How can I learn graphic design?
Are you interested in becoming a graphic designer? Are you unsure where to start? Whether you are looking to add new skills to your CV, swap to a more creative vocation, or add to your existing skill set, we can help. At Creative Harmony, we work with only the best and brightest professionals and graphic designers. Here we provide you with the information you need to take your first steps into graphic design.
Get acquainted with Graphic Design History
Learning about design history, the designers, and the design movements allows you to appreciate the work of previous designers better and understand their influence on modern design practices. Connecting past and present enables you to learn what makes great design and diversify your taste. As you begin to understand the diverse design disciplines, pick those you are pulled to and focus on those to see whether that is where your passion lies.
Graphic designers dedicate their lives to studying new processes and techniques. Developing your design history knowledge will enhance your designer skills and enable you to predict future trends better. It will also provide you with a wealth of inspiration for your projects.
Libraries are always a good place to start, but you can source many of the best texts second hand online. Numerous design history sources exist, from websites and documentaries to design books and podcasts. Here are five texts that should be at the top of your reading list:
- Graphic Design School: contains visual design essentials. It covers the theories and provides practical examples and case studies across digital and print media.
- History of Graphic Design Vol 1: this comprehensive history spanning the late 19th century through to post WWII provides a fantastic starting point for your graphic design studies.
- History of Graphic Design Vol 2: comprehensively covers design history from the early 1960s to the mid-2010s covering eminent designers like Stefan Sagmeister, Paula Scher, and Massimo Vignelli.
- 100 Ideas That Changed Graphic Design: a summary of the most significant design ideas spanning the 19th and early 20th centuries. It highlights key concepts and provides valuable insights into shaping consumer society post-war.
- Graphic Design Visionaries: concentrates on 75 designers who helped shape design history. It shares their histories and vital works and covers mid-century design, design development, iconic posters, magazine design, corporate branding, and typography.
- Master Design Processes and Principles
Graphic designers visually communicate ideas or concepts effectively. Design is everywhere—from billboard posters to logos and food packaging — it is a part of daily life, enticing and encouraging us to purchase products or assisting with everyday tasks like using phone apps.
There are five fundamental design principles, alignment, balance, hierarchy, contrast, and repetition. These principles aid in creating cohesive design, organisation, stability, impact, consistency, and a transparent message. Following these underlying principles allows designers to solve conceptual and visual problems within the design process, spanning research and idea generation to the outcome that meets the client’s brief.
For a design piece to succeed, it must adhere fully to these underlying design principles. Alignment helps make a more orderly and cohesive design, while repetition strengthens the design by drawing the components together through association and creating a consistent and familiar visual style.
Contrast creates emphasis for impact within the design, which is visible through scale, colour choices, or bolding specific text to create a main focal point. Creating organisation in the design requires an understanding of hierarchy where you organise elements according to their importance level.
Achieving balance requires structure in the design through tension or symmetry. Improve your understanding of these five principles by trying to identify them in designs you see every day in real life or online.
Become a Typography Geek
Typography plays a pivotal role in graphic design. It relates to how copy is arranged and formatted within the layout. Understanding the difference between fonts and typefaces is vital as is knowing which pair well together. Type includes letter-spacing, line-spacing, typefaces, point sizes, and kerning.
Typography gives a brand character. It is vital in all communications, including logos, advertisements, and magazine copy. Understanding typography allows you to justify your typographic choices and how they elevate your designs. As well as being crucial to the communication of ideas, type can create a specific mood in the design.
Type can be created digitally or by hand, and there are different specialisations within typography, including lettering, typeface design and typesetting.
- Lettering: custom-drawn letterforms produced digitally or by hand that you can use for advertising, album artwork, logos, murals, products, signs, wedding invitations, etc.
- Typeface Design: type character creation, which can involve the complete set from A-Z (including punctuation, accents, and numerals). While some typefaces include the whole set, others are limited to lowercase or upper case. You can use Adobe Illustrator (a vector-based program) to create the characters before further refinement in applications like Fontographer.
- Typesetting: laying out text within a layout, for a magazine, brochure, or newspaper. Typesetters work with large text blocks, establishing hierarchical structures for headings, captions, quotes, etc.
Study Colour Fundamentals
Colour affects the design’s personality and mood. Exploring the other designers’ work is the most effective way to study colour combinations. Use this knowledge to generate your inspiration boards, invoking different moods with different colour palettes. Adobe’s Colour CC is ideal for further experiments with different colour combinations. You can create palettes from patterns, prints, photos, or other graphics.
Colour is a vital element of design. It affects the brand and design’s mood and is a tool to entice and persuade. Graphic designers must learn different colour combinations and understand their meanings and emotive effects. A robust foundation of colour science and theory is vital for graphic designers.
There are plenty of online sources, including short courses dedicated to colour theory and understanding how to use colour effectively. Explore these resources next to real-world examples of colour use.
Become Fluent in Design Terminology
Becoming acquainted with design terminology is essential as you progress through your graphic design learning. Doing so enables you to converse more easily with other designers. You’ll come across the main terms as you broaden your reading and research, but some of the most common terms you’ll need include:
- rule of thirds
- The golden ratio
Gain Mastery of Design Programs
Graphic designers must learn the fundamentals of the Adobe Creative Cloud (InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator) and Sketch and how to make them work collaboratively to create impressive designs for books, logos, posters, etc. Mastering these vital design programs enables you to approach client briefs confidently. The top ones you need are:
- Adobe Illustrator: a vector-based program that enables you to construct shapes and draw with a pen tool. The vectors can be expanded and reproduced in any size. With Illustrator, you can create a broad range of artwork, including icons, illustrations, and logos.
- Adobe InDesign: a layout tool for print and digital design. InDesign is the industry standard for creating paragraph styles, master pages, and multi-page documents for everything from brochures to magazines. It works cohesively with Illustrator and Photoshop.
- Adobe Photoshop: is a commanding image editing program preferred by creative professionals, including developers, designers, and photographers. You can use Photoshop to retouch, edit, and manipulate images. You can also use it to create compositions.
- Sketch: the industry standard for digital designers that merges vectors with basic image effects. It is an intuitive program for designing websites and apps.
Find Creative Inspiration
Explore creative magazines, design books, design blogs, and social media (Behance, Pinterest, Instagram) to discover your aesthetic. Exploring other designer’s work helps you better understand differing styles and the current trends in design. Gradually, you’ll start to build your style.
Creatives need to see what their contemporaries are creating and understand prevailing trends. Following creative blogs provides inspiration and ideas. Here are a few art and design blogs that are great for getting you started:
- 99U: created by Adobe, it helps creative professionals enhance their careers. Practical articles provide guidance on leadership, personal branding, constructive work habits, productivity, work/life balance, and more.
- Create by Adobe: available as an app and online; it is a magazine by creatives for creatives. It offers tutorials on many design aspects, including audio/visual, branding, graphic design, illustration, motion graphics, and photography.
- It’s Nice That: a fashionable industry resource for superb articles on art, design, and illustration across the globe.
- The Inspiration Grid: showcases worldwide creative talent. The online magazine offers you the very best in art, design, illustration, photography, and typography.
- Wix Creative: provides excellent content for creatives, including tips, inspiration, and resources. Includes helpful guides on various topics, including creating an online portfolio and mood boards.
Visual delights from lettering to illustrations, designs, and photography pack Instagram. It is a fantastic place to create connections with other creatives and find daily inspiration. Pinterest is perfect for discovering new themes and moods for reference and sharing. On Behance, you can find new and experienced studios, digital artists, typographers, and designers.
Many social media platforms such as Behance, Instagram, and Dribble are fantastic resources for discovering and connecting with other graphic designers and creatives across the globe. Sharing your work on these platforms allows you to exchange ideas and gather feedback from other designers and potential clients. Publishing regularly on these channels increases the chances of your creative work being noticed by other graphic designers, potential employers, and agencies.
Submit your Work
While uploading work to your online channels should be an ongoing component of your strategy to gain visibility, social media is not the only route to consider. To increase your chances of being seen by clients, recruiters, and established graphic designers, you need to contact online magazines and blogs offering guest posts that showcase your talents.
There are plenty of websites, blogs and magazines where you can submit work. Here are a few to get you started:
- Creative Boom: a key player in celebrating creativity and curating a work from many disciplines. Its superb blog offers industry insights and expert tips. Go to the guidelines page for information on submitting your projects.
- Creative Review: a leading publication bringing to the forefront the hottest design work and encouraging new talent. Contact their editorial team to submit your work.
- Design by Women: Mary Hemingway founded the site to champion and showcase female creatives and inspire women across the globe. Contact the site if you identify as female and are a creative working in design and wish to be featured.
- Eye On Design: one of the United States’ most established design associations with a massive membership base. The blog is ideal for discovering established and emerging design talent. If you want your work considered for publication, contact previous contributors.
- Visuelle: a graphic designer’s go-to resource for daily visual inspiration. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to be considered for inclusion.
Submitting your work for awards is another way of gaining national and international exposure and recognition. Popular awards include:
- Adobe Design Achievement Awards
- Creative Design Awards
- D&AD New Blood Awards
- Design Kids Awards
- Indigo Awards
- Young Guns
Network by Joining Design Groups
Joining local and global professional organisations and design groups and attending design events provides networking opportunities with other creatives and builds industry connections. Connecting with fellow designers allows you to learn from them and create friendships that may lead to mentorship that can push your career forward whether you are new to graphic design or not.
Design courses are vital in obtaining practical knowledge and developing a portfolio. Continual learning and networking are essential when getting started in graphic design. However, the best graphic designers never stop learning. As technology evolves, you must be willing to learn new techniques and software to ensure that you remain at the top of your game.
Popular creative events to be aware of include:
- Adobe 99U: an annual conference intended for inspiring creatives offers workshops, masterclasses, talks, and keynote speakers to reinvigorate your creativity with new ideas. Previous speakers include Michael Bierut, Tina Roth Eisenberg, Adam Kurtz, and Debbie Millman. It is an excellent opportunity to network with other creatives.
- Adobe Max: offers on-demand and live content on topics relating to entertainment, technology, and creativity. Over 300 sessions are available to watch, giving you plenty to choose from to suit your interests.
- Creative Mornings: virtual events worldwide, each with a unique monthly theme. They also offer FieldTrips, a platform hosting meetups for interacting with others, collaborating, and learning.
- Ladies, Wine & Design: Jessica Walsh started this global group to promote diversity within the creative industries and create an inclusive space for all women. The group offers free mentorship, creative meetups, and portfolio reviews.
- Nicer Tuesdays: a monthly event featuring four speakers from across the globe that discuss their latest project.
- Wix Playground: monthly events that include talks, workshops, and portfolio reviews hosted by creatives for graphic designers. Topics include illustration, type inspiration, and discussions with well-known creatives about their careers.
Explore Different Creative Career Paths
Begin thinking about the kind of creative work that interests you. Graphic design is always evolving, keeping it exciting and you continuously engaged and learning. Graphic designers are in high demand with outstanding starting salaries, opportunities to work on various projects, and the chance to take your career in many different directions.
While you’re still exploring and learning about graphic design, you should consider what area you would like to specialise in, like animation, visual design, UI/UX design, 3D design, digital design, VR design, or motion design. Would you like to focus on moving up in your career and taking a Creative Director role?
Not sure what is involved in some of these roles? Here is a brief breakdown of the most common areas.
- Ad Agency or In-House Marketing Design: You are part of a team working within the brand guidelines with an in-house role. You become an expert in the overall direction of the brand. Working with an agency means working across a broad range of products and applying your skills and knowledge to different industries.
- Advertising & Marketing Designer: advertising is all around us, from social media ads to billboard posters. The advertising designer’s role is to create a concept that targets the product’s demographic.
- Branding/Visual Identity Designer: all businesses have their unique stories. Visual identity designers work with clients to grow the brand identity and breathe life into it.
- Design for Good: focuses on making the world a better place through social change and creating positive impacts. It sees the user as part of human-centred design.
- Digital Designer: relates to any design constructed on a screen. It includes everything from apps and websites to UI (User Interface). Digital designers work on all the visual elements for the digital experience. UI developers use your design to code and give the finished product life.
- Editorial Designers: are accountable for book and magazine design, including layout, graphics, and the cover. Editorial designers are in charge of conveying editorial ideas.
- Freelancer: Freelancing is an excellent path for those wanting to work from anywhere! Freelancing comes with the additional responsibilities of finding clients, handling contracts, and building your brand.
- Packaging Designers: improve a brand’s visibility by creating packaging or redesigning existing packaging to positively impact the brand’s image and boost product sales.
- Product Designer: you are part of a product’s design process in these roles—data analyst, business strategist, user researcher, visual or graphic designer, interaction or UX designer, or Prototyper.
- Typeface Designers: use their familiarity with typography to create typefaces.
Start a Passion Project
One of the best ways to develop new skills is to undertake a passion project. Your passion projects provide an excellent foundation for your portfolio. Start with what you are passionate about and comfortable with and work to push past your comfort zone.
Remember not to put too much pressure on yourself. Your project is an opportunity to learn, play, and experiment. Gather ideas from the sources we have discussed and have fun. The best graphic designers enjoy their work and find new and exciting ways to express themselves through their work.
Do you want to know whether your company needs a graphic designer? Are you ready to take the leap and launch a fulfilling career that excites you? Contact Creative Harmony today, and we will set you on the right path.
If you enjoyed reading this post you may want to look at another post on this subject: Are Graphic Designers Well Paid?
If you are looking for expert local graphic designers in the London area and right across the U.K., we look forward to hearing from you
Here at creative harmony, we work with a range of businesses to bring their ideas to life. From websites, digital marketing, and branding, our expert graphic design team can offer you outstanding results and exceptional support.
Get in touch here to discuss how we can help with your design projects.
What Do Graphic Designers Do?
If you are looking for a career that combines creativity, collaboration and using some of the most cutting edge software, you might be considering joining the ranks of fully qualified graphic designers.
You might also be looking for local graphic designers near you and want to understand a little more about how digital designers structure their day.
So let’s nail the brief first, before we delve into a little more detail.
A graphic designer designs visual concepts, usually with specific design software. Important skills are creative flair, communication and the ability to conceptualize clients’ requirements. Graphic designers entice an audience with the visual layout of books, brochures, websites, magazines and logos.
So with the short answer unravelled, so you can understand more about what a graphic designer does, let’s discover exactly what they do. Continue reading more about this topic in this blog post What Does A Graphic Designer Do.