There’s a big question most of people ask me often that How we can be a professional graphic designer without going to college? It’s an interesting question and my answer to this question is yes!
Back in the 90s, there was no option for online learning. At that time, it was very hard to learn anything. due to the lack of internet in those days, you couldn’t take help from the online industry experts online. But luckily it’s all available today. There are many online tutorial websites, blogs, YouTube videos, etc. which are available today. These resources are enough to make you learn anything or almost anything if not all.
I don’t know about other fields of study, but Graphic Design is the skill you can learn online for sure. I did my 4 years degree in Visual Communication Design, but it’s true that I learned more by the online tutorials.
What is Graphic Design
There’s a long history of Visual Communication. Meggs History of Graphic Design written by Phili B. Meggs and Alston W Purvis, explains about the brief history which I’m copying here:
“Since prehistoric times, people have searched for ways
to give visual form to ideas and concepts, to store knowledge
in graphic form, and to bring order and clarity to
information. Over the course of history, these needs have
been filled by various people, including scribes, printers,
and artists. It was not until 1922 when the outstanding
book designer William Addison Dwiggins coined the term
graphic design to describe his activities as an individual who
brought structural order and more visual form to print
communications, that an emerging profession received an
appropriate name. However, the contemporary graphic designer
is heir to a distinguished ancestry. Sumerian scribes
who invented writing, Egyptian artisans who combined
words and images on papyrus manuscripts, Chinese block
printers, medieval illuminators, and fifteenth-century
printers and compositors who designed early European
books all became part of the rich heritage and history of
graphic design. By and large, this is an anonymous tradition,
for the social value and aesthetic accomplishments of
graphic designers, many of whom have been creative artists
of extraordinary intelligence and vision, have not been
So in a nutshell, Graphic Design is a tool to communicate ideas visually. There’s a big miss conception that Graphic Design and advertising are both the same. This is not true. Graphic Design, which is also known as communication design is a part of advertising and not the whole advertising itself. Because in an advertising agency, they need not only graphic designers. They also required the expertise of copywriters, brand strategists, artists, etc.
What Should I Know to be a Graphic Designer?
Now the question arises, what you should know to be a graphic designer? and it has a logical answer, there are two things for a good graphic designer, No. one, which you must know and the second, which you should know about. The information you must have to be a good graphic designer is the Elements of Graphic Design and Principles of Graphic Design.
There is a very good book about the principles of graphic design and which is Universal Principles of Design. This is an amazing book that gives you a more in-depth knowledge of the principles of graphic design with the help of practical world examples.
Basic Elements of Design
The Line is the basic element of design. Line is a stroke drawn by the pen or pencil or digitally to divide space.
Color is the most obvious element. Every design has a color. It can be applied to the other design elements.
Shape is a combination of lines or it is defined by lines in a space. Every object has a specific shape or a combination of shapes. There are four basic shapes, Circle, Triangle, Square, and Rectangle. All other shapes are an extension of these shapes.
Texture is the appearance of the surface. For example, wood has a specific appearance or surface than marble. Texture gives the feeling of 3 dimensional when applied on any 2-dimensional surface.
Every shape lies in space. There are negative and positive spaces. The area occupied by shape is a positive space and the area which left is negative space. Please see the example in an image below:
One of the major elements of design is Type. There are many designs that are based on Type only and that is why they are called typographic designs. The proper use of typography can make the design more effective.
Scale is a design element that has to do with the size of an object. Scale is measured as the size of one object in relation to the other objects in a design or artwork.
Balance in design is concerned with the distribution of elements of the design. Balance is a visual translation of gravity in the design. For example, Large or bold elements appear to be heavier while smaller or shy elements appear to be lighter.
Give more importance to a certain element of the design is emphasis. It can be achieved with various methods. For example, in Photography the focused object is emphasized than blur background.
Harmony in design is the combined effect of all elements when putting together. Following design is the perfect example of harmony:
There are ten basic elements of design. Every design consists of these elements. Following are these 10 elements of design:
Things Which Are Helpful in Becoming a Professional Graphic Designer
Other things which you should know these days to be a graphic designer. Especially if you want to be a freelancer are below:
- Basic Computer Knowledge
- Know-How About Copywriting
- Familiarity with Advertising Technologies
- Basic Knowledge About Branding Strategies
Basic Computer Knowledge
These days, manual graphic design is replaced by computer graphics. There is no manual graphic design in the advertising industry anymore. I don’t know the place where graphic designers are not using computers to do their daily job. There are amazing options of design software available in the market like Adobe Suite including Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe InDesign, and for the motion graphics Adobe Premiere Pro, Adobe After Effects, Cinema 4D, etc.
You cannot learn these software until you don’t have basic computer skills. Thanks to the internet, now you have the option to learn these skills by online courses.
Learn Copywriting Skills
If you know all the information we discussed above, then it’s great! But there’s one more thing which you should know, especially if you want to run your freelance graphic design business, and that is Copywriting. In a design career, there are moments when the client wants you to write a copy because of his own benefit. In this way, there’s a big amount of money that the client saves by avoiding to hire a full-time copywriter. It is also good to have an ability to convert your ideas into words and then words into visuals. Here are some great courses which can help you to learn online and then practice to polish your copywriting skills.
Familiarity with Advertising Technologies
If You know the industry norms like printing technologies and their pre-press requirements then its great. You should have knowledge about printing techniques, broadcast frame rates, ratios for motion graphics or other contemporary industry standards.
If you know these technicalities then you’ll save a lot of your time and your client’s money. If you don’t know about these things, then chances are you’ll send them wrongly formatted files which eventually will cost either you or your client. You can also learn branding by yourself online.
Basic Knowledge About Branding Strategies
Being a graphic designer, you should also be familiar with branding requirements. You should have knowledge of branding processes. It is necessary. Because if you work with a branding team, then you should be able to fulfill the branding team’s visual requirements. Business Branding The Complete Course is of the best courses for beginners.
There is no shortcut to becoming a graphic designer overnight. The consistent work and self-paced learning would definitely make you a shiny gem for your clients.