Ongoing design education
Benjamin Franklin once said, “If a man empties his purse into his head, no man can take it away from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” And who are we to argue with a man who was a leading figure of early American history, a Founding Father, a polymath, inventor, scientist, printer, politician, writer, and diplomat.
Ongoing education makes even more sense if you work in a constantly changing and evolving industry like design. Ongoing education implies that even if you already have a degree and/or experience working in a related industry, you continue gaining new skills and keeping track of the latest trends. Designers who can mention in their CVs that they're continuous learners increase their chances on the job market and make themselves more competitive among other designers.
The desire to learn new design techniques and the willingness to spend time taking courses and tutorials, reading books and articles, listening to and watching informational material about design demonstrates to employers that you're a serious candidate ready to invest in your career growth. So, what should you begin with?
So, what should you begin with?
First off, analyze knowledge that you already have and can refresh. It'll cost you less time and effort since you already know the basics. If you're starting your career or thinking about moving into a related design field, investigate the skills required for your dream job and use them as a guide to get there.
Nowadays, the internet is swarming with tons of resources for learning that you can make use of regardless of your experience and entry point in the design industry. But which ones to choose? We’ve put together a guide of the best educational resources that can help you stay in the loop!
Conferences and workshops
Today you can visit a conference or workshop without leaving your couch. Explore updates on virtual and onsite events via local and international design communities on social media or websites like All Design Conferences or Design Calendar that gather the most outstanding UI/ UX events.
If you're more interested in UX design specifically, explore the collections of UX events posted and regularly updated on the UX Mastery community or at UX Salon.
Events that are definitely worth your attention:
One of the largest UX conferences in Europe is UXLX, which traditionally takes place in Lisbon, Portugal. It lasts for 4 days and invites speakers from various design domains, covering topics in the fundamental disciplines like product design, UX research, and content strategy.
UXDX comprises hybrid events that cover topics of UX, product, design, and development. Typically, conferences are held 3 times per year, last for 4 days, and feature speakers from Microsoft, Shopify, Asana, Kayak, Twitch, LinkedIn, eBay, and other top-notch companies.
Although books are no longer the only source of wisdom in our digital era, they allow learning fundamentals in an old-fashioned, structured way at your own pace. If you aren't a beginner in design, you've definitely heard of classic UX design literature such as Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman or Steve Krug's Don't Make Me Think. We have a whole lesson devoted to books every designer will love to read.
Apart from them, we recommend looking into:
Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal
This book is a must-read for UX designers, product designers, and even UX writers interested in driving customer engagement. The author provides a powerful model of helping users build long-term relationships with your product. The book also contains fascinating insights into how top-notch companies like Facebook, Twitter, Spotify, and Tinder have successfully adopted this model.
The User Experience Team of One by Leah Buley
If you're a solo designer on your team or working in a rapidly evolving start-up or small business environment, this book is your guideline to the UX world. It covers multiple techniques, practical advice, and visual examples to gain a deeper understanding of UX skills and leadership.
Handbook of Usability Testing by Jeffrey Rubin and Dana Chisnell
This book is the ideal introduction to usability testing and is the best fit for lone or first-time practitioners. The authors provide valuable insights and practical tips for UX designers and researchers who have little or no budget but are determined to build user-centric interfaces.
Mind Hacks: Tips & Tools for Using Your Brain by Tom Stafford and Matt Webb
Certainly, the book has nothing to do with hacking and doesn't speak about design directly. However, it provides food for thought to UX designers, researchers, and writers interested in learning how the human mind works and interprets the world around us.
Blog communities are the perfect resource for those who don't have finances for full-time education or want to gain practical knowledge without going through lengthy books.
Many designers religiously follow this platform founded by design gurus Don Norman and Jacob Nielsen. It contains multiple articles and case studies based on in-depth user research (such as eye-tracking studies).
Founded by usability expert Jared Spool, the platform offers more than just articles. You can watch webinars, listen to podcasts, or participate in intensives by joining a community of UX leaders, designers, researchers, and writers from all over the world. Additionally, UIE's library offers over 378 seminars and recorded events led by experts in all UX design topics at just $29 a month.
UX Magazine offers a range of well-written articles on various topics and unites a large group of contributors: senior UX designers, team leads, product owners, and technical directors from various product domains.
This is another treasure box of professional articles, design events, books, and course recommendations, founded by Luke Chambers and Matthew Magain, both UX design experts with experience leading UX at small and large organizations.
If you don't have the resources to get a full-time education but still believe in a more traditional and disciplined approach to learning new skills, there are a variety of online UX design courses you could explore. Many of them aren't cheap, but getting valuable knowledge from experts in their fields is priceless. Plus, students often receive helpful feedback on their assignments from a mentor, professor, or peers. Another benefit is the certificate you receive acknowledging the time and energy you spent to gain new skills.
But even if you're tight on budget, there are many free courses to help you get into the UX world, like the UX Crash Course. In a simple yet practical way, Joel Marsh provides a 31-step journey in UX design fundamentals. He breaks down the process into extremely digestible chunks, from information architecture to designing with data, with extremely helpful hints, tips, and advice along the way. It's not a comprehensive course but a solid overview of all the big parts of UX so you can understand where you need to learn more.
If you already know which areas you want to improve, explore courses offered by specialized design communities like Uxcel, Interaction Design Foundation, NN Group, The Team W, or Design Lab.
Udemy, Udacity, Gymnasium, and Coursera are multidisciplinary educational platforms, but they also have UX/UI courses that you can find in their catalogs.
If courses give you conceptual knowledge of user research methods, usability fundamentals, and human psychology, tutorials demonstrate how to apply this knowledge in practice. Youtube contains hundreds of tutorials that can teach you how to design anything in Figma, Adobe XD, Sketch, or any other design software, regardless of how experienced you're in prototyping.
Continuing learning implies that every time you have some time to kill, you take it as an opportunity to listen, watch, or read something worthwhile. We recommend you explore our challenges that provide lists of the most inspiring podcasts and TED talks you'll certainly love.
To summarize, self-education requires a lot of discipline, but don't let that discourage you. You have the privilege of creating your own study plan, combining various types of practices, and selecting your own comfortable pace. Plus, in contrast to a college curriculum, you don't have to sit in a stuffy classroom and take classes. You can choose to listen to a podcast or a video sitting outside in sunny weather, sipping coffee in a cafeteria, or while traveling. You also have the freedom to fail as many times as needed and not be afraid of getting bad grades.