//How to Follow Design Tutorials

How to Follow Design Tutorials

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Are people getting spoiled?

In the last two years or so, the number of free design ‘instruction’ and resource sites has exploded. Unfortunately, a lot of people seem to think we live in the Matrix, where ideas can just be downloaded into their heads. Well, it’s 2008 and they haven’t invented that technology yet. Until they do we still have to work to come up with new ideas and to learn how to best execute them.

It takes a little bit of time and experimentation to understand design effects, not just how to do them, but why one might use them and when to use one effect versus another. Every good designer has a ‘method to their madness’ and it’s important to try to get into the same headspace as your favorite designer. This means relaxing a bit an realizing that you may not get everything right the first time, or you may spend a few hours Googling around trying to get everything to make sense. Vandelay Design has some good advice:

One of the things that I like about web design is that there’s always plenty to learn, regardless of how experienced you are. I know that my knowledge really only scratches the surface of web design and development, and I appreciate the fact that seemingly unlimited resources are available to allow me to become a better designer.

The design community is filled with sources of inspiration and helpful sites for encouraging growth in abilities. Each of us needs to take our own unique approach to personal development that works for us.

In my post ‘The Tutorial for all Tutorials‘, I listed the rules I try to follow when making good design tutorials. Now I’m going to share advice on how to follow them…

1. Learn Fundamentals
When you’re trying to follow a tutorial about how to turn your little brother into giant Robeast in Photoshop it might help to know what the difference between the burn tool and the shadow tool. Because design tutorials are so common these days, some writers are going to assume a lot about their audience. This means they may not list every single step because they assume some people will be able to follow them regardless. I know this because occasionally I’m guilty of it. No matter what, you simply aren’t the best designer you can be if you don’t at least try learn the basics of your craft. So if you don’t already know, learn what the photoshop tools do.

2. Know when You’re Out of Your League
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It never hurts to ask questions. A few people may ridicule you or they may ignore you or they may be a little hard on you. That’s okay because your asking the question didn’t do anything but show your dedication to getting things right. However, rather than emailing the writer directly, why not post your thoughts as a comment? Essentially by reading design tutorial blogs we are crowd sourcing instruction, why not also crowd source support for those tutorials? If you post comments on developertutorials.com or my other blog rest assured, someone will answer them. It also takes the pressure off the tutorial writer because they know they don’t have to answer the same question fifteen times.

3. Reread Before You Give Up
The other day I was having some trouble figuring out Subversion. I was following a tutorial but for some reason at the time everything was coming out greek and I could not figure out the techniques I was trying to learn. I didn’t give up, I didn’t ask questions but somehow I still got everything working. How? I walked away.

The next day I came back and followed the same tutorial word for word and it worked. The only thing that had changed between the first day and the second day was me. I had new perspective and things started to make sense that hadn’t before. I realized I had skipped a few words that turned out to be critical, I had misinterpreted other sections and a few things I was able to guess at. Remember when your people used to tell you to put a study sheet under your pillow the night before an exam? This is because, contrary to popular belief, you still think in your sleep and sometimes the subconscious can solve problems passively without your being aware.

4. You Do Not Suck at Photoshop
No matter what your profession or hobby is, if you aren’t confident about your own prowess, people are less-likely to believe in you. In “Five Point Form: Mastering Professionalism as a Freelance Designer” I talked about this a bit…

Another thing I’ve learned is that most people are completely incapable from recognizing real talent from anything else that might be put in front of them. If they aren’t designers, they don’t think like designers and they don’t really know what makes one designer better than another. Thus, they need to be convinced. I’ve seen people who choose horrible color palettes and layouts make upwards of $10K while people making photoshop designs that are nothing short of brilliant make pennies. The average client is waiting on you to tell them that you’re great, that you know your stuff and to prove it to the best of their understanding. This is why presenting yourself with confidence (not arrogance) is key to getting class “A” projects.

The bottom line is you need to muster up confidence, this will lead to trying new things and making bold creative decisions that can’t be taught. So don’t believe the hype, you do not suck a photoshop!

Ultimately, we all need to be patient with each other. If a tutorial isn’t 100% up to par, don’t try to demean the person who is essentially offering a free service. Make suggestions. A few people have asked me flat out to revisit my posts on how to Design a WordPress Tutorial from Scratch. They were polite, and brought up valid critiques that made me realize I didn’t cover things as well as I should have. As a result I’ll be revisiting that series later this month.

2010-05-19T22:15:03+00:00 June 13th, 2008|Articles|0 Comments

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