What should I know about graphic design

Who does not remember the doodles we drew on our exercise books at school? Hand-painted bubble letters, pictograms and stick figures adorned homework, tests and presentations, which of course made the teachers white-hot.

In this way, one or the other might find out that drawing wasn't exactly his forte. After all, in the past there weren't many digital options for converting ideas into drawings. Nowadays all kinds of devices help us with this, and many have made graphic design a profession.

Knowledge of graphic design can be very useful for marketers in visual communication, even if they don't have the appropriate skills school education or a Degree in graphic design can be acquired. Much of this can be learned through self-study. It is often recommended to learn how to use Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign or to read one or the other book on the basics of graphic design.

While these recommendations are helpful, they do not help you find the right mix when it comes to acquiring the necessary know-how, trying out new tools and developing your own style.

(Of course, this does not replace the course content that is taught in the field of graphic design at a university or in distance learning.)

8 tips for getting started with graphic design in self-study

We have put together a list of tips and tricks to help you get started on the graphic design adventure.

1. Monitor graphic design trends & influencers

Of course, marketers know there is a lot to learn from influencers. After all, when choosing a product or service, 49% of consumers trust the recommendation of people they know. In the digital age, this also includes so-called influencers.

You can contact these influencers via Twitter or Instagram. You will be surprised who answers your questions. Any positive contact can help you to learn more about design and current trends. If you follow the interactions and get actively involved, you will naturally become part of the design community that can support you in your development.

What is the next step?

Create a targeted list of influential graphic designers on Twitter whose daily posts you want to follow without the hassle of filtering out the tweets from the numerous tweets from friends, colleagues and news sources. HubSpot's social monitoring tool allows you to follow the accounts on your list, especially discussions on topics that are relevant to you.

Your list should have a good mix of different influencers - designers known in the industry, people you inspire, and designers who work for youNotlike. The latter may seem illogical, but if you also follow the work of these designers you can find outWhy you don't like them. This is a basic requirement to get one good understanding of visual communication to acquire.

Every day, the work of a designer is presented on the website of 365 Awesome Designers. This makes it easy for you to find graphic designers that you want to follow.

2. Collect inspirational designs

The first step in learning the craft of graphic design is to compile a catalog of works and designs that you think have succeeded. You can do this by simply saving images as bookmarks in your web browser, creating a board on Pinterest, or saving images to a folder on your computer.

As with the list of influencers, you can use such a catalog of inspiration to identify both past and current design trends and recognize certain patterns in the work of other designers.

You can also get to know your personal style preferences and interests. For example, if you find that you are particularly interested in a certain type of typography, logo design, or corporate design, you can search for targeted web design resources that explain how to use and create them.

Your catalog can also serve as a valuable source of inspiration for your own future projects. The concept that all creative work builds on already existing work is also taken up by Austin Kleon in his TEDx speech. The work in your catalog can serve as a reference and is an excellent starting point for your own communication design projects.

What is the next step?

Check out websites with portfolios of leading graphic designers like Dribbble and Behance. A large number of high-quality works by leading designers across the entire spectrum are shown on these platforms, from UX and web designers to graphic designers, communication designers and typographers. The designers on these websites often also provide insight into their design process. From this you can draw valuable knowledge for your own creations.

Finding time to browse these websites in addition to your normal work can be difficult. This can be easily integrated into the working day with the “Panda” app. The New Tab option will be replaced with a stream of content from various sources, including Dribbble. Every time you open a new tab, you can come up with new ideas and save the content and designs that catch your eye.

3. Analyze the design process of others

Realizing that every illustration, infographic, and symbol is the work of a designer who knows exactly how to combine shapes and lines can be of great help in your learning process. That's not to say that other factors don't play a role (for example, networks in Illustrator are a particular challenge). However, the design principles for many designs are very simple shapes.

By analyzing the design process, you will understand the steps involved in a media design project. Depending on your current level of knowledge, you may already be able to see which apps and tools were used or which element was created first.

However, it is important that you study the structure of different designs in more detail and thereby train your creative skills. In doing so, you will likely make the following observations:

  1. You know more than you think.
  2. When you discover gaps in your graphic design skills, you'll know which techniques or concepts to dig deeper to fill them.
  3. A certain result can be achieved in different ways.

What is the next step?

To make the learning process even faster when analyzing a design, download a free vector or PSD design resource and examine each layer to see how the designer built the object. You can find some of these files here.

Open the file you want in Photoshop, go to the Layers window (see instructions here), and expand some of the folders to see the layers they contain.

If you just change the visibility of the layers, you can see how the designer laid each shape on top of one another. You can also find out how Photoshop effects were used, such as: B. Drop shadows and brush strokes.

4. Specify your search queries in the area of ​​graphic design

When you start working on your own graphic design projects, you will likely get to a point where you will get stuck. It is very likely that others have encountered the same difficulties, and those who are self-taught in any field often use YouTube as a learning tool.

It is crucial that you carry out very specific searches in order to find a tutorial that is as relevant as possible to you. With the search term "create icons" you will likely get a very wide range of search results. Instead, enter exactly what you want to learn, e.g. B. "Create a flat icon with a long shadow" or a search term in English to get even more results, e.g. B. "How to create a flat icon with a long shadow".

What is the next step?

Use a design term glossary to find the specific term for the technique you want to learn. This makes it easier for you to find what you're looking for online. In addition, you will also familiarize yourself with the relevant technical language.

5. Copy a design or a specific image that you particularly like

To say one thing up front: you must under no circumstances infringe the copyright of the protected work of another graphic designer.You may not reproduce someone else's work and pass it off as your own work.

You can therefore recreate a designunless you pass it off as your own. By replicating a design work, you can become better acquainted with various design techniques. As with analyzing a design, you will learn new technical skills that you can apply to your own design projects.

You may need to be creative in choosing which method to use to mimic the design. Don't be discouraged if you can't exactly recreate a design - just remember that the process is more important than the result.

What is the next step?

Find some design work that you think succeeded, which shouldn't be too difficult once you've created a catalog of inspiration. Recreate this design with your favorite software, whether it's Photoshop, Illustrator, or any other software. How you do this is entirely up to you. Use specific searches and leverage your relationships in the design community.

6. Use white space

Source: Apptension

Beginners as well as more experienced designers often forget the importance of using negative space properly. What is negative space (also “free space” or “whitespace”)? This is the space in your design that has no visual or text. Design work in which there is not enough negative space is like a sentence with no spaces -it is really difficult to understand.

Jan Tschichold, one of the most influential typographers of all, emphasizes the importance of giving design elements their place: “Whitespace must be understood as an active element, not as a passive background.” The efficient use of negative space is just as important as the design itself: It has been scientifically proven that negative space improves readability and understanding.

What is the next step?

Of course, you will not learn from one day to the next how to use negative space efficiently. You have to try different ways to see what works for each design. First of all, it's a good idea to read some of the articles on this list, compiled by David Kadavy, the author ofDesign for Hackers: Reverse Engineering Beauty. After that, you can try to put some of these theories into practice.

Please note that there are no binding rules for using negative space. Graphic design takes practice. Resize the elements in your design and play with the layout. You will find that through these exercises, you will develop a natural sense of how much white space your design will take up.

7. Don't be afraid to get feedback on your design

Everyone is afraid of criticism, some more, others less. We fear that our ideas will meet with rejection and that we will have to start all over again. It's not that easy to accept constructive criticism, but it makes us better designers.

Paul Arden, who was the agency's creative head at the height of Saatchi & Saatchi's success, wrote in his bestsellerIt doesn't matter who you are, but who you want to be:

When, instead of hoping for approval, you ask, “What's wrong with that? How can I do better? ”You are more likely to get a sincere, critical answer. You may even receive a suggestion for improving your idea. You can still dismiss the criticism if you think it is improper. What is the objection to this? "

What do we learn from it? Thanks to design critics, we are able to integrate the perspectives of others into our work and improve our ideas. You always have the option to reject the feedback. However, it is important to deal with this first. Design is inherently subjective. Just because someone else disagrees doesn't mean your approach is wrong. In fact, it's just as important to trust your intuition. However, you should also be able to justify your design decisions.

What's the next step on the way to becoming a graphic designer?

The best way to get feedback is in a personal conversation with an experienced graphic designer. If you don't know anyone in the design industry, this can be difficult. Fortunately, there are tons of communities out there with designers who will be happy to review your work. For this reason, we suggested contacting influencers and colleagues.

If you haven't had time to join a community, now is the time to take the first step. Growth.org offers a feedback center where visitors can comment directly on your design. Other helpful forums include The Crit Prit and Reddit's Design Critiques.

8. Find a graphic design project that is close to your heart

This advice is the most important in this post.

We all know how difficult it is to work on a project that we don't like. It's just awful. If you're looking for a design project that you can't get excited about, frustration is inevitable. You will be reluctant to put the time and effort into this project. It would be naive to think that at some point in your career you won't be working on a design project that doesn't suit you.

Until then, however, you will still learn a lot about graphic design. So it's perfectly acceptable to focus on projects that inspire you first.

Enthusiasm is an important motivational tool as you self-paced the craft of graphic design with its associated failures, like money spent on unnecessary design classes. Finding a design project that is close to your heart will make it easier for you to overcome setbacks that will inevitably arise in the design process.

You will also find it easier to make decisions. The hardest part of the graphic design learning process is having to keep looking for a new design project. So it's best to choose a project that you want to work on over a longer period of time.

What is the next step?

Align your projects to your interests or current situation. If you're a blogger, then this is where you can design the header image for your next post. Let your content team know that you'd like to work on a proposal. Are you looking for a job? Redesign your resume and design a logo to further develop your personal brand. There are many ways to incorporate design into your everyday life. You need to find a design project that is close to your heart. Don't choose a design project just because you think that's what is expected of you.

The way to become a graphic designer

The important thing is that you just start. The scope of learning in graphic design can be daunting at first. Remember, however, that even the most talented designer started out small.

The special thing about the creative area is that every designer goes through their own development; there is no one-size-fits-all solution for design self-study. You will find out for yourself how to recognize what you want and need to learn.

The design process is an iterative process, i. H. You have to keep revising your ideas and projects. Over time, you will develop your own workflow, and at some point it will take you an hour to do a design that previously took you a day.

This article originally appeared on the HubSpot.com blog and was translated from English.

Originally published September 12, 2017, updated 07 August 2020

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