How I stumbled into Design — Reflections from a ‘self-taught’ designer from Kashmir
I’m the teacher, I’m the student
Self learning, which is also referred to as auto-didacticism, is personalizing your learning experience as an individual.
I believe that self-learning is just a personal process. For example, on countless occasions, you would have likely said to yourself “I wish I knew how to do _______________”. Then, of course, life got in the way and you put it off until you could find the time. Maybe you wanted to become fluent in a language, learn a new instrument, start doing your home repairs or master a myriad of other skills. With the vast amount of knowledge online, you are now, your only excuse. Self-directed learning principles and practices work selectively with one’s own needs and motives, strengthening confidence and the ability to learn independently.
I was born and brought up in the snow-clad mountainous and lush green valleys of Kashmir. My design journey has a distinct beginning, almost four years ago and I’m completely self-taught. It started when I was a 12th-grade commerce student and preparing for my CA –CPT exam. I remember making posters and online ads for the institution where I was studying. It was more of a hobby then, until I realized how much I enjoyed doing it and wanted to learn more and more of it.
Meanwhile, working with several non-profit organizations in the valley as an intern, I started making logos, brochures and more for them. I started deciphering and studying designs more intricately than ever. I only had a passion for design, I did not know what the future would hold for me, yet I drove myself to it.
In Kashmir, we don’t have much exposure to Visual Designing as a subject and there are no colleges or schools that teach design extensively. I somehow came to know about an institute in Kashmir namely ‘Cut and Paste’, which taught graphic design and I opted for a six-month diploma course, and learnt a lot about Graphic Design! While learning was hard for me (understandably), it was harder to handle the level of acute attention involved in being the only student there, in the room alone with my teacher as he tried to ensure that I was learning. Belonging to a place where political turmoil runs alongside daily life, it was difficult for me even to reach the institute, that was situated in the older part of the city, daily.
After finishing the course, I started learning more by watching tutorials, practicing at home, day and night. Meanwhile, I also started freelancing to sharpen my skills more. Interaction design is my passion and I believe that passion is something that emerges from within, all we need to do is to find that thing which you enjoy doing. Once we are done with that, the compelling enthusiasm will lead the way.
With hard work and commitment being my strength I started learning design nearly all by myself in about a year’s time. Afterwards, I started working with multiple Advertising and News agencies in the valley. Following my stint with advertising and news agencies in the valley, my most fruitful job was when I worked with a Design Agency in Dubai, UAE as a Creative Designer for a couple of years and got chance to enhance my skills by working there with some of the industry’s best designers. I think I have come a long way and I have still a very long way to go.
‘Sitaron Se Agay Jahan Aur Bhi Hain’
Other worlds exist beyond the stars.
— Allama Iqbal
My journey so far hasn’t been easy. While learning in Kashmir, I faced many hurdles: Internet Connection Disruptions, Electricity-cut offs, Political Trauma and concerned family members constantly accusing me of wasting time. This surely disheartened me, but I never stopped believing in myself. I think self-learning this profession has taught me so much, that I am very proud to be a self-taught artist. It has definitely influenced my personality and creative orientation. Being an artist, I believe there is something new to learn every day and that’s what keeps me constantly motivated.
There is no end to learning in life. Setting goals and pushing ourselves is a way to learn more. Most of us finish our education early in our life but we are always students. We can learn from ourselves and life indeed is the best teacher. And with mentoring that can be nourished well.
Lastly, I think when we are learning for ourselves, there is no self-sacrifice, only self-development. Learning and improving from our previous self is our first duty in life so that we may become the best version of ourselves.
To see more of my work, click on the links given below :
Sameer, a freelancer, lives in Kashmir and regularly collaborates with Treemouse on digital products. He truly believes that “creativity is the greatest rebellion in existence” — enough said ;) During his free time, he loves to travel and explore different cultures.