Learning Layout Design With No Experience

For design, be a malleable, willing person who put the initiative in to learn

Ryan Fan
Ryan Fan
Aug 24, 2020 · 3 min read
Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

About two months ago, the Vice President of my teachers’ union reached out to me about my writing and how she wanted me to help with the union newsletter. She said that the old person that worked on it was leaving, and that it possibly paid a stipend for the work. She told me that because I was able to build an audience from my writing, I was a great fit for the position.

I obliged. Despite all I have going on, I was flattered to be considered for the position of helping with the newsletter and getting paid to do so. I joined some committee meetings where we discussed the logistics, and there were two positions: design layout and managing editor.

I assumed I would be the managing editor. After all, I’m an established writer and editor. But my union members would tell me that we already had someone doing the managing position and that the old person leaving was actually in charge of the design layout.

They asked if I would be open to running the layout portion of the newsletter. At first, I was baffled. I know absolutely nothing about UI (User Interface) design for a publication. I was going to deny the offer since I was more interested in, you know, actually editing, but then I had an epiphany:

Being able to do layout design would be a great skill to add to my repertoire. It would be a great skill to add to my side hustle as a freelancer, as well as a great skill to have if I fulfilled my goal of helping run a school newspaper and get my students a great looking paper.

And so I agreed. My old college newspaper editors used Adobe InDesign as their layout tool, and because I know nothing about UI design and layout, I asked if I could just get a stipend to cover the monthly, $20 cost of InDesign, since I’m just a newbie at it. Since it’s members of a teachers’ union dabbling in design, they knew that not many people would be better at it than me. They just wanted a malleable, willing person who put the initiative in to learn. They agreed and complimented me for my very generous offer, unanimously.

Since that meeting, I have familiarized myself with InDesign basics and have been able to use some templates to make some cool looking layouts. No, I’m not a graphic designer by any stretch of the imagination, but I want to get better, and I want to improve, even though I know absolutely nothing right now.

I can’t help but feel the exhilaration and the fact that, well, learning design is so cool. I thought the learning process would be a huge burden, but I love watching InDesign tutorial videos to familiarize myself with the layout. It’s a lot of fun to experiment and have some failures and successes in doing so.

By this time next year, I’m going to be a pro. Next year, I’m probably going to ask for a more lucrative stipend.

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