So you want to become a graphic designer

September 18, 2009

Graphic design is an interesting and creative business and I believe that part of it is raw talent but the majority of it is hard work.  Being dedicated to learning from the best and getting into the habit of reviewing other peoples work and understanding why it has an impact or emotional response.

If you get this right it is amazing, but if you get it wrong it can completely fall flat.

If this is an area you are just starting out on then the following few things I have found useful might be of use to you.

Tools of the trade

A lot of people when they think of graphics automatically think of Photoshop which is a great application but for some tasks like graphic design it may not be the most appropriate.  The true professional tool for graphic design is Illustrator, also from Abode.  It is a vector based design program and is top in its field.  If you’re not sure what vector based graphics are then the following wikipedia page may be useful (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vector_graphics_editor)

The one draw back of Illustrator is it costs $600.

An alterative that is Open Source is Inkscape (www.inkscape.org) which is free and runs on a number of different platform. So, as a starting point Inkscape is a great way to start working with vector graphics and there are a number of excellent tutorials on YouTube to learn how to use it.

The Open Source alternative to Photoshop is GIMP. (http://www.gimp.org/).

There is no denying that Photoshop is a better application but for most task GIMP is more than capable of meeting your needs.  Oh yeah Photoshop is $500, so the free thing for GIMP is a real bonus.

Techniques and learning

So, you now have the right tools to become a graphic designer but what are the elements and rules of graphics design.  A book that I have which I recommend unreservedly is Design Basics Index by Jim Krause

This book is not specific about computer design, but is about how to do excellent design.

My copy is well thumbed and is a great place to go for inspiration.

Keeping up with trends and the competition

Finally, it is essential to keep current.  If your designs are not of the moment then they fail.  It reminds be of watching the Brady Bunch movie where Mr. Brady’s design (he had only one) was so retro that it was right.

So, how to do you keep on top of what is current.  You could trawl the internet and watch for new sites and designs but wouldn’t it be great to be able to go to one place for this.  Well, thinking about this I believe http:///www.99designs.com/ is a great site for this

This is a site where people put up briefs for design work and then designers bid for it by showing their designs.  As somebody learning design this is a fantastic resource for 3 reasons.

  1. You get to see what other designers are doing so you have work out how to create the same effects and designs.
  2. You can view the briefs for the projects to see how others interpreted it. Alternatively, you can go straight to the brief, do your own design and then see how it compares to the marketplace.  A great way to see how your skills are progressing.
  3. Once you are confident in your ability you could even use the site to get some cash for your designs.  Nothing proves that you are skilled like somebody being willing to pay you.

These are just some of the things that I believe would help a new designer to get on their way to becoming a great designer.

Let me know if you agree or disagree.


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