If you are a creative person who is fascinated with graphic design but you don’t know how to get into this industry, don’t worry, this post is made to get you introduced to graphic design and help you know how to become a graphic designer in step by step and solve you some questions you might have before starting with graphic design.
To introduce you to graphic design you need to know what exactly graphic designers are, they are visual communications who combine images, text, and graphics to communicate certain messages and feelings to engage with the audience using design elements like shapes, color, and lines.
If you are interested in becoming a graphic designer you should read this article, let’s start with the steps you need to know.
There are different types of graphic design and depending on the specialization you choose you will make one task or another, but to give you a brief introduction, graphic designer are visual communicators, which mean that their work consists of transmitting certain messages or feelings through images.
Also, it depends if you want to work in a design agency or become a freelance graphic designer, the first one will only focus on graphic design tasks like print design, social media templates, logo design projects, and more, on the other hand, freelance graphic designers also will deal with business tasks like marketing and client management.
Despite going to a graphic design college can be useful for some people, having a college degree it’s not a requirement or warranty to work as a graphic designer as it is a creative industry many design companies will rather hire designers based on their portfolio and skills than their college degree.
If you want to become a graphic designer are two different paths, going to a design college or learning by yourself, both ways are good and the election will mainly depend on your preferences and situation. Going to a graphic design college can be easier to learn the profession as you will be guided by designers and teachers who will show you all you need to know, but it is also a more expensive option than learning by yourself.
To become a graphic designer you will need to learn some skills that will help you in your career no matter if you want to work as a designer in an agency or become a freelance designer.
The first skill you will need to acquire as a designer is to understand graphic design and its theory like typography, color, balance, scale, visual hierarchy, and more. This will help you understand the bones of a graphic project and make it easier to develop your design from the sketch process.
To become a graphic designer besides knowing the design theory you also need to know how to use the design tools properly to be able to materialize the idea you have in your mind into a graphic design project, the software you will need to learn will depend on the specialization you choose later on the process, but the most used programs are Photoshop and Illustrator.
Good graphic designers have a communication mindset, as their projects are designed to communicate certain messages or feelings, that is why to become a good graphic designer you need to learn communication skills to use them in your copy or through design elements to transit unconscious messages, these type of communication you can learn by studying shape psychology and color psychology.
This skill is more focused for freelance graphic designers who apart from design work also will need to make business work like client management, to become a successful freelance graphic designer you need to create a design based on a creative brief, manage client expectations and guide the client as you are the expert on this field.
The first step to becoming a graphic designer is one of the most important and is to learn graphic design basics like design principles, fundamentals, hierarchy, and color theory. To become a successful designer you need to understand the basic principles of design to craft a well-done project from the beginning.
Good graphic designers craft their design with unconscious messages playing with color, shapes, and white space, that is why some of the basic principles you will learn are lines, color theory and psychology, shapes and how to use them, space, texture, typography, how to create harmonious designs and visual hierarchy principles to create projects that connect with your audience.
On this blog, you can find complete guides to these principles and learn how to use them to become a successful designer.
Once you learn graphic design principles and theory you can start an online graphic design course that will help you understand better these principles and practice and develop your creative skills by learning from established graphic designers.
There are plenty of graphic design courses out there that cover a wide variety of topics, the basic ones are color theory, typography, layout, and graphic design tools and software, you can find paid courses, and free ones on different platforms like YouTube.
One of the most important tools for a graphic designer is the software you will use, the industry standard is Adobe Creative Cloud, and being the most used graphic design software Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign, on this step you will need to learn about these programs, why you need to use one of another and how to use them.
Depending on your graphic design specialization you will use one software more than another during your career, for example, Adobe Illustrator is used to create vector images like logo design projects, Photoshop is used for photomanipulation and raster images, and InDesign is used for editorial design.
If you want to know more about the best graphic design software you can take a look at my post about it.
When becoming a graphic designer you need some tools to be able to work and run early mentioned software like Photoshop or Illustrator, the most important tool for a graphic designer is a computer that can run these programs, a monitor with good resolution and color accuracy, and besides it’s not essential is handy a drawing tablet.
Other tools you will need as a graphic designer are a notebook and some pencils to take sketches, thumbnails, or notes about your ideas, and if you are a traveler who wants to work from everywhere a good laptop will be a significant investment.
Don’t worry if you don’t have a big budget, if you are a beginner designer it’s not necessary to invest in the top high-end tools, you can start with cheaper options if you don’t have a big budget to spend and improve it with time.
A great way to become a graphic designer and improve your skills is by reading a good book about design, as this will help you to understand better graphic design principles, get useful tips from established designers, and get inspired by them, on this blog you can find posts where I recommend you the best books about graphic design, logo design, illustration, branding, typography, and color theory.
There are books for every situation, some books are focused on design theory that teach you about them, other books are technical showing you how to use programs and different creative processes, and other books are focused on giving you the inspiration that reviewing great design ideas and show you the behind the scenes of iconic logo ideas.
One important step that sometimes can be overlooked is to follow established and talented graphic designers to get inspiration from them and improve your design skills. By getting inspiration from other designers you can expand your vision and get open to new design styles and skills that can be useful to create your own style.
There are plenty of sources you can follow graphic designers like Instagram, Behance, or Pinterest, and know better they work and see new styles, you can check my post about the best graphic design websites to get inspiration.
Once you understand graphic design fundamentals and learn how to use the right graphic design programs you must have an online portfolio no matter if you want to work as an in-house designer for a graphic design agency or want to be a freelance graphic designer, this portfolio will be very useful to showcase your skills and style.
You might ask how you can create a portfolio if you don’t have clients in this early stage, don’t worry, you can start creating your own graphic design projects to showcase your skills and create an online presence.
If you ask where you can upload your portfolio, there are plenty of options, you can use Graphic Design Websites like Behance or Dribbble to upload your works, Instagram and Pinterest are more mainstream options, and if you have some money to invest you can create your own website.
Graphic design is an industry that is always evolving and changing, what’s nice today can get old next year, that is why is important for graphic designers to always stay tuned to design trends, but remember that graphic design trends can change very quickly and use it as inspiration and try to adapt them to your style.
You can follow well-known designers or read graphic design blogs to stay tuned on design trends, and if you want to read about what is trendy right now, you can read my posts about graphic design trends.
It’s a really normal error when starting a graphic design career to try to take every design project no matter if it’s typography, brand identity, or poster design, you might think that this will expand your client opportunities, but the reality is that you will be an average designer on those all fields, and this will limit you in the future to get a bigger reputation or big clients.
Instead of trying to embrace all design fields, the best you can do is to get specialized in one or two niches and become an expert in those fields, this will improve your reputation in those design areas and will help you get more and better clients on those fields and get better jobs for graphic design agencies.
The last step to becoming a graphic designer is to never stop learning, once you finish your college degree or learn by yourself, it’s important to always stay active in learning new things like new skills, design areas, or techniques. You can expand your graphic design knowledge by reading graphic design books, entering a graphic design course that teaches a technique or skill, or following graphic design blogs and trying new ideas in your designs.
As I mentioned early in this guide, there are different types of graphic design and areas of specialization, let’s see what are the most popular career paths for designers.
One of the most known career paths for graphic designers is the brand identity designer who is specialized into create logo design for companies and brand identity projects which expand the brand message and personality through visual elements, this type of designer will mainly use Adobe Illustrator.
The web designer career path is focused on creating the overall design for a website, including menus, buttons, images, and interactive elements, to become a web designer you don’t need to know to code, but in the long run, it can be useful for you to expand your skills. Web Design also includes different specializations like User Interface Design and User Experience Design.
When a company launches a new product, movie, or service it’s usually accompanied by a marketing campaign to make sure it arrives at the target audience and connects with them to buy their product, that is why companies need a graphic designer to create brochures, posters, banners, social media publications and more.
The art director role is usually made by experienced graphic designers, as it consists of managing a team formed by professional creatives to develop, review and approve a big graphic design project, this career path will require skills like creative direction and project management.
If you have studied graphic design in college or by yourself but you don’t want to work for a graphic design agency or an in-house designer, and instead you want to become a freelance graphic designer here are the steps you need to follow.
The first step to becoming a freelance graphic designer is by learning graphic design and improving your skills. You can learn graphic design by yourself, with graphic design courses, or by entering a specialized college.
As I mentioned early, one error when starting as a freelance graphic designer is trying to do everything, but this will make you an average designer in all fields, instead, you should get specialized in one or two areas of design and become an expert to get a bigger reputation and better clients.
One important thing about freelance graphic design is that you need to have a business vision and you will need to learn new abilities outside graphic design to grow your business, I mention this in this step because the first real step to becoming a freelance designer to create your brand and market yourself.
To create your brand you need to invest in a website and build an impressive portfolio to showcase your skills and the type of projects you want to do, but the audience doesn’t come alone, you will need to learn marketing skills and use social media to transmit your message and growing your reputation as a designer.
You might think that graphic designers only work with shapes and design elements, but they also work with copy, as text also plays a huge role in how your designs are perceived and people interact with them.
Copywriting consist of writing the text for advertising and marketing to persuade people to interact with it, this skill can be useful for graphic designers to improve their designs with better text and clear message.
Copywriting can be useful for freelance graphic designers to write better texts for their brand and use it in marketing campaigns to advertise better their work and connect better with future clients.
This step is the most difficult one for freelance graphic designers and where most of them fail, the most important thing about finding your first clients is to get you the real feeling of dealing with clients and how to manage a design project by yourself. By having your first clients you will acquire more confidence in yourself and gain momentum that will you motivate to expand your business.
But, the most important question, is how to find your first clients?, despite this topic will require a single post only to talk about it, you can find your first clients by entering freelance job websites (this is only recommended for beginners and to get you the first clients), work on your marketing and make people see your work or do networking and asking friends or relatives.
As early mentioned, becoming a freelance graphic designer is to become a businessman and this will limit the time you will actually doing graphic design tasks, instead, you will invest a lot of time in other tasks more focused on business like marketing, invoices, writing, video editing, sending proposals or dealing with clients, that is why you should learn these tasks and practice them during your freelance career.
To get more clients and expand your sources of income it’s important to build a name as a graphic designer, that is why is really important for you to start doing social media and use a marketing strategy.
Uploading great graphic design projects on your portfolio and on your social media accounts like Behance, Pinterest or Instagram will increase your reputation online and help you find more clients in the future as they will be able to see your work more easily.
You can have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or if you are a self-learn designer you will need to have a good design portfolio that shows your level and skills.
This will mainly depend on each person, how much time you have to dedicate to learning graphic design, and which process you will follow, but this process can take you from six months to five years.
Learning graphic design theory and how to use the right tools it’s not hard, but to become a good graphic designer you need creative thinking, you can already have it and make it much easier for you to become a graphic designer or learn it in the process.
You can learn the theory and how to use the tools in 2 months, but it will take you some years to master it and become a good graphic designer.
Yes, as it is a creative field, companies will value more a good portfolio and skills rather than a degree, how you learn graphic design will mostly depend on your preferences, time, and budget.
Yes, everybody can be a graphic designer, but as already mentioned, to become a good one you will need to develop creative thinking and good taste, which if you haven’t you can train and become a good graphic designer.
Yes, if you are a creative person, and enjoy art and communication, becoming a graphic designer is a good career for you.
Yes, the most important thing to become a graphic designer is to understand design fundamentals, how to use the tools, and creative thinking, skills you can learn by yourself.
Yes, graphic designers don’t need to draw well, as they will mainly use digital software like photoshop and illustrator, and the main function of a designer is to communicate messages through visual elements.
To learn graphic design it’s not necessary to go to a graphic design college, instead, you can learn it by yourself by following the steps I show you in this guide, with the right motivation and organization you can become a graphic designer and work in a creative a fascinating field, but to become a good graphic designer you need to be always learning and experiment with different techniques, styles or fields.
Hope you find this post useful and solved the questions you had to become a graphic designer, if you want to start learning design, you can start with my graphic design guides.
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