Being a self-taught designer...

I have always believed in education thanks to parenting no doubt and being fortunate enough to always have the opportunity to take on a course of my choosing.  Though I didn’t start off quite on the “right path” to where I’m at today, I’ve always stirred towards a creative course of some sort and after many years of trial and error, it’s been good to narrow down the area of specialization I want to work in.

So how does someone become self-taught? For me it’s been a consequence of prohibiting course fees and lack of time to devote to studying at an institution as an adult coming back to study to retrain.  Thanks to the internet however, these days there are very few routes where studying online isn’t a viable option. Furthermore, online courses don’t discriminate against anyone because of their race/age/location/religion etc. It’s never made more sense than now to be a self-taught-anything!

Looking back, leaving my fashion & textile full time course because I couldn't afford paying thousands of pounds in tuition fees to continue was the best thing that could have happened to me.  I already had an arts bachelor degree under my belt and would recommend to anyone having some University education where possible.

So with no longer a fixed schedule, I was able to start taking independent short courses and pick exactly what areas of textiles/design I wanted to study.  Soon enough, I realised that there was a world out there of online courses you can take that can really help you become a designer of your choice. From experience, finding the right online course can be time consuming so I’m going to briefly offer an overview of my experience from the beginning to now and hopefully this will help out a few aspiring self-taught designers out there starting out

1. The first online course I took was from a e-learning platform I can’t even remember the name of where you could only access the classes online and I was learning the basics of Illustrator with not much prior experience in the program.   It was a generic course geared towards someone mostly interested in graphic design so I found myself wondering how I could be using any of the hundred features I was being shown for surface pattern design (except the obvious ones). For that reason, this course was not so memorable and I soon realised that I didn’t have to learn a program inside out to get started in surface pattern design.  Furthermore, I couldn’t download any videos so could only learn when I had a good internet connection and the interface itself left a lot to be desired. 4/10

2) Next came Creative Live and Bonnie Christine and for the first time I was able to feel like I was clearly going in the right direction.  All the classes offered on this platform are filmed from a classroom set where students can ask questions and everything is demonstrated live.  I was able to download all the videos. I also took a marketing/self-promotion course from Creative Live which I intend to revisit in the near future.  Overall, I’d score this experience 7/10

3)  MIID - Make it in Design is run by UK team of surface pattern designers who want to learn both the creative and business skills needed to become successful in this field.  I started off with The Ultimate Portfolio Gude but I’d recommend anyone relatively new to this field to start from Module One and work your way to Module 3 before taking this course.  There is a lot I can say about this experience but I’ll summarise is as follows: if you’re an illustrator aspiring to produce artwork for the quilting, stationery, homeware departments this is probably the best specialist course in the online market for you.  If you’re more of a fashion/apparel designer, read on. Overall experience for me 7.5/10 due to last factor outlined and the fact that the courses are not cheap though the quality is good.

4)  Textile Design Lab offered by Pattern Observer.  My current favourite with a 9.5/10 score. I could write a ton of posts just on all the courses I’ve taken at the Lab which have all been very insightful.  The forum is an excellent platform to ask questions, learn from others and have an ongoing dialogue with everyone at the Lab which isn’t possible with any other course outlined above.  I find the weekly Art Critique webinars great for getting live feedback on any artwork I’m developing or burning questions I’d like answered in this way. With some courses you also have the opportunity to have WGSN access and there is always a monthly design challenge which is another way for getting more feedback on your work.

Other online resources I plan to investigate in the future include:




Lastly, I’d like to add Future Learn which is a fantastic platform for free high quality courses covering every kind of subject and designed by renowned universities around the world.  Alternatives to this include: Coursera and Moocs.

Good luck in your life-long learning!