How do you continue learning the theory of your craft?

The Worlds of Engineering and Design

I find it easy to continuously learn about software engineering: I’ve read thousands of articles on the subject and written many of my own; watched and given presentations; read front-to-back far more academic papers than a college dropout should be expected to read; and so many other things.

The world of software engineering is very open to self-teachers like myself but I’ve found the world of design to be less hospitable.

I’ve never had “designer” in my title but I’ve found myself doing design work ever since I started learning software engineering. It just comes up a lot, and I take it seriously when it does.

Like my eng knowledge, my design knowledge is self-taught and built-up primarily through a feedback loop of “build a thing, learn from it, make it better or make the next thing better”. But unlike with software engineering where I can supplement that loop with more-theoretical learnings, I find it hard to get at the more theory-like knowledge of design.

Getting to the Theory

Traditional schooling is an obvious way to get theoretical knowledge. But I took the time to contrast the world of software engineering against the world of design because I wanted to show that it doesn’t have to be the only way.

Even for those of you who are very big proponents of traditional college education for designers, I suspect you’ve tried to continue your education since you’ve left.

So my question to ya’ll is: how do you continue learning the theory of your craft?

Just speaking for myself, I think design is a lot like engineering; it’s a matter of carefully identifying the problem then coming up with the best, most practical, most efficient and most cost-effective solution.

As for school, it’s important in learning design, but school mostly serves as a foundation upon which more learning can take place. In other words, design students get the basics, but most everything past that is learned through self-directed practice, dedication, paying attention and experience.

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