I began learning how to use the various Pathfinder functions in Illustrator CC and how I can create, merge, cut and edit basic shapes to create more complex ones.
The Shape Mode functions include Unite, Minus Front, Intersect and Exclude. These functions allow multiple shapes to be either cut away or merged together to become another compound shape.
The Pathfinder tools are Divide, Trim, Merge, Crop, Outline and Minus Back. These tools help separate shapes from each other, dividing them across their outlines to create cut-off pieces that can be edited to become their own shape.