Graphics Design: A Thriving Industry
From ad campaigns to website design and product packaging to event flyers, graphic design is a pivotal part of daily life. Consequently, the need for designers is perpetual, as brands continually require novel designs for branding assets or other promotional purposes. In light of this, we have assembled a list of tips to guide you if you’re interested in beginning a career in this dynamic field.
The Basics of Graphic Design
There isn’t a strict roadmap to becoming a successful graphic designer, but these tips offer direction and techniques for enhancing your skills and, ultimately establish a successful career.
First and foremost, your understanding of fundamental design principles forms the bedrock of your career. Graphic design utilizes visual tools like graphics, typography, color, and illustration to convey messages. Even though there are limitless ways to transmit these messages, a few elementary principles underpin all graphic design work:
These cornerstones ensure that your design is coherent, impactful, and, above all, clear. Included in these principles are other essential components like color theory and typography.
Enroll in a Graphic Design Course
Contrary to popular belief, having an eye for design isn’t an inherited trait. It is in fact a skill you can learn and refine. Graphic design courses can impart understanding about the history of the field, its various subdivisions, the psychology behind design principles, and the tools required for successful execution.
Online Courses for Graphic Design
Here are some leading online resources that offer courses in graphic design:
For a free alternative, consider ‘YouTube University’. While you won’t necessarily get the same depth of knowledge or professorial guidance, it can serve as a budget-friendly, convenient starting point.
Master the Tools of the Trade
An integral part of graphic design involves familiarising yourself with design software. Adobe Illustrator, InDesign, and Photoshop, along with Sketch, are tools-of-the-trade for any designer, helping to create logos, illustrations, and website designs. While these aren’t the easiest tools to use, consider them as valuable investments in your career as they will feature in almost every design project you tackle.
Mingle with Other Designers
Networking is equally as important as honing your skills. Connecting with professionals already working in the field provides a more holistic perspective of the industry. It allows you to better understand what it truly means to be a graphic designer and what you need to do to excel in your role.
How to Network
Start online. Social media networks like LinkedIn and Facebook offer a wealth of communities and groups dedicated to sharing design insights and potential opportunities.
Use platforms like MeetUp to find local designers interested in networking or Eventbrite to discover events where you can meet like-minded individuals. Networking is as crucial laterally as it is vertically. As you strengthen your graphic design skills, your burgeoning community will serve a wellspring of support and advice.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Just as with learning any new skill, practice makes perfect. Listening and absorbing knowledge isn’t sufficient—you have to utilize that knowledge and understand its real-time application. Look for graphic design exercises online to further refine your skills.
Websites like Type Connection and KernType enable you to test your typography skills, while Sharpen provides design prompts ranging across various categories from branding to marketing and user experience (UX).
Working on Real Projects
Once you’ve built confidence in your abilities, contemplate taking on a design project. It could be a self-assigned passion project or one you’ve actively sought out. Both will grant you invaluable, real-world experience, conveying the entire process of completing a project from start to finish.
Follow Design Influencers and Industry Leaders
Influencers or industry leaders in the realm of graphic design are seasoned professionals in their niche. They routinely share the secrets of their success, providing a wealth of new learnings. Regular interaction with their content allows you to become more familiar with graphic design, discover tips from seasoned professionals, learn the correct industry terminologies, and keep abreast of latest trends.
Engagement is critical. Platforms such as YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok are priceless resources. Do not hesitate to reach out to these influencers—every interaction is a positive move in your design journey.
Creating an Influencer List
Formulate a list of influential designers so you can follow their insights amidst the daily deluge of information on your timeline. Mix up your list with recognized designers you admire and those whose work doesn’t particularly appeal to you. The latter may seem paradoxical, but continuously observing a group of works you don’t like enables you to pinpoint why you dislike them, a vital aspect of understanding design.
Compile an Inspiration Catalogue
Familiarize yourself with premier designer portfolio sites like Dribbble and Behance. These platforms showcase a plethora of work from prominent designers in different specialization areas—web and UX designers, graphic designers, typographers, and more. Dedicate time daily to review these sites, and use apps like Panda to make the collection process easier.
Analyze the Process
Every single illustration, infographic, or icon you’ve marveled at first began as shapes and lines pieced together by a designer. Scrutinizing the process behind a design aids in comprehending the steps required to create a design piece. Whether you’re a beginner or have some experience under your belt, identifying the composition of a design enables you to flex your creative muscles.
Investigating the Design
To gain a deeper understanding, download a free vector or PSD design resource, and delve into its layers to see how it’s constructed. For instance, open your chosen file in Photoshop, uncollapse folders in the Layers Panel to view the contained layers. Adjust the visibility of the layers to see how each shape builds upon one another, and understand how to use Photoshop’s effects, like drop shadows and strokes.
Sharpen Your Online Search Techniques
As you commence creating your own designs, you’re likely to encounter challenges. Evoke the wisdom of those who have faced the same issues before. Nowadays, self-taught disciplines such as graphic design largely depend on online tutorials. Being specific with your searches allows you to find highly relevant tutorials.
For instance, searching for “How to Create an Icon” might yield broad search results. But specifying exactly what you want to learn, like “How to Create a Flat Icon with a Long Shadow,” for instance, will yield more targeted results. Browsing a design terminology glossary will help you discover specific terms for the techniques you’re trying to learn. This technique not only enhances your online search efficiency but also helps you familiarize yourself with the language.
Learn by Recreating
While it’s critically important never to plagiarize or pass off someone else’s work as your own, recreating a design from scratch that you like can be good practice. The purpose is not to achieve a perfect reproduction, but rather to learn and appreciate the process.
Find an inspiring design piece you believe is successful, and try recreating it with your design software. Start by breaking down the design and recreating it using your process. Should you stumble at any point, leverage specific search queries and draw on your design community to help overcome the obstacles.
The Importance of Negative Space
The appropriate use of negative space, or white space, is often an overlooked area, even by seasoned designers. Negative space refers to the unoccupied areas in your design that do not contain any visual or written elements. A design piece devoid of sufficient negative space can be confusing to understand.
Mastering Negative Space
It doesn’t take a specific set of rules to properly utilize white space—it takes practice. Balancing elements and layout adjustment exercises will eventually cultivate an innate understanding of the requisite amount of breathing room.
Seek and Accept Constructive Criticism
Fear of criticism is universal. However, learning to accept constructive criticism is an invaluable part of becoming a better designer. Genuine design critique enables us to consider other perspectives and refine our work. You always have the option to disregard feedback, but it’s crucial to consider it in the first place.
Finding Constructive Criticism
Try engaging an experienced designer in a one-on-one conversation, or join an online design community and post your work, asking for feedback from fellow designers.
Pursue Passion Projects
Participate in design projects that align with your passions and interests. These projects not only motivate you to overcome challenges but also provide direction during the early stages of your learning journey.
Finding Passion Projects
Align your interests or current situations with your projects, something as simple as creating the header image for your next blog post. Voice your willingness to work on an offer with your content team.
Just Get Started
While the extensive learning involved in graphic design can be intimidating, bear in mind that even the most talented designers had to start from scratch. The unique thing about the creative field is the diversity of individual journeys. The design process is iterative, so remember to repeatedly rework your ideas and projects.
Progress Your Graphic Design Career
Over time, you’ll delineate your workflow, and design tasks that initially took up an entire day will become considerably more efficient.
SEO Marketing Software
Promoting your work to the world via a personal portfolio or website? Use SEO marketing software to present your hard work in a compelling way, generating copy and meta descriptions that target your work’s niche. Put your creations where professionals can effortlessly view them, and allow the tool to do the strenuous task for you.
Note: The journey to a successful career in graphic design is challenging but rewarding. Don’t delay. Start today!
Editor’s note: This post was initially published in June 2017 and has been updated to enhance the comprehensiveness of the information.
Do Professional Certifications Matter in Graphic Design?
While there is no clear cut answer to this, having a professional certification in graphic design could potentially help you stand out in a highly competitive industry. Certifications demonstrate your competency and dedication to the field and are often viewed positively by employers. However, it is crucial to remember that nothing replaces a well-crafted portfolio showcasing your skills and unique design style.
If you wish to consider a professional certification, you can look into the credentials offered by the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA), National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) or Adobe’s Certified Expert (ACE) program.
What to Focus on When Choosing a Certification Program
When deciding on which certification to pursue, consider your long-term goals and current expertise level. For beginners, a comprehensive program covering key basics could be most beneficial. Experienced designers, on the other hand, might prefer certification programs focusing on specialized skills or software proficiency.
Regardless of its focus, a solid certification program should offer a well-rounded curriculum encompassing design principles, typography, color theory, and practical software training.
A Career in Graphic Design: Skills Beyond Creativity
While creativity lies at the heart of graphic design, several other abilities are equally important to succeed in this field. In addition to having an insightful understanding of aesthetics and design concepts, you should also be adept in software like Photoshop and Illustrator. A firm grasp of coding and web design principles can also potentially boost your career, given the growing demand for website design services.
Marketable graphic designers are also proficient communicators who can present and articulate their ideas effectively. Networking and collaboration skills are also significant in this industry where clients, colleagues, and competition all value meaningful connections.
The Importance of Understanding SEO in Graphic Design
Search Engine Optimization, commonly known as SEO, has increasingly become a crucial competence for graphic designers, especially those working on digital platforms. Integrating SEO principles into design work can significantly improve the visibility of a client’s brand online.
For example, a designer working on a website design project for a Miami-based client would not only create an aesthetically pleasing layout but would also conjoin it with SEO strategies (such as including ‘Miami Website Design’ or ‘SEO Miami’ in vital areas of the site) to improve the website’s search engine ranking. This demonstrates the importance of designers understanding SEO principles.
Brand Yourself – Create an Impactful Portfolio
Your portfolio is essentially your resume in the graphic design industry. It exhibits your style, creativity, skill level, and diversity as a designer. A strong portfolio can be a key tool in attracting potential clients or employers. This is where you display the best of your work, provide context for each piece, and demonstrate your design process.
Your online portfolio could be as basic as a profile on Behance or as advanced as a multifaceted self-hosted website. Regardless of the platform, the fundamental objective should remain the same: presenting your work impressively and accurately.
Portfolio Tips for a Graphic Designer
Aim to showcase a mix of work that highlights your versatility but also your specialty. If website design is your forte, emphasize those projects without disregarding the logos you’ve created or the ebooks you’ve formatted.
If you’re just beginning your career and are short on client work, you can consider including personal projects or class assignments in your portfolio. You can even redesign existing brand assets or design hypothetical ones for your dream clients. The ultimate goal is to display your ability to design effectively and attractively.
Maintaining Sustainability in Graphic Design
In the rising tide of environmental consciousness, graphic design has often been criticized for its role in creating excess waste, particularly in the print design segment. From expendable packaging to promotional materials, graphic design can contribute to generating unnecessary waste. However, as designers, you can play a crucial part in advocating sustainable practices.
Steps Towards Eco-friendly Design
Switching to more eco-friendly practices requires making informed decisions throughout the design process. Some methods could include choosing recycled materials for print projects, minimizing ink usage by optimizing design elements, or even eliminating physical items entirely by transitioning to digital mediums.
Designers can also collaborate with eco-friendly printers that use vegetable-based inks and prioritize sustainable practices. By emphasizing sustainability in your design process, you can not only help lessen environmental impact but also attract clients who value eco-consciousness.
Graphic design is a dynamic field with an array of opportunities. Mastery of design principles, industry-standard software, SEO know-how, comprehensive communication skills, sustainability considerations, among others, can all contribute to your success in this industry.
Whether you are planning to specialize in Miami website design service or become the go-to designer for stylish branding in your locale, it is important to remember that progress comes with time and effort. Keep learning, experimenting, networking, and updating your skills to keep pace with this ever-evolving industry.
At MKTG Plan, we understand how vital graphic design skills are in weaving compelling stories and creating memorable brand experiences. Therefore, we’re committed to providing not just top-rated services to our clients, but also sharing valuable insights with the graphic design community.