I’ve been spending a bit of time lately in the Reddit graphic design community in subreddits like r/GraphicDesigning and r/Graphic_Design. These are places where Reddit users discuss graphic design, share their work, and ask industry and technical questions.

From what I’ve seen, r/Graphic_Design is mostly used for sharing work and inspiration, whereas r/GraphicDesigning is mostly people discussing the industry, asking questions, and sharing advice. You’ll also occasionally see people asking for free design work in the Reddit graphic design subreddits, which fortunately gets shut down pretty quick.

Understandably, a lot of questions in r/GraphicDesigning are from people who want to get started in design but have no idea where to begin. Graphic design is a huge field so having questions about where to start are totally valid. If I were a new designer trying to figure out how to get started in design, I would quickly get overwhelmed.

I’ve compiled some of the best questions I’ve seen from Reddit graphic design subreddits that are still relatively common questions that anyone new to design might want to know.

What Does a Typical Work Day/Week Look like?

This is a question that’s asked a lot, not just in the Reddit graphic design community. Although, it’s is a tough question to answer because every designer will have a different looking day/week. It really depends on a lot of factors; the type of design work you do, your experience level, if you work at a large/small company, or if you’re an in-house, freelance, or agency designer.

When I was working as Art Director of a magazine, I would come in, check my emails, update the list of advertisers and articles, discuss ads with advertisers on the phone, then work on designing an ad in Photoshop or an article layout in InDesign. The majority of my job was entirely self-directed and because there was only one real due date for everything, the magazine publication date, I could organize my day how I liked.

Years later, I was working at a small agency in Toronto where my day-to-day was a little different. We worked with a variety of clients every day, some that required very quick turnarounds and others that were more long-term projects. In the morning I would get to my desk and see a stack of files, one for each project that I had to work on that day. Projects were ordered on my desk based on priority, so I usually just started with the top one. These projects were typically things like magazine ads, rack cards, business cards, or website pages. I might spend the morning designing then the afternoon might be spent entirely on production projects. I would do things like printing, cutting business cards, or putting together physical presentations board for a new client.

What Tools are Used? Is it Just Illustrator or Can I Use Canva?

Design software - Photoshop

The primary tools that are used by designers these days is software. The current industry standards are Adobe Photoshop for image-editing, Adobe InDesign for page layout, print, or publication design, and Adobe Illustrator for vector graphics like logo designs and illustrations. Designers also use apps like Procreate for illustration and sketching. Outside of software, designers often use pencils and note books/sketch books/grid paper for sketching logo or layout concepts.

As for mobile apps, please don’t use Canva. It’s a great app for the non-design community to create quick, one-off designs for social media, but it doesn’t offer the same professional or creative functionality or flexibility as professional design software. Use it for fun, or to generate ideas, but avoid using Canva or any other ‘graphic design’ apps that are built around templates to create professional looking graphics unless you really have no other option.

What Does An Employer Look For in a Portfolio?

The main thing an employer looks for in a design portfolio is that the designer has a good grasp of typography, colour, and composition. Outside of that, it will really depend on the position they are being hired for. For a lower level design position they might look for a mix of print and digital design; flyer, event posters, social media posts, website homepages, etc. They want to see that you can handle a variety of design work and produce at a high-level in a timely manner.

Designers at a higher design level might be a bit more specialized and should have a better idea of the types of projects that should already be in their portfolio, and they likely include a good deal of work that matches the type of job their trying to get.

In every portfolio, employers want to see the actual design and thought process that went into each project. Make sure to include at least a small write-up of you process for each project in your portfolio.

What Type of Projects Should Go in a Portfolio?

The quick answer here is to put your best work in your portfolio; whatever it may be. Some people will tell you to cater your portfolio to whatever job you’re applying for, but this doesn’t really make sense if you’re new to the industry and don’t have much to show. New designers should have a strong grasp of all the basics of graphic design, and this needs to be evident in your portfolio.

Most employers can gauge your understanding and skill in design from your best work. If you have a variety of high-quality website designs, print ads, and vector illustration work in your portfolio, for example, an employer will be able to see how you can apply those skills to the tasks that are needed for a specific job.

That being said, you should remember to incorporate some proof into your portfolio that what you say in your cover letter and resume is accurate. For instance, if you describe yourself as a skilled logo designer and detail-oriented website designer, you should show examples of this in your portfolio.

How Can I Create a Portfolio With No Work Experience?

album cover art challenge - sarah hubbard

This is a very popular question in the Reddit graphic design community and anywhere where people are curious about a career in design. It’s just such a common issue for self-taught designers. Design school will give you a portfolio you can use to get a job; but what if you aren’t going to design school? What options do you have? Your best bet is to do fake projects.

Create an idea of what you want to make for an imaginary client, then design it. Make sure to include your design and thought process in your portfolio. Employers want to know that you can design and think.

There are some helpful sites that generate project ideas for you like FakeClients.com or Sharpen.Design.

You can also participate in design challenges. These are often posted on social media, or on design blogs. My favorite design challenge, which I originally discovered on a Reddit graphic design subreddit, is the album art cover challenge, which you can check out here. If you want some inspiration, check out the Reddit graphic design subreddit r/AlbumArtPorn.

What is Something You Could Learn on the Fly?

Something graphic design related that you can learn on the fly? I assume this question is asking what can someone learn on the job without having prior knowledge. Basically, what kinds of design things can be learnt via Googling the heck out of it? Software is probably the best answer here.

I was taught Quark XPress, but had to learn Adobe InDesign, in a publishing job, on the fly because it quickly became the industry standard. Although, it’s easy to Google how to do specific things in software if you already have fundamental design knowledge behind you and you’re already familiar with similar programs.

Really anything that you can Google can be learned on the fly, as long as you have the time; whether it’s how to do something specific in a program, how to do a certain illustrative technique, or how to properly set up a file to go to a commercial printer. If you already know the fundamentals of design, typography, composition, and colour, you can learn the rest as you go. Just don’t expect to learn the high-level stuff on the job. For instance, if you have an hour to get a brochure design to the printer, don’t spend half an hour Googling ‘how to design a brochure’.

Is an Art Director the Same as a Graphic Designer?

Technically, no, but the term Art Director seems to mean many different things in actual design environments. For example, at one company I was Art Director of a magazine publication. At another company, I did both production design work and creative concepts and my title was Art Director. It’s a title that is thrown around and is used in environments outside of the design industry as well.

Traditionally, an Art Director’s job is to “supervise and unify the vision of an artistic production.” So basically, the title of Art Director can be given to any designer who has some level of creative and/or artistic control over a project. This means you might find an Art Director who has three years of experience in the industry and another who has twenty.

What Laptop Should I Buy to Do Graphic Design?

What laptop should you buy for graphic design

If you’re wondering if you need to by a Mac, you don’t. I’ve worked just fine on PC laptops and desktop computers my entire career. Adobe and Affinity software works on both operating systems, so pick whichever you want.

As for technical specs, you can refer to the Adobe website for their minimum hardware requirements. I would recommend at least 4GB or RAM, though Photoshop will likely still be slow with that. If you’re working with video, large Photoshop files, or 3D software you’ll need substantially more.

My current computer, which I do the majority of my design work and video editing, runs Windows 10, has 16GM of RAM, an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 graphics card, and has 2 TB of hard drive space. The graphics card is mainly used for gaming, but it does help tremendously with video editing.

How Can I Improve My Graphic Design Skills as a Beginner?

The best way to improve your design skills is to design and learn from other designers. Take on projects, whatever kind you like to do. Try to recreate popular works of design to learn how they were created, rebrand a product that you enjoy using, learn new ways to make imagery, or just experiment with design software. The more you design the better you get.

To learn from other designers, follow them on social media, poke around Dribble and Behance, take Skillshare classes, read books by popular and famous designers like Chris Do, Aaron Draplin, or Michael Janda. Keep your inspiration imagery organized so you can refer back to it when you need it. See an image style you like from another designer? Try to recreate it. I’ve learned some awesome things from trying to figure out how other designers’ were able to create certain imagery.

What are the Responsibilities of a Graphic Designer?

I suppose this question simply asks ‘what do graphic designers do?’ In short, designers create visual solutions using imagery and type to communicate a message or idea. Let’s make a list of all the things designers actually do:

  • Logo design
  • Publication design
  • Advertising design
  • Website design
  • Social media design
  • User interface design
  • Book cover design
  • Event poster design
  • Packaging design
  • Visual branding design & guidelines
  • Print production
  • Design of marketing collateral (business cards, brochures, flyers, etc.)
  • Plus more. Lots more.

What is a Good Online Course to Learn Graphic Design?

I have a whole list here of free online courses that teach graphic design, so if you’re limited by budget check out some of these.

If you can spend some money, there are some great courses and classes to take. For starters, Skillshare has a huge variety of design classes that range from beginner to intermediate. There’s a monthly subscription cost but the content is some of the highest-quality you’ll find online.

LinkedIn Learning also offers a subscription and they have a huge library of high quality content. Plus the first month is free. Lots of software training and general design information here.

I would also highly recommend any courses from TheFutur Academy, though they are a bit pricier than the ones I’ve mentioned above. Fortunately, they do occasionally go on sale. They also have a YouTube channel with some really awesome content.

What is a Good Creative Process for a Branding Project?

Colour scheme for branding

Every designer will have a slightly different process for a branding project, but it really all boils down to the same steps. First, you learn as much as you possibly can about the brand. Whether it’s an existing brand or a new brand, you’ll have to do lots of research. Check their site, socials, research their history, the industry, their competition, the staff, everything. This includes asking them a lot of questions too.

If it’s a new brand, why is this brand something that’s needed in the market? What do they want people to say about the brand? If the project is a re-brand, why is a rebrand needed? What isn’t working for them currently? What is working? What does a successful rebrand look like for them?

Once you’ve done this, you’ll have a pretty good idea of where they stand, and what their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT analysis) are as a brand.

Next, you’ll start sketching ideas on paper; creating dozens and dozens of ideas, many of which will never see the light of day. Eventually, you’ll create something you really like, then you bring it to the computer to create it in a vector program like Adobe Illustrator or Affinity Designer. Make it in black and white first, then add colour once it’s complete. You can keep tweaking it here, making slight variations of the same logo until it’s perfect.

Once you have a logo you love, pair it with a visual brand system; aka colours, typography styles, imagery, etc., to really isolate the look and feel of the brand. Present it (to the client or the creative director) as a mock up to give everything you’ve created somewhere to live. You’ll either be told it’s wonderful or, more likely, that there are some desired changes. There are always changes.

Where Can I learn Graphic Design as a Beginner?

This seems to be one of the most common questions from the Reddit graphic design community. Designers who want to take the self-taught route can really have a hard time knowing where to begin. Ideally, you want to start with the fundamentals. Learn about the principles of design; the theory of design before you actually start designing. You can watch YouTube videos on this, learn about it in books, or take a design fundamentals course online.

The Graphic Design Specialization from Coursera actually covers the design fundamentals really well, though this five-course program in no way prepares you to be a professional designer; it just gives you a good starting point to learn. It’s inexpensive and sets you up with some fundamental design knowledge you need to explore further into design.

After you understand the fundamentals, learn how to effectively use typography, get to know the basics of colour psychology, and look for some simple design tutorials online to further your software skills. Start creating a design inspiration folder and looking at what other people are creating. After that, jump right in with some fake projects or challenges so you can learn more as you go.

Are There Graphic Design Jobs Where you Don’t Have to Make Logos?

I like this question because it was exactly what I wanted to know when I started in design. I enjoyed doing layout and Photoshop work but found that the creative demand in logo design was too intimidating. I was never a strong illustrator so sketching out logo concepts was daunting, and coming up with a finished logo concept that actually looked good and worked for the client seemed impossible. But like everything in design, the more you practice, the better you’ll get.

I’ve had to do logo design in every design job I’ve ever had, though it’s never been a major part of my day-to-day. For that reason I still get unnecessary stress from logo design projects. But to go back and answer the actual question, no.

Graphic designers are expected to do logo design, it’s kinda what we’re known for.

Depending on your job, it could be a big part of your day or something you only need to do every few months. If you want to avoid logo design as much as possible, aim for an in-house design job where you’ll only be producing work for a single brand. You likely won’t have to make logos too often, unless that company creates a new brand under the main parent company. You could also get a more production-oriented design job that involves mostly print and design production. Here you wouldn’t have to do much in the way of creative decision making or ideation.

If you want to learn to be a bit more comfortable with logo design projects, check out the book Creating a Brand Identity: A Guide for Designers by Catharine Slade-Brooking. This book takes you through the entire process of creating a logo, from research to presentation.

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What Parts of Graphic Design Can be the Worst?

This is actually a question I recently answered on one of the Reddit graphic design subreddits. The best and worst part of any design job, or any job for that matter, is the people. If you work with great people and hate the job itself, it won’t be so bad. However, if you enjoy doing the work but hate the people you work with, you’re going to want to get out of there as soon as you can.

But for the sake of this question, let’s go with the worst aspects of the job itself. Once of the most common frustrations with designers is the deadlines. We’re often asked to create design work in timelines that are completely unrealistic to achieve any proper level of quality. This is typically due to bad management or not working with a project manager who knows how long things actually take. That being said, not matter what you do, those rush jobs will always happen and the only thing you can do is drop everything and get to work.

The other not-so-fun aspect of being a graphic designer is working with clients. Whether you a freelance designer or work at an agency, at some point, you’ll have to work with clients on some level. Clients can be difficult to deal with because of budget constrains, feature creep, unrealistic timelines, conflicting ideas, or a number of other reasons. That’s not to say all clients are bad, because they’re not. Most clients are good, but it can still be difficult to work with the good ones when they’re unsure of exactly what their company needs. So that part is on you to decipher.

What Kind of Salary Can I Expect Working as a Designer in NYC?

Well, I’ve never worked in New York city so I’m going to have to rely on internet data to answer this one. Thankfully Shillington, an international design educational institution that has curated a list of the average graphic designer salaries from all over the world, has a helpful breakdown of New York City designer salary info from 2019.

$43,317 for a junior graphic designer
$71,127 for a senior designer
$121,430 for design directors

This is pretty much the same for most big cities in North America, which is a shame because places like NYC and Vancouver have much higher costs of living than other cities, though designers seem to make the same amount.

What’s a Good Beginner Graphic Design Book I Can Find Online?

graphic design book

This is actually one I should answer in an entire post because there are so many amazing graphic design books for beginners. That being said, here are my main recommendations to get you started.

The Non-Designers Design Book by Robin Williams
This is a great book for people who are absolute beginners to design. It’s geared to people who have no design training and just want to know the functional basics. When I was a new designer I found it really helpful, even after going through design school.

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Burn Your Portfolio by Michael Janda
This book is one of my new favorites. It details the day-to-day management of a design agency, how to deal with clients, pricing, proofing, quotes, and all the things you were never taught in design school or anywhere else for that matter. This book is absolute gold.

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Thou Shall Not Use Comic Sans by Tony Seddon, Sean Adams, John Foster, and Peter Dawson

I love this book because it’s full of practical advice and design knowledge that isn’t based on trends or software; it’s just about good design practices. This book is also great because of how easy it is to read. Each piece of information is either a DO or a DON’T and there are exactly 365 of them in total, broken up into typography, layout, color, imagery, production, and the practice of design.

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Reddit Graphic Design – In Summary

The Reddit graphic design community is not generally somewhere I would recommend for information about design or the industry, as you really never know where the information is coming from. That being said, there are the occasional gems that have really helpful information.

Do you spend much time on the Reddit graphic design subreddits? Do you find the overall Reddit graphic design community to be helpful? What’s your favorite Reddit graphic design subreddit? Let me know in the comments below!

If you’re curious, here’s a list of all the Reddit graphic design subreddits:

The largest Reddit graphic design subreddit on this list is r/Design with 2 million members and is mostly general design content. Other very popular Reddit graphic design subreddits are r/Graphic_Design, which has 705k members, and r/Web_Design, which has 546k members.

Are there other Reddit graphic design subreddits not on this list? Let me know in the comments below 🙂

Photo Credits

Photo by Thanzi Thanzeer on Unsplash
Photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash
Photo by Windows on Unsplash
Photo by Balázs Kétyi on Unsplash