You might have flirted with the idea of becoming a graphic designer throughout the years and you’ve finally decided to make a career change. We’re here to guide you on how to discover if graphic design really is for you and how to become a professional.
Investing your money in formal education or focusing on going to school might be one way, but it will surely take a longer time than what we’ll present you here: cultivating the fundamentals, developing experience, learning how to find and how to work with clients. Being consistent in these actions, putting your work and skills for the right people to see will get you the graphic design job you always dreamed of.
There’s nothing that can stand in your way if you’re willing to invest your time and effort, if you like connecting with people and if you’re passionate about design. You might even enjoy the journey of your new career path and it will be totally worth pursuing it.
We prepared 6 steps to teach yourself graphic design without going to school. Just follow these and you’ll be cool at nailing design jobs, so unlock your skills and get ready to win!
Step 1: Learn the basics
The fundamentals are essential when becoming a graphic designer. Choosing to do it without following a formal education will need a strong understanding of all these and it will represent the knowledge base of your new career. So you should learn the principles of design and how to successfully use the basic elements such as contrast, color, proportion, hierarchy and balance in what you work on.
To begin creating a knowledge base, you can always use the advantage of having lots of graphic design courses online for free. Dig into different courses that capture your attention, stimulate your imagination and your creative side. Just remember that you can always come back to them when you feel it’s necessary.
You might be interested in a specific design niche like mobile app design, website design, social media design, brand identity design etc. and for this you can search for specific resources for what you want to specialize in.
Besides familiarizing with the basics, developing your visual eye for design is good to practice as you can browse daily through websites like Behance, Ello, Dribbble, 500px, Artstation, DeviantArt, Cargo, Carbonmade, Worka, Fabrik, or Squarespace. Explore different design styles that resonate with what your eyes like to see and also follow the latest design trends to find ideas and visual inspiration that can fuel your open projects you’re working on.
Step 2: Invest in tools
Becoming a graphic designer requires professional tools and software that will help you create the work you can be proud of. You’ll have to master the graphic design software you’ll be using and you’ll need to invest in your tools. But for the beginning try downloading some free graphic design software like Inkscape, Vecteezy, CorelDraw and some others to explore, before investing in robust tools renowned for their worth in this industry.
Taking your graphic design technical skills to the next level after you’ve accommodated with the free software, means investing some of your earnings, time and effort in professional paid tools such as Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. Mastering these pro software requires lots of practice and patience, but rest assured because these are extremely powerful and used widely in this industry as standard assets.
If you plan on working as a freelance graphic designer for a while, some other great tools you should consider are Bonsai, Honeybook, Bundlify, Clarrow, Agile, Hiveage etc. These tools can help you from creating proposals for clients, managing projects, creating contracts, to organizing your taxes and sending invoices. To enjoy a great benefit on your graphic design journey, getting familiar with using these tools will surely become a huge advantage.
Don’t let yourself be intimidated and discouraged by discovering a new software that you’re unfamiliar with. This is part of the learning process and Google might be your friend when you’ll search for quality materials.
Step 3: Build a portfolio
Before becoming a successful graphic designer, you have to consistently work on building your portfolio. With samples that present your vision and abilities as a graphic designer for the clients and employers, your portfolio will be essential in the decision of hiring you.
You will be capable of building a body of work even with the lack of real world experience, due to many options that lie in front of your eyes ready to be opened. Offering your design services to friends and their friends, even to your family members might help you practice and refine your design process, as well as improving your graphic design skills through these self initiated projects.
Remember to always get inspired by something already existing out there on the internet whenever you find it difficult to come up with new ideas. Just add your personal touch, translate what you see through your own eyes and infuse your own vision into it. Try redesigning a marketing visual, a logo that you like or a website that might send you the feeling of needing a visual revamp. Embrace the endless possibilities and think strategically because this is how you’ll build your portfolio brick by brick. All these efforts will eventually reflect the type of graphic design jobs that you are keen on.
Of course you will experience some frustration at first by creating designs that you will dislike. As the time goes by you won’t like what you designed last week or last month but trust that this is normal, it’s how you grow. Most of the designers that you admire might have started just like you so if you think this might help, try searching for their stories and let them inspire you in following your path.
Hold on to your goal, be consistent in what you learn and want to know, practice your skills on any design that captures your attention. You’ll discover that all this time you were developing your own design style, creative and unique in the process of reaching where you needed to be.
Eventually the feedback you’ll receive will become positive and following your graphic design passion will pay off.
Step 4: Showcase your work
As you become proud of your achievements and your portfolio that was refined many times reflects yourself as you want to be perceived, it might be the right moment to upload it or create a new graphic design portfolio with your best work that will be showcased online. You’ll begin to feel that it was worth all that hard work that got you to this point where you enjoy collecting the fruits of your dedication after planting the seeds and watering your dream.
Make sure you let the world know that your graphic design services are available for anyone that views your portfolio, preferably shared on Behance or Dribbble to be discovered by their millions of monthly visitors. What’s even more interesting is that many design recruiters and hiring managers search for new talent on these platforms, so you might be lucky and nail your dream job.
Be creative when you’ll build your graphic design portfolio and whenever it seems like it can be improved, just do it. Practice more to add more of your work, and enhance the way you get seen as a graphic designer on the scene.
Step 5: Graphic designers create connections
Your design portfolio is how you begin your professional graphic design career and it’s a continuous road to be followed. Designers enjoy communicating with each other and value the power of the graphic design community. Networking is key to keep on improving your skills, so build connections and don’t be afraid to engage in conversations with experienced designers and even experts. This is where opportunities rise, so remember that partnerships and referrals will help you open your eyes while you advance on this beautiful path.
The same renowned places like Behance and Dribbble where your work gets exposed are the mediums where you will collect most of your valuable feedback that will help you grow as a designer. Prepare to watch your skills improve quickly after you pursue these important steps, as you embrace every criticism or appreciation of your designs.
Step 6: Create a real-world work experience
If you’ve reached this point in becoming a self taught graphic designer, you’ve had the best teacher available out there: yourself. So real-world work experience will soon be under your belt. Evaluate objectively your skill level and start applying to graphic design internships and entry level jobs that will help you even more to become that badass graphic designer you swore you’d be when you began this journey.
Navigate online through all the available jobs matching your experience and skill, also try applying to freelance design jobs. Some companies might have caught your attention along the way and you should reach out to them if you’d really like to work there. All possibilities await you, so just take the chances and express your interest!
You will need to develop some soft skills too as a graphic designer, so job hunting for learning the best practices of an interview, for engaging in client communication and for selling your designs will eventually push you towards success!
Contact us to find out more about what we do and how we can help you!