Cross learning applied to improve our team efficiency

A designer’s skills can come in handy in other departments, right? I developed a Photoshop Learning Beginners’ Course for three months, in which a Tester, a Front-end Developer and two Content people participated.

Everyone progresses in his own manner. Some people can self-learn new skills, some not. But we all reach a point when we have to pass our skills to others.

In my case, I had to experiment with my coaching skills and see how I managed. I wanted to see what problems we were confronting, how I could teach my colleagues in an easy and efficient way—because we all have tasks and ongoing projects—how I could combine theory with practice, and last but not least, if I am good at this or not.

At that time, we didn’t need any new Junior Graphic Designer or an intern, so I had no one to practice with, but then it hit me: what tool is used in all other departments? Photoshop!
Front-end Developers use it for implementation, Content Editors use it for making banners, editing images, social media posts etc. Testers use it to check a design and to see if every part of the User Interface was implemented correctly.

I asked my colleagues if they want to participate and they were thrilled and open to this, and I managed to find my coaching group.

team

The participants: Smaranda Hritcu (F/E Developer), Loredana Constantin (Content Marketing), Eli Virlan (Tester), Daniela Anehei (Content Editor)

 

The course structure

I am a self-taught UI/UX Designer, and I had a bunch of courses, tutorials, video tutorials and books that I had previously gone through. Based on my prior experience with that, I managed to make the magic structure for each week, for a total of 12 lessons in three months. The structure is pretty simple and straightforward, no bullshit, and the focus is on efficiency and practice:

  1. The first part: a two-hour live lesson with all five of us, with practical examples (funny ones too) and an in-depth review of each tool they usually use in the workflow.
  2. The second part: a small assignment so they could practice what they have learned, so that the information presented by me would switch from short-term memory to long-term.
  3. Bonus: in some cases, some personal reading was involved, and I provided a General Design Principles document that I made, so that they could become familiar with Color Theory, Grids and Guides and other basic information. Also, I provided a small tutorial on editing images and Photoshop Etiquette, because we don’t want our .PSD files to be a mess, right?
  4. The last part: a final assignment at the end, where they could practice all the techniques they had learned and put their creativity to work.

The first and second part ran once a week, as simple as this: live learning sessions and homework for the next week.

Below, you can see a small preview of the document:

guidelines

I wanted them to learn each tool in Photoshop from examples from the daily routine, so that in the end, this coaching would make their workflow easier, a lot faster, and why not, enjoyable.

The lessons and progress

Taking into consideration that this is just a beginners’ course, I wanted them to learn the basic tools and techniques, the right way. The lessons included:

  • Reading the General Design Principles;
  • Setting up Photoshop and extensions: how to arrange the workspace, organise your layers, how to create a new canvas for different types of projects, installing GuideGuide extension;
  • Move tool and autoselect, Marquee, Magic Wand tool and adding layer masks, Crop, adding images or other elements and converting them to Smart Objects;
  • Brush tool and how to install new brushes, Clone Stamp tool, gradients, blending modes, saving images for web and compressing them;
  • Editing images with Adjustments and making the best out of a crappy image, a stock-like picture;
  • Shapes and creating them, Pen tool, Type tool;
  • Swatches and editing them, color schemes and where to take them from, adjustments, blurring and making a nice out of focus effect, finding inspiration;
  • Blending Options Effects.

 

For the final exercise, they had to make a poster for hiring a Junior Graphic Designer, that we will be posting on Facebook. They had to figure out what to write and how the design would look and also, to use as many techniques they had learned as they could. The outcome:

image8

Made by: Eli Virlan

homework lore

Made by: Loredana Constantin

homework daniela

Made by: Daniela Anehei

homework smaranda

Made by: Smaranda Hritcu

 

In the end

After these amazing 3 months of hard work, during which the girls did an amazing job, I wanted to find out if this was useful for them, where I could improve and what other insights I could get. The best way, so they could express themselves freely, was to write me an email with both positive and negative feedback.

Useful insights I got:

  • Creating the assignments in a fun manner made the process a lot more pain-free and enjoyable;
  • In the live coaching sessions, after I explained a technique, it would be useful to let them practice on the spot, beside me, so they won’t forget the steps. However, this would increase the coaching lessons to at least 3 hours each;
  • The most difficult tasks should be documented step by step, with print screens;
  • To give a list of shortcuts to speed up the workflow.

For me, it was a great experience that will come in handy for the next Junior Graphic Designers we will hire and, in my opinion, every department should try and figure out if they could pass on some skills, as that would make our team better and more efficient.

I salute you, ladies, and keep up the good work!

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