So I decided that I’ll learn design on my own — no biggie right?

It really isn’t! This post is not about how complex design is. It’s about the new generation of aspiring designers who spiral and get lost in the web of resources to self-learn design.

In the last 4 months, I’ve been feeling more stuck than ever. I’ve spent days upon days trying to figure out where to begin. For a while, I felt excessively overwhelmed and anxious by design principles, colour theory, typography, logo design, graphic design, web design, and tools, tools, tools. I drowned myself in articles on Medium and talks on YouTube. After getting tangled and feeling like I’m dangling upside down on a piece of thread, I grabbed a pen and paper, listed everything I needed to learn and I’m now slowly crossing things out.

But was all that anxiety necessary? I tried talking to my beau about the struggles that I had and he said something along the lines of, “The problem with this generation, is that we think too much. There’s too much thinking and not enough doing.” Of course… that got me thinking even more.

Falling into nothing (drawing by author)

Is it really a generational thing?

In the Netflix hit series Master of None, today’s “foodie culture” is critiqued in a scene where Dev & Arnold settle on having tacos for lunch but — where are the best tacos in NYC? Dev scrambles to read reviews, get recommendations from friends, and look for flat lays of taco shells on social media. 45 long minutes later, Dev & Arnold finally make it to the taco truck only to be greeted by a grunt that tacos were gone for the day. Dev goes into an existential crisis and Arnold abandons him for a hottie. Bummer.

What I did was no different, but it was in a much larger scope. I spent waaay too much time trying to find the best way to learn design, only leaving myself paralysed by the amount of information I consumed off of the . Maybe by the time I figure out how to do this the “right way”, design or UX would have evolved so much that what I do now will be irrelevant. The thought of this sends me down another spiral of “What’s the frickin’ point then!?” Then I abandon all strands of productivity and curl up for a while.

Our generation is not prepared for the Internet. This wondrous beast of an invention has dumped so much information on us that we’ve come to doubt our own opinions and even those of our peers despite our respect for them. It’s just not enough. Every decision and argument must be validated by a crowd somewhere on the Internet. And if the Internet says it’s true, it must be true! Raise your hand if you have a parent or friend who believes every viral piece of news and sends it to everyone on their WhatsApp contact list. I’ve got both my hands up.

Our generation has more self-doubt and diagnosed anxiety than ever. We learn by copying and we feel like impostors. We rally behind “influencers” who seem to know their stuff. We grow our follower count to feel like our opinions matter. We spend hours and hours buried in our screens not to miss out on silly viral arguments on “Yanny” and “Laurel”.

There is so much design work out there to applaud and so many great designers to follow on Twitter, that I’m getting disoriented by this trail of breadcrumbs that they’re feeding me with. Yes, it’s good to shadow a couple of them and even better to have one of them be your mentor but I’ve built up so much inferiority wondering if I’ll ever be at their level of expertise. I’m getting sick of all this self-doubt. I love the idea of WiFi and Internet and connectivity, but we need to learn where to stop because the Internet is a network of rabbit holes that is too easy to get lost in. We need to relearn how to trust ourselves a little more.

Down, down, down. Would the fall never come to an end? — Alice in Wonderland (drawing by author)

Breaking out of it

My cards are down. I’m not sure how to fix this. I could spiral into another series of articles and videos on the topic of “information overload”. Let’s face it, I probably will do that — but I’m going to try setting some boundaries before going down that rabbit hole. Here’s how:

1 Curated tech & design news

My RSS feed floods me in a sea of articles and galleries of design work that I just have to catch up with everyday. This sounds easy enough to fix — I just need to be more picky with what I consume. But one article leads to another and another and another. It’s easier said than done. Seeing as I’m still in the learning phase, I don’t need to know every new piece of design news and the myriad of tips and tricks for tools that I haven’t mastered. For now, catching up on content will be concisely limited to:

  •— A curated list of 5 design articles everyday in your inbox
  • — Quality content from the experts of the industry
  • & — Web design inspiration beautifully categorised
  • Flux & TheFutur on Youtube — Discussions on design and the life of a
  • Quartz mobile app — Headlines and news that matter in 15-minute blocks of conversational-styled UI with perfectly paired GIFs
  • Medium — To support the community and learn from stories of others

2 Timeboxed reading

Of course I’m still going to tap on links of interest when I go through these sites. What’s the point of reading without context? I must let myself look up things of interest and things I’m not sure about. But there will be rules:

  • Limit of 1 dedicated hour of media consumption per day — exceptions made for fillers while waiting for the bus or standing in queues
  • If I go down a rabbit hole, from any of the above links, I will be aware of it and spend no more than 5 minutes or traverse more than 5 links deeper, whichever is up first
  • If I don’t fully grasp something after that, it’s time to crawl back up and note it down for another day or talk about it with my peers to foster discussion instead of going down it myself

3 Accepting the learning curve

This is the most important bit of these three points. I’m going to fail. I’m going to create crappy design work and I need to be okay with it. Very rarely is any design artifact perfect on the first try anyway. I will create crappy work, reflect, and iterate. Crappy work beats no work. I’m going to copy, borrow, and collage the work of the best designers on Dribbble’s top 10 until I can create my own design assets pixel by pixel.

Signing off

Is this going to work? I don’t know, but I sure hope it does. I’m going to find out by putting it into action rather than finding the best methods and apps to fix my information overload problem.

Enough Internet for today. Right now, I’m going to let Shia LaBeouf scream at me for a minute, and then get back to my crossing things off my personal curriculum of self-learning design. Talk about that in another post soon.


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