Improving our team efficiency with cross-learning

8 mins read

A designer’s skills can come in handy for any department. To make sure they’re present in all departments that needed a designer’s eye and hand, Victor Keller, our UI/UX designer, developed a three-month Beginners’ Photoshop Learning Course to pass on his knowledge to others and develop his coaching skills in the process. The “students” of this course were: a front-end developer, a tester, a content editor and a content marketer. Here’s the story.

Context

Everyone progresses at his/her own pace. Some people can develop new skills through self-learning, but some need a bit of external help. Nevertheless, we all get to reach a point where we have to pass our skills to others.

In my case, I had to experiment with my coaching skills and see if I could manage. I wanted to observe what kind of problems I’ll be confronting, how I could teach my colleagues certain things easy and efficiently (due to the fact that we all have tasks and ongoing projects), how could I combine theory with practice, and last but not least: if I am good at this or not.

At the time, we didn’t need a new Junior Graphic Designer or an intern, so I had no one to practice with. Then it hit me: What tool is needed in all our departments? Photoshop! Front-end Developers are using it for implementation. Content Editors are using it to create banners/edit images/ social media posts, etc. Testers are using it to check designs and to see if every part of the User Interface was implemented correctly.

Once I asked my colleagues if they’d like to participate, they were thrilled about the idea, so I have found my coaching group.

The Course Structure

I am a self-taught UI/UX Designer, so I still had a bunch of courses, tutorials, and books I have gone through previously. Since I have gone through them, I gained a bit of know-how about what type of structure I should have at my own course. I made a structure for each week, a total of 12 lessons in three months, it was simple and straight-forward, and the main focus was on efficiency and practice. 

  1. We had two-hour live lessons with all five of us, practical examples and an in-depth review of each tool they use in their workflow.
  2. I have given them small assignments so they could apply what they’ve learned. I wanted to shift the information I provided from the short memory storage to their long memory one. 
  3. The last part consisted of a final assignment where they could practice all techniques they’ve learned and add their creativity to it. 

 

The live lessons and small assignments served as theory and homework and they ran once a week. I wanted them to learn each tool in Photoshop from examples from their daily routines. I wanted this coaching would make their workflow easier, a lot faster, and why not, enjoyable. In some cases, I had some personal reading involved. I provided them with a General Design Principles document I created. It included color theory, grids and guides, and other basic information. I offered a small tutorial on editing images and Photoshop Etiquette, as we don’t want our .psd files to be a mess, right?

The Lessons and Progress

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

  • Reading the General Design Principles document
  • Setting up Photoshop and extensions: 
    • How to arrange the workspace;
    • How to organize layers;
    • How to create new canvases for different types of projects;
    • Installing GuideGuide extension.
  • Move tool and autoselect Marquee, Magic Wand tool and adding layer masks, using crop, adding images or other elements and converting them to Smart Objects
  • Brush tool, how to install new brushes, Clone Stamp tool, gradients, blending modes, saving images for web and compressing them. 
  • Editing images with Adjustments and make the best our of a poor image, a stock-like picture. 
  • Shapes and how to create them, pen tool, type tool
  • Swatches and editing them, colour schemes and where to take them from, adjustments, blurring, making a cool out of focus effect
  • Blending options effects

Their final assignment consisted of creating a poster for a Junior Graphic Designer hiring announcement, for Facebook. They had to figure out what to write and how the design would look like, with as many techniques they learned. Here’s the outcome:

Made by Eli Virlan
Made by Daniela Anehei
Made by Loredana Constantin
Made by Smaranda Hritcu

In the end

After these amazing 3 months of hard work, in which the girls did an amazing job, I wanted to find out if this has been 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. For me, it was a great experience that will come in handy for the next Junior Graphic Designers we’ll 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.

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