Training for novice designers

Original author: Senongo Akpem
  • Transfer
Over the past 12 years, I often took part in educational processes; some of them were held under the patronage of the company, others I developed and conducted myself, but there were also sessions that I attended for money. For several years I had a team of designers in charge, which meant that I was responsible for the training and development of my team members. Despite the fact that all of them, of course, were active participants, it was important to realize that training is a process of transmitting information and building skills. Young team members do not acquire these skills all of a sudden. Instead, you need to constantly explain the process in order to guide and educate them.

There are many points to consider when talking about training designers. My experience is related to training an internal team, so I will talk about this type of training and mentoring, but this applies to all kinds of design and development teams. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Your weekly or monthly meetings with your design team is the time when you need to figure out how current projects are progressing, and you also need to find out what help they need and what new things they want to learn. I try to compare the annual goals of designers and development goals with shorter-term goals, imposing them in such a way that we can constantly form more complex opportunities and tasks.

But how do you know all this? A simple exercise can help with this. When completing one of the projects, ask the designers to complete the following sentences:

1. At the moment, I can do ______.
2. I'm still not sure about ______.
3. I would like to learn ______.

You will learn that:

1. They have a new skill that needs to be developed and implemented in the workflow.
2. They are not sure about the task or technique, and you should help them figure it out.
3. After completing this project, they realized what they were missing.

The second and third answers are what you should focus your training plan on.

Most people are tempted to simply assign a new major task, and "let them understand." But this is effective only if people have motivation, and implies that they already have the necessary skills to complete this task. It doesn’t really teach, is it? Therefore, let's look at this in a slightly different light. Assigning a task means that you understand someone’s current skills and tailored the task to fit those skills. I see four levels of difficulty in this.

Imagine that our task is to develop a template library for a new web application that the company is working on. The development goal is for the designer to learn how to create UIs based on components, code, and systems, and not just full PSD mockups.


“I want you to develop a template library for our new web application. It should be based on the corporate template library and built in Sketch. We need styles of types, buttons and menus, and all this must be completely completed before the end of the month. ”

This is the lowest level since there is very little autonomy. All variables are controlled, from content to references and timing. This is a good option for a designer who needs to understand the basics.


“I want you to develop a template library for our new web application. It should be based on the corporate template library and built in Sketch. It must be done before the end of the month. ”

Autonomy is still a bit, but fewer variables are controlled. The designer has the opportunity to decide which elements of the UI will be included in the template library. This level of complexity can be used when the designer already has skills, and he needs experience in solving what is important for the project.

“I want you to develop a template library for our new web application. It should be based on a corporate template library, and it needs to be done before the end of the month. ”

There is already much more freedom for independent design development. As a lead designer, you still control important factors, such as the deadline. The tool for creating a design, in this case, Sketch, is no longer so important, since the designer himself already understands what is needed for the project and can plan everything accordingly.


“I want you to develop a template library for our new web application. Tell me if something is not clear. ”
Wow - almost complete freedom. The goals of the company are still defined, but the designer is given the freedom to do what he considers necessary for the project.

Whatever the designer indicates as a skill that he would like to learn, or a project in which he would like to try himself, you can use these difficulty levels to designate such a project. Offering a direction that takes into account knowledge gaps, you will challenge them, while not making the task impossible.

So, you gave them a project that will help them develop new skills. They started work. Regular inspections, especially during team meetings, give them the opportunity to share successes, not only with you, but also with team members. In the end, as a senior designer, you need to make sure that they are able to complete the task and learn something new. By checking simultaneously controllable factors, such as deadlines and project goals, and more creative factors, such as tools and visual design, your verification forms a tangible and achievable route to the project. Everyone loves routes!

I am trying to convince you to use a similar process to develop the skills of your younger team members. Taking care of the atmosphere in your team and the projects you are launching means taking care of the training and development of your team members. This process begins with the collaboration of junior and senior designers in order to identify training needs. It continues with the appointment of work that strengthens rather than breaks down your team members. And finally, since not many can learn on their own, you act as a mentor throughout the appointment. The process standardizes the transfer of information and techniques from a senior designer to a junior in an understandable way, so that your team members acquire the skills they need to grow as designers.

Also popular now: