Six recommended courses to help you refine your creative skills this September

The leaves will soon change colour, there's a growing cooler breeze in the air, and the students are back in town. The perfect time, in short, to take a new course and learn some fresh skills. Here are six of the best.

Image licensed via Adobe Stock

Image licensed via Adobe Stock

It doesn't matter how young or old you are; September is a season of transformation that very much puts us in the mood to learn new things. As kids go back to school and first-year uni students gather in unfeasibly large groups around town, it reminds us how much fun learning can be when it's done on our own terms.

Thankfully, these days, you don't need to quit your job and go back to college to learn new skills. There are lots of courses that apply the same academic rigour to their teaching but deliver lessons online at a time of your choosing.

That presents a great opportunity for artists, designers, photographers, writers, and digital dreamers to embark on a journey of self-improvement and skill refinement. You might want to add extra strings to your bow in order to secure a promotion, a new job or more tantalising freelance opportunities. Or just to grow creatively and learn new things for the joy of learning. Either way, it's a great time to jump on that instinct and run with it.

In this article, we present six handpicked courses that will ignite your creativity and elevate your craft. From graphic design to photography, creative writing to 3D animation, and UX design to digital marketing, these courses offer a gateway to a new career starting this September. So embrace the opportunity to expand your horizons, put the work in, and you'll soon find your life and work going in fresh, unexpected and rewarding directions.

1. Graphic Design Specialization by CalArts (Coursera)

If you're new to graphic design or need a refresher in the basics, this beginner-level course will teach you the fundamental concepts and techniques, including typography, image-making and more. No previous experience is necessary, and you can learn at your own pace. You'll need to study for 10 hours a week over two months, but you can fit lessons anywhere into your schedule that works for you.

You'll take four courses that teach the skills required to make graphic design, covering process, historical context, and communication through image-making and typography. Then, you'll be challenged with a final project that applies the skills of each course and peer feedback in a branding project suitable for a professional portfolio.

To be clear, though, you won't emerge from this course as a fully-fledged graphic designer, ready to apply for jobs. The overall goal is to equip you for formal studies in graphic design or as a starting point for further work in interface design, motion graphics or editorial design.

2. Photography Basics and Beyond: From Smartphone to DSLR by Michigan State University (Coursera)

This course offers a comprehensive introduction to photography. It doesn't matter what equipment you use to take photos: it could be a smartphone or DSLR, compact or mirrorless model. What's important is understanding the fundamental principles of photography, and that's what 'Photography Basics and Beyond' will teach you. This course involves studying for 10 hours a week over two months in a flexible way that suits you.

You'll take four individual courses, covering subjects including exposure, camera control, composition, photographic techniques and post-production. Finally, you'll use the knowledge you've gained to develop a meaningful project of 10 well-formed photographs.

Completing the course will earn you a Certificate of Specialization from Michigan State University, and you're also promised "substantial discounts" on equipment, accessories, and membership through industry partners.

3. Creative Writing Specialization by Wesleyan University (Coursera)

Whatever kind of creative you are, everyone can benefit from honing their writing skills. Whether you use these skills for pitch writing, copywriting, website copy or crafting case studies, someone who's good at writing will always be in demand.

This course will teach you how to craft an original story that will absorb a reader's interest from beginning to end. This might look like magic, but once you've learned the right techniques, you'll realise it's easier than you probably thought. You'll study for 10 hours a week over two months and can schedule lessons at a time that suits you.

You'll cover elements of three major creative writing genres (short story, narrative essay) and will analyse and constructively evaluate peer writing, too. In the final project, you will draft, rewrite and complete a substantial original story in the genre of your choosing.

4. 3D & animation: a comprehensive guide via Udemy

3D skills are increasingly in demand from employers and freelance clients today. So why not meet that need, boost the variety of creative opportunities you can take advantage of, and raise your earning power into the bargain?

This course covers everything from the basics to advanced techniques in 3D modelling and animation, and you don't need any previous experience. Using Autodesk Maya, you'll learn how to model your own realistic-looking 3D objects, scenes and realistic materials, unwrap and texture your own objects, and animate your objects and cameras within a scene.

The course is divided into seven sections and consists of 43 lectures, with a total run time of four hours 58 minutes. There's also a quiz section where all important points are revised and background notes for each chapter.

5. Professional Diploma in UX Design by UX Design Institute

As more and more of our lives, interactions and transactions become digital, the more UX designers will be in demand. So, adding these skills to your toolkit is another great way to open yourself up to new opportunities and boost your earning power.

This online, self-paced course will teach you the full process of UX, from research to design to prototyping, and give you a globally recognised, industry-approved qualification. Topics covered include UI design, content design, UX design fundamentals, and software and coding for UX.

Each course is credit-rated by Glasgow Caledonian University, and credits are internationally recognised under the European Qualifications Framework. You'll need to commit to five hours of study a week over six months, and you should emerge with job-ready skills and a professional UX portfolio.

6. Digital Marketing Specialization by the University of Illinois (Coursera)

Creative professionals can gain a lot from understanding the digital marketing landscape, especially if they work in advertising and branding. So whether you just want to boost your knowledge and skills or are considering a move into marketing yourself, this course comes highly recommended.

This course requires no previous experience and involves 10 hours a week of study over three months. Topics covered include digital marketing analytics, search engine optimisation, social media marketing and 3D printing.

It's all part of the University of Illinois Masters of Business Administration degree program (iMBA). At the end, you'll have the opportunity to apply your skills on a real-life final project set up in partnership with Grainger.


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