Being a good graphic designer is rewarding and fulfilling, but not everyone has the means or opportunity to learn design in school. However, with the myriad of tools and techniques for mastering this interesting skill, everyone can improve their design skills. All it takes is some dedication and will, and of course, some effective tricks for making it happen.
Below you can find a list of ways you can use to start your designing journey or improve the skills you already have. These tips will aid you in becoming the designer you truly aspire to be.
Learn the Terminology
Before you start actually designing, learn as much as you can about it. Learn about the history of design and the basic terminology. This is essential if you wish to improve your design skills.
Read Design Books
Learning is something that never ends, and we all know it. The designing industry is big and constantly growing, which makes it very easy to get lost if you don’t keep up with the changes. So, one of the greatest advice you can get to improve your design skills is to read as much as you can about it. Visit design websites and blogs and read books on design.
Find Some Inspiration
Inspiration can strike at any time, but it can also get lost when you most need it. Finding inspiration is much harder today when we have so much on our plate. But, if you want to succeed in the design world, you need all the inspiration you can get.
Lucky for you, the design world is full of inspiration and masterpieces. With the need to find inspiration almost deadly, you should find as many sources as you can. Those websites and books are a definite start, but there are also other inspiring sources you can seek and follow to keep that inspiration flowing.
If you want to be a great designer, you should be curious. Search for designs made by others and learn from them. Successful design stories will teach you many lessons, and learning from some of the most successful designers is always a good idea.
Take Part in Design Groups and Communities
You can’t just create your work and expect it to get out there on its own. No matter how talented or inspired you are, you still need to put some effort into being noticed. To fully leverage your design skills, start participating in design groups and communities. This should open up many opportunities to show your designs, but also to learn and get inspired.
To be a great designer, you need to get out there. There’s no great designer that no one has heard of, which makes it essential for you to take part of the community. It will all evolve gradually, but joining such communities at first is definitely a step to consider.
Once you grasp the fundamentals of design and start building your own pieces of work, you can continue building your reputation by speaking at design community conferences, writing your books, using social media for promotion, etc.
Get Some Feedback
Feedback is good for you, even if it is bad. Those communities, groups, and forums you choose are excellent ways to get some feedback on your work. Joining the community and building relationships with fellow designers has many perks, and getting feedback on your work is one of the biggest ones.
Since you’ll be using these groups to share your work and get yourself noticed, use the opportunity to ask for some feedback. Other designers can point out to the flaws in yours and give you ideas on how to improve. You don’t always have to do what others say, but you should definitely listen. Even a critique is good feedback because it helps you learn.
You might be hesitant to accept criticism because you’ve probably poured your time and all your passions into your work. Your designs probably resulted from a lot of learning and many attempts. But, no matter how hard it is to accept criticism, you must learn to detect the constructive criticism and use it for your benefit.
Criticism helps improve skills, and we are not just talking about design. When you make a mistake and share the design with the community, there might be more experienced designers to point it out. This should help you improve and learn, but also build relationships with future mentors and friends.
Thankfully, you don’t have to go through that designing journey all by yourself. ‘’With technology, everything changed for designers. Now we have the support we’ve always craved, and it comes in the forms of tools and technology props.’’ – says Paige Wellers, design expert at Essays.ScholarAdvisor.
Some of the most popular tools among new designers are Canva and SocialPilot. You can use the first to find the layouts and templates to build your designs on or practice your design skills, and the latter to share them on social media.
These are just two examples of what’s out there for designers. Do your fair share of tool research and find the ones that can help you fill those design gaps you have or want to learn about. Tools can be a great helper in this matter and if you want to succeed faster, they are definitely essential for it.
Experiment a Little
A little, a lot – as often as you can. The more time you spend on experimenting and practicing, the more you can learn. Learning from your own mistakes can prove to be very effective, and one design can take a couple of different approaches before you make it perfect.
A great design is based not only on the visual but also on the feel. Experiment with more designs and think about different ways to appeal to a target audience. Test out different things – different fonts or typefaces, different colors and effects, and even different order and organization. Play a little with the palette and the features. The more you practice and the more ways you test out, the more you can capture the needs of the target audience. It might take you a while at first, but the more you do it, the better you’ll get in it.
Try to Remake Great Designs
There must be something that has captured your attention or even something that made you want to become a designer. We don’t say that you should be a copycat, but there’s no reason why you shouldn’t get the feel of what it would be like to make your favorite designs.
This should be excellent practice for you. Who knows – you might find a better way or an approach of your own. By using the effective and popular artworks by other designers and remaking them on your own, you can practice the techniques and principles experts used in their work. Even if you don’t find a better or new approach, learning by practice can never hurt your skills.
Of course, you can never use the work you copied from others except for some personal exercise. This should only help you learn, but never serve to promote your work as a designer.
Follow Designers on Social Media
This is the era of social media, meaning that all those popular designers you look up to will probably have a social media profile or two. Platforms like Instagram or Facebook give new designers an opportunity to follow their idols and learn from them. If you track their work and learn through their guidance, you can become a better designer much faster.
The best part about the use of social media is that you don’t only have to use it to follow an artist, but you can also attempt to communicate with them. Many artists will gladly share their knowledge and wisdom if you try to reach them, and they might even give you some feedback on your own work.
To wrap this article up I asked the owner and founder of The Logo Creative for his advice about the best ways to learn design and progress your knowledge and skills in design.
The biggest mistake a lot of designers make especially new designers are jumping right into the digital stage of design on the computer and skipping the vital research and ideation sketching with a pencil and paper. I know there are plenty of people out there that are not very good at drawing and that’s understandable but as Andrew explains below you don’t need to be an artist to develop a working concept on paper.
“Sketching is a vital part of the ideation stage. You don’t have to be a brilliant artist at drawing to conceptualise an idea on paper. Learning to see an idea in your mind and articulate that concept on paper is key in designing a working concept. Learn to sketch in basic form and this will help you get your ideas out of your brain and onto paper quickly this way you can separate the good ideas from the not so good or common overly used ones. There is no excuse for not sketching as everyone can draw a stick man and form basic shapes with lines or curves so use this skill to your advantage”
Andrew explains that:
“Everyone can draw and learn to draw it just depends how far you take it, but everyone can do it, A good place to start is a friend of mine Shoo Rayner who is a children’s author and book illustrator. He has a youtube channel and a series on there where you can learn the basics and improve your drawing skills and get comfortable at a level to start concept sketching. I will include the first video below and there are around 20 videos in this series worth watching. He also has some great video you can watch him sketch and watercolour some really fantastic illustrations”
“I also wrote an article about sketching and documenting your process that you will find really helpful titled: Logo Design Sketchbook, Documenting The Process
Reading Keeps The Mind Stimulated
The next area Andrew mentioned was reading books and how it is one of the most important things you can do to learn and great to give your brain a workout and keep it stimulated. Andrew himself loves to read and learns a lot by reading books about design not just logo design but everything within design. He also does book reviews of the books he owns on his studio bookshelf. As Andrew explains:
“Reading is not only good for learning it also helps exercise the mind and improves your concentration span while developing your imagination, and opening your mind. Reading is still the best way to learn in my opinion and keeps your brain stimulated and shape you will also be exposed to a more extensive vocabulary which also improves the readers learning potential.”
You can also find some of Andrews recommended books on the resources page under Design Books.
Learn Online With Online Learning Courses
Not everyone is into reading books but I would highly recommend you to start reading. If your one of those people that learn better visually then online learning is the way to go, and if you are like Andrew and love reading online learning is still the way to go and you can learn a lot of skills online.
As Andrew explained online learning is the way to go!
“Online learning is vital in today’s digital world and with technology at its highest peak, the possibilities are endless. Wouldn’t it be great if you could have today’s top designers sat in front of you taking their way through how to design and the best practices to take and a certain way of doing things based on experience! While that is sort of possible with Skillshare an online learning platform that I highly recommend! Do you want to learn from some of the best logo designers in the world such as Aaron Draplin, George Bokha, Jessica Hische, Macky Saturday the list goes on!
Build a Portfolio
With time, your knowledge and expertise will grow. With it, everything will improve, including your portfolio. But, even if your skills aren’t so developed now and you still wish to work on them, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t have a portfolio. Portfolios can be edited, and having one is one of the most important steps to take to get your designs out there.
Collect the designs you’ve made and place them in a portfolio. You can use it to host the work on a site for designers and show your best work. The more you learn and the better you become, you can replace the old designs with new ones.
Did you find what you’ve been looking for? Mastering a skill takes time and hard work, so you might want to test out all the tricks in this list. The harder you try, the better you will become, and the more you can enjoy the perks of a career in design.
This article was written by Jack White
Also published on Medium.