Top 5 Design Skills You Must Know to Become a Better Graphic Designer
We live in an age where the design of a website, app, or actual physical product is just as important as its quality and functionality.
If you want proof for this claim, look no further than any of the products made by Apple in the last two decades.
Sure, they showcased and continued to showcase both quality and performance, but it is their design that sets them apart from all the competition.
The design also affects the way users perceive brands and companies, even if they have yet to purchase with them.
For instance, nearly 60% of users say that they would not recommend a business that has a poorly designed mobile website.
Most design nowadays is done for the web, and as is the case with any aspect of IT, it is susceptible to constant changes.
This means that the skills you might have possessed as a designer just five years ago might not be sufficient or even relevant.
Keeping an eye on industry trends, innovations, and developments, as well as developing your design skills, is an absolute must if you want to stay in the game.
With that in mind, here is our list of five new design skills you need to conquer if you want to become the perfect graphic designer.
1. Adopt New Technologies
Whether you are designing a website or a creative design brief, the chances are, you are going to have to change your workflow and methodology every few years or so.
Not just because existing tools and technologies you are using to create your work will get upgraded and updated, but also because there will be a whole slew of new ones that will emerge in the meantime.
For instance, the mobile design has gotten a considerable boost, mainly because Google has rolled out its mobile-first indexing.
Things have become even more exciting for designers with the appearance of virtual and augmented reality, as well as artificial intelligence and machine learning.
All the significant kinks of those technologies have been worked out, and the accompanying hardware is getting cheaper every year, which means they are no longer a novelty.
Sure, there was the whole Pokémon craze a couple of years ago, but companies and businesses have started to use AR and VR in a more meaningful and productive way.
Your designs should never be without proper context, which is another way of saying that you should be familiar with the characteristics of each platform or channel you are creating a design for.
Just like you had to become savvier when it comes to mobile design, you will need to pay attention to other emerging technologies, because even though they may require you to put in some extra effort to master, they will ultimately provide you with new opportunities and ways to express your creativity.
2. Master UX Design
We have already mentioned that design is becoming a lot more focused on the digital world, which changes things for designers since there is a new component they need to incorporate into their plans.
We are talking about UX, which has become all the rage nowadays since most customers are choosing brands and companies that can delight them and provide them with a more personalised user experience.
This also applies to their use of your products, which should be user-friendly and easy to use.
Whereas graphic and web design are mostly aimed at creating the best possible visuals, and functionality to an extent, UX goes beyond the realm of design and is more concerned with improving the user enjoyment of the final product.
In other words, UX is a discipline that takes human behaviour into account and how users might respond when presented with a particular piece of design and tries to come up with an optimal experience as a result.
The good news is that you don't need to change your career altogether.
As a designer, you already have the necessary technical skills to be a UX designer, and you simply have to incorporate the UX way of thinking and discipline into your design process.
In today's day and age, an excellent graphic designer should have a skill set that includes a wide variety of skills, and that one specialist niche in which they are an expert.
UX falls into that broad spectrum of design skills.
As in the case of UX, coding is a skill that you'll want to integrate into your design approach, and not necessarily become an expert at it.
The goal is not for you to know how to build a website from scratch.
However, by understanding the coding process, you will be able to get on the same page with developers, since you will know what they need to do to make your designs work.
Moreover, it's not all about better collaboration with others, either.
Coding, even at a basic level, can help you produce new design ideas and their iterations much faster in some cases than if you were to choose to do them manually.
Some knowledge of HTML or scripting in Adobe Illustrator can go a long way.
Coding is such a tremendous discipline, which means you won't even be able to get into the nuts and bolts of it without dedicating all of your time to it.
As a designer, you already have a career, and simply knowing what a developer needs should be enough.
Plenty of design companies are allowing their employees to set aside a couple of hours while they are at work to develop their coding design skills, either by bringing in external staff to provide them with training or by encouraging them to take online courses at work.
However, if your company does not allow for such a possibility, you can still invest some time after work to pick up some HTML or basics of mobile design to make yourself a better designer.
4. Social Media Marketing
Every single brand nowadays is interested in cultivating a strong social media presence, so much that they consider it even more important than their website (which is still necessary nonetheless).
Well, because their audience is on social media.
It's just a matter of figuring out which platform works best for each industry or business.
Naturally, as a graphic designer, you need to be aware of the importance of social media and understand how it works, at least when it comes to major ones like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.
Still, you shouldn't concern yourself with spending every single hour on social media, because that's social media marketers' job.
However, you should at least know the difference between a regular post and a story on Instagram, or how your clients plan to utilise the power of Facebook Live video to engage their audiences.
When designing an image for social media, you should keep the context in mind, which means that developing a cover image for Facebook or creating a post for Instagram are two different things.
Finally, another reason why would want to learn how to leverage the power of social media is that you should treat yourself as a brand, in case you are looking to attract clients.
There are no courses you need to take when it comes to social media.
Simply use it for both work and pleasure to gain a deeper understanding of it, and then let that knowledge spill over into your design work.
5. Print Design Skills
A lot of older and experienced designers feel as if they are lagging when it comes to their knowledge of digital tools and platforms.
On the other hand, younger designers feel the same when it comes to print design.
Sure, while brands have moved their activities online, print media still holds plenty of value, and if you want to become a better designer, that is one of the design skills that should become a permanent staple of your skills arsenal.
For instance, if you have managed to land a client who is in need of print design, you should least be able to calibrate your screen and prepare your designs for the conversion from the digital world into an actual, physical one.
It's not very likely that you will find much information on this online.
Instead, it would help if you made it a point to visit an actual print production house and talk to one of the more experienced people there, which are willing to share their expertise on things like the use of colour, paper, and so on.
As in the case of coding and UX, it is all about staying competitive and providing a better service for your clients.
As you can see, keeping an eye on all the latest design technologies and expanding your skills will help you become a better designer, but you should also pay attention to some of the analogue design skills (print design) because you want to become a more rounded and capable professional.