Online design classes

I know I was going to follow up with the second half of the bridal shower decorations and it’s coming tomorrow, but this afternoon brought a pleasant surprise. I had taken a Nicoles Classes course in Typography earlier in the month, and while I knew some of my assignments would get featured, I didn’t realize when they’d come up. But while clicking through posts in my reader during my lunch break, bam, there were two of my wedding invite designs, along with some other student work.

I had hemmed and hawed a lot about whether to spend the money to take one of the courses. I am notoriously finicky about putting down cash for stuff, even things I really want. (I’ve been stalking the same supremely lovely necklace on Etsy for over two years. Every time I have talked myself into spending $35, I talk myself right back out.) On the other hand, even though I’ve done a bunch of design work for friends and family and been able to incorporate design into every job I’ve had since grad school, I get a little self-conscious about not having any “real” training in it, though a lot of amazing designers haven’t either. When I saw a link to Nicole’s Classes on a blog I read, I went there more for the “oooh, free awesome tutorials” aspect, but got intrigued by the class platform. Would I like it? Would I find it valuable? Would it…turn out better than the few free Alt Summit online courses I’d gotten to take (as a result of some promotion from the search engine that is Not Google, and thus the weird hashtag in a facebook status I put up a few weeks ago)? I waffled. I wasn’t sure I was going to get my money’s worth. I wasn’t sure I was going to like the platform or the schedule. There was no way to really know what the class was like without taking the class.

And then they made the Typography class the “featured” class of the month (not sure if this is a regular thing, but you better believe I hope it is), and offered a sweet 35% discount to boot. Um, that made it a lot easier to pull the trigger for me, let’s be real. And I had learned some nifty tricks already from the free tutorial section of the site and from their lovely blog. I am a self-professed typography nerd who is grossed out that her bike gloves have Scriptina on them and reads books like Just My Type for fun. Okay, sold.

So, what did I think of the class itself? Even as someone who’s been working with design stuff for bit, I’m not a dummy and I know there’s way more for me to learn than I have already mastered. To be fair, a lot of the recorded lectures were things I’d already known or had considered a lot, so the homework assignments were where I really found the benefit of the class. There were a handful of assignments each week, with some generic text to set. We were encouraged to pay attention to things in the homework assignments that I wouldn’t necessarily consider if I were just approaching a standard design problem, specifically mixing serif and sans serif typefaces, as well as mixing cases (upper, lower, title, small caps, etc) and/or weights. We then uploaded our images to a central server and could see and comment upon our classmates’ homework as well. I think that part was also really valuable, because it’s fascinating to see the varied approaches to the same assignment. I ended up commenting on several assignments when I spotted things I really admired about other people’s designs.

After the homework had been up a few days, the teacher (Melanie Burke of Fifth and Hazel) went through and gave feedback on each uploaded image. It was just as instructive to read her comments on other people’s work as her feedback on my own designs. All of her suggestions were really sound, tweaking the spacing of one thing, or switching the order of the information on another assignment. She seemed to get which students might be a little more advanced in the subject matter and challenged them further with some higher-level tweaks to their designs. If nothing else, I was glad that this experience put me in touch with such an encouraging lady, whom I feel might become a bit of a design friend in the future. The class structure also includes a scheduled “chat” time where the instructor is available to answer specific questions you might have, though you are also free to e-mail them throughout the course with questions or problems.

So, am I sold on Nicole’s Classes? Mostly. I will be keeping an eagle eye out for more sales in the future on courses I’m interested in. Melanie also told us about a few classes they were working to put together, including one on website stuff (I am the worst, I know a teensy bit of coding, but I don’t even know where I’d start to self-teach very much in the way of web design), and another on starting your own business. I’ve often balked at putting a lot of effort into freelance stuff, knowing that at this point I lack the self-discipline to reap the rewards. I would be intrigued by this class, however, for some real-life advice on how to grow a client base and some other basics. Already knowing that the instructors are helpful, attentive and challenging (in a positive way) gives me way more incentive to pull the trigger in the future.

Anyway, I know that endless graphics noodling isn’t necessarily the direction this blog was planned for, but it’s my real-life creative stuff, so it’s probably going to end up here once and awhile. The other post on Erin’s bridal shower will be up next, and then after that, back to solid renovation and random food stuff, promise!

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4 comments on “Online design classes

  1. I completely agree on how helpful it is to not just see the feedback on my own designs but on other students’ designs as well and see how everyone has their own interpretations of the same assignments. It’s fun seeing your post here and your decked-out work on the featured post.

    P.S. I’m sorry I haven’t replied to your comment on my blog yet. I’m so behind. But it was so nice of you to drop by and say hello!

  2. Oh, and I totally hear you about laying down the cash for things. I’ve talked myself in and out of sheet music/books/typefaces/clothes/whatever so many times it makes my head spin. Why do I do that? That said, after taking several classes through Nicole’s Classes, I’m happy to lay down money for classes from Melanie and Alma.

    • Kate says:

      Hi, Annie! Thanks for coming by and commenting.

      Hee, I am terrible when shopping, I can’t bring myself to impulse-buy. I will stare at myself in the mirror, turn this way and that, and really consider “do I love this $X worth?” and if the answer is not honestly “yes” then it goes back on the rack. I’m pretty sure the answer will be “yes” for future Nicole’s Classes, but I’m still going to keep a sharp eye out for deals!

      I wanted to say, I really liked your voice in your blog, I added it to my reader and look forward to when your schedule slows down and you post more often!

  3. […] post even ended up on Pinterest, which amuses me endlessly.) The third most popular post was my review of my experience with Nicole’s Classes. That post got linked from their Twitter and Facebook pages, so that accounted for a lot of hits. […]

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