Tag Archives: inspiration

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Always Keep Learning

Good Advice

By my senior year of college, I was beginning to keep up with the graphic design industry through blogs and podcasts. Occasionally, I would come across interviews of well-known designers talking about their design philosophies, including advice for new designers coming out of college. One advice that kept coming up from different designers was to always keep learning, even after school.

In their experience, sometimes newly graduated designers have the tendency to assume they know everything just because they completed their training at school and thought that they could take on any project and immediately excel at it. Even with just a few years of real-world experience myself, I would agree with the general sentiment as well. There is already so much I had discovered and experienced between graduation and now that I look at new grads the same way, sort of like how most adults feel about teenagers: foolish and naive. At the same time, I’m still relatively young (fortunately), so I’m sure more experienced professionals would probably feel similar about me (and rightly so).

So Many Things to Learn

Regardless of what stage you are in life, the important thing is to always have the appetite to learn. The subject matter could be an extension of what you studied or what your job needs, like new software and tools, or it could be a side passion of yours that you now have more time to explore, like cooking or new sports. It could even be as simple as consuming information, like following certain blogs, podcasts, or talks. Whatever it is, I believe that learning new things helps one become a more well-rounded member of society.

For me, since the last time I had been in school, I continued to teach myself programming languages, partly to set up my website for my career and partly for fun; I continued to work on improving my health by finding the right exercises and diet for my goals; I started learning new sports like surfing and snowboarding; I tried out different language learning programs in an attempt to be fluent in more foreign languages; and I explored my dancing abilities by joining local flash mob groups and performing in public spaces and planned events, including a wedding.

New Opportunities

The benefits of learning something new goes beyond just that thing you’re learning. It opens you up to opportunities to learn more things. Earlier in my college career, the teacher from one of my design classes shared with us a student discount for the subscription to the graphic design magazine Communication Arts. Subscribing to it led me to an article about the online personality Ze Frank. I became a fan of his creative, multimedia work, particularly his year-long vlog The Show. One of his episodes mentioned attending South by Southwest (SXSW), so I subscribed to the SXSW podcast and discovered a session covering the productivity methodology Getting Things Done (GTD). It revolutionized the way I work, and I now approach life with a better sense of purpose.

Also through Communication Arts, I encountered the article about Stefan Sagmeister’s class that focused on emotional connection through design. This helped shape the idea for the “thesis” project “Why Don’t We Care?” for one of my senior design classes. In the project, I also referenced Ze Frank and The Show.

At a higher level, I probably would have learned about some of these things in other ways, but it’s the progression of discoveries and the potential for serendipity that make this experience special and exciting. It also probably would have taken longer to discover.

Learning is Ongoing

It is worth noting that learning is always ongoing. New content may surface, existing information may become less important, and longstanding opinion may change. This is overall a good thing, because it usually means whatever you’re learning is improving itself, and by keeping up with it, you are improving as well.

This is important to me because 1) I often feel like I know the least out of everyone in most situation, and 2) I’m naturally curious and want to learn as much as I can about things that have the most of my attention. The fact that learning is ongoing sort of levels the playing field so those who are behind can try to catch up, and it helps satisfy my curiosity and feed my mind with more and newer content.

See

2, 3, 7, 11.

Learning from TED

I sort of left out something from the monthly review that I forgot to mention. For the past month, I started watching through a bunch of TED videos at a time on the Adobe Media Player. I wanted to see what some of the smartest and and most successful people have done and can inspire me with. Some were hits, while others misses.

I am often amazed at how some of these presenters think so differently and creatively to solve their particular problems. I’m sure some of it was BS in their presentations, but the rest is quite impressive.

This evening, I watched IDEO CEO Tim Brown’s presentation on creativity and play. He explained how as children grow up, they learn to self-edit and develop judgment of their actions, thus the ability to create freely and to brainstorm diminishes.

I certainly feel that way. Based on the environment in which I grew up, it’s practically inevitable that I’d learned to be all about perfection and accuracy. But I’ve also since learned to pull myself away from that and am now finding a balance between entropy and order (this explains my equal love for visual design and programming).

At the same time, my head is constantly filling with so many ideas about everything, it’s ridiculous. For the past few years, I’ve used many tools to download those ideas, with different levels of success. Currently, I have this blog Flush, though you can tell how much success I’ve had with it as my ideas-unloading medium (but hopefully that will all change now that I’ve switched to WordPress), I have my GTD “Someday/Maybe” system that safely stores my ideas for a later time, and I have Twitter, to my followers on which I apologize, for the thoughts there are less design and more… unusual.

And now, I am working on another medium that is the most related to design, the Experiments. It’s one of the main sections of my website that I am redesigning, similar to what I’ve done to Flush, and hopefully, this will be an easy medium for me to work with and that the convenience will encourage me to finally do experiments on a regular basis. Here is a screenshot of the design I’ve worked on today:

Yes, it’s going to be blog-based, but the individual categories will be in a slightly different format. This is going to cut down on the programming but still have room for me to be creative and explore with code and design.

So with the opening of the Experiments section in the coming days, I am optimistic that I can more easily take Tim Brown’s advice to explore and to play, and to keep creativity regular.

Flush.