How I Taught Myself Basic Graphic Design, And Conneced With Influencers In The Process

I’ve always enjoyed visual expressions of creativity. But until recently, photography has monopolised my creative outputs, effectively blocking other creative pursuits from entering the picture (no pun intended). That’s no longer the case.

As part of my Year of Learning project, I spent February trying to teach myself the very basics of graphic design. By the time February was over, I wanted to keep going, so I sacrificed March on the design Gods’ altar as well.

While I had expected to learn some basic design tools and tips, I had not expected that graphic design would lead me to connect with two amazing authors, or that it would lead me to bring a funky cartoon character to life. Here’s the story of what happened.

The Technicalities

Tool Of Choice: Affinity Designer

In choosing my tool, I had two options: the industry-standard Adobe suite, or the underdog Affinity Designer.

Choosing Adobe is a good idea for aspiring professional designers. But that wasn’t me, at least not yet. Since I already owned the more affordable, but still highly-rated Affinity Designer software, I went with that.

Adobe’s pricing model is a subscription service, whereas Affinity sells its software for a one-off fee. People who design stuff every day will probably find enough value in the Adobe suite to justify the monthly payments. But I just want to design stuff every now and then, so it made more sense to pay up once, and then own the software forever.

Choosing Input: Udemy Online Course

The glorious internet provides unlimited choice in inputs, so this was a shot in the dark. I found a course on Affinity Designer on Udemy, taught by a man named Ronnie McBride. I jumped on board, and never looked back – Ronnie gave a great introduction to both the software and some basic design principles along the way. Highly recommended if you’re a novice design fool like me.

Choosing And Changing Approach: Daily Dose To Deep Work

I initially planned to do at least 15 minutes of design work per day, to keep momentum. That was a great idea on paper, not so much in practice.

I realised that a 15–30 minute design session doesn’t get me into the flow zone needed to learn quickly. I therefore changed my approach towards longer, less frequent sessions, about 1–3 hours every 3–4 days. That worked better, and quicker progress followed.

[For more on flow, I highly recommend reading Stealing Fire, by Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal. Prepare to have your mind blown.]

Choosing Output: Infographics And Cartoons

At first, I was just playing around with Affinity Designer to learn the ins and outs of the tool. That became very boring fairly quickly – I needed to try to make something real.

I had just finished re-reading a book I love, The End of Jobs, by Taylor Pearson. In the book, Taylor explains that we’ve lived through several economic periods over the last 500 years, and what happens to society and the economy when we transition from one period to the next. Without getting into too much detail (see my book summary of The End of Jobs here), I found it fascinating. So I decided to turn the book’s content into an infographic, illustrating the economic phases one after the other. That turned out like this:

In addition to this, the Udemy course ends with an assignment to create a cartoon character referred to as “Flint”.

This is Flint, according to the course intructor (left), and according to me (right). I might have to work on that background colouring..

Sharing My Art, Connecting With Amazing People And Getting Free Books In Return

Practising the technical aspects of graphic design was fine and dandy, but the experiment’s most interesting part is what happened afterwards.

Having created the End Of Jobs infographic, I decided to tweet it to the author, Taylor Pearson (@taylorpearsonme).

I went on with my day, and suddenly, while waiting for a flight at the airport, I got a reply from Taylor, in which he tagget a guy named Ron Davison. Turns out, Ron is an author “The Fourth Economy”, a book I’ve never heard about. That book was the basis for the ideas that Taylor expanded on in The End Of Jobs.

Then Ron joins the fun as well.

Then it gets even weirder. Ron wants to use the graphic on his blog. He also wants to give me a copy of his book The Fourth Economy. Sweet!

A Serendipitous Lesson

That’s how I ended up connecting with two great authors, and reading Ron’s book on my Kindle for free, as a result of to trying to learn some basic graphic design. To me, this illustrates the connecting power of the internet, and how serendipity can essentially be fostered by adding value to others.

Serendipity can be fostered by adding value to others.



Charu Malik May 2, 2018 Reply

My tool of choice is also Affinity Designer. Thank you for posting these.

Charu Malik May 6, 2018 Reply

I tell you what. Make a short tutorial on this. I’ll post this on hackr for you. Design community will love it.

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