Graphic design has been one of the most sought-after career paths of many creative souls out there. To be a qualified professional in this field, most would usually opt to go to a good design school. Unfortunately, it’s not always a possible choice for many people.
Still, it doesn’t necessarily mean one is unable to pursue their dream to become a designer just because they don’t have relevant formal education. If you are interested in starting a new career as a designer, read on to further learn what you need to know.
What is Graphic Design?
Graphic design, as defined by the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA), is the act or process of expressing experiences and ideas through the means of visual and textual-based content. Its primary objective is to communicate or enhance a particular idea or message to the target audience.
As an old saying goes: visual speaks louder than words. Certain complicated information could be a lot more digestible when communicated with good graphic art. Imagine a spreadsheet that includes big data analytics. To promote ease of understanding for the viewer, a graphic designer might employ colors to differ the fluctuation of metrics.
A well-executed design product also has the ability to influence the viewer to take action. Food packaging design, for example, is purposefully created to make the food appear much more appealing, and prospective buyers are encouraged to purchase it.
While many design projects are intended for commercial purposes, such as logos and branding materials, they are also utilized in other settings. In many cases, they are purely employed as a medium to express creative ideas.
Why is Graphic Design Always in Demand?
Liberal arts careers like graphic design can be regarded as highly creative professions. Creativity itself is a human quality that can never be replaced by technologies like Artificial Intelligence, no matter how advanced it is.
The world has always been running on a visual basis, even prior to the digital era. There even does not seem to be any business that does not require the expertise of graphic designers. These people are creative professionals who play a significant role in preserving and enhancing user experience that becomes vital to the survival of any industry.
The mobile apps and websites you use, the leisure material you consume on a daily basis, the healthcare services, the cars you use to move around, and even your shopping experience are all incorporating design products created by professionals with a high sense of creativity.
With those facts in mind, it’s understandable that companies and organizations would like to recruit more qualified individuals for their design-related work. It’s also because the design is a part of branding required by a business to be a leading company. This should throw some light on why graphic designers are in high demand.
Tips to Become a Graphic Designer Without a Degree
There are a number of methods to pursue a career as a graphic designer, one of which is to study at art school. From history to practical knowledge, you will learn everything you require to be a graphic designer throughout the years you spend on formal education.
However, going to design school is not the only way to become proficient in graphic design. Many professionals in this field are self-taught, and you could take the same avenue, too. Below are the tips to help you achieve your dream as a graphic designer without going to school.
Build Your Foundation
In order to become a self-teaching graphic designer, you need to know where to start off. You aren’t an artist just because you buy a canvas and paintbrush. You have to start with the fundamentals.
- Learn how to draw. First and foremost, get your hands used to drawing. You can perform this by looking for resources that will guide you to master the basics of drawing in 30 days.
- Learn the theory. The next step is to learn the basics of design. These include knowing the idea of color, typography, and a grid system. Also, you will need to brush up on some user experience fundamentals. The internet exists for you to look for reliable sources to learn those basics.
- Learn how to write in design. Text cannot be separated from design. It goes hand in hand with graphic art in conveying a message to the audience. Many resources on the internet can give you tips to express different emotions through words.
- Learn to get rid of your work. When you design a project that appears not to work, don’t be hesitant to get rid of it. Don’t waste your time and creative thoughts on something that won’t end up great. Just create something new and completely different.
Master the Design Software
Suppose you have equipped yourself with the fundamentals of graphic design. In that case, it’s time to step up to the complicated things of all: design software. You can start with free design tools such as Inkscape, CorelDraw, or Vecteezy, which are also great for beginners.
Once you are ready to level up your skill set, try to invest your time in mastering the most widely used design software, namely Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. It’s advised to start with the former.
You will find a bunch of Illustrator video tutorials online and some textbooks you can try out. Just look for resources that provide you with all the fundamentals you need to know. If you have mastered Illustrator, step up your design software proficiency game with Photoshop.
Again, the internet is the best place to find tutorials on mastering a design tool like Photoshop. You may also visit websites like TutsPlus or PSDTuts as they provide comprehensible tips about Photoshopping.
It’s important to note that the programs you need to master differ as per the needs. It might be a bit daunting to learn how to use new design software, but don’t let yourself be discouraged. You can get plenty of easy-to-understand resources for free on the internet.
Get to Know Your Specialty
The next step is to figure out which area of graphic design you would like to specialize in. Of course, you could be the jack of all trades, but it would be a taxing career option. It would be best if you mastered one specific niche only.
By this point, you might be questioning: how can I find my specialty as a designer? You can start off by answering the following questions.
- What type of design work naturally draws you into? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and this applies in the design world, too. A design that fits your personal taste is your future niche. You can figure out this the moment you learn the design fundamentals.
- Is there any design niche that speaks a lot about your lifestyle? Your personal lifestyle, like your interest, may serve as a great source of your design niche. For instance, you are interested in fashion to the extent that you are knowledged in fashion logos. For this reason, you could consider clothing logo design as your specialty.
- What kind of design work will help you grow? Working in one area of design could get you burned out. For this reason, consider which niches provide enough diversity and artistic exploration to help you grow and keep you engaged.
Once you have found your area of expertise, starting on your design portfolio is a piece of cake. You may begin by developing a few organic ideas and visualizing them. Next, find people in a specific industry who may require the services you offer. Last but not least, present your ideas to them in the most possible professional way.
It’s worth noting that getting your first ever clientele is never an easy task. Don’t be discouraged because everything indeed seems hard in the beginning. The moment you get your first client and make them happy with your work, the rest will naturally fall into place.
5 Graphic Design Jobs to Pursue Without a Degree
Graphic design is not a dying field of occupation. Instead, it’s changing at a considerably rapid pace. It is expected to grow around 3% by 2030, much slower than other jobs’ average. Despite that, companies and organizations are still in demand of creative professionals. Below are some design careers you can start off without schooling.
Web designers and graphic designers are different occupations. However, many of the latter are also the formers. Due to the nature of websites that are interactive, designing a website requires a multidisciplinary approach, including fundamental graphic art skills and UX/UI design competencies.
Web designers are often in charge of creating visual products (icons, buttons, images, illustrations, etc.), designing engaging and user-friendly page layouts, ensuring the optimization of graphic elements for all types of devices, creating interactive components, and many more.
You can find illustrations in various mediums, including websites, advertising material, and even branding products. Yet, they are also employed in other different ways. Plenty of self-taught graphic designers opt for this design area as their niche. Many even focus solely on providing a service of creating illustrations and will collaborate with certain larger design agencies.
Illustrators may produce images to add graphical assets for websites, books, marketing campaigns, technical manuals, social media, and more. The illustration styles from one designer to another can be immensely varied, so are the design tools they utilize to produce drawn artworks.
Some people have a knack for graphic design, and they optimize it to be their side hustle. If you are in the same position, you may consider a freelance designer as your other job that brings you extra money. Besides, you can enhance your skills and competencies on your own as the number of projects you are working on grows.
Being a freelance graphic designer means you become your own employer. You manage your own portfolio, reach out to prospective jobs, set your own service rates, establish your project timelines, etc. As a freelance designer, you ought to ask for feedback from the clients so that you can adjust your work as per the request.
Suppose you love anything about typography and are used to making custom hand lettering. In that case, a type design could be your future area of expertise. Many graphic designers specialize in this niche—they are in charge of designing custom lettering, crafting typography elements, and selecting fonts for a brand.
Type designers are required on a variety of projects because words are part of everyday life. They may be recruited to produce wedding invites or company logos, and they may also help with branding by selecting or designing typefaces that fit the brand image. It’s not also uncommon to see type designers working on elements for web design, package design, and promotional products.
Another design niche you may consider to be your future career is a signmaker or a sign designer. As the name implies, it’s a type of job that requires a designer to deal with a sign. As a signmaker, you create signs for clients with different design needs. For that reason, you need to learn what colors, design elements, and materials they want.
Conventional sign makers usually deal with physical works, like painting or hand carving patterns, lettering, and designs into the intended signs. Now, they also utilize industrial machines and graphics programs to produce signs in bulk.
Aside from the five professions above, there are still other positions you can land on without getting through formal education. These include video editor, visual designer, video game designer, and photo retoucher.
Keep Learning and Improving
Learning to become a professional graphic designer doesn’t necessarily have to start with going to a design school. Of course, we cannot undermine the benefits a formal education has to offer. Yet again, spending four years in an even good design school is not always in the cards for many.
With a strong will and dedication, you will eventually find your way to enter the graphic design world. Once you put one step into this creative industry, becoming a professional self-taught graphic designer is just a matter of time. Remember that design is a constantly changing field. Keep learning and make sure to keep yourself up to date on new design methods and tools.