I'm trying not to become obsolete, even though my skills might.
(This post is brought to you by my anxiety after reading one too many AskReddit threads about skills that will no longer be needed in the near future, mostly because of robots.)
The skills I'm referring to are the more traditional forms of design (like print) and the use of older software (like Photoshop versus Sketch). I know they'll be relevant for at least a while longer, but the digitization of ~everything~ is making me a little antsy. So the question becomes: How do I adapt?
A yearnin' for learnin'
I've had a rocky relationship with education. As a kid, I did well in class because I thought it was just what I was supposed to do. At magnet schools, I hated learning because of the competitive environment. Then I entered my angsty late-teens, and I used knowledge to feel like I was smarter and better than others - basically, a means to hide my insecurities. College was an improvement, though peppered with procrastination and all-nighters.
Recently I've been trying to develop a healthier and more practical relationship with learning. The truth is, learning becomes so much more reliant on self-motivation, regardless of whether it is career- or passion-driven (or both).
In college, a professor showed our class some of her design work. She said she made it all in Quark (cue crickets - none of us had ever touched Quark). She told us that she had studied and used Quark for years, and then suddenly everyone was using Adobe InDesign and Illustrator. The industry shifted and she had no choice but to adapt.
My parents, who both work in IT, also studied on their own to get better at their jobs - my mom used to study for her Oracle certification while I did my homework across the table from her. But they also spend time learning things that they're interested in, irrelevant to their careers. My dad will literally teach himself how to do anything - play musical instruments, code a website, construct a functioning wooden paddleboard, etc. My mom, for some mysterious reason, loves finance, and studies relentlessly in her free time so she can help low-income, immigrant, and senior folks with their taxes every spring. It's given me the impression that knowledge makes you unstoppable; you can learn how to do anything you want. And best of all, it makes you a better and more enriched person.
It's Never Too Late
There are a lot of people I look up to, even design students younger than me. Sometimes I feel like I'm behind the curve. But I've had the recent revelation that I am not at all limited to admiration - I have the ability be just as skilled as these people. I want to be resourceful, I want to be self-reliant, I want to be tech-savvy, I want to make great stuff. And so I will.
With that in mind, I've been spending some weekday evenings cozying up with Codecademy and trying out Sketch. I made the trek to Arlington for a workshop on Agile/Scrum (organized by AIGA DC, hosted by Deloitte Digital, assembled with Lego bricks). My most recent lettering series, Fear Not, has also taught me a lot.
It feels good to learn and it feels even better to enjoy it.
This blog post isn't meant to be a humblebrag, and I definitely don't want come off as preachy. I truly just don't want to be left in the dust. This is as much motivated by self-interest as it is a reminder to my peers who, like me, feel intimidated by other designers and by the rapid pace at which technology advances. What's the harm in trying new things? Maybe I'll find out I have a knack for coding or something. And even if I don't, at least I'll know that much more about it.