New To Graphic Design? Here are Some Helpful Tips

When you first learn design you aren’t really taught the non-design side of the business. Unfortunately, that means that too many designers are kept in the dark about much of the industry. Brands like TheFutur are trying to change that, and so am I. If I could five tips for new graphic designers, they would be: Don’t jump in to freelancing, clients can be wrong, master your typography skills first, know how to get your ideas down on paper first, and acknowledge your mistakes and move on. Here’s a little bit about each.

1. Don’t Jump In To Freelancing

Too many designers assume that the instant they learn how to design they should go at it alone. The problem with that is that the first few years as a professional designer are filled with mistakes. You’re still learning how to design and most of what you create will probably suck. The alternative? Get a full-time design gig so you can learn the ropes. Find an agency looking to hire a junior designer. Learn from the people there and you’ll become a better designer much faster than if you did it on your own. Do the full-time thing for at least a few years before going freelance.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t any successful designers out there who jumped right into freelancing or contract work. Because there absolutely are. Unfortunately, there are also plenty of freelance designers who have no idea what they’re doing and would greatly benefit from a few more years experience.

The first few years of my life as designer were riddled with mistakes. There was so much I never learned about and so many things they just don’t teach in school. Fortunately, I was able to learn from my mistakes over time, and learn even more from other talented designers I worked with.

2. Clients Can Be Wrong

For whatever reason, we tend to translate that “the customer is always right” thing into every job type. Well, it’s BS to begin with, especially in regards to design clients. Sadly, some clients can be demanding, cheap, and unreasonable. New designers aren’t used to dealing with clients and they are often unable to navigate the relationship properly.

This is another reason why it’s a good idea to get some full-time designer experience under your belt. Ideally, with an agency that can teach you about dealing with design clients. I’ve worked with small firms before that have dealt with difficult clients. Once, where we let the clients walk all over us and we ended up losing money. In the other instance, the people I worked with knew how to handle client challenges and saw the red flags early on.

TheFutur has some great videos on learning how to deal with bad clients; like this one.

3. Master Your Typography Skills First

Many people new to graphic design struggle to figure out which part of their design skill set to work on first. Photoshop skills? Vector illustration? Print production? As a new designer, your skills in all areas of design will increase over time, but the area you should put the most focus on is typography.

There is a dramatic, aesthetic difference between a designer who is good at typography and one who still struggles with it. As designers, we use type in almost everything we do, and knowing it at a high level really gives us an edge. Typography can make or break our design projects.

What makes a good package design? Sure, the imagery should stand out, but the rest of the design centers around the type. Take a business card design. Typically, there is a logo and contact information. Maybe some social media handles and a tag line. Business cards are often text heavy (in relation to imagery) and being able to make that type organized, legible, and visually appealing is key.

4. Know How To Get Your Ideas Down on Paper First

A key skill for a designers is being able to transfer an idea from your head onto the page. That doesn’t mean you need to have amazing drawing skills. It means that you should be able to create quick, rough sketches and thumbnails that illustrate a concept or composition.

Getting something down on paper doesn’t actually mean you need to use paper; not anymore anyway. I often use the Procreate app on the iPad (with the Apple Pencil) to create concept thumbs or turn out a few logo ideas for a project. I enjoy digital sketching because you can erase and quickly use different drawing tools, though a simple pencil and paper is still often quicker.

Get a graph paper or a dot graph paper notebook, some tracing paper, a ruler, and a pencil and eraser. Learn how to make quick sketches for ads, logo designs, or websites. Figure out how you want to lay out the individual elements in a composition before you move to the computer to polish the idea. In professional situations, being able to effectively portray a concept, or multiple concept options, in a rough sketch, will allow a client or design director to have a much better understanding of what your final design will look like without the time investment.

5. Acknowledge Your Mistakes & Move On

Making mistakes is part of being a new designer. They are unavoidable. Fortunately, mistakes are how you learn. For example, not noticing a typo in a business card until it’s already back from the print shop. Sending a client proposal to the wrong email address. Accidentally deleting an important file from the server. Misreading the creative brief. Creating an entire eBook using the wrong body copy. Trusting a client to proofread their ad. Doing design work for ‘exposure’ instead of money. You get the idea.

It’s easy to make mistakes as a designer. When you’re inexperienced, you’ll make them all the time. As your skills level up and you learn more about how to operate, you’ll make less mistakes. The most important part is to own up to them, learn from them, and move on. Don’t dwell on the mistakes you’ve made. I know that’s easier said than done.

Tips for New Graphic Designers: In Conclusion

For someone new to graphic design, regardless of whether you’re design school educated or self-taught, it takes awhile to be fully confident in this type of creative career. There’s just so much to know and so much that you don’t know you don’t know (You read that right).

Learn from other designers and people in the industry. Find people you can trust to show you how things are done in regards to technical skills, creative skills, and client management. You don’t need a single, specific mentor, but you should find people to learn from, whether they’re mentoring you in person or through videos and courses online.

Are there any other important tips for new graphic designers that I should include here? What do you think is an important tip for people new to graphic design? If you’re a new designer, is there anything you want to know about specifically? Let me know in the comments!

Photo Credits

Photo by Per Lööv on Unsplash