The reality is, getting started in graphic design is no easy task. If you take the right steps to learn graphic design, you can teach yourself graphic design more efficiently and effectively.
So, here’s the deal:
After years of experience teaching graphic design to myself and others, I’ve found the crucial first steps you have to take to become a self-taught graphic designer.
Step 1: Find Your Motivation
There are different reasons for getting into graphic design. Maybe you want to:
- Create a logo for your website
- Express yourself and be creative
- Learn a new skill
- Learn to use complex software
- Make a career change
- Make money online
The reasons can be endless, but the objective will still be the same:
Your motivation to learn graphic design has to be powerful enough to keep you focused on the goal, which is to become proficient at graphic design.
This motivating factor must be the fuel that powers your quest to learn.
What motivated me was the fear of not having practical skills as a media studies professor in a very competitive field.
Step 2: Get Passionate About Everything Visual
You have to be passionate about graphic design in order to become a designer.
In the Web 2.0, anyone can become anything he or she wants. But most of the time, people fail not because they don’t have the talent or the skills to become what they want to be. So, learn what motivates you to become a graphic designer but also what makes you passionate about it.
Step 3: Understand the Difference between Talent and Practice
Graphic design is not primarily about talent.
Do you need talent to be great at design? Sure. The most successful designers I know and who inspire me every day are super talented.
However, absolute talent is not required. This is key and you need to understand it.
If you have read this far, chances are that you already have talent, or are in the process of polishing your talent in the raw.
You have a certain orientation or aptitude that draws you to graphic design in the first place.
This, believe it or not, is what most graphic designers had when they began.
You can go from having no idea about graphic design to being effective. It takes some theory, experience, and persistence. It takes time, but not necessarily years.
Some of my best students (with no previous graphic design experience) have accomplished excellent results in only one semester. One of my students even got a job after only one semester of work!
Step 4: Learn the Principles of Design
Every discipline has a foundational set of rules that guide its best practices.
Graphic design is no exception. You must learn the fundamental concepts that underlie the practice of design from the very beginning in order to become proficient and gain experience.
What are design principles? The principles of design are the minimum framework needed to achieve successful results as a graphic designer.
Step 5: Get Started with Graphic Design Software
Graphics editing software is a big part of graphic design. There are different types of software for different types of tasks. One of the most common types of software are vector and pixel editing systems.
There are many makers of graphics software, but one of the most popular and recognized is Adobe, with Illustrator for vector graphics and Photoshop for pixel (or raster) graphics.
Generally speaking, vector graphics are used for creating shape-based drawings and digital illustrations, such as logos, stylized text, and technical drawings of objects.
Pixel graphics are used for editing photos and photo-realistic renderings, such as photography, magazine montages, and image manipulation.
As a beginner, you shouldn’t worry about learning one brand or another, but on understanding the logic of each type of software.
Step 6: Look for Inspiration
One of the best ways to learn graphic design is to emulate artists, designers, and creators that inspire us.
When we look for inspiration, we will naturally gravitate to the styles and trends that we like, and we will start to recognize what works and what doesn’t. Getting inspired by designers we like or admire gives us a roadmap of what we need to learn. Also, imitating the work of others allows us to learn and improve on new skills.
Step 7: Find and Study Graphic Design Resources, Tutorials, and Free Courses
The great news about becoming a self-taught graphic designer is that all the information you need for learning graphic design is at your fingertips.
Online graphic design courses are available to you either free of charge or for a small price, at least compared to college education.
But you need to understand this:
A self-taught graphic designer doesn’t magically learn to design. You still need to study, read, and practice using all kinds of different sources, from academic books to YouTube videos and online tutorials.
So, get yourself an introduction to design book, download free vector and pixel software, and start following some good tutorials on YouTube. You will find that the amazing thing about this approach is that you will begin right away, focused on what matters the most to you.
Step 8: Find Yourself a Project to Work On, Then Another, and Another (and Don’t Stop)
If you want to become a self-taught graphic designer, my single most important recommendation is to center your learning on a specific project. The reason is that it is very difficult to learn a skill in thin air. If you start on a particular project, you will encounter specific problems that, in turn, will guide you to specific solutions. You will search for advice, tutorials, and knowledge that will be as specific as the problems that come up.
So, if you want to become a self-made graphic designer, take on a specific project right now. Maybe you need to create a newsletter for a group, a business card for your friend, or a logo for your Instagram profile. By taking on a project that matters to you as an excuse to learn, you will learn so much faster and gain experience as you grow.
Step 9: Be Patient and Persistent: Time is the Only Constant Variable
I do believe that the internet provides the tools and information to accomplish many, many endeavors.
However, the only variable that is missing from most of the pep talk about learning something new, changing a personal path, creating a new business, etc., is TIME.