How to Become a graphic designer in 6 easy steps (2023)

how to become a graphic designer
Table of Contents

Are you eager to begin your path on how to become a graphic designer?

Then most likely you have landed in the right article for you.

Graphic design is a fascinating field that allows you to bring your creative visions to life.

With the rise of digital art and design, more and more people are discovering their interest in this field.

And who can blame them? The possibilities are endless!

But where do you start?

You might be surprised to discover that starting a career in graphic design is easier than you might think, especially if you have a roadmap to guide you.

That’s where I come in! In this post, I will provide you with 6 simple but effective steps to launch your graphic design career.

What is graphic design?

Graphic design relies on the use of images to communicate ideas and messages creatively and effectively.

By combining text, illustrations, symbols, and images, designers work to solve problems and strategies in a variety of fields, from branding to advertising, from web design to publications and packaging.

1. Understand the Basics

understand the basics of graphic design
Image credits: Canva.

It’s great that you are thinking about jumping into graphic design! But where do you start?

The journey starts with learning about this amazing subject.

As with many other fields, visual communication is a vast ocean, dotted with so many elements:

  • text,
  • images,
  • colors,
  • symbols.

By becoming a graphic designer, you will be the perfect combo between an artist whose creativity and skill paint his or her picture.

At the same time, you’ll become a careful problem solver with a strong command of all design principles, as well as software skills.

Thus, by becoming a graphic designer, you’ll enter a world of creativity, endless innovation, and visual communication skills.

This is just the beginning of an exciting world of graphic design all to be explored!

Actionable tips

become a graphic designer
Image credits: Canva.

  • Learn the Design Principles: Familiarize yourself with the principles of design like balance, hierarchy, contrast, rhythm, repetition, proportion, and space. They are your bread and butter in creating aesthetically pleasing designs.
  • Practice Regularly: Practice makes perfect. Try replicating existing designs to understand how they’re made, then move on to creating your own.
  • Experiment and Explore: Don’t be afraid to try different styles and techniques. This will help broaden your design range and find your unique voice.
  • Critique and Reflect: Learn to critique your own work and accept critique from others. It’s a powerful way to grow as a designer.

Relevant examples

apple logo for graphic designers
Image credits: Apple.

When it comes to learning the basics of graphic design, we can start with logo design, for example: let’s talk about the Apple logo.

Looking at it at first glance it looks simple, clean, maybe even too minimal, don’t you think?

But in reality, it is anything but!

The work that went behind to create this striking logo was revolutionary and very challenging.

For starters, the designer Rob Janoff who designed this fantastic logo had to study Apple’s core values in depth in order to communicate them effectively.

Then by applying basic design principles, such as a balance of elements and minimalism, Rob managed to create a clean and visually pleasing image, which has since become one of the most famous images ever.

And it didn’t end there, because Rob Janoff also had to consider other elements such as versatility, ensuring that the logo would look just as effective and impactful on a small mobile screen as on a huge billboard.

My personal experience

Continuing to talk about design basics, I would like to say a few words about my personal experience in the field, as I come from studying graphic design in college.

I thought I was supposed to become a wizard of software such as Photoshop and Illustrator, but very soon I had to change my mind, as I had not come to terms with understanding the basics of graphic design.

When I started working and studying the fundamentals on which graphic design stands, such as:

  • alignment,
  • contrast,
  • repetition.

Then, I noticed a marked improvement in my skills and the resulting quality of my work.

In addition, I slowly realized the importance of studying the principles in getting more and more clients.

Moreover, being able to deliver work to those clients that are not only visually appealing but are also functional, and can communicate effectively to the target audience.

Attend Graphic Design Basics

Graphic design basics skillshare
Image credits: Skillshare.

Want to start with the basics of graphic design?

This is the essential course for mastering great design, with designers Ellen Lupton and Jennifer Cole Phillips!

In their amazing graphic design basics course, you’ll first explore the 5 basic principles of graphic design, perfect ideals for images and typefaces in all projects, from marketing collateral to creative design.

You’ll learn how to identify and define each basic design principle, critique your own work, and apply the core concepts in your own projects to achieve deserved success!

Try Canva

Best tool for Beginners Graphic designers

canva graphic design software
Image credits: Canva.

And here we come to the first tool that I recommend, especially if you are new to this and not yet familiar with any software.

I’m talking about Canva software!

Entering the world of graphic design is a fantastic path but also a really challenging one, even though it might not seem so at first glance, which is why having a tool that is easy to use in the beginning can be a winning weapon.

Canva we can say is the go-to platform that beginners and seasoned professionals rely on for their projects these days, made specifically for experimenting with the basics of graphic design.

It has many basic features that are perfect for newbies, such as drag-and-drop functionality, template library, fonts, and graphics, which make it easy to create impressive designs.

I personally use it sometimes for quick projects like social media posts.

Get started with Canva.

2. Get the Right Education

solid understanding of graphic design
Image credits: Top Digital Agency.

Moving on, I cannot avoid mentioning the importance of getting the right education (not only in an Academy) using the right educational tools, such as online course platforms can be.

I spend two words on education: traditional degrees are important, as they offer a comprehensive view of the design world, establishing a solid foundation in design, but also opening up significant networking opportunities.

But not everyone can afford a three-year course in graphic design, which is why I feel like saying that you can definitely become a professional even without entering a University, thanks to the digital realm.

Online courses, webinars, digital workshops, mentoring, you name it, are fantastic for learning, as they offer options that are flexible and diverse-even for those who don’t have a lot of time.

Actionable tips

coursera graphic design degree
Image credits: Coursera.

  • Research Degree Programs: Look for formal education programs that offer a comprehensive course in graphic design. Make sure the curriculum includes a mix of theory and practical assignments.
  • Consider Online Courses: If traditional education seems too time-consuming or expensive, consider online courses from reputable platforms like Udemy, Coursera, or Domestika. They offer a wealth of information at a fraction of the cost and time.
  • Attend Workshops and Seminars: These are fantastic opportunities to learn new skills and stay updated with the latest industry trends. They also provide a platform to interact with industry experts and like-minded individuals.
  • Choose a Specialization: As you delve into your education, consider choosing a specialization. This could be anything from web design to typography. A specialized skill set can make you more attractive to potential employers or clients.

Relevant examples

domestika graphic design course
Image credits: Domestika.

I’ve mentioned it before, but I never tire of bringing it up again: the platform that changed my approach to online education is Domestika itself.

This website in my opinion has really revolutionized the digital approach toward learning the subject of graphic design and beyond by offering courses taught by top professionals covering everything from basic design principles to various specializations.

And yes, I can say that it’s like having your own personal design school inside a laptop, without having to go to the University every day!

You can choose what to take, courses can be paused, held at your own pace and schedule, without having to go to the classroom or read bricks of books.

Instead, you learn as you go, with numerous interactive project-based assignments that apply what you have learned, so it is a tool for learning design and other disciplines aimed at practical application.

My personal experience

Starting from pure initial passion, slowly my journey in graphic design became a job, and I was able with the right training to grow it more and more into a full-fledged career.

I went to a traditional design school, a three-year graphic design school, but I can firmly say that I learned a lot more from the online world, from platforms like Domestika, Skillshare, and, of course, YouTube.

All the courses I have taken and will continue to take are taught by experts in the field (sometimes far more experienced than Academy professors!), who have provided insights that textbooks could not.

The possibility then of the flexibility that an online course offers is priceless: you learn at your own pace, and you can take a course from wherever you want – great for those who, like me, travel a lot and work remotely, plus it offers the opportunity to interact with a global community of learners.

Attend Skillshare courses

skillshare graphic design course
Image credits: Skillshare.

Can I tell you something? From my point of view, embarking on a graphic design path is an exciting experience, full of endless possibilities and also many challenges.

But be sure not to give up! You’ll find at the click of a button a wide range of resources geared toward those just starting out now that are designed precisely to help you kick-start your design career.

These courses that you can find at Skillshare, another top-quality online course platform, cover essential graphic design concepts, such as visual principles and knowledge of major graphic design tools, for all levels of learning.

Try Skillshare

Best tool for graphic design courses

skillshare graphic design program
Image credits: Skillshare.

Read my full Skillshare Review.

Early on in my journey many years ago, one of the first online course platforms to become established was indeed Skillshare (claim 1 month Premium for Free with Desircle), which has become one of my favorites, and which I recommend to all aspiring graphic designers.

With an extensive library of courses taught by industry experts in a wide variety of fields, Skillshare offers an unparalleled learning experience for those who want to improve their graphic design skills.

What has always impressed me and therefore sets Skillshare apart from other online course platforms is its focus on hands-on learning. The platform offers a wide range of graphic design courses covering everything from the basics to advanced techniques.

Get started with Skillshare.

3. Master the Tools

best tools for in house graphic designers
Image credits: Canva.

When it comes to graphic design, of course, creativity is one of the most valuable skills an expert possesses.

However, creativity in itself is not enough, because the difference between a great design and an ordinary one is often also given by numerous other factors, such as the tools one uses.

What are the best tools for graphic design? One cannot help but refer to Adobe Suite: these tools are the benchmark for all professional graphic designers around the world.

Adobe Suite offers a powerful range of both desktop and mobile applications such as Photoshop for image editing, Illustrator for vector graphics, InDesign for designing magazine layouts, and XD for designing the user experience for websites and apps.

Each of these applications has specific functions for its own purpose, so it is important to slowly learn to master them all to improve the quality and efficiency of your work.

Actionable Tips

actionable tips for graphic design industry
Image credits: Adobe.

  • Start with Adobe Suite: if you want access to all the most comprehensive expert programs, you’ll want to start with Adobe Creative Cloud.
  • Learn Photoshop: Adobe Photoshop is essential for editing images, and now even more so with AI capabilities, and you’ll find plenty of tutorials online.
  • Explore Illustrator: Adobe Illustrator is perfect for creating vector graphics, a must-have if you want to do branding and logo design, for example.
  • Understand Adobe XD: this tool is designed specifically for UX/UI development of websites and apps, so it turns out to be one of the best in the field of web design.

Relevant examples

Looka relevant examples for graphic designers
Image credits: Looka.

Take designing a logo as an example: it all starts with some rough sketches done by hand on a sheet of paper, but turning them into a polished final product takes some experience and software mastery.

That’s where Adobe Illustrator comes in, which, thanks to its vector system, is the best tool available for creating scalable designs that don’t lose quality when scaled down – from social to large billboards.

Now let’s say you need to show your logo to a client: this needs to be incorporated into posters, branding design, merchandising, and more.

For this purpose, then start by picking up Adobe Photoshop software, which allows you to make changes, apply the logo to mockups, and prepare images for digital or print use.

Using the Adobe suite, you will have everything you need to take your project from idea to final completion and delivery.

My personal experience

If you are looking for an effective tool but don’t know which one to choose, know that I understand you very well! When I began my graphic design journey, I was overwhelmed by the multitude of tools at my disposal.

The Adobe suite seemed like an essential tool for me to master, but each program, from Illustrator to Photoshop and InDesign, presented its own challenges.

Opening Adobe Illustrator for the first time felt like stepping into the cockpit with all the buttons, but as I experimented, watched tutorials, and practiced, I discovered the power of these tools.

Slowly I was able to become familiar with the entire Adobe suite, which became my greatest ally in my design process, translating my creative ideas into real projects.

Attend Introduction to Adobe Illustrator

domestika course for graphic design education
Image credits: Domestika.

If like me at the very beginning, you’re looking for an effective course, to learn the basics of graphic design and start a design project whether in print or digital format, then Aarón Martínez’s “Introduction to Adobe Illustrator” course, which includes six informative courses, is the right solution.

This course will help you familiarize yourself with the Adobe Illustrator software, learn the tools from scratch, and practice them throughout the course with a series of exercises.

It starts with the basics, where you become familiar with the interface and creates a document from scratch, which allows you to create basic shapes using early vector lines. Don’t wait any longer and test your skills now with this fantastic course!

Try Adobe Creative Cloud

Best tool for professional graphic designers

adobe creative suite for motion designers
Image credits: Adobe.

What is Adobe Creative Suite? A collection of popular industry-leading software for graphic design, web development, video editing, and photography, which I have personally used since I was in college.

As graphic design software, we can say that it is the gold standard for creative people and there are indeed millions of professionals who use the Adobe Suite for their projects.

This fantastic suite includes the best programs, which you have probably already heard of, such as Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign, all tools that are really essential for graphic designers.

Adobe Creative Suite offers you everything you need to become a true creative professional, thanks to a wide range of high-quality tools and the always up-to-date integration between the different applications.

Get started with Adobe Creative Cloud

4. Create a Portfolio

create a portfolio studio art
Image credits: Killer Portfolio.

Well, let’s move on to talk about point 4, one of the fundamentals and must-haves for becoming a true graphic design professional, that is, your beautiful portfolio!

What is a portfolio? Whether in digital or paper format, the portfolio is proof of your exceptional skills and design abilities. It is an essential tool for showcasing your work and impressing potential clients or employers.

To make sure your portfolio is up to scratch, it is essential to put your best work on it (you don’t need all of it, just the ones you think are best) to showcase your different skills and qualities.

If I have to be honest, I think the story behind each project is more important, even more so than the visual aspect, because let’s remember that a graphic designer aims to convey a message.

Actionable tips

online portfolio for graphic designers work
Image credits: Killer Portfolio.

  • Present only the best projects: it would be good to focus only on what reflects you, makes you feel proud of your work, and is a reflection of yourself.
  • Tell stories: the portfolio is not just a visual tool, where you show a final product, but it is a journey inside your creative thinking, made of a brief, process, and how you arrive at the final product.
  • Keep it up to date: it seems obvious, but you will soon realize that when you work full-time as a graphic designer, your time to manage your portfolio is really limited, so be sure to keep it up to date!
  • The presentation is key: yes, the portfolio is a reflection of yourself, so it needs to be taken care of so that it represents your qualities, but also your personality, so spend as much time as you need.

Relevant examples

online portfolio for graphic design jobs
Image credits: Killer Portfolio.

Want a prime example? Imagine for a moment that you’re not a newbie, but are already an established freelance graphic designer, perhaps specializing in logo design.

Then, of course, the portfolio will focus primarily on the key elements you need to include in your presentation, namely a selection of your best logo designs.

How to do this? You start by showing a series of logos you have created, called a “Logofolio“, which can be pertaining to different industries, so you can point out the versatility of your work and attract various niches, showing that you know how to meet specific needs of different clients.

But that’s not all: next to each logo, as I mentioned earlier, it’s a good idea for you to provide a description, more or less in-depth, outlining the client’s initial requirements, the design process you carried out, and how you managed to translate the concept into a visually appealing logo.

My personal experience

Creating my portfolio has been both an exciting and very challenging experience in my graphic design career, I admit!

This is because I, too, initially made the mistake of not “making time” to create my portfolio. When I put my mind to it, however, my portfolio allowed me to showcase my skills, share my style and philosophy with others, and leave clients with a clear imprint.

Through this powerful tool, I carefully curated a selection of my best work that represents my skill set and all my passion.

Attend Digital portfolio design

domestika course for graphic design career
Image credits: Domestika.

We understand the importance of creating a portfolio for your career as a professional graphic designer, but how do you create one? I recommend you take this course and learn from Mark Brooks!

Mark is a renowned graphic designer and art director who has worked with major clients such as Adobe, Lufthansa, Martini, New York Yankees, and Audi.

With lots of tips from a true graphic designer expert, you’ll learn how to become a graphic designer and create a portfolio that is effective, visually appealing, and simple.

Try Squarespace

Best tool for portfolio websites

squarespace for other graphic designers work
Image credits: Squarespace.

If you are new to building your portfolio and don’t know what to choose from the wide selection of tools available online, may I suggest you try Squarespace.

This web design tool is perfect for those who want to get started with the world of freelance graphic designers but don’t have coding skills, guaranteeing you can create websites on your own, thanks to its easy editor and hundreds of fantastic templates.

Squarespace is the right platform for you if you want to build a portfolio to showcase your work in a polished and professional way, especially suitable for creative looks, such as a portfolio for graphic designers, web designers, or creative professionals.

Get started with Squarespace

5. Gain Experience

experience on how to become a graphic designer
Image credits: Canva.

Taking your first steps into the creative world, and selecting what tools may be best suited to your needs, in this evolution to get ready to become a graphic designer expert, experience becomes a determining factor.

Technical skills that develop with time and dedication, and in-depth knowledge of design theory are important pieces of the puzzle, but without hands-on experience, it can be difficult to stand out from the crowd.

So how to do it? One thing to start right away is to try to work on real projects because that’s what will give you insight into how to apply your skills, deal with clients, and build your portfolio.

Some ideas for getting started with real work can be collaborating with local businesses, or even nonprofit organizations, or even your friends-these are all simple initial steps that are a great way to take on design elements and projects.

Actionable tips

Upwork actionable tips for junior graphic designers
Image credits: Upwork.

  • Work on real projects: Start by applying your skills to real scenarios, looking for opportunities to work in your inner circle, with friends, local businesses, and nonprofit organizations in your area.
  • Seek an internship: If you are new to the field, internships provide a valuable opportunity for exposure to the design field and hands-on experience right away.
  • Start freelancing: You might consider a freelance career early on, accepting proposals from clients to gain experience working with clients.
  • Collaborate with other designers: Creating a work network is equally crucial; join with other designers to work on collaborative projects.

Relevant examples

relevant examples for agency graphic designers
Image credits: Canva.

Now let’s look at a practical example you can apply right away: if you want to gain experience as a graphic designer, you can start with the idea of working for a graphic design and communications agency in your area, or online.

Alternatively, there is the possibility of testing the ground of freelancing right away. I, for example, started with my first project, which was a website and branding redesign for a local Chrome company.

The beauty of working as a freelancer is not only because you will develop your skills as a graphic designer, but because and more importantly, you will gain hands-on experience in client management, personal communication, and managing your own work (including economics).

My personal experience

As mentioned before, I studied graphic design in college, but studies are nothing compared to skills applied in the market and in real projects with clients.

This has been a real school-ship for me because it has given me the opportunity to work with people, deal with various projects, understand the client’s needs, and improve my skills as I go along.

If I have to give you an example of a project that I followed, certainly one of the most formative was a job for a Tennis brand, a real challenge where I put my whole self on the line, not only because of the qualities of my work but especially because of my soft skills in project management.

Attend Design Workshops

domestika course for in house graphic designers
Image credits: Domestika.

Experience sometimes leads you to have to manage entire design teams! For this, I recommend that you prepare yourself best with the help of strategist and researcher Grace Ascuasiati!

With more than 15 years of experience working with top organizations such as IKEA, Telenor, and Huawei, Grace has all the makings of remarkable results.

In this online course on the Domestika platform, Grace reveals her secrets for planning, developing, and running successful design workshops that foster collaboration and ignite creativity.

Try Todoist

Best tool to manage personal projects

todoist design software for project management
Image credits: Todoist.

To really gain practical experience in real work as a graphic designer, it is essential for you to also have project management skills, as you will have to structure projects in collaboration with other designers and, most importantly, with clients.

Todoist is a perfect online platform for managing tasks, collaborating with teammates and clients, and tracking progress in project development.

Whether you are managing projects, your own simple to-do list, or assigning tasks to third parties, its intuitive interface and features are really helpful in keeping an organized agenda.

Get started with Todoist

6. Network and Market Yourself

network for graphic design positions
Image credits: Canva.

To get graphic design positions in a dynamic environment that is constantly evolving and expanding, networking and marketing are key factors in building a successful career.

To enable you from the very beginning to connect with fellow designers, potential clients, and industry professionals, here are some quick tips: attend industry events, conferences, and meetings.

Why do I say this? Because it all starts with making connections. Who knows, it might even be the gateway to collaboration opportunities and new referrals that bear great fruit over time.

To create important connections, also use social media platforms such as Instagram, LinkedIn, and Behance to showcase your projects, connect with the design community and attract potential clients.

Actionable tips

actionable tips for graphic design position
Image credits: Canva.

  • Real events: You can attend design events, conferences, and meetings to connect with industry professionals and potential clients.
  • Connect: Build relationships and network with other designers through online communities and forums.
  • Social Media presence: optimize your profiles to align with your personal brand and engage other designers and clients.
  • Join communities: there are thousands of online design groups to connect with like-minded professionals.

Relevant examples

relevant examples for commercial graphics production
Image credits: Behance.

For those just starting out, it can be a little difficult to think about being able to build your own effective networking, but I can assure you that this is not the case; it is actually much easier than you think.

If you are persistent and dedicated to making connections in your field, online and offline, you will definitely be successful, I can guarantee you that.

And where might you start, speaking of practical examples? Well, Instagram is the social media platform for freelance graphic designers to consider. You can create designs and attract the attention of not only other creatives but also potential clients.

My personal experience

As for you, there was a time when I started, and I didn’t even have an idea and a focus on where this would take me until I began to see the real fruits of it.

I learned early on that networking and effective promotion of myself and my brand (in this case, Desircle) are essential components of success to be pursued over time.

By starting with a simple Instagram page, and connecting with other members of the digital design community through events, meetings, and online platforms, I was able to establish valuable relationships that provided me with a great deal of exposure.

Attend The Power of Networking

domestika course for communication skills
Image credits: Domestika.

Building a powerful and collaborative network is essential to unleash your full creative potential and show the world your capabilities!

In this course with Isabel Sachs, who, with more than 15 years of practical experience in the music and theater industries, founded the “I like networking” mentoring platform, you will learn exclusive techniques for creating true relationships with people.

Try Desircle

Best online graphic designers’ community

desircle communiry for freelance designer

Desircle is the flagship of graphic designers, a unique online community designed precisely with freelance graphic designers foremost in mind.

Through our unique environment, you can connect with other designers from around the world, gain new skills and perspectives, learn from the experts, and make yourself known.

Our platform and community on Instagram present a path where creativity meets collaboration, opening up endless possibilities for inspiration, networking, and exposure.

Connect with Desircle


How do freelancers get their first job?

Freelancers can get their first job by showcasing their skills and portfolio, leveraging their network, utilizing online platforms and job boards, and actively pitching their services to potential clients.

How do I approach someone for freelance work?

When approaching someone for freelance work, it’s important to be professional, showcase your expertise, and clearly communicate the value you can bring to their project or business.

How do I find people who need freelancers?

To find people who need freelancers, you can explore online job platforms, join relevant professional communities and forums, network with industry contacts, and promote your services through social media and your professional website.

Executive Summary

Congratulations on completing this ultimate guide and choosing to embark on the exciting and fulfilling journey of becoming a graphic designer!

I assure you that the path is filled with endless opportunities for creativity and professional development. By following these 6 simple steps, you can create a solid foundation for your career as a graphic designer.

Once you have mastered the basics and training necessary for your career, and become familiar with the tools to hone your key skills, rest assured that you will arrive at the results you want to achieve.

Remember that staying curious, accepting challenges, and constantly learning and growing are key to your success, so don’t wait any longer to start your journey as a graphic designer!

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