Last spring, I was stuck. I had left a job in the arts where I’d learned some bare-bones basics about design. I knew that I loved it and I needed to know more. I took a few courses around Toronto at different universities and colleges. I was willing to put in the time to learn, but I kept hitting dead-ends once I finished a class and nowhere to go from there. I read books, watched talks, but it was hard to bring these concepts into the real world without some guidance. I kept trying to cobble together a comprehensive design education through these classes I would take. But the problem was that no matter what I did, it all felt a bit ramshackle. There wasn’t a method to the madness, and the piecemeal approach wasn’t sticking in my brain. I’d learn a concept or try out a technique, and then have nothing to show for it a few weeks after I’d learned it. Enter HackerYou. After learning about HackerYou from a friend who knew I was looking for something more comprehensive, more worth my while, I applied and went through the interview process. A few months later, I came into the Lab for my first day of school. I sat among some pretty excellent individuals: web developers, artists, writers, engineers. It wasn’t long before I realized I was in good company. I looked forward to coming to the Lab and learning twice a week. Throughout the 12 weeks I spent in design class, I began to understand the creative design process from start to finish. I learned about colour theory, typography, creative briefs, and how to isolate ideas from a creative brief. These, along with other concepts, were the building blocks that I was looking for. Every week we had a new focus taught from the perspective of two actual, real-life designers (Frank and Vivian of Studio Function) living from the craft they were teaching us. Those classes were supplemented by an amazing mentor team of people like Adam Romano of SapientNitro, Ryan Bannon of Playground Inc., Marc Jenkinson of Exsite and Katrina Bautista of Nascent. This team of superheroes ensured our learning didn't end when we left the classroom. There were always talks to watch, books to read, exercises to do and additional assignments to complete on our own time. The greatest feeling for me was using the concepts and tools I learned in class in the real world. Gone were my days of sitting in a lecture hall, furiously scribbling notes that I would decipher months later when I’d be writing a paper. I could hop into Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign and use any of those programs with a solid understanding of what I would produce. I now had the ability to design a logomark for a client. I could design a website and make it responsive. ******** I could design and rebrand a great band’s website. ******** Beyond class and homework, I started looking at the world differently. I’d notice great colour pairings in photographs that I could take as inspiration in my next project and bad kerning on signage when I walked around the city (so much bad kerning). Frank and Vivian encouraged us to share these moments that we’d have. It made these concepts I was learning feel real and useful, even though I wasn’t using them in my office job. That I could dedicate twelve weeks of brainpower to something so big and come out with tangible skills was so rewarding. I came out on the other side of this class with a portfolio that I am proud to show off. I also dipped my foot into a community that is so supportive, talented and driven. I dreaded the end of this course because I wouldn’t have an excuse to see my classmates twice a week anymore. I was lucky, though. A week after I presented my portfolio at Demo Day, there was a job posting at HackerYou for an Alumni Coordinator. Now, I get to spend my days working with and for the community I became so fond of and use the skills that I learned in class. I gained theoretical knowledge, practical skills, but most of all, I gained confidence in my understanding of design.