As a creative entrepreneur, you will never run out of design needs.
From social media graphics, blog posts, content upgrades, product packaging… design is a necessity for all new businesses.
Hiring a designer for each element can be expensive and time consuming.
Wouldn’t it be easier if you could create a few of these design elements on your own?
In this blog post, I’m going to tell you everything you need to know to teach yourself graphic design.
From researching design history to learning the terminology to jumping in and designing your first project, you’ll walk away with the perfect game plan to jump-start your new creative venture.
READ MORE: 14 Behind-The-Scenes Secrets Of Plumbers
1 | RESEARCH DESIGN HISTORY
The importance of knowing design history is often under-valued.
The value of history, in general, is often under-valued. I know I wasn’t exactly thrilled about my history classes back in high school.
But, understanding history, helps you understand why graphic design is used the way it is.
For instance, I bet you didn’t realize that the first designs date all the way back to ~38,000 BCE. Historians believe that the first cave paintings were created to illustrate stories.
Today, our draw towards visual communication only grows. Studies have proven that 65% of people are visual learners, meaning they understand and grasp a concept better when it is visualized in front of them. – Source
This demand for visual communication dates as far back as human existence, which highlights just how important understanding design history is to understanding designs use and relevance today.
2 | RESEARCH DESIGN TERMS
Before you begin learning how to create graphics that convert viewers into loyal readers, you’ll need to learn a few basic design terms.
The graphic design world has its own terminology, just like any field of study. Knowing and understanding those terms is a vital first step in teaching yourself design.
Once you begin watching tutorials or reading blogs, a lot of basic design terms will be used that you may not understand, which is going to make it a lot harder to complete the tutorial.
Here are a few basic terms you should know to get you started:
TYPOGRAPHY RELATED TERMS
Typography: is the design or selection of letterforms to be organized into words and sentences.
Body Copy: refers to the main group of text in your design.
Leading: is the adjustment between lines of text to improve legibility.
Kerning: is the adjustment between two individual letterforms to improve legibility.
Tracking: is the adjustment between all letterforms in a text to improve legibility.
Legibility: references how easy it is to distinguish between the individual letterforms.
Orphans & Widows: refers to the word(s) that appear at the top or bottom of a column of text. You typically want to avoid orphans and widows in your design.
Alignment: refers to how you organize elements on the page.
Pull Quote: a brief, attention-catching quotation, typically taken from the main text of an article and used as a subheading or graphic feature.
COLOR RELATED TERMS
Color Palette: a collection of colors that is used in an illustration, brand or design project.
Hue: a gradation or variety of a color
Tint: is the process of adding white to a color to make the hue brighter.
Shade: is the process of adding black to a color to make the hue darker.
Monochromatic: A color scheme built out of only one color, including tints and shades of that color.
Analogous: A color scheme built out of three colors that are next to each other on the color wheel.
Complementary: A color scheme built out of two colors that sit opposite each other on the color wheel.
Triadic: A color scheme built out of three colors equally spaced around the color wheel.
CMYK: Or Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black, is a color model that is used for print purposes.
RGB: Or Red, Green, and Blue is a color model that is used for on-screen purposes
Pantone (PMS): Pantone Matching System is a standardized system of colors for printing. Every Pantone shade is numbered, making it much easier for people to reference and identify exact shades of color.
PHOTO RELATED TERMS
Opacity: The degree of transparency an element has. The lower the opacity, the more transparent an element is.
Resolution: The amount of detail an image has. Generally speaking, the higher your resolution, the better your images appear.
Stock Photo: A professionally shot photograph available online for licensing. Stock photos are usually used when you can’t hire a professional photographer.
Rule of Thirds: The design theory that if you divide your image with two vertical and two horizontal lines, the areas where your lines intersect will become focal points.
These are just a few of the design terms, you may want to know. If you are interested in a more specific type of design, like brand design, web design, or packaging design, you’ll want to research some genre-specific terms.
3 | UTILIZE DESIGN BLOGS
There are countless graphic design blogs and vlogs that detail the basics and beyond.
Blogs are a great resource for beginners because, not only is the content free. But, credible blogs are kept updated for their readers to teach new trends, software, and techniques.
I think graphic design books are an amazing resource, but blogs are an exceptional resource that can be overlooked.
4 | FOLLOW DESIGNERS ONLINE
Designers, like myself, are often sharing their work, techniques, and methods online.
For instance, on my blog, I share blog posts that detail my client projects, behind-the-scenes of my design process, and tips or tutorials to share my experience.
Outside of bloggers, you can follow along with graphic designers on Instagram, Behance, Dribbble, Pinterest, or YouTube.
Instagram and Pinterest are great resources for following designers you want to learn from or work with in the future. You will find a lot more small business owners and freelancers on these platforms.
Behance and Dribbble are more professional platforms for designers in agencies.
YouTube is the best platform, outside of blogs, to learn graphic design skills and techniques.
5 | STUDY OTHER DESIGNER’S WORK
This is something that is often missed or done incorrectly by beginners because they’re afraid of stealing people’s work.
But, it’s important to start understanding how all of these design theories are used in practice. By studying, practicing and recreating other designer’s work you can get a feel for your design software and the real-life uses of design theory.
Recreating famous or popular work, helps you deconstruct the basics of design and learn how to apply them.
Note: If you are re-creating other people’s work only use these as homework assignments, don’t share them publicly unless specifically told you are allowed to.
6 | START WITH FREE SOFTWARE
Before investing in Adobe software, utilize free software.
Free software is great for beginners because they help guide you through the design process with auto-alignment, patterns, and templates.
One of the most commonly used free software is Canva.
Note: If you want to use Canva for business graphics, be careful. The language on their website is a little vague and you don’t want to get in any legal trouble. Some interpretations would suggest that you cannot use the Free version of Canva for anything business related – and certainly not if you plan to sell an item (such as an eBook) that utilizes elements made with and/or found in Canva. There’s similar verbiage regarding “Canva for Work” that limits your use of designs created with the tool. I’m not a legal counsel, so if you want to use Canva for business graphics, I recommend getting legal advice first.
When you’re ready to graduate from free design software, or plan to do graphic design professionally, Adobe Software is the industry standard.
The most common Adobe Softwares you may use as a small business owner, are:
Adobe Illustrator is a vector based software used for graphics and illustrations. Since it is vector based, it has infinite scale.
Adobe Photoshop is pixel based software primarily used for photo editing.
7 | TAKE CLASSES ONLINE
If you’re struggling to learn on your own or you want more in-depth knowledge, online courses are a great route.
Programs like Envato Tuts+ and Lynda offer a wide variety of courses and different teaching methods.
Learning from a subscription based program can be really beneficial for learning a lot of different topics, techniques and methods.
This is great for getting a general understanding of a field.
One of the things I love about Lynda, is their learning paths, which combines a few of their courses to give you a more in-depth experience on a specific topic.
8 | EXPERIMENT
No matter how much you study before you start designing, you’ll never become an expert until you start experimenting.
Trial and error is the only way to learn how to use the software, implement design theories, improve your skills and get comfortable with your style.
When I was first getting started, I liked to take part in design challenges.
Design challenges would push my limits and get me working within a specified set of boundaries that was really beneficial when I started working with clients.
If you want to push yourself to experiment, I have a mini design challenge you can take part in.
15 DAY DESIGN CHALLENGE:
- Create a color palette for Spring, Winter, Summer, and Fall.
- Design an inspiration board (or mood board) for your favorite brand.
- Design a Pinterest graphic for a craft blogger.
- Design a business card for a wedding photographer.
- Design an Instagram post based on your favorite quote.
- Create a web mockup for a small business owner.
- Design a media kit for an Influencer
- Design a set of contact information icons
- Design a logo for a local coffee shop
- Design a geometric pattern
- Digitize your handwriting
- Design anything outside of your typical aesthetic
- Design a pricing guide for a photographer
- Design product packaging for a candle company
- Design a book cover
If you decide to take part in the challenge, I’d love for you to share it on Instagram. Be sure to tag me @jordanprindledesigns and use the #jpdesignchallenge! I’d love to see what you create.
9 | GET CREATIVE
As you grow in confidence, you’ll slowly be able to get more and more creative. One of the easiest ways to get creative with your work is to learn the “rules” of graphic design and to start breaking them. Ignore trends and popular designers, create your own unique works and people will surely take notice.
Source: Jordan Prindle designs