If you want to become a graphic designer, you must learn to solve a visual problem through your design. You can learn graphic design without going to a University or Design school.
What you need is a disciplined approach and consistent practice of what you are learning.
This guide will help you understand how you can become a graphic designer even if you don’t have any prior experience.
How to Become A Graphic Designer
#1. Learn The Basic Fundamental Of Graphic Design
You should have a solid understanding of graphic design principles like graphic design theory and how to implement the theory practically.
Let’s take a look at the principles of graphic design that you need to understand.
- Shapes and Spacing – You can learn how to draw different shapes and understanding the importance of spacing between different objects.
Your design will get better once you learn how to communicate emotions through different shapes, their placement, and spacing only.
- Color Theory – Understanding of colors and their influence is important for designing because with the right color combinations and texture you can enhance the feel of a design. A color wheel would be your companion to understand the relationships between different colours.
- Understanding Typography – An important part of graphic design is understanding typography, typefaces, and how to effectively use them in your design.
Playing with Typography and experimenting new typefaces is a never-ending learning process.
#2. Acquire The Right Setup
Graphics designing is an expensive profession that means you need to buy costly hardware and software. But if you are on a shoestring budget, that doesn’t mean you can’t learn graphics design.
You just need a PC or laptop, an internet connection to learn from youtube videos or blogs and some free graphics design softwares to practice your learnings.
You can even get a pre-owned or a refurbished laptop/PC from ebay to start your process.
For advanced users
Once you have some experience in graphics design or when you get some work, you can spend money on advanced tools like adobe creative suite, high end pc or lappy, a color calibrator, an external monitor and a tablet (an iPad or Wacom tablet) for drawing.
#3. Learn Using Tools And Softwares Required For Graphic Designing
You needn’t pay heavy subscriptions to start your design journey. You can start with free softwares given below.
InkScape – InkScape is a free and potential alternative to Adobe’s Illustrator. You can learn InkScape to create vector graphics, marketing materials, web graphics and logos.
GIMP – You can use GIMP to edit photos and to create web designs, just like photoshop. Infact, GIMP is more user friendly than photoshop and also gives you freedom to edit photoshop’s ‘PSD’ files.
Daz Studio – If you are in 3D designing, then Daz Studio will allow you to create custom 3D avatars, design virtual environments, and produce graphic design elements.
There are other softwares like Canva, Adobe spark that offer you multiple templates to create awesome designs free of cost but I would recommend you to focus on learning using professional softwares (free or paid) rather than working on templates based applications.
For advanced users
Once you are ready to step up to next level, you will have to be an expert in designing softwares like Adobe’s Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign.
You can go through the important graphic design tools/applications given below.
- Adobe’s Photoshop – Photoshop is the world’s most popular image editing software. You can learn photoshop to edit images, create design layouts, typography based designs and 3D designs.
- Adobe’s Illustrator – You can use Illustrator to create artwork, page layouts, and brand logos. Illustrator is tightly integrated with adobe products that give you huge flexibility of work.
- Adobe’s InDesign – InDesign is easy to learn as compared to other Adobe’s products. You can quickly learn how to use images, designs, and text to get the desired output.
You can use InDesign to create info guides, stunning magazines or brochures for printing as well digital copies (pdf format).
- Sketch – Sketch is a highly recommended, low-cost vector graphic design software. You can use Sketch for UI/UX design work.
#4. Invest In Right Graphic Design Books And Courses
Your all money invested will be a waste if you don’t invest in yourself. If you are serious to become a graphic designer, you have to read high-quality books to get deeper into the trade.
If you want to learn at a faster pace, you would go for a professional course to get knowledge in a structured way for faster learning.
Let’s start with 5 essential books of graphic design and then we would talk about the important courses.
Essential graphic design books
#1. How to be a Graphic Designer Without Losing Your Soul
This book by Adrian Shaughnessy teaches you design as a business. You must read this book if you want to do something meaningful rather than working on soulless projects.
This book is a career manual for young designers with suggestions to run a successful design business.
#2. The Elements of Typographic Style
You would learn the art of typography from Robert Bringhurst. Robert will tell you teh theory, history, and practical usage of typography.
A must-have for graphic artists, or any designer in the printing industry.
#3. Designing Brand Identity: An Essential Guide for the Whole Branding Team
You must go through this book by Alina Wheeler if you want to learn how to create, grow and maintain a brand.
You would learn about the five-phase process to create and implement brand identity.
Alina will help you understand the concepts with case-studies of world famous brands.
#4. Visual Literacy: A Conceptual Approach to Graphic Problem Solving
Judith Wilde and Richard Wilde has written this practical book containing 19 challenging assignments.
Each assignment shows a visual problem and includes an analysis of the problem’s underlying intent, addressing principles like negative-positive relationships, cropping techniques, and other major issues.
#5. Grid Systems in Graphic Design
Last but not least, this book will teach you at the conceptual level of design. You will learn the important part of graphic design that is Grid System.
Written by famous Swiss graphic designer Josef Mülller-Brockmann, is a must-read for new designers or learners of design.
Recommended graphic design courses
I have found 2 courses that cover everything for a beginner. You would learn principles of design from these courses that would enhance your skills.
#1. Become a Graphic Designer (LinkedIn Learning – Lynda)
Duration – 22 hours content
Become a graphic designer is a complete package that covers every aspect of design. This course covers the following topics –
- What is Graphic Design
- Graphic Design Careers: First Steps
- Graphic Design Foundations
- Color for Design and Art
- Learn Photoshop, Illustrator and Indesign
- A Logo Design Challenge
#2. Graphic Design Specialization by CALARTS
Duration – 6 months (4 hours per week)
CALARTS (California Institute of Arts) has launched this course to teach beginners the fundamentals of graphic design.
This package further contains five courses-
- Fundamentals of graphic design course
- A typography course
- An image making course
- Graphic design history course
- Capstone course project
#5. Start Creating Graphic Design Work
Initially you would find it difficult to create your own designs because you may find scarcity of thoughts. Don’t worry, it’s natural.
You can start with copying others. Pick their work and try to replicate that. Eventually, you would start getting your own creative ideas.
Your only motto is to practice design as much as possible, so that you can absorb that into your subconscious mind.
#6. Get Inspiration From Established Designers
You should start following your industry’s established graphic designers. Observe what they’re sharing on social media and read their blogs on a regular basis.
Get inspiration from their work and try to understand what problem they are solving with their art.
You can also attend events or workshops in your areas to learn more from those experts.
Once you start observing their work, their style and how they put life to work, your design will start improving automatically.
#7. Learn The Trending Color Combinations
Since you are following established people, you would come to know what is in trend. Try to learn trending color combinations, patterns and textures.
This will give your design a refreshing feel.
Colors directly affect our emotions. So when you use trending color combinations in your design, there are high chances that your design would create influence on the viewer.
According to Canva, the deep blues and soft blushes would be in the trend in 2020.
#8. Get Feedback On Your Design Work
Feedback is crucial for your growth. You must define a process so that you would work on each feedback you get.
You can share your work on your social media and ask for genuine feedback.
But the best way is to join different design communities like facebook groups or forums and seek genuine feedback there.
You would get better replies on your designs in these communities.
#9. Finding Your Expertise
You can find your interest area and become specialized in that. If logos attracts you, go and become a logo designer.
If you love to create web pages, be proficient in that. But it is always better to have a speciality in your domain.
There’s no use being a jack of all trades.
Once you define your expertise and dive deeper into that, you become the master of your field.
Remember, people love to pay an expert, not an average person.
#10. Get Your First Client
First of all you need a portfolio to showcase your work. You can find numerous platforms online like Behance to create a portfolio for your design work.
You must be active on LinkedIn, as LinkedIn has emerged as a big source of new job opportunities.
Apart from LinkedIn, you can also regularly browse online jobs boards such as Design Jobs Board or Guardian Jobs.
Prepare well for the job interview and reach early to avoid any last moment anxiety. You can get more job interview tips here.
You can also register as a freelancer on online freelance platforms. One such platform is Upwork. You can create a profile on upwork to start as a freelancer. Don’t forget to add a link of your portfolio.
Start with low price rates and increase as you get experience.
You must learn some additional skills like marketing, communication skills to become successful. Because you have to market yourself well to get better opportunities.
However, with determination and consistent efforts you can get the experience you need to become a successful graphic designer.