Taking a quick break from my web captions series as I work through bug review with Mozilla, and also happen to be on kid duty this evening. I wanted to share a bit about my journey as a designer to encourage those that either may not have the resources for college, don’t want student debt, or just may want an alternative path. You don’t need college.
I always thought video games and computers were cool, but worked in retail. However, I was allowed to go into my cousin’s startup and practice turning my drawings into digital work. They decided to take me on and train me to use Macromedia Flash. I was hooked. I animated things, coded them, and could see them live on the web. Whoa!
But of course, I made very little money, knowing practically nothing. I used my skills whenever I could, helping non-profits, and sometimes pulling eighteen-hour shifts (some of the most fun, but most brutal work times).
Over the next 20 years, I’ve worked at various companies and non-profits, was able to work on some very cool projects for major car manufacturers, mainline movies, and governments. I’ve also been able to travel to Europe for work, and spend time with movie stars. My pay rate has risen enough where I can care for my large family. And I’m now helping foster accessible design systems, and contributing to the web itself.
All with no college degree.
How Can You Do the Same?
This is not meant to be a humblebrag.
I’m pretty aware that I’ve been very fortunate in my journey, working with talented people that cared about encouraging budding talent. I’d likely be nowhere without that initial investment. And I want to help you get started too, whether you’re in high school or switching careers.
If you want to start designing, get to know some designers and their work! Here’s a few ideas to get you started.
- Attend conferences like a local UXPA in your area
- Look for local meetups around design using Meetup
- Join Facebook groups, Clubhouse, online forums, or whatever socials the cool kids are doing these days
- Help local non-profits with design needs to build your portfolio and help out a cause
As for reading material (there was no Youtube when I started designing), some of these books have been the most influential for me.
- Ogilvy on Advertising
- Designing with the Mind in Mind
- Quantifying the User Experience
- Don’t Make Me Think
- The User Experience Team of One
- Animators Survival Kit
- Design of Everyday Things
And finally, it helps to stay up to date with design news and trends. Here are some of the resources I’ve found that continue to be of use.
- Video: Start with why
- Site: A List Apart
- Site: Smashing Magazine
- Site: Nielsen Norman Group
- Podcast: 99% Invisible
While I do recognize that college is an incredibly helpful resource, I also think it’s important that talent and education can come from anywhere.
And yes, that college question still bugs me when I see it on job postings – it’s irrelevant.
How about you? Have you found college critical to your career; what am I missing out on (besides crushing debt)?
Is there a great resource you use that I’ve missed? I’ve love to hear about it!