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This chapter is from the book

Becoming a Designer

Once your design utility belt is firmly buckled and your tool kit fully equipped, it’s time to determine how to actually tackle the job of becoming a designer. There’s no certification exam to pass or credentials to acquire, but there are many classes to enroll in (for a fee) and even some universities offering to teach the trade of design; but are they worth your time and money?

If you’re young and either in college or about to head off to it, by all means enter a program that’s focused on design and product creation, even if it’s not specifically geared toward the development of mobile apps. There’s a great deal of benefit to be derived from going through a full college or trade-school program on how to become highly proficient in computer software creation.

But if your college years have passed you by or the cost or time required for a full course load is daunting, there’s a nearly endless supply of free information available on the Internet that can help you become more adept at this craft.

Currently, most mobile app designers are either self-taught or have some background in computer engineering or another traditional visual design field. Eventually, though, the leaders of the industry five, ten, or twenty years from now will have gone through some post-high school program focused on software development.

Another way to hone your skills or grow your knowledge base is something often discussed by those looking to get into the world of app development: conferences. There’s certainly no shortage of events, ranging anywhere from a day to a week in length, vying for developers’ time and dollars. These sessions are often quite expensive, but they remain one of the only ways a programmer or designer can spend hours upon hours listening to or talking with titans of the industry.

Based on personal experience, conferences offer the opportunity to draw from a wealth of knowledge and enjoy a healthy dose of much-needed social interaction and networking. The face-to-face benefits of a conference cannot be understated, especially in the tech industry. Many mobile developers work alone at home or at small companies of two to three people and each one is perhaps the only person in town with such a hobby or profession. Thus, conferences offer a valuable opportunity to foster camaraderie between people with similar interests, providing both inspiration and motivation.

With many conferences making audio and video of lectures and roundtable discussions available via the Internet, though, any technical expertise gained by attending in person becomes less and less valuable. If you’re paying your own way to an event, aim for the ones that are most affordable—something in line with what you’d spend on a short and cheap weekend getaway. Look at conferences as the entree of establishing friendships and interacting with individuals with shared passions that just happens to come with a side dish of learning. Don’t break the bank on pricey conferences, and you won’t be saddled with overeater’s remorse the day after.

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