If you’ve ever been struck by a website’s visual appeal — perhaps to the point where you felt compelled to buy something — you can rest assured that a talented graphic designer was the mastermind behind the art.
Ask any creative professional, and they’ll surely tell you that graphic design is a critical component of marketing and advertising. Enhancing the overall appearance of digital and print materials with organized elements like font, color, white space, and pictures helps deliver a message that a brand’s intended audience hears.
Graphic design skills are essential for those looking to enhance their creativity or pursue a career change. If you’ve ever wondered how to learn graphic design as a beginner, you’ve come to the right place.
Of course, like anything else, graphic design requires fundamental learning of the basics and a steadfast commitment to perfecting one’s technique. Continue reading to discover how beginners can become masterful graphic designers.
What Is a Graphic Designer?
A graphic designer uses computer software to create images, illustrations, logos, and photos to capture consumers. Sometimes, their designs aim to inspire and inform users, as the method has proven itself as a powerful tool to convert leads.
Graphic designers’ work is often utilized for digital marketing, including websites and social media posts. It’s also crucial for developing print ads, brochures, magazines, and reports.
Generally, graphic design is a coordinated effort in which designers meet with clients, art directors, and other marketing professionals to define a project’s scope. Expert professionals maintain extensive knowledge of graphic design principles, color theory, typography, and imagery to transform complex ideas into accessible information.
According to PayScale.com, graphic designers earn an average salary of $48,052 annually, depending on their skills, experience, and education.
8 Tips for Beginners to Learn Graphic Design
Individuals who learn graphic design set themselves apart from job applicants that lack design skills. For those simply interested in broadening their artistic horizons, graphic design is the perfect opportunity to boost creativity. Here are eight ways you can learn graphic design as a beginner.
1. Gain Knowledge of Design History
Deep dive into design history to understand what makes specific arrangements and styles more effective than others. Reading up on famous designers and artists also encourages an appreciation for past and current methods.
Take note of colors, patterns, styles, and ideas that attract you — this is often a good indication of your graphic design preferences and passions.
History helps enrich your knowledge of the past to inspire your creations in the future. You can learn more about design history from books, podcasts and documentaries, among other resources.
2. Learn the Elements and Principles
Exploring the elements and principles of graphic design is likely the best way to jumpstart your learning as a beginner.
The primary graphic design elements include lines, shapes, texture, color, size, and value — the juxtaposition between dark and light visuals. Meanwhile, graphic design principles comprise balance, alignment, repetition, proximity, and space.
Contrast is also a principle of design — however, whereas it serves as a fundamental elemental characteristic, it’s utilized more as a technique in its principle form. Graphic designers employ both elements and principles to communicate with their audience.
You might notice that design appears in our everyday lives, from food and product packaging to highway billboards. It even appears when you open an app on your phone.
Before putting elements and principles of design into practice, take a few moments to analyze a box of food from your pantry or a page in a catalog. Notice what elements stand out the most — a fancy font? Bright colors? Imagery?
Then, determine how the designers used the principles of design. For instance, check for symmetry, negative space, or how the elements align.
3. Play Around With Typography
Popular brands like Nike, Disney, Twitter, Giorgio Armani, and the Harry Potter books all use easily recognizable fonts. As such, it’s probably unsurprising that typography — text arrangement — is integral to a brand’s presentation and communication.
Typography adds character and elevates a brand’s design through the following type:
- Typeface: The font or design for numerical and alphabetic characters
- Lettering: Hand-drawn or digitally-created letterforms that are noticeable in logos, signs, advertising, invitations, murals, and more
- Typesetting: The layout of text across different mediums — for instance, text blocks, hierarchical heading structure, captions, quotations, and others
When one typeface is paired well with another, it can evoke different emotions in consumers. Take, for example, a local bakery sign. Many bakeries use script lettering that denotes an elegant or whimsical aesthetic with a hint of sweetness.
Check out typography magazines and blogs to learn more about the different typefaces and lettering styles you can pair in graphic design.
4. Discover Color Theory
Like typography, color theory influences mood, with some referring to the combination of hues as a particular “vibe.”
Beginners should learn the primary rules of color theory to create visuals that appeal to the masses. The best way to do this is to study other designers’ works and develop your own color palettes as the basis of your compositions.
Curate photographs and other illustrations, pinpointing colors that make you feel something. For example, yellow typically makes people feel hopeful or happy and is a valuable color in advertising and logo design.
Likewise, green is known for its therapeutic effects, instilling stability and calmness. Many pharmaceutical and medical companies use green in their designs to stimulate a sense of healing.
5. Become Fluent in Graphic Design Lingo
Learning the correct terminology will allow you to communicate effectively with other graphic design professionals.
Some of the more common design terms include the following:
- Golden ratio: A 5th-century mathematical concept that means the ratio of two parts equals the sum of the ratio of the larger part — used by designers to create an attractive format
- Hierarchy: Text order, such as headings, that make it easier to read the text
- Rule of thirds: A grid shape that designers use to guide their design elements through various points
- Kerning: Spacing between letters and characters that creates a balanced and proportional type
By learning the essential lingo, you’ll find that mastering graphic design is much easier than it appears.
6. Practice Graphic Design Programs
Graphic design software has evolved since Adobe released Illustrator in 1987 and Photoshop in 1989 — two of the most popular computer design programs still utilized today.
As a beginner graphic designer, you’ll want to learn the basics of different graphic design programs to develop logos, posters, brochures and more. Once you’ve learned the ins and outs of the essential design tools, it’ll be much easier to achieve top-notch work.
Various graphic design software programs have different purposes. For example, Adobe Illustrator is ideal for vector images like logos and icons. Meanwhile, creatives — from graphic design experts to photographers — use Photoshop to edit, retouch and manipulate images.
Other programs like Adobe InDesign can create multi-page layouts for magazines, yearbooks, brochures and more. Sketch is another practical software used to design websites and mobile applications.
7. Take Graphic Design Courses
Understandably, it might be challenging to master graphic design programs on your own. Each software includes hundreds of mechanisms to help designers create appealing designs, some of which only an expert can demonstrate to unlock each program’s potential.
Remember that graphic designers never stop learning. As technology advances and new techniques reshape the graphic design landscape, you’ll have to continuously expand your practice and find new ways to approach your work.
Therefore, taking non-credit continuing education in graphic design or design-specific courses is helpful to fill in the knowledge gaps.
8. Find Inspiration
Finally, look for inspiration online or wherever you go. When trying to learn graphic design, thinking like a designer and observing the world around you through a creative lens is essential.
Assemble mood boards or Pinterest boards, collecting typography pairings and color palettes that you find striking. An aesthetics board of landscape photography or images will prove effective when seeking inspiration for your creations. Instagram is also an ideal place to spark imagination and innovative designs.
Are You Ready to Learn Graphic Design?
If you’ve always been told you have a knack for creativity and details, graphic design might be the perfect skill to learn. Immerse yourself in the history, principles and terminology of design to take your creative skills to the next level.