How to learn to use new design software

Before you look at what software you would like to learn more about, it's worth thinking about why you're doing it and how you'll go about it.

In this video, an experienced designer discusses their experience of learning to use design software and gives 5 tips on how to do this.


Here are the tips from the video and remember that these are what this designer found useful - you may have different preferences and ways of learning.

1. Have a reason to learn software

Having something to work towards can give you a reason and help motivate you to learn. For example:

  • A personal project
  • A design competition
  • A live project for a client (but have a fall back plan or allow extra time!)
  • A specific learning goal - e.g. a technique or new tool
  • To update to a new release of software
  • Even just to explore tools you haven’t tried before
2. Be selective (lazy!) about what you learn

A lot of design software is exceptionally complex and designed for multiple design professions - so you don't need to learn everything. Focus on

  • Learn the basics: interface; main tools; a few key processes
  • Use trickle learning: learn a little thing every day (TOP TIP: learn keyboard shortcuts for your software: one a day)
  • Focus on one thing at a time: processes or tools - learn to do something or learn to use a tool that you're pretty sure will be useful to you.
  • Use play to learn - very often, simply trying software and going through the process of finding out how it works for yourself is the best way to learn.
  • When you play, identify specific tools or processes you really need to learn about and then only learn specialist tools and features when you need to
3. Learn to design, not to use software

Do not only focus on learning the software. Remember why you’re doing training in the first place - to be a better designer! So:

  • Make learning design processes your priority, not the software (you might be surprised)
  • Look out of tutorials that focus on design workflow: designers who explain their design thinking as well as what they are doing at the same time.
  • Use play and exploration to learn new software
  • If you’re spending more time learning software than designing then re-balance what you’re doing
4) Have your favourite sources

We all have our own learning preferences so use these to select the types of material that work for you:

  • Bookmark and use some key basic training materials for your main software
  • Use updates to software as a chance to explore new tools and features
  • Bookmark and make good use of particular practitioners or educators that you really like or respect.
  • Make use of tutorial or example working files to get an insight into what these look like when created by other people.
5) Use friends and peers
  • Compare your work to that of other students and other designers
  • Regularly present your ideas to friends or colleagues to get continuous feedback and to help your own thinking
  • Join online communities and forums that discuss your particular specialism or interest

Finally, think about sharing your own learning. Someone else will find it useful and will learn from it.


Last modified: Sunday, 2 Aug 2020, 09:38