Watching my daughter register for college classes last month was delightful. “Mom! There’s a class on Nordic Literature. And a class on Kanyé. A whole class!” She wanted to take a zillion credits, to learn everything. I remember that same feeling — the realization that college had so many more options than high school, and that there was an endless amount of interesting things to learn in the world.
So I thought it would be fun to recapture some of that feeling and take some new Skillshare classes. Skillshare is the online learning community with over 17,000 classes. You can take the classes anytime, from anywhere, and they’re taught by top experts across a range of creative fields, like Justine Blakeney on design, and Guy Kawasaki on entrepreneurship (and right this minute, they’re offering a promotion where you can try 2 months of Skillshare Premium for free.)
The classes are short and split into bite-sized pieces so they’re not overwhelming. I really enjoy both taking classes, and exploring class options and adding them to my watch list. There are so many things I want to learn! It’s become a bit of a family thing. Ben Blair likes to take Skillshare classes that help with the education startup. Olive, who recently turned 16, takes Skillshare classes on things like embroidery and photography. Here are a few of the classes we’ve enjoyed lately.
Ben took this class to help with his business marketing efforts. It’s taught by Joel Witten, Head of Analytics + Data Engineering at Venmo. Here’s what Ben says: I have dabbled in digital marketing over the last couple years, and this course brought together a lot of ideas that I kind of understood, but gave me a great overall picture and context so I have a stronger grasp. I love that in 40 minutes, it gave me a good handle on a fairly involved topic. There was a little bit of marketing history (and especially why Google and Facebook are such marketing behemoths), but then the focus was practical, capped off by a great, straightforward project that really made the power of these ideas clear.
I appreciated how he just got down and dirty on some things that I had assumed were just in the domain of a tech person. You know how sometimes you’ll come across a super long URL that contains lots of information about a campaign or referral track? He just analyzed one to show what information it was conveying — I appreciate the effort to take the mystery away from things like this.
I also really liked the practical nature of the course. It’s reassuring to see an expert work through setting up a campaign, see exactly what they click, what they pay attention to, where they say you could do something different on a step, etc. That may sound silly, but it makes a difference for me.
In terms of the Skillshare platform, it’s very helpful to have the course broken into smaller segments, so if I have a question later, I can go review just that short video. I had to do this when I was working on setting up a campaign with Google ads. And of course, that I can watch it at 1.5 speed is just something I take for granted now.
Olive and her friend Maya have a goal to create a zine and they’ve been researching how to make it happen. Here’s what Olive said: I took a class on making Zines. It was taught by an illustrator named Kate Bingaman-Burt, and it was awesome — inspirational and practical at the same time. I’m working on making a zine with my friend, so this was a great class for me.
Before I took the class, I didn’t realize there was much of a history to zines, but the teacher said that Common Sense by Thomas Paine was technically the first zine, and I loved learning the history of how long these have been going on. (Plus I’ve been reading Common Sense by Thomas Paine, so men say that I’m intense or I’m insane…)
OK, very interesting technical information: I learned how to make an 8 page zine — you use 1 paper, and it’s all folding; you just make one cut. I think it is really cool to only use one paper and get 8 pages. She also talked about how when you’re making a zine, and want to write something, or mark it up, to go right in with pen — not pencil. You want the contrast to be high so the markings will show up on the copies (pencil can disappear in copies). Since zines are meant to be copied and distributed very easily, this was a good reminder.
The teacher was very energetic and passionate about zines. She has made a bunch of zines, so she had really good insight on how to make a good one. And she had endless ideas for prompts —like a good way to start is just to draw/write about things around you to get your creativity flowing. I tried it and made a fun little zine about interesting items in our family office.
Now I want to take a Skillshare illustration class so I can illustrate some zines! The class made me want to make a bunch of zines, which I think is a good indicator of a quality class.
One class I have particularly recommended to friends is a class taught by Tristan B. and Michelle P. of Cure for the Common Capture. I’ve been toying with the idea of making a font from my handwriting, so the phrase “Digitize Lettering” in the title caught my eye. But as I watched it, I realized it was a really great beginning class for anyone who is intimidated by Photoshop.
The teachers are patient and charming and start the class with a clever little intro where they peek out from behind books. They provide resources like sample stock images and lettering samples — everything you might need to get through the class. And they offer a specific hashtag so students to share their work with the rest of the class.
The course takes you through simple ways to get your letting onto your computer (with or without a scanner). And then it carefully walks you through several essential Photoshop tools in bite-size tasks so that it doesn’t get overwhelming. They cover when you would use layers, getting rid of white backgrounds, increasing contrast in an image, cleaning up spots and mistakes, the crop tool, creating a custom “brush,” color overlays and so much more. They point out specific settings to double check, and they troubleshoot for you as they go so that you don’t get frustrated.
In Photoshop, there are usually a few different ways to approach a task, and I like they they often demonstrated multiple options so you can decide which one works best for you. I’ve been using Photoshop for 20 years or more, but it’s a complex piece of software and there is always more to learn. I picked up a few new tricks! And heard the term “marching ants” for the first time — it’s when you select something in Photoshop and a border that looks like it’s moving appears. : )
Want to jump in and start taking classes too? I have a special offer just for Design Mom Readers. Skillshare is $8.25 per month for unlimited classes, but right now you can try 2 months of Skillshare Premium for free. That’s an amazing deal for access to thousands of classes.
If you give it a try, I hope you’ll share some of your favorite classes. I’m always looking for good ones. And what sort of class topics are you craving lately? It seem like I’m particularly drawn to anything about hand-lettering and calligraphy. What about you?
This post is sponsored by Skillshare, an online learning community with over 1.5 million students. Their mission is to provide universal access to high quality learning.