Learning Graphic Design On Your Own
A Quick Note…
Everyone learns differently. Some people like to ask questions in class, others like to watch videos that they can pause and replay, and even more people could prefer to just tinker and see what happens (I’m personally a tinkerer). The first thing you should do when learning on your own (so probably online or through books) is to do some research and know how you like to learn.
So, let’s start with… what even is “Graphic Design”?
Let’s get this straight… graphic designers aren’t fine artists. They are problem solvers, visual communicators, and sometimes curators of information in an aesthetically pleasing way. We organize information and try to make the world an easier-to-understand and more beautiful place. Of course, there are other fields like advertising where we communicate to customers why they should buy certain products. Or there are User Interface/Experience designers that will develop websites and video game interfaces and design how you interact with it. Look into graphic design and see what field you want to be in. What do you want to do with graphic design?
Fun fact, the google definition says: “the art or skill of combining text and pictures in advertisements, magazines, or books.” and to that, I’d like to say we do SO MUCH MORE.
Now that you know what you’re doing…Here’s the VERY BRIEF process!
(I may make individual posts for each step later on)
- Learn the basics
- Typography, how to use the basic principles of line, shape, color, and so on is usually for everyone no matter your field.
- Basics like composition are also very important. If you’re into editorial then typographic spreads will be more of your focus. If you’re in web design then seeing how websites are typically laid out will be a thing to look into. Basic typography, color theory, and principles still apply!
- Basics and principles are a google search (or a book) away! Everyone talks about these things ALL the time.
- Look up inspiration and develop an “eye” for design
- Follow design blogs! Follow other designers! On all of your social media! (There are so many Tumblr blogs and Instagram accounts solely dedicated to graphic design curation).
- Look into the big names of the industry
- Why were they remembered? Everyone else in the field probably remembers them for that, too.
- What was so great about them? Apply what you learn to your own work!
- If they’re well known, they probably have at least decent work to get inspired from!
- Research is done… time to do some work!
- If you’re just starting out, there are some things you’re probably not used to. Doing things by hand with sharpie markers on paper will definitely help train your eye and mind to think more about communication, not pretty things.
- Abstract things down into simple shapes. Then try communicating that same object with fewer shapes. Maybe only lines? Geometric style? Play around with communication! This is key when you get into icons, logos, and other visuals that require a more minimal look.
- Remember, you make information more easily accessible. The best logos are easy to remember because they are simple and effective. Your work may one day need that kind of punch!
- The jump from traditional to digital
- It’s time to learn about your program(s) of choice… my biggest piece of advice would be to just mess with it. Learning on your own by trying to make something is one of the best ways to train your mind and body on how to use the programs.
- Try every tool. Try making basic shapes. Then make basic objects with those shapes. Then try making a person or something more complicated. Try to test every tool to see what you’d use it for!
- Don’t know anything or how to do something? Google it! If you’re asking there’s probably 5+ different YouTube videos, 3+ articles, and 100+ tutorials on how to do it.
- Let’s work on projects!
- Now that you’re familiar with the history, principles, other designers, and the programs… just keep on making stuff!
- Making your own projects (make your own website, business cards, a flyer for a club, a T-Shirt, and so on…) is my biggest recommendation on how to learn graphic design. Actually applying everything you’ve learned will make you think in a problem-solving way! Also sharing things that you’ve made that actually matter is way more fun than sharing a fancy circle you made with no context. (You can say “look at this T-Shirt I made!” instead of “look at this weird circle I made!”)
- Get feedback from designers and non-designers
- Once you’ve made stuff… ask everyone! Non-designers will give you a client’s perspective of your work. A designer’s perspective will help you grow as a designer and they may see things that you and your average person wouldn’t have noticed. (you’re always free to ask me if you’d like!)
- Please remember to not take feedback personally (unless they’re being rude, then just ignore them). You’re learning and growing and there’s always room for improvement. A lot of feedback is not a bad thing!
- Stay determined!
- Being a designer isn’t easy. That T-Shirt you made that took you a couple days? Someone could say they don’t get it. Other designers could say there was a better way to execute your idea. Another person may even say it looks like something else!
- When you design you have to expect to make revisions, rethinking, and making more revisions until it’s at a good enough place to publish. But no matter what, you have to remember that it’s not about PERFECTION. It’s about getting it DONE and learning to grow. No one is perfect, and it’s mostly subjective, so just take the criticism you agree with and don’t apply what you disagree with. As a designer, you should know what’s right, wrong, or what you should consider bringing up to other designers.
- KEEP MAKING MORE STUFF! You can even remake older stuff as you go on! Just keep going!
That’s my super brief process!
Now honestly, I could’ve gotten down into the nitty gritty details of each step, but this is basically how I’d suggest going about it if you want to get a head start before getting into college, or you want to just learn on your own.
If you guys have any additional questions or want me to go more in-depth about anything, feel free to let me know! :)