Want a competitive edge in your career? Then follow in the footsteps of people like Elon Musk, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Mark Zuckerberg, who all practice deliberate, continuous learning.
Learning shouldn’t stop when you’re out of school or you get your professional certification. In fact, the creative and tech industries are changing so quickly that you’re going to need to keep your skills fresh to find work in fields like design and development. As one Forbes article on learning and professional skills growth puts it, “staying on top of your game — taking the time everyday to learn the skills and trends needed to stay competitive — is a ‘must do,’ not merely a ‘nice to do.’”
Staying on top of your game — taking the time everyday to learn the skills and trends needed to stay competitive — is a ‘must do,’ not merely a ‘nice to do.’
But learning doesn’t have to be boring! Pick up a new skill or brush up on an old one with these five free online resources and games, hand-picked for designers and developers.
You might also like: 8 Easy Ways to Master Continual Learning in the Web Design and Development Industry.
What it is: Gymnasium is an online learning platform for digital, creative, and communications professionals. Developed around the concept of lifelong learning, the platform offers courses designed to equip creatives with in-demand, relevant skills.
Why you should try it: You can complete Gymnasium’s courses on your own time, at your own pace, learning in-demand skills and technologies that look great on your resume. Plus, unlike many free online courses, you’ll get a certificate once you pass. Don’t have time for a full course? You can brush up on select skills and topics in under an hour with mini courses called “Gym Shorts.”
- Each full course includes three to six hours of video instruction, quizzes, assignments, a final exam, and certification when you pass.
- Shorter courses dubbed “Gym Shorts” (under one hour of video and no assignments) are also available on topics ranging from productivity to WordPress to GitHub.
- Learn from instructors who are experienced practitioners in their fields and interact with fellow students in course forums.
- Courses are self-paced and completely free — no hidden fees or restricted content.
2. Sharpen Design Generator
What it is: An important part of continuous learning is experimentation. Many creative professionals recognize the importance of working on personal or side projects to try out a new technique, practice their craft, or just get those creative juices flowing. But coming up with ideas for a daily creative habit can be tough. That’s where the Sharpen Design Generator can help. With the click of a button, it generates random design ideas and projects — some ultra-specific (“Design a homepage for the first colony on Mars”), some more open-ended (“Design a brand identity for your favorite film”) — to spark your creativity. For an extra challenge, some prompts have additions like “do it in an hour” or “self-critique when done.”
Why you should try it: Like Mad Libs for design, Sharpen Design Generator’s results are always unexpected and sometimes a little crazy. Take the first prompt you see, or keep clicking until you find one that strikes your fancy. You might end up with a cool new project to add to your portfolio! Keep an eye on Sharpen Design’s Twitter page — sometimes they offer prizes to users who submit a completed design prompt.
- Randomly generate one of more than a million possible design prompts at the click of a button.
- Sharpen your skills with fun but challenging ideas that help you think outside the box.
You might also like: 8 Free Resources For Learning Web Design and How to Code.
3. Code Arcade
What it is: Code Arcade is an arcade-style game from CodeFights for practicing and improving your coding skills. Designers who want to add programming to their skill set, or developers who want to test their skills on the upper levels of the game, might enjoy Code Arcade’s fun (but educational) format.
Why you should try it: CodeFights specializes in developing fun ways for programmers of all experience levels to practice and improve their coding skills. Join CodeFights’ community of 500,000 engineers with your friends and see how you rank. Aside from Code Arcade, other game modes include:
- One-on-one code battles: test your skills against a friend or coworker.
- Bot challenges: tackle real-world challenges, competing against programming bots developed by engineers at top companies like Uber, Dropbox, and Evernote, among others.
- Monthly tournaments: join other CodeFights community members and compete for bragging rights and cash prizes.
- Navigate through worlds organized by different programming and computer science concepts; each world has locations that you move through and unlock by completing tasks in increasing levels of difficulty.
- Free to play (must create account).
4. High Resolution
What it is: Ever wish you could pick the brain of a designer or business leader you admire? Bobby Ghoshal and Jared Erondu, the creators of High Resolution, have done the hard work for you. High Resolution is a limited podcast and video interview series (25 episodes) with some of the biggest influencers in the design industry.
Why you should try it: There’s a reason resources like TED Talks are so popular — webinars and podcasts let us hear from successful industry leaders we would never have had access to before the rise of the internet. High Resolution’s curated collection of interviews is like having lunch with a mentor: about an hour to (through the hosts of the series) pick the brain of a design leader at a top company, learning from their careers, insights, and experiences.
- Each episode lasts about an hour and features in-depth conversations about how successful companies and their teams approach product design and the design process.
- Hear from leaders who are making an impact in their industries, including the co-founder of Behance, the principal design director at Microsoft, a lead designer at Google, the director of design experience at Airbnb, the head of design at Facebook, the head of design and inclusion at Automattic, and the head of design and insights at Spotify, among others.
- The video interviews are available on the High Resolution website and YouTube, and the podcast version is available on iTunes and Overcast.
You might also like: 12 Free Tools for Remote Developers and Designers.
5. Kern Type
What it is: Kern Type is a typography game for testing your kerning skills. The game is part of Method of Action, a series of resources to help programmers learn design. It’s also good practice (and fun) for designers, even those who regularly do typographic work.
Why you should try it: You’ll get instant feedback on your efforts and see where you could have improved. Tweet your results to show off your typography skills or play again until you get a perfect score.
Features: See how good of an eye you have for well-spaced type: go through a 10-step challenge and get scored on your efforts (as compared to a typographer’s solution).
Did we miss any of your favorite resources? Let us know in the comments!