Mastering The Unmasterable

It’s a common question amongst us designers. When was the first time you opened Photoshop? To be honest, I have no idea. I know it was around the age of 9-13, but as for the exact moment – blank. However, I could take an educated guess. It had to have been the day I realized that there was something beyond Photoshop Elements. After all, I was sure designers weren’t making those fancy gradient buttons in a retouching software, right?

Now I do remember my first experiences with Photoshop. It was terrible. I saw all these buttons, but had no idea what they did. I’d click the brush tool and drag, but nothing would appear. I’d draw something with the shape tool and ask myself, that’s it? So I turned off the computer and returned to my sketching book. I’d given up without even trying. “It’s not for me,” I thought. But I was wrong. It was. I just didn’t know it yet. From childhood, I was always the kid that would rather draw in class than open the textbook. In fact, I got in trouble for it – a lot. But I saw nothing wrong. It was just my way of expressing the things around me – with good ‘ol pencil and paper.

Some time passed and I learned about some site called Lynda.com. It promised to help me learn my way around Adobe Photoshop. So naturally, I begged and wailed until my mom gave me the crown jewel – her credit card. After hitting a few buttons, I was listening to my first video and forgetting homework altogether. I was hooked.

One week later, I canceled my account and told myself, “I can handle it from here.”

Skip forward a few years and I too was making those fancy buttons with the extreme gradients, odd patterns, and serious border-radii. Then, I went through the business card phase (didn’t we all) and started “designing” for money. But I made one major mistake. I got too comfortable. You see, the beautiful thing about this thing we call design, is that it’s “unmasterable.” There’s no end of the line. No point where you can sit down and tell yourself there’s nothing more to learn. If you think there is, you’re in serious need of a reality check.

I got out of my comfort zone when I asked myself, “how did those sites get there anyway?” Once again, I followed the pattern and googled it. I ended up at W3Schools. Within two days, I was “speaking” XHTML (I’m not old) and CSS like they were my native tongue. Then, I started “building” for money. And surely enough, I once again became too comfortable. It was becoming a trend: ask the how, look for the why, learn the what, and get comfortable. But if I’d taken a step back, I would have realized that there was no end to this design circle. There’s no beginning, nor end.

Fast forward to the present. Every once in a while I get comfortable. But now I’m able to quickly realize and snap myself out of it. My newest design endeavor? Programming. Although not technically aesthetic, it’s still an art form. I’ve chosen Codecademy as my teacher. Hopefully I’ll be programming away in the coming months. Hopefully I won’t get too comfortable. At this point, I think it’s safe to say there’s only one quote to plug.

Stay hungry, stay foolish. – Steve Jobs

Don’t think to much about the quote. It’s quite literal actually. The “getting comfortable” I mentioned a few times earlier, is feeling like you’ve done it all. On the contrary, you’ve simply conquered one hurdle. Go out and find more. If it’s fear that’s holding you back from continuing, stare it right in the face and cross through. Just like my friend Bobby Ghoshal and his dog Avi explained.

 
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