‘Formal’ education will only get you so far…

For me university was a great experience. I met a lot of good people, learnt some important skills and started to find myself while I was there. However, my time in the studio/lecture theatre/union bar was only part of the story.

I studied Graphic Design at Staffordshire University, a very open course with more emphasis on the thought process and coming up with ideas. Very little of the teaching involved using software the actual execution of those ideas. This was left open with optional mini-courses and help was offered if requested.

While at University I was also forced to become self-managed and learn how to organise myself. Could I have learnt these skills by jumping straight into a career? Maybe, but that’s a discussion for another post.

I knew I wanted to become a web designer even before I started the Graphic Design course. This meant I already partly knew where to look to develop the other skills myself.

Throughout my time at university I spent (and indeed still spend) most of my spare time reading and listening to things that weren’t directly connected to my course in any way what-so-ever.

I read books:

The last two in that list are currently of particular interest. They don’t relate direct to the design industry, however, they do relate to personal development and overcoming obstacles. Unfortunately, as a typical student I couldn’t afford many books, mainly due to spending the little money I had on beer, petrol and blingy bits for my car. To further my studies, I had to look to cheaper alternatives. Luckily, thanks to the Internet, these exist in an abundance.

I have a large collection of RSS feeds, most of which I read on at least a weekly basis. These include:

  • Mark Boulton – I learnt a lot about grids and typography from Mark’s blog
  • A List Apart – A very comprehensive blog with articles on pretty much anything web related
  • 24 Ways – An annual advent calendar of articles by respected designers and developers
  • Think Vitamin – A blog from the organisers of many web-type conferences
  • Cameron Moll – Another respected designer, unfortunately he’s stopped writing much and links to lots of interesting stuff by others…
  • Andy Rutledge: Design View – Andy seems to have an opinion on everything web. A lot seem to disagree with him… All the more reason to read his stuff then!
  • FreelanceSwitch – A must for the self-employed, very comprehensive content
  • Jason Santa Maria – I have to admit I only just subscribed to Jason’s blog, though I’ve read many of his articles via other sources, I just kept forgetting to press the RSS button… Ooops!
  • The 99 Percent – A blog to compliment Making Ideas Happen

I don’t always get time to sit and read stuff, so, thanks to the advent of iTunes, podcasts and finally my trusty iPhone, I can listen to interesting content too:

  • Boagworld – A weekly podcast about all things web. I’ve learnt a lot outside of my normal scope of interest from this podcast.
  • ThinkVitamin Radio – A bi-weekly chat about web design, development and entrepreneurship
  • ExplicitWeb – Short half-hour discussions on design, development and other tips.

This isn’t an exhaustive list of well, anything, really. I know there’s still lots of books I need to read, there’s probably still lots of blogs I should be subscribed to. Education and self-development is a never-ending process. I may now be able to put BA after my name but the reality is, I’ve only just started my education and look forward to the journey.

By the way, if you know of someone I should definitely look up or any books I should start reading, please drop me a comment.