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Continuing Your Continued Education

Continuing Your Continued Education

Mike Lenhart

The majority of us have done it already – gone through school to obtain some sort of design or art degree. The grueling days of classes, projects, and tests are over. We’re out in the work world and, hopefully, have a job that we like. In school, we’ve been trained on the latest design software applications and feel pretty proficient in them – well, most of them. However, it seems that the upgrades and changes to these applications come almost yearly – if not monthly. What’s a designer to do when they’re faced with a whole new version of design software that totally throws off their working efficiency? What do you do to keep up? Here are some things and ideas that I know about.

Upgrade At All?

The first thing to consider is when and whether to upgrade at all. Is the new version really that new, complete with upgraded bells and whistles, that you really need to have? Will your life be that much more difficult without it? Of course, the design software people will tell you you do, but they’re trying to make money and keep their corporation in business. But, you really need to decide for yourself, and maybe for your firm, if and when you really need it. My suggestion is to wait for the big upgrade, every two years or so, when there are many upgrades and changes to the software you use most. If there’s not much of a change, skip it. I still resort to Photoshop 7 when I do simple things to a photo. It’s quick and doesn’t take as much RAM.

The Education Continues

Now that you’ve purchased that upgrade, where to you go to learn it in the least amount of time? If you’re a manual-user, you’ll be able to pick through the book that accompanies the software to get the latest changes in one sitting. Personally, I’m not a manual-person. Another way to do it is to look in the software application yourself and see if there’s a link or tutorial which comes with the software that take you through the changes in a more visual setting. There are also online tutorials from third parties on the Web that will take you through this stuff too. I don’t trust those, though, for some reason. I’m sure they’re as legit as any other, but I’m a skeptic. I think the best way to learn is to go to a class or workshop sponsored by the company and learn from the folks who actually designed it and it use it all the time. Sometimes they cost a little, but many times they’re free because the company uses the workshops as a marketing tool. Buyer beware of that too. Again, I am a skeptic.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line to all this software upgrade stuff is to ask your printer or Web developer if they need these new versions or if they can still work and produce your work without it. Many times, printers have way old versions of print software and don’t really need the new gizmos – they can work without them, thank you very much. As you know, the simple PDF is the standard, most times, anyway. When it comes to Web or interactive applications, you may need to check and see how the upgrades work with changing technology, such as handheld devices and gaming – if that’s your job category. Flash to Web is also getting better, and easier, so if you work with that all the time, maybe that’s a good upgrade for you. Beware of the costs. Upgrades are cheaper than buying the software off-the-shelf. And, also beware of the licensing arrangements that come with the software. Sometimes you can use the same box for up to 5 stations – sometimes for the same price. Just don’t try to cheat the system. The software companies are really good at monitoring (big-brothering?) what’s going on out there and it’s not worth getting caught. Have fun out there and, with your best judgement and gut-feelings, you’ll come out just fine.

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