12 Graphic Design Tips to Boost Your Design Skills
Being a graphic designer can be very rewarding as the job gives you many opportunities to express yourself creatively. On the other hand, graphic design can be challenging as well. That's why most designers aim to improve their skills and become more comfortable with what they do. Hence, here are twelve graphic design tips to boost your design skills.
Table of Contents
#1 Evaluate Your Current Skillset
First, you need to evaluate your current skill set. If you have an accurate idea of how good your skills are, it will be easier to decide what you want to improve and how you will do it. Even if you are confident in your graphic design skills, you should take a step back and be critical of your abilities.
Your skills are independent of your education. You may be a self-taught graphic designer who is good at their job thanks to years of practice and experience. Moreover, if you have been putting effort into learning new skills and keeping up with the trends, you could be a much better designer than those with an official education.
In other words, which skills you already have and how good you are at graphic design depends on various factors, including education, experience, and expertise. However, no one of these factors is more important than the other by default. Your past decisions about your work are critical in determining how good of a specialist you are.
When evaluating your current skillset, try to be as unbiased as possible. You want an accurate picture of yourself as a professional in your field. If you need help to be objective, you can ask your colleagues to help you evaluate your skills. Considering their opinions will give you a less skewed view of your abilities.
#2 Decide Which Skills You Want to Improve
After you evaluate your current skill set, you will know which skills you already have and lack. Moreover, you will also know your proficiency levels at each skill. Now, you must decide which skills you want to improve and any new skills you want to learn (i.e. improve from zero).
Keep in mind that you don't necessarily need to master every single skill related to graphic design. Being good at one or two things is enough to do your job correctly and earn well. For instance, if you specialise in brand design, you probably don't need to study ad design – you simply won't be using this knowledge most of the time.
That being said, the more graphic design skills you master and the more knowledge you have about your craft, the better you can become at your job. Even if you don't design ads, having that knowledge could eventually benefit you. Besides, it will be easier to switch between different graphic design niches if you choose to someday.
Look at the skills you already have that you haven't mastered at an expert level yet. It would help if you worked on these to improve your current level of proficiency. Then, consider the skills you have yet to learn. Which of these are you interested in? You can then make a list of skills you want to learn and set the levels of proficiency you want to achieve at each one.
Using the SMART technique to set your goals when learning new skills or improving your ones is best. Set short-term and long-term goals and ensure they are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely. Some skills might take more time to master, so take that into account when deciding in what order you will be improving your skills.
#3 Critique Your Past Works
You now have a list of skills you want to improve and goals for improving them steadily. But how can you learn new skills or improve the ones you already have? There are many ways to do this, so the tips in this section and the following ones will focus on the different techniques you can use for improving specific skills or your overall skillset as a graphic designer.
A suitable method you can use to understand what your weaknesses are is critiquing your past works. Rather than focusing solely on new creations and trying to make them perfect, you should look back at what you have already created in the past. You will be able to see all the mistakes you made and the issues you don't want to see in your new work.
You will also see your progress as a graphic designer by critiquing your past works. The more practice you had, and the improved your skillset, the fewer mistakes you made, and the more original your designs became. However, they still need to be fixed, which means you can learn from your work what you should and shouldn't do.
Try not to be completely ruthless when assessing and critiquing your past works. It's good to be honest with yourself when you see all the weaknesses you used to have, but you shouldn't go so far as declaring your past works a disgrace. Just like any other graphic designer, you start with fundamental skills. You can't demand perfection from your history or even your current self.
#4 Get Feedback from Other Designers
In addition to critiquing your past works, getting feedback from other designers is a good idea. You can ask for feedback both on your past jobs and current ones. Just like when evaluating your skillset, asking for specific feedback on your works will help you get different opinions on your creations and see the details you should have noticed.
For instance, other, more experienced designers could notice mistakes or issues you didn't see because you need more expertise. Perhaps in the future, you will be able to catch these mistakes, but knowing about them now, thanks to fellow graphic designers, will help you work on improving your skills more efficiently.
The more feedback you collect, the better. Consider creating a feedback survey with the help of an experienced writer from the writing services reviews site AllToPreviews that you can then ask your colleagues to fill out. This approach is suitable for graphic designers who work in a company or a team of freelance designers (so they can access many professionals at a time).
On the other hand, if you are an independent graphic designer, you can get feedback through one-on-one conversations with other designers you know. Once again, the more feedback, the better for you, but if you can't find many people to contribute, you should focus on the few professionals you know to give you extensive feedback on your work.
#5 Read Books About Design
Today, you can find well-written and detailed books on virtually any subject imaginable – and graphic design is no exception. That's why you should look for books and other materials you can read on graphic design. More specifically, you can look for books that focus on developing the skills you want to learn or improve. Here are some examples of popular books on graphic design:
- Hardcover Book
- M�ller, Jens (Author)
- Multilingual (Publication Language)
- 511 Pages – 03/29/2022 (Publication Date) – Taschen America Llc (Publisher)
- Amazon Kindle Edition
- Slade-Brooking, Catharine (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 161 Pages – 01/18/2016 (Publication Date) – Laurence King Publishing (Publisher)
- Lupton, Ellen (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 264 Pages – 07/14/2015 (Publication Date) – Princeton Architectural Press (Publisher)
- Adams, Sean (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 384 Pages – 04/07/2020 (Publication Date) – Princeton Architectural Press (Publisher)
- By artist and writer Austin Kleon
- A collection of positive messages and exercises to realize your artistic side
- A New York Times Best-seller
- 10 Things nobody told you about being creative!
As you can see, you can read all kinds of graphic design books. It doesn't matter which skills you want to study – there will be books about them. And if you can't find any good books on the graphic design skills you want to master, you can always look for other types of written materials, particularly the ones you can find online.
Many graphic designers have blogs sharing tips and tutorials on how to do the work. You can also look for online media outlets such as magazines and journals dedicated to graphic design and directories and knowledge bases with collections of guides, tutorials, and definitions.
#6 Participate in Design Competitions
Participating in design competitions is a good option for practising your skills and applying your knowledge. By participating in contests, you will practise specific skills and complete tasks similar to doing your job daily (where a client has particular requirements for you).
Besides providing you with an opportunity to practice your skills, competitions are helpful in a different way as well. This is a chance to get your name out there and meet new clients. Moreover, competitions are great for defining your brand image if you are an independent graphic designer trying to build a name for yourself.
Even if you don't win first place, participating in the competition can still get exposure. If you need to publish your work in the open (e.g. on social media), there will be people seeing who might need to learn about the competition. In other words, it will allow you to get more eyes on your work.
Of course, if you do win something, that will be a much more significant boost to you as a professional. If the competition has a prize, it will also be a great victory for you. Find competitors that fit your skillset but could still be an exciting challenge.
#7 Sign Up for a Design Class
In addition to reading books on graphic design, you should look for design classes you can sign up for. These can be either online or offline classes. Some of them are free or highly affordable, which means you won't need to have a big budget for your graphic design education in the first place.
If you already have a degree in graphic design or a related field, it doesn't mean you shouldn't consider taking classes. The industry is constantly changing, so you likely only had a few of the topics that are relevant now in your curriculum back when you were studying. Besides, graphic design programs can be very different in content, so you may have skipped many topics you are interested in.
Online courses are your best bet if you still need offline graphic design courses in your area. Educational platforms like Coursera, edX, Udemy, and others have hundreds, if not thousands, of courses on graphic design. Some of them are free if you don't want to get an official certificate stating that you completed the course.
Keep in mind that the main goal for you should constantly be improving your skills. You aren't taking these courses to get a piece of paper that proves that you know something. You are taking these courses to learn something, so you can still get valuable knowledge and skills even if you can't get a certificate.
#8 Start Writing About Design
If you are confident in your abilities (or even if you aren't but want to become confident), consider starting to write about graphic design. This can be an unconventional yet effective way to reflect on your work and improve your skills by thoroughly analysing what you did right and wrong.
The best part about this is that it will also be useful for independent graphic designers to build their brand image. Once you start a blog on graphic design, you will attract more people to yourself and find more potential clients. Likewise, if you self-publish books on graphic design, you can further improve your authority in the field.
You must first work on your writing skills to start writing about design. Many different writing tools will be helpful to you, including a grammar checker, a plagiarism checker, formatting software, etc. However, if you don't work on your writing skills first, these tools will only have a limited impact on the final texts.
Before starting your blog, consider the topics you want to cover. Do you want to write about something specific? Or do you want to cover everything and anything related to graphic design? Decide what voice you want to use to reflect your brand image. And then, think about the different techniques you will use to promote your blog (e.g. social media marketing, email marketing, PPC ad campaigns, etc.)
#9 Develop Your Signature Style
Consider developing your signature style to build your brand image. Not only will this help you improve your graphic design skills, but it will also help define who you are as a graphic design artist. Your signature style will help you stand out and look more attractive to potential clients.
Of course, you don't necessarily need to have a unique style. Some clients may be looking for a designer who is flexible and doesn't have a distinctive style. However, having a specific type is critical for developing your brand image, so you must work on it if you are an independent graphic designer.
It might take some time before you finally determine your distinctive style. Evaluate your past works and consider the elements and techniques you like using. You can also look for graphic designers with distinct styles whose work you admire. They can be an example for you once you start developing your style.
Make sure that you aren't copying anyone. There can be similarities between your style and someone else's style, but there should still be details that set you apart. If you copy someone else's style, it won't be your own, and you could even get in trouble for pretending to have the original style you copied.
#10 Experiment with Different Styles
As mentioned above, some clients will seek flexible graphic designers who can work with different styles. This is why you should experiment with different styles even if you develop your own. Moreover, before you have your style, experimenting with other techniques will be extremely helpful in developing your style.
But what exactly does it mean to experiment with different styles? To some extent, this means trying to create designs in the same style as well-known graphic designers, especially the ones you look up to and whose style you admire. Yet, most of the time, you will want to try the different graphic design styles that are prevalent in the industry as a whole, including:
- Minimalism – limited colours, bold linework, minimal shading;
- Maximalism – unexpected colours, contrasts, bold fonts and textures;
- Typographic – font as the centre of the design, paired with other styles;
- Retro – vintage fonts inspired by the psychedelic 60s-70s;
- Modern – vivid colours, geometric lines and shapes, sans serif fonts;
- Abstract – unique colours, surrealism, different interpretations possible;
- Geometric – symmetry and balance, straight lines and shapes;
- Flat – two-dimensional, monochromatic icons;
- Three-Dimensional – emulates real life, light and shadows;
- Organic – neutral colours, earthy, fluid lines and organic shapes;
- Corporate – complementary colours, simple shapes and fonts, clean lines;
- Illustrated – hand-drawn look, unique designer style;
- Playful – vibrant colours, animated elements;
- Masculine – muted colours, thick-stroke fonts, rugged textures;
- Feminine – delicate colours, cursive fonts, curved lines and shapes;
- Grunge – dark and contrasting colours, ominous mood, distressed and rough textures;
- Photorealism – emulates real life, hand-drawn, raw materials like pencil and paper.
#11 Master Unfamiliar Design Software
As a graphic designer, having various skills and adapting to new technologies and software is vital. Just as you experiment with different design styles, you can also experiment with other visual design tools and programmes to expand your skills.
One of the best ways to do this is to master unfamiliar software that you may not have used before or only briefly. Learning new software is an excellent addition to your CV and helps develop specific design skills that are valuable in today's market.
First, you should familiarise yourself with the most popular graphic design programs such as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. These programmes are used by many designers and are essential for creating high-quality designs for print and digital media.
Once you have a solid foundation in these programs, you can move on to other programs related to graphic design but not necessarily used by designers. For example, you can learn how to use data visualisation tools such as Tableau, Power BI or D3.js. These programs are becoming increasingly important as more and more companies rely on data-driven decision-making.
Mastering these programmes will give you a massive advantage if you ever need to create graphics to visualise data. Not only will you be able to create visually stunning designs, but you will also be able to communicate complex data in a way that is easy to understand.
#12 Keep Practicing Your Skills
Last but not least, it is essential to constantly train and develop your skills to keep up with the latest trends and industry standards. The world of graphic design is continually evolving, and it is crucial to keep up with these changes to stay relevant and competitive.
Practicing your skills is not just about perfecting your techniques but also about staying curious and constantly learning. The more you explore and experiment with different design elements, the more creative you will become in your approach to solving design problems.
You must regularly take time to practice your skills, whether by working on personal projects or taking on freelance assignments. This way, you develop your skills and build a strong portfolio demonstrating your ability and design style.
In addition to practicing, it's also essential to keep up to date with trends and developments in the industry. Follow the latest design blogs, attend conferences and workshops, and network with other designers to keep up to date with the latest trends and technologies.
Eventually, the hours you invest in developing your skills will pay off and help you become an expert in your field. Your dedication to your craft will be reflected in your work, and you will be able to create aesthetically pleasing designs that effectively serve their intended purpose.
Wrapping Up the Graphic Design Tips
In summary, graphic design is a vast and ever-evolving field that requires constant learning and experimentation. By implementing the 12 graphic design tips we have discussed, you can improve your design skills and create visually stunning and practical designs. Remember to keep your audience in mind, appreciate simplicity, and strive for excellence. With dedication and practice, you are well on your way to becoming a masterful graphic designer. So don't hesitate to put these tips into practice today and watch your designs soar to new heights!
Last update on 2024-02-21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API