myriad schools and classes, but each has various features whose benefits depend on your needs and learning personality.
For example, I teach in a traditional classroom setting and under my guidance, the students get specific assignments. In this setting, my students benefit from first-hand assistance, plus my assurance and encouragement. However, traditional classes don’t work for everyone. They can be expensive, time consuming and not always on target for workplace needs.
Professional, online coursework is similar to classroom studies, with the added benefit of flexible time. Also, most online classes allow you to directly converse with the instructor via email, so it’s not too distant from traditional classwork.
The online learning industry is booming. Forbes magazine, for example, recently quoted research firm Global Industry Analysts as saying online learning will reach $107 billion in 2015. This past April, LinkedIn purchased Lynda.com, the preeminent e-learning space for business, software, technology and creative skills, for $1.5 billion.
There, for a nominal monthly fee, you can access 3,561 courses and 145,230 video tutorials.
Many businesses prefer their employees attend workshop classes. Typically, workshops comprise intense training compressed into one or two days. The downside is not all students are prepared to absorb so much material in a short period. The benefit broadens if a professional consultant is brought in, because they can align the material to specific business needs.
Books and manuals – paper or digital — remain a viable learning option, and printed editions become a desktop reference. Peachpit Publishing offers the Adobe Classroom in a Book series in print, digital (PDF) or e-book versions.
Sometimes, for a quick answer, you can turn to YouTube, where 300 new hours of video are uploaded every minute. The content is free, but not always the best. However, a little patience and careful search-phrasing may lead you to an appropriate video.
If you are approaching a new skill, YouTube is not the best starting place for training.
Adobe recognizes the value of learning, and its Adobe Creative Cloud subscribers may select from a rotating list of tutorials within each application’s welcome screen. Typically, the latest tutorials combine video with step-by-step instructions, which, in turn, teach a specific artist’s workflow that may include more than one application.
The Adobe Creative Cloud Learning Team is dedicated to improving the learning experience for Adobe clients. I spoke with Luanne Seymour, Adobe senior experience design manager, creative cloud learning, regarding the value of tutorial content. She believes learning content helps you get started immediately, using an app. “Many of the tutorials we offer are hands-on, so the customer has an active experience with the product,” she said.
Adobe believes learning comprehension is enhanced when you perform tasks with the tool, rather than passively watching a video demonstration. For Adobe, the obvious benefit is, the more its customers learn, the more comfortable they feel with the apps, which evolves to more experimentation and, of course, continued use.
Continuously expanding your skill set is a requirement for survival in the design field, so be sure to budget time and resources for it.
Don’t forget the value of networking, either. You can’t put a price tag on having a knowledgeable colleague who offers both advice and encouragement. In addition, user groups are a great way to meet others who share similar interests. Most user groups offer skill-building presentations several times annually. Of course, conferences, tradeshows and social media are also viable networking resources.
Most importantly, stay connected and keep learning.

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