Why I’m learning to code (again)

I explained in a previous post why I was making a change from web development to web design. The most significant of those reasons for me was that my brain couldn’t seem to handle programming anymore. I would stare glassy-eyed at a JavaScript problem while my body temperature rose and my brain shut down.

So instead I gave my poor post-covid brain something else to focus on. I spent about a month learning how to use Adobe Illustrator and studying typography, color, and layout. I even learned how to do basic 3D sketches by hand and designed a logo for a friend.

But I noticed a couple of things:

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Recreating kitchen tile

Another kitchen-related design project. The backsplash tile in our kitchen is…well…here it is in all its earth-tone glory:

square kitchen tile in earth tones
I did not choose this.

Why recreate this in Illustrator? Experience. My projects so far have been generally ideas that I came up with myself, which meant that if I couldn’t achieve a desired effect, I could just do something else. But with recreating something that already exists, I’m forced to figure it out.

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Designing simple household signage

TL;DR: It really wasn’t that simple after all.

It isn’t always clear whether the dishes in the dishwasher are dirty, or someone just stopped unloading it halfway through. So in my house we use a magnet to stick a sign to the front of the dishwasher if the dishes are clean. This is what that sign once looked like:

Clean written in marker on a dirty envelope.
The writing says “Clean” but the paper is filthy!

I “commissioned” myself to redo this sign, making the first, tiniest inroads into “designing for a purpose”. To get some color inspiration, I found a photo of dishes on Unsplash.

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The devastating allure of tutorials (and what I’m going to do instead)

Me, learning x:

  • Complete a tutorial on x
  • Try to use x on a real project, flail helplessly
  • Complete a longer/more expensive/better reviewed tutorial on x
  • Try to use x on a real project, flail helplessly
  • Complete yet another tutorial on x….
  • Etc.

I do this all the time, most recently with Adobe Illustrator, but also with JavaScript frameworks, and web development in general. Ever since I started learning in early 2019, I’ve been on an informal quest for just the right instructor, course, video, whatever, that will take me from “not knowing” to “knowing”. I haven’t questioned this process, until now. After all, there is no shortage of on-line courses, so that must be the best way, right?

Now I suspect that the endless carousel of tutorials may be the rule, not the exception, on this path. Following one tutorial (even following it well, completing all the assignments, and trying really hard) leads to more. I never quite get to my intended destination, no matter how talented the instructor or how well-planned the materials.

Once I thought about it, I remembered that it wasn’t always like this. I wasn’t always like this. Let’s visit the before-time.

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