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Things I Learned While Teaching

At the beginning of the month, I released the first in a series of classes I've been working on for Skillshare. Channel Branding Lessons: Using the World Around You To Tell Stories is all about learning to speak in the language of a brand and finding ways to tell small stories using that language that you've discovered. I've taught the class as a workshop before but putting together long-form teaching on video is a new thing for me. Here are some of the lessons I learned from going through the production process.


"the Why is more important than the how."

As I started to break down the class into an outline, two concepts popped up that I think are going to inform everything I want to teach. The first is that "the Why is more important than the how." There are a lot of tutorials in the world. Almost universally, they focus on how you do something and not necessarily the theory. That's super helpful when I'm trying to figure out why something isn't working. A lot of times though, I want to go deeper. If I'm learning how to composite, I want to know how to use the tool, but I also want to know why we're using that specific tool and not another one. I feel like there's room for material that still gives you part of the how but focuses on why you do what you do.


If you can observe something and pick apart the things that make that thing what it is, and you understand your tools, you can create just about anything.


The second concept is that if you can observe something and pick apart the things that make that thing what it is, and you understand your tools, you can create just about anything. That theme is going to become the core of a lot of the classes I have coming up. In the next lesson, we'll be making a commercial for a bubble blowing toy. We'll need to create bubbly graphics for our ad, and that means understanding what makes a bubble look like a bubble. Instead of just doing a tutorial about making a bubble, we'll spend time looking at why bubbles look the way they do. Understanding will inform our design decisions.


Getting into the muck of a project makes you think of the things you don't remember you know.


A lot of what I do is through intuition. I have the knowledge stored in my brain but sometimes putting that knowledge into words is a complicated process. As I worked on the class, I kept finding places where I had extra layers of information I needed to insert. It was stuff that I couldn't pull out of me, but working through the process pulled it out. By noting that occurrence and writing it down, I was able to find the words to describe my process. I hope that as I continue creating these lessons that I'll remember that it's ok to not have all of the answers at the beginning of the process.


When you're creating production classes about designing well and looking good, the pressure (from yourself) for the course to look professional increases.


Making a class on branding and needing to create a channel brand before you even create your class is a lot of work.


These two points are connected. When I've done this project in real life, I've had an actual brand the class has used. In this instance, I had to start from scratch. It was interesting digging up a name that no one was using that was also kid-friendly and then go through all of the logo and brand development for something that will probably never actually exist in the real world (although who knows, maybe it'll come to life). I struggle with perfectionism and wanting something to feel like something you'd actually see in the real world plays into that. It makes the whole exercise feel more real.

Working on comedy design, I've always felt like paying attention to the real-ness of something is often what sells the humor. It's like a combination of design maximalism and absurdism. We create delight when someone discovers that we paid attention to details that someone else would have ignored. There's an absurdity to that and that absurdity if what makes something funny, but it means you have to do the work.


It can be hard to pare down an idea into a simpler component.


I decided to teach this first class because it's a workshop I've already taught and I thought it would convert well into an online class. It did, but I know the next courses will need to be more defined. If a Skillshare class were a writing assignment, I wrote a two-page paper and most courses are a couple of paragraphs. Oops. So instead of walking through an entire process, we'll w


If it's going to be educational can it at least be entertaining?


I think this has always been a part of who I am, but particularly after having been at Rooster Teeth, I want what I make to be entertaining. This class ended up drier than I wanted it to be. I found some places to squeeze in some humor, but I realized I need to think of the class more like a show and write for something like a design version of Good Eats.



If you're going to involve your friends, make it fun for them and not something they'd normally do.


I had a friend along to help shoot the first episode and show me how to light my office. He enjoyed himself, but I realized I could push that further. It's better not just having a friend along running camera, but a friend involved on camera. I filmed the third and fourth classes while I was in DC for the Fourth of July and was able to put this lesson into practice. I'm going to work on bringing a design friend along for every class and making sure that what we're doing isn't something they normally do. It makes it less work for them and helps them to make it fun and novel.



I can make something (and you can too), and you shouldn't worry about whether you're able to.


The whole project, overall, was a reaffirmation that media production has been democratized. Yes, I've been working in production for 20 years and have a lot of knowledge, but the tools that I use (and very intentionally, everything we shoot in the class we're filming on phones) are things anyone can have access to relatively easily. It just takes some of that thinking and knowledge I talked about above to create great work.


Here are some excerpts from the first class. Use this code to watch it and get your first two months of Skillshare for free. https://skl.sh/2tFrMYi






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