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Being self-taught with passion

Posted 3 years ago by Oykun Yilmaz

I often receive emails asking; How I became self-taught designer? If I can recommend any book, course? If I have any advise? Rather than keep replying to emails individually, I wanted to write this short post. I will be talking about design, but the things you will be reading can be applied to pretty much everything.

“There is no university nor course that can teach you everything you need to know.”

First of all I would like to clear a misunderstanding about the definition (in my opinion); self-taught does not (should not) mean learning without academic education. There is no university nor course that can teach you everything you need to know. Those are just tools on the path to your passion. So, whether you study at university or not, you constantly need to research, learn, practice yourself which brings the definition below in my opinion:

“Being self-taught is all about working hard on the path of your passion with endless patience and curiosity.”

There are few keywords here; working hard, passion, patience and curiosity.

Working hard:

We can also say ‘practising’. The more you design, the more you will learn, the more confidence you will build, the better you will be and the more your vision will enlarge. You will start instantly seeing through designs and easily define what is wrong with it, what/how it can be improved, and more. So, you should practise, practise and practise…


Nothing is going to happen in a day, I have been in this industry for over 10 years and everyday I learn new things. You have to be patient and stubborn. Design the same thing again and again, and try something new in it each time. Accept this process, because this is what you are going to do for the rest of your career. Even after years of experience, you will get to that 1 beautiful final design after 99 failures.

“You have to be patient and stubborn.”


Always keep your eyes open, always wonder how that beautiful design you saw today is done! Why is that specific design decision given? Do not just say “it’s nice!” following with walking away but question it, dig it, research it, try to make it and make it better. Be curious about everything around you and never be satisfied.

“Always keep your eyes open, always wonder how that beautiful design you saw today is done”


This is the most important matter for me. If you have the true passion, everything written above and much more is going to happen naturally, just like it has been happening for years and will be happening for good to me.

Here are some extra points;

Be kind:

We have an amazing community out there. People are willing to help each other without expecting anything back. Don’t be an arrogant asshole with world of ego, be kind, be mature, learn to accept any kind of feedback, build good relations with people.


Go to conferences, local meet-ups, be active on social media (Twitter, Facebook…), use any possible chance to meet and connect with new people. You will have fun times with them and learn a lot from them.


Although I can’t recommend any specific books (there are lots, however here is few of my fav) as I’m usually asked at emails, try to read design magazines, books, blogs… Not specifically step by step design tutorials, but interviews, design terms… These are going to open your mind and eyes, help you to see the reasons of given design decisions to the objects, any kind of design all around you and it will make you appreciate more to art and designers.

Be brave:

Be confident, don’t be afraid to work with people better than you, or be involved in bigger projects than ever. Be brave, know that you will do more than your best and how much you will learn, how much that experience is going to add you on your path. Since the very beginning of my career, I took everything came to my path! The more projects I got involved in, the hungrier I became. I did animations with Flash, designed print catalogs, business cards, posters, application interfaces for heavy factory machines, in following years with new mobile devices I’ve designed interfaces for Android, iPhone, iPad, Mac, Windows, so on… I didn’t have any experience or education on any of those before I took these real client projects. I spent nights to learn and practise. Basically anything that came into my path, I took it, I learnt it, I enjoyed it!


Internet, the endless information source just a click away. Use it. When you don’t know how to use a software, or how to make that effect you saw, or any question in your head, just Google it! You will find videos, detailed tutorials, simple explanations. Nobody knows everything, but if you know how to find the answer, you will succeed.
And as a last matter, never say “ok, I’m the best, I know everything!”. Remember there is always someone better than you out there. Hunt them, learn from them.

So, now;

  1. Turn on your PC
  2. Open a design software
  3. Start designing that simple website or iPhone app or whatever you’ve always wanted, but keep it small.
  4. You will have lots of questions while working on it, Google them, and move forward
  5. At last you will complete it and it is awesome, your first actual design. No matter how bad it will look at the first attempt, it will be better at the next try, and even better at the further try. Keep practising…

Good luck with your journey, believe in yourself, close your ears to people trying to break your enthusiasm, don’t give up and love what you do. You know you’ll do great!

This post was originally published on Oykun’s blog.

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Designing digital products with simplicity in mind. Sharing all at http://dribbble.com/oykun. Curating @minimalstuffmag.

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