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By Kristen Fischer |

How to Become a Graphic Designer: Follow These Steps


Having a career in the arts doesn’t mean you have to be a starving artist. Becoming a graphic designer is a viable creative career that allows you to express your artistic superpowers and pay the bills.

Whether you’re an independent contractor, or work for a creative agency, or nab a job at a company, it takes more than an eye for design to launch a flourishing career as a graphic designer.

Here’s how to become a graphic designer — with help from lynda.com.

Design fundamentals

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Becoming a graphic designer requires some basic design knowledge. You’ll want to familiarize yourself with the history of graphic design, and dive into fundamentals such as layout, typography, and color.

Design is always evolving, so it’s also helpful to stay on top of trends that affect the field.

Different media

Some graphic designers may only work in the print field on collateral like brochures, while others may be designing for the digital arena. Others design for products, which means their art can appear on everything from beverage bottles, books, and textiles to skateboards, magazines, and apparel.

Some designers are employed in a specific industry—for example, a designer for a pharmaceutical firm may create images as well as charts and technical graphics. Then there are those who create for print, digital, web, and mobile arenas.

When thinking about the kind of graphic design career you want, consider the types of collateral you want to specialize in. Depending on the work setting, this can vary.

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Creative process and strategy

Most clients will not specify what they want when they retain a designer—they only know they need a professional to get whatever “it” is. This is why a designer must be able to look at a client’s overall goals, strategy and branding foundation, and then work design concepts into that.

For instance, the clients may not know what they want their logo to look like, so you’ll have to do some exploring and imagining to devise one that appeals to them and meets their standards.

This involves a creative process that begins before actually creating a logo or campaign.

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You’ll need to brainstorm ideas and figure out how to deliver a design that not only looks appealing, but can attain the results the client’s after—whether that is to increase sales or create a catchy campaign.

Some designers complete this process alone, but it typically takes on a collaborative, team-based approach.

The tools—and skills—of the trade

Having the right tools for the job is key, and that starts with a computer (most designers work on Apple systems). When it comes to software, graphic designers should be well versed in multiple applications, as different clients will use varying tools. Learning Adobe Photoshop, Adobe InDesign and Adobe Illustrator is highly recommended.

Pay attention to the version of software you use. If you work for a firm, they may deliver everything using one program. Graphic designers who are self-employed have to coordinate technology with clients that may use different programs or have different versions of software, so making sure you’re on the right page ensures all your work is transferred and delivered correctly.

In addition to software expertise, you need a few other skills. Understanding how colors interact and how to lay out graphics is important, as is knowing how typography and content affect your work. After all, your designs may not be stand-alone pieces; they could be on a piece of marketing collateral that involves headlines, content, and other interactive features.

Business know-how

 In today’s freelance marketplace, graphic designers have plenty of options. For those who are self-employed, or do contract work on the side of a regular job, it’s imperative to understand business basics so you can run your own shop—and run it well.

What kinds of factors should you take into account when filing taxes? What should your legal contract include? How can you continue to bring in new projects? Knowing how to do business as a solo professional is a must!

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Being a graphic designer is a multifaceted career that offers some big rewards. Good design begins with artistic elements, but it requires the right person to bring them to life so it can resonate with others.

As famed designer Milton Glaser once said, “There are three responses to a piece of design—yes, no, and WOW! Wow is the one to aim for.”

Good luck on your way—and happy learning!


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