How to get started as a graphic designer
4 min read
So you've decided to pursue a career as a graphic designer? Whether you're considering a career transition or unsure whether graphic design is right for you, we're here to help.
The good news is that going to school or investing in a formal education is no longer your only option. To get a job as a graphic designer in 2020, you'll need to master the fundamentals: gain experience, learn how to work with clients, and be willing to put yourself out there.
Graphic design is definitely a professional path worth pursuing if you're enthusiastic about design, connecting with people, and willing to put in the time and work. Follow the steps below to learn how to become a self-taught graphic designer.
Step 1: Learn the fundamentals While a formal education is not required to become a graphic designer, you must have a thorough understanding of the essentials. This includes brushing up on the fundamentals of graphic design and understanding how to employ components like color, contrast, hierarchy, balance, and proportion effectively in your work.
Even better news: there are a plethora of free graphic design courses available online to help you get started. Try out a few different courses and refer back to them as needed.
If you're interested in a certain graphic design specialty (for example, brand identity design, social media marketing, or website design), it's not a bad idea to look for materials that are unique to the type of design job you want to accomplish.
Step 2: Invest in the proper equipment. If you want to work as a graphic designer, you'll need to learn how to use the software that you'll use to create your work. If you're just getting started, try trying a couple free graphic design programs before buying in more powerful software. Among the various free graphic design tools available, Vecteezy, CorelDraw, and Inkscape are excellent choices.
When you're ready to advance your technical abilities, we recommend spending time learning industry standard software like Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop. These are the most extensively utilized tools in the industry, and they're really effective.
It can be intimidating to learn how to use new software, but don't let that deter you! There are numerous free online resources available to assist you in mastering these skills, and finding quality content is as simple as conducting a Google search.
Step 3: Create a portfolio of work You can't become a professional graphic designer without first establishing a compelling body of work—clients and companies will request work samples before determining whether or not to hire you.
You could be thinking to yourself, "How can I create a body of work without any real-world experience?" You'll be relieved to learn that there are numerous possibilities available to you as a young graphic designer. Start practicing your abilities and refining your design process by producing your own self-initiated projects or providing your design services to family and friends.
If you're having trouble coming up with ideas, take inspiration from something that already exists and make it your own. The options are unlimited. Redesign your favorite logo, a website, or develop marketing materials for a brand that you believe could use some help. But be strategic: build up a portfolio of work that directly matches the graphic design opportunities you'd like to pursue.
It's also worth noting that you might not be able to come up with something you like right away. Don't be discouraged by this. Some of today's most talented designers began their careers in the same way. Keep going, and you'll eventually build your own design style and discover your own creative approach.
Step 4: Get your work seen Once you've amassed a body of work you're proud of, it's time to put it all together in an online graphic design portfolio to show off your hard work and let the world know you're accessible.
There's no one-size-fits-all approach to creating a great design portfolio, and there's no way to ensure you'll be offered every freelance or full-time position you apply for. That said, growing your design portfolio, like any other design project, is an iterative process—it gets better the more you practice and hone your talents, so keep adding new work to your portfolio!
Step 5: Build a network of graphic designers. Your work isn't done once you've completed your design portfolio. The importance of networking and community building for graphic artists should never be underestimated. For refining your talents, engaging in useful talks with industry experts, and obtaining new possibilities through recommendations and partnerships, building connections among your graphic design peers is essential.
Step 6: Work in a real-world setting. It's time to acquire some real-world experience under your belt on your path to become a graphic designer. You could wish to start by looking for entry-level graphic design jobs and internships, depending on your skill level.