Freshly unemployed and back in the bedroom where I'd spent most of my teenage years, I saw an opportunity. I armed myself with a months free trial of LinkedIn Learning and got busy teaching myself something I'd always wanted to do - the Adobe suite.
After finding myself back at my parents house and without a job, I needed something to keep me busy, motivated and away from the drain of social media. I'd always been interested in Graphic Design and digital illustration, but fleeting weeknights or weekend mornings spent on my iPad were the only time I'd ever get to indulge that passion. With a seemingly endless amount of free time in front of me, and little in the way of jobs to apply to, I decided to teach myself the Adobe suite. I could finally create posters, typography and visuals just like my favourite Instagram accounts, and I can add it to my CV whenever the world reopens. I signed up to a monthly subscription of the Adobe suite using my sister's student email address (£16 a month as opposed to £50!) and got a months free of LinkedIn Learning, and away we went.
I decided to start with Photoshop, then move to Illustrator. Of the two I guessed that Photoshop might be easier to grapple with first. At first it was thrilling, finally getting round to learning a skill I'd wanted for ages, and being amazed anew every hour at the latest dazzling feature. Of course, that novelty soon wore off and the dryness of the 40+ hour LinkedIn course was starting to take its toll. We trudged on, and made it through the 'Beginner' course. Should I go for another 40 and learn the 'Advanced', or is it time for a project? Amongst the many creatives and designers I followed on Instagram, there seemed to be a few Lockdown poster competitions doing the rounds. What better opportunity to put my new found skills to the test. I used a passage from Indian author Arundhati Roy that I found particularly arresting, and built a poster around that.
It was exciting sharing work with the world, or my very limited Instagram following, but regardless I felt spurred on to begin with Illustrator. New programme, new LinkedIn instructor. I then came across a nice, meaty project - the D&AD New Blood awards, where young design students work on real-world briefs for a chance to win a coveted 'Pencil' and get that all important foot in the door of the creative industry. The deadline was two weeks away, and most of the other entrants had had all year to work on their pieces, but I thought why not, let's go for it. I would even wake up early to work on it, and it was genuinely challenging, taking up so much of my headspace that I would get up in the middle of the night and jot down ideas in my Notes. I ended up submitting two briefs, one was an advertising campaign for Intel processors, and the other a branding project for a fictional bike hire company. Sadly, my 7-day hobbyist project didn't beat the undergraduate design students year-long efforts, but it did give me a reason to get up in the morning, and a healthy productive distraction from the events all around me. Undeterred, I went on teaching myself Adobe XD (to design wireframes for websites) and Premiere (for videos). Through connections with friends from University, I was able to leverage these new skills to help a friend design a website for one of his friends. A real life paid project! This then led to two more websites, and a full time freelance gig as a Project Coordinator for a company that designed virtual exhibitions. I remember when I got called and offered the role, I was asked if I knew how to use Photoshop. Proudly, I said yes, and a few months later I was no longer living in my teenage bedroom.