How to become a graphic designer in 6 easy steps (Guide and resources)

how to become a graphic designer

Embarking on a career in graphic design is an exciting journey into a world where creativity meets practical application.

As we step into 2024, the landscape of graphic design continues to evolve, offering a plethora of opportunities for those passionate about visual communication.

This guide will navigate you through the 6 simple steps on how to become a graphic designer, even without a graphic design degree, providing insights and practical advice to set you on the path to success in this dynamic and rewarding field.

What is graphic design?

Graphic design is an art form where professionals create visual content to communicate messages.

By applying visual hierarchy and page layout techniques, designers use typography and pictures to meet the specific needs of users and focus on the logic of displaying elements in interactive designs to optimize the user experience.

It’s not just about making things look appealing; it’s about effective communication.

Graphic design encompasses various fields including web design, branding, illustration, and advertising, each requiring a unique blend of creativity and strategy.

How to Become a Graphic Designer

Embarking on a journey to become a graphic designer is both exciting and challenging. In this guide, we outline six essential steps that will pave your path in the dynamic and creative world of design.

These steps are designed to provide a clear roadmap for anyone aspiring to enter this field, regardless of their current level of experience or skill.

From understanding the fundamentals of design to mastering the tools of the trade, each step is crucial in developing the skills and knowledge required to succeed.

1. Understand the Basics

graphic design basics

Embarking on a graphic design career begins with a foundational understanding of the field. Graphic design is a vast domain encompassing elements like text, images, colors, and symbols, all crafted to convey messages or ideas.

A graphic designer is a fusion of an artist, bringing creativity and skill to the fore, and a problem solver who adeptly wields principles and software skills.

Stepping into design opens up a world of innovation and visual communication, marking the start of an exhilarating journey.

Learning the Design Principles

Graphic design is an art form where aesthetics meet function. Start by immersing yourself in the core principles of design like balance, hierarchy, contrast, rhythm, repetition, proportion, and space. These basic design principles are fundamental in creating visually appealing designs.

Practice Graphic Design Skills

Practice is essential. Begin by replicating existing designs to understand their construction, then transition to creating your own. Experiment with various styles and techniques to find your unique voice. Remember, each design is a learning opportunity.

Self-Critique and Feedback

Developing the ability to critique your work critically and accept feedback from others is invaluable. It fosters growth and helps refine your skills as a designer.

2. Get the Right Education

graphic design education

Education is pivotal in design, not confined to traditional academia. While traditional degrees offer a comprehensive overview and network opportunities, not everyone can pursue a three-year course.

Fortunately, the digital world provides an alternative path. Online courses, webinars, and digital workshops offer flexible, diverse learning opportunities, suitable even for time-constrained individuals.

Exploring Educational Paths

The journey to becoming a graphic designer often starts with formal education. Research degree programs that offer both theoretical knowledge and practical experience. Look for curriculums that are comprehensive and align with your creative career goals.

The Power of Online Learning

For those seeking flexibility, online courses on platforms like Udemy, Coursera, or Domestika are excellent alternatives. They offer a broad spectrum of courses catering to all levels at a fraction of the cost and time of traditional degrees.

Workshops and Specializations

Attend workshops and seminars to stay updated with industry trends. As you delve deeper into your education, consider specializing in a particular area like web design or typography to distinguish yourself in the job market.

3. Master the Tools

best tools for graphic designers

When it comes to building a career for junior graphic designers in the creative industry, 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.

For aspiring graphic designers, creativity is crucial, but mastery of tools is equally important. Adobe Suite stands as the benchmark graphic design software for graphic designers globally, offering a robust suite of applications for various design needs.

Mastering these tools enhances the quality and efficiency of one’s work, allowing you to kickstart your journey on how to become a graphic designer.

Adobe Creative Suite

adobe creative suite

Begin your tool mastery with Adobe Creative Suite, even without a graphic design degree. It’s the cornerstone of professional graphic design software, offering comprehensive solutions for various design needs.

Photoshop and Illustrator

Adobe Photoshop is pivotal for image editing, while Illustrator is essential for vector graphics creation, critical for branding and logo design. Explore Adobe XD for UX/UI design, a crucial tool in web and app development.

4. Create a Portfolio

create a portfolio

A professional graphic design portfolio is a crucial element on how to become a graphic designer. This collection, whether digital or physical, is a testament to one’s design skills and abilities.

A well-crafted online portfolio should highlight the best work and visual concepts, and the story behind each project, showcasing the designer’s skill set and messaging capabilities.

Showcasing Your Best Work

Your online portfolio should reflect your best work, your journey, and your personal brand. It’s not just about the final product; it’s about the story, the process, and how you arrived at the solution. Every business require to take a look at your portfolio in the hiring process.

Updating and Presentation

Keep your digital design portfolio updated with your latest work. How you present your portfolio reflects your personality and professionalism, so invest time in making it a true representation of yourself and your digital art skills.

5. Gain Experience

gain experience in graphic design

Experience is a vital ingredient in the evolution of a graphic designer. While technical skills and design theory knowledge are essential, real-world experience sets one apart.

Working on actual projects with local businesses, non-profits, or friends can offer invaluable insights into skill application, client interactions, and portfolio development.

Real-World Experience

Start applying your skills in real-world scenarios. Work with local businesses, nonprofit organizations, or personal connections. Internships offer invaluable exposure and hands-on experience in the field.

Freelancing and Collaboration

Consider freelancing to gain diverse experiences. Collaborate with other designers; it’s a great way to build a network, learn from peers, and work on exciting joint projects.

6. Network and Market Yourself

network for graphic design positions

In the dynamic and evolving field of graphic designers work, networking and self-marketing are key to success as a professional graphic designer.

Attending industry events and using social media platforms like Instagram, LinkedIn, and Behance can foster connections with fellow designers, potential clients, and industry professionals, opening doors to collaborative opportunities and new projects.

Connecting at Events

Attend design events, conferences, and seminars to meet industry professionals and potential clients as a freelance graphic designer.

These real-world interactions are crucial for building a professional network in the graphic design industry as a professional freelance graphic designer.

Online Engagement and Communities

Leverage social media and online platforms to showcase your graphic design skills and work and connect with the design community.

Join a graphic design program such as online groups and forums for graphic designers to engage with peers and stay updated on industry trends.

Tools and Resources

To become a graphic designer, it’s crucial to have access to the right resources, tools, and courses. These elements provide the necessary knowledge, skill enhancement, and practical application opportunities to grow as a designer.

Whether you’re a beginner or looking to polish your skills, the right mix of these components can significantly elevate your design capabilities.

Graphic Design Tools

The right tools are essential for bringing creative visions to life. They range from software for image editing and vector graphics to web design and animation.

1. Adobe Creative Suite

adobe creative suite example

Adobe Creative Cloud is an extensive collection of creative tools and services used by designers, artists, and creatives worldwide.

It includes industry-standard applications like Adobe Photoshop for image editing, Adobe Illustrator for vector graphics, and Adobe InDesign for layout designs.

This suite offers versatile capabilities for various design needs, from photo manipulation and graphic design to animation and video editing.

Its integration allows seamless workflow and file sharing between different applications, enhancing the efficiency and artistic ability of personal projects.

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2. Figma

figma example

Figma is a powerful web-based design tool that allow graphic designers collaborate efficiently. It’s widely used for UI and UX design, enabling designers to create designs like interactive prototypes, design systems, and collaborate in real-time.

Figma’s intuitive interface and vector-based design capabilities make it a popular choice for modern web and app design projects.

Its ability to operate on multiple platforms without the need for powerful hardware renders it accessible for graphic designers work of all levels.

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3. Webflow

webflow example

Webflow is a revolutionary UX/UI design tool that combines the functionalities of a visual design interface with a CMS and hosting platform.

It allows designers to build responsive websites without extensive coding knowledge. Webflow empowers designers to control every aspect of UX/UI design, from layout to interactions, with real-time previews.

It’s particularly beneficial for many graphic designers seeking to bridge the gap between visual design and front-end development.

Webflow: No-code website builder
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Webflow is an in-browser design tool that gives you the power to design, build, and launch responsive websites visually.

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Graphic Design Resources

Graphic design resources are invaluable for inspiration, learning new techniques, and staying updated with the latest trends in the industry. They range from design blogs and books to online tutorials and design communities.

4. Envato Elements

envato elements example

Envato Elements is a subscription-based service offering an extensive library of commercial graphics production and high-quality design elements for creatives. It includes a wide range of resources such as templates, graphics, fonts, and stock photography.

This platform is ideal for budding designers needing a vast selection of creative assets to enhance their projects, offering unlimited downloads and simple licensing for personal and commercial use.

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Graphic Design Courses

Courses are fundamental of graphic design education for acquiring new visual communication skills or enhancing existing ones. They offer structured learning from basics to advanced techniques, guided by industry experts.

5. Graphic Design For Beginners

graphic design for beginner course example

This graphic design course is perfect for those starting in graphic design. Led by award-winning designer Silvia Ferpal, it delves into the essential principles of design, including shape, typography, color, and composition.

It teaches how to conceptualize and execute ideas, thereby shaping a unique visual style.

The course is structured to help beginners understand and apply fundamental design concepts, making it an invaluable resource for anyone looking to venture into the field of graphic design.

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6. The History of Graphic Design

the history of graphic design example

This graphic design history course offers an in-depth exploration of the influential design and art movements of the 20th and 21st centuries.

It examines how global events have shaped the graphic design industry, delving into style eras like Art Deco and their lasting impact.

The course provides a comprehensive understanding of how historical movements have influenced contemporary design aesthetics, making it a must for anyone seeking to deepen their understanding of graphic design’s evolution.

The History Of Graphic Design

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Graphic Design Books

Graphic Design Books offer a treasure trove of knowledge, inspiration, and practical advice for both aspiring and experienced designers.

These books range from introductory texts covering the basics of principles and typography to advanced explorations of design theory and practice.

They are essential for those looking to deepen their understanding of graphic design’s history, trends, and techniques.

7. How To (Book)

how to book

This revised and expanded edition of “How To“, a renowned graphic designer’s monograph is a treasure trove of design knowledge and inspiration.

This graphic design book showcases a broad portfolio spanning the designer’s entire career, offering invaluable insights and examples.

The book covers various aspects of design, from conceptualization to execution, making it a must-have for both aspiring and seasoned designers seeking to refine their skills and creativity.

How to Revised and Expanded Edition

How To book is a renowned graphic designer’s monograph is a treasure trove of design knowledge and inspiration. 

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8. Know Your Onions

know your onions

Know Your Onions” is a graphic design book that stands out for its practical, straightforward, and engaging approach.

It’s akin to having a personal mentor guiding you through the intricacies of graphic design. This book demystifies the creative process, offering a wealth of tips and insights that are typically gained through years of professional experience.

What sets “Know Your Onions” apart is its accessibility and relatability. It addresses complex design concepts and printing techniques in a manner that is both easy to understand and enjoyable to read.

The book covers a wide range of essential topics, from idea generation and concept development to the practical aspects of implementing designs digitally.

Its humorous and conversational tone makes it an enjoyable read, ensuring that the learning process is not just informative but also entertaining.

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"Know Your Onions" is a graphic design book that stands out for its practical, straightforward, and engaging approach.

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What qualifications do you need for graphic design?

To become a graphic designer, you typically need a combination of formal education and practical experience. A degree or diploma in graphic design or a related field is often preferred, but not always mandatory.

Essential qualifications include a strong portfolio showcasing your design and communication skills, proficiency in design software (like Adobe Creative Suite), and a solid understanding of design principles, typography, and color theory.

How do I start learning to be a graphic designer?

Start by exploring the basics of the design process online or through books. Engage in free or paid online courses on platforms like Coursera, Udemy, or LinkedIn Learning.

Practice using design software like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. Follow design blogs, participate in design communities, and start working on your own small projects to build a portfolio.

How many years is it to become a graphic designer?

Formal education in graphic design typically takes 2-4 years, depending on whether you pursue an associate’s degree (2 years) or a bachelor’s degree (4 years).

However, becoming proficient can vary, as continuous learning and experience play a significant role in your development as a designer.

Do graphic designers make money?

Yes, both freelance graphic designers (self-employed) and in-house graphic designers can earn a good income. In-house graphic designers salaries vary based on location, experience, and the type of design work.

Other graphic designers that make this on freelancing may earn more by managing their client base and projects but may also have periods of less stable income.

Is it hard to become a graphics designer?

Becoming a successful graphic designer can be challenging but rewarding. It requires a balance of creativity, technical key skills, and constant learning.

Staying updated with the latest design trends and software updates is crucial. The difficulty also depends on your dedication to improving your craft and adapting to industry changes.

Can I learn graphic design myself?

Yes, you can learn graphic design on your own. With numerous online resources, tutorials, and courses on “How to become a graphic designer” available, self-teaching is a viable option. However, it requires discipline, dedication, and a proactive approach to practice and apply the skills learned.

Is it worth it to become a graphic designer?

Becoming a graphic designer is worth it if you have a passion for creative expression and visual communication. It offers the opportunity for creative fulfillment, a flexible career (especially if freelancing), and the chance to work in various industries.

As with any career, success in graphic design depends on your commitment, continuous learning, and adaptation to industry trends and demands.

How do I get a job as a graphic designer with no experience?

Getting a job as a graphic designer without experience involves showcasing your potential through other means. Start by building a strong online graphic design portfolio that demonstrates your design skills, even if it’s through personal or mock projects.

Offer to work on small projects for local businesses or nonprofits. Stay updated with industry trends and continuously improve your skills through online tutorials and courses.

Which degree is best for graphic design?

The best degree for graphic design often depends on your career goals and learning preferences. Commonly, a Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design and Fine Art is ideal as it provides a comprehensive college education in design principles, software, and practical applications.

However, degrees in related fields like Visual Communications, Studio Art, Digital Media, or Basic Art can also be beneficial.

For those looking at specialized roles or advancing their career, Master’s degrees in Graphic Design or related disciplines can be considered.

Can I make a 100k as graphic designer?

Yes, it is possible to make $100k as a graphic designer, although it typically requires a combination of experience, advanced skills, and often a specialization in a high-demand area of design.

Senior graphic designers, motion designers, agency graphic designers, creative directors, or those with expertise in UI/UX design or digital product design, for example, can command higher salaries.

Additionally, most graphic designers who successfully work in the freelance designer field (self-employed) or run their own agencies have the potential to earn six figures, though this often involves business acumen in addition to design skills.

Source: Labor Statistics.

What is the highest paid graphic design job?

The highest paid graphic design jobs would be designers in senior or specialized roles. This includes graphic design positions like agency graphic designers, Creative Director, Art Director, UX/UI Designer, or Senior Product Designer.

These roles often require extensive experience, a strong professional portfolio, and potentially advanced education or specialized training.

In each of these graphic design position, individuals are not only responsible for design but also for strategy, leading teams, and overseeing major projects or product designs, which commands higher compensation.

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Executive Summary

This guide provides an in-depth roadmap for aspiring graphic and communication designers, outlining essential steps, resources, tools, and courses to excel in the industry by 2024.

Becoming a graphic designer, both if you want to work in-house or freelance graphic designers, requires a blend of foundational knowledge, practical skills, and continuous learning.

This guide not only lays out the steps to enter the field but also provides resources, tools, and courses to stay ahead in the ever-evolving world of graphic design.

Whether starting from scratch or aiming to upgrade skills, this guide serves as an essential companion for anyone aspiring to make their mark in the creative world of graphic design.

The path to becoming a graphic designer is unique for everyone. Embrace the learning process, stay curious, and never stop creating.

Your perspective and creativity have the power to influence the world around you – so start designing your future today.

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