We’re debuting a new monthly advice column here at Revision Path called Ask Siedah. Designer, writer, and entrepreneur Siedah Mitchum is here to respond to your questions about career choices, business advice, design, and much more. Submit your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org, and they may be answered in a future column!
Q: I finally admitted to myself that I am a creative and I have a gift that is going to waste as an accountant and the profession isn’t as fulfilling as I wish. I would preferably like to not go back to school full-time to learn the skills I need to be a graphic designer. What are the best courses, books or other design resources I should look into to get started?
A: It is wonderful that you have discovered your gift to be a graphic designer. If going to college isn’t in the cards for you. Then, you can work forwards obtaining a certification or attend online courses. In my experience of obtaining my two-year degree, I personally made faster progress from gaining actual experience in the field.
Below, I’ve put together a hefty list of courses, books, and other resources to help you expand your skills and knowledge.
Online Graphic Design Courses
- Udemy: I’ve personally taken quite a few free and paid Udemy courses. The courses on Udemy are extremely affordable and you can study at your own pace. I recommend you only take paid courses with good reviews. If teaching others is what you’d like to explore in your future, it is very easy to set up your own course on Udemy.
- CreativeLive: CreativeLive is an online education platform that broadcasts live classes to an international audience with free and paid online classes in photography, graphic design, craft/DIY, marketing, business, and entrepreneurship. I can appreciate how they organize the courses on their website. It is categorized by what is trending in the industry, art and design topics, and learning paths to assist you with running a freelance business if you so choose to do.
- Lynda – Lynda has beginner, intermediate, and advanced courses. When I was in college, they would reference Lynda as a tool to learn more.
- Envato Illustration and Design Courses – Envato provides courses, how-to tutorials, and e-books to help you develop creative and technical skills. Envato also has a great marketplace full of themes, templates, graphics, and add-ons that are sold by other creatives.
- Alison Online – I haven’t used Alison Online personally; however, I have learned that is a wonderful platform that identifies the needs of the participant.
- Creative, Inc.: The Ultimate Guide to Running a Successful Freelance Business by Joy Deangdeelert Cho and Meg Mateo Ilasco – This book has taught me a great deal about how to run a freelance business from start to finish. What is unique about this book is that other freelancers share their personal stories in the book every chapter.
- Freelance Design in Practice: Explaining exactly what it takes to create a full-time freelance business by Cathy Fishel – There is so much power in storytelling. That is what I appreciate about this book — hearing the stories of working freelance professionals about the hurdles and accomplishments they’ve made.
- Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon – This book is about you embracing who you are, your creativity, and being original. We all find inspiration all around us. This book is truly inspiring and really pushes an artist to take risks.
- Work for Money, Design for Love: Answers to the Most Frequently Asked Questions About Starting and Running a Successful Design Business by David Airey – This same author wrote the book Logo Design Love, which is another great book for designers. This book in particular, however, answers the questions all freelance designers ask on a daily basis. How do we find clients? How much do we charge? How do we handle difficult clients? You will find many answers to your daily questions in this book.
Online Graphic Design Certifications
Although paying thousands of dollars to obtain your college degree isn’t a part of your plan, obtaining your certification can be. Quality education from experts in the field can teach you for a fraction of the cost. If you choose to work for a company instead of freelancing, this would be significant to your resume.
- HOW Design: Take your career to the next level and build yourself a solid foundation by obtaining your graphic design certificate. You will be taught the basics and learn how to get started in your field.
- UMassOnline: UMass online curriculum is a mix of traditional design courses along with several courses in multimedia, web development, desktop publishing, and more.
- Sessions College: This program will get you prepared for entry-level graphic design positions in advertising, print production, publishing, and computer graphics.
Other Design Resources
- Freelancers Union: Freelancers Union has thousands of members from all over the world. Membership is free and open to freelancers of all kinds, from graphic designers to contractors to entrepreneurs to moonlighters. Freelancers Union offers benefits such as health, dental, term life, disability, and liability insurance. If you choose to be a freelancer, then I would recommend you join the Freelancers Union so that you can obtain these benefits that you would if you were employed. They also have a community of other creatives you can network with all around the world. I highly recommend them.
- AIGA: AIGA brings design to the world and the world to designers. From content that defines the global practice of events that connect and catalyze, they work to enhance the value and deepen the impact of design across all disciplines on business, society, and our collective future. Revision Path has personally worked with AIGA, and I was a member of my local AIGA chapter in the past so I could access their job boards. There are also many other benefits to becoming an AIGA member.
Q: I cannot find any organizations for graphic designers or black creatives in Los Angeles. Do you know anyone I may contact to connect with Black graphic designers here?
A: This is a wonderful question. A few years ago, our owner Maurice Cherry teamed up with AIGA and created a presentation titled “Where Are the Black Designers?”. It is a topic we have been discussing more over the past few years.
Meetup.com is a great resource to connect with local creators like yourself. There are a good handful of creative groups in your local area. However, I did not find a group specifically for black creatives. I would recommend you create your own group of specific Black graphic designers.
I recommend joining Facebook groups online and ask others in the group about local networking events in area and groups that aren’t widely advertised online.
Do you have questions for Siedah? Submit them at email@example.com, and they may be answered in a future column!