How to Become a Graphic Designer in 10 Simple Steps (2023)

Getting into the field of graphic design is more attainable than you might expect, especially today.

Regardless of their level of education, designers rely on practical experience to drive them. If you're a graphic artist at heart, you have the drive to learn new things and push yourself to achieve more every day. It's an exciting field to get into, but many would-be designers can get stuck at the first steps.

This article will look at what graphic designers do for a living and then give you a list of ten steps to becoming a graphic designer. So let's dive in!

What Do Graphic Designers Do?

Graphic designers are either full-time or part-time employees at companies or design agencies, self-employed designers, or freelancers. Whether you work full-time, part-time, or freelance, you’ll have to meet several deadlines on a weekly or daily basis in a graphic design position.

The graphic design industry has quite the reputation for tight deadlines and busy work schedules. If you choose this as your career path, you must know how to manage your time and schedule effectively, so you don't miss any deadlines or get burnt out.

If you already have a full-time job in another field and want to pursue a graphic design program on the side, you can also do that, but you’ll need to plan out how you’ll manage your time well in advance.

If you plan to be a self-employed graphic designer, be prepared to be flexible because you might have to work during the evening and even during weekends from time to time to meet deadlines.

Now, let's look at what you’re expected to do as a graphic designer. You might develop many different types of designs, from print publications (brochures, magazines, newspapers, etc.) to digital assets for television and web applications.

There’s a wide range of industries where graphic design skills are needed. You can be sure of one thing: in the same way that marketing is something that every company or organization needs, graphic designers are also needed in every company and in many different areas.

As a graphic designer, you might have to master various skills at once, such as book layouts, digital illustration, and corporate identity design. However, we recommend you hone your skills and specialize in one specific area. Among the most common graphic design specialties are Typography, Logos, Book Design, Product Packaging, Web design, User Interface Design, and User Experience Design.

We know it seems a bit overwhelming initially, but all you need to do is put your head down and build your career step by step. So, let's look at our ten steps to becoming a graphic designer.

1. Learn and Understand Graphic Design Basics

It’s true that you don’t necessarily need any book knowledge before you can create amazing designs. But before taking any further steps, we think it’s essential that you take the time to learn basic design principles and have a solid understanding of the elements of design.

Suppose you’ve never taken any design classes and don't know anything about graphic design or the design process at this stage. In that case, we recommend you read about graphic design history and the principles of design alongside practicing the key skills of graphic design.

Why is it so important to educate yourself about graphic design fundamentals? You can use them to improve your visual communication skills, learn more about the graphic design field, and get a better feeling of what it truly means to be a graphic artist.

Even simple things like applying color theory can dramatically improve the quality of your designs.

Employers looking for graphic designers always want some kind of proof of your skill set, experience, and knowledge of basic principles, so we hope you consider doing some reading on design practice!

2. Take Online Courses

Once you know more about graphic design history and learn the basics of design theory, you can take advantage of some of the best online graphic design software out there. Whether you’re a professional or someone relatively new to the design world, our recommendation stays the same: begin with the basics and work your way up.

There are tons of online resources that can help entry-level designers get their foot in the door. You can also start taking graphic design courses online or pursue a graphic design degree. To help you with that, we’ve compiled a nifty list of the 16 best graphic design courses online.

Some online courses offer a certificate once you complete it, which will be perfect for adding to your CV and LinkedIn profile to show off your graphic design proficiency.

Consider signing up for free graphic design software at first to reduce the costs of starting up as much as possible as you build your technical skills by doing online courses. Once you start earning money from your design work, you could consider upgrading your software.

You can start with Vectornator, which offers fantastic design features, such as:

  • Industry-standard vector editing tools
  • Access to over 1 million royalty-free images from Unsplash
  • Access to over 80,000 icons
  • Advanced collaboration tools within the Vectornator app
  • Auto Trace technology that transforms images into vector shapes
  • Cross-platform functionality that syncs your projects across MacBook, iPad, and iPhone
  • Access to a community of digital illustrators and designers
  • Access to Vectornator Academy for design tutorials and more

With these amazing tools at your fingertips, you’ll be able to pursue studies in graphic design and learn the ropes using professional-level design software.

3. Setup Setup Setup

How to Become a Graphic Designer in 10 Simple Steps (1)

While graphic designers get paid very well in most cases, starting your journey as a graphic designer can be expensive to set up. Unlike writers who simply need a laptop to write, being a graphic designer requires a few more sophisticated tools. For starters, you’ll need to find the right graphic software.

We’ve already listed the benefits of using Vectornator for free, but if you’re an Adobe fan, you’ll need a monthly subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud (which is pretty expensive if you’re just starting out). That’s why we recommend starting with free alternatives to Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, or any other Adobe products and then deciding if you want to switch to a paid option.

Besides the right software, you’ll also need a compatible laptop or desktop computer. You might also need a Pantone color guide if you’re designing for print and a pen tablet for illustrations.

4. Follow Established Graphic Designers

This step may sometimes be overlooked, but getting inspiration and tips from other artists is one of the easiest ways to grow your repertoire. Everyone gets their design inspiration somewhere before developing their own creative process and being a source of inspiration to others.

Getting to know the work of famous graphic designers and artists and following them on social media will be helpful in the long run. You’ll get to know how they do what they do and understand them and their work better.

By doing this, you’ll form your own graphic design style, gradually becoming clear to you once you create a handful of graphic design pieces.

As you make more connections with other designers, you’ll find yourself more immersed in the graphic design community, where you’ll be able to find and share helpful information and resources. Connecting with other designers and agencies will make it easier to spot trends and opportunities.

5. Create an Impressive Portfolio

Folio: Designer Portfolio Kit – AnimationFolio: Designer Portfolio Kit – Animation designed by Tran Mau Tri Tam ✪ for UI8. Connect with them on Dribbble; the global community for designers and creative professionals.DribbbleTran Mau Tri Tam ✪

Whether you want to work as a full-time graphic designer or as a self-employed freelancer, your own online portfolio is a must-have. An online portfolio will make it easier to apply for graphic design job openings, land interviews, and get hired by various clients or companies for graphic design positions.

Many graphic designers use Behance to showcase their work. However, you have other options which you can explore, such as Pixpa, FolioHD, Carbonmade, Crevado, PortfolioBox, Coroflot Portfolios, and Krop. You can check out our guide on creating a graphic design portfolio with 16 examples of great portfolios to inspire you.

It doesn't matter if you don't have a lot of work to showcase. The important thing is to have an online presence – you’ll build up your portfolio as you gain more experience and add more of your work.

Start your professional portfolio early on and add your most recent or best pieces there as time goes by. You can update it anytime, and it’ll help you get noticed. If you don’t have any work to show just yet, a simple exercise you can follow is to recreate some famous logos to showcase your skills.

Having an online portfolio will help you present yourself as professionally as possible. Your online portfolio will also help potential clients or employers see if your work style matches what they are looking for.

So, consider your online portfolio as your additional CV. It’s also common for graphic designers to carry digital versions of their portfolios and have them ready to go if needed during a job interview.

6. Get Some Work Experience

How to Become a Graphic Designer in 10 Simple Steps (4)

Now that you have your portfolio ready, it’s time to showcase your work and get some experience in the real world.

Start by applying for entry-level positions. At this point, it doesn't matter whether it’s a paid job or an unpaid internship because the experience you’ll gain will be far more valuable to you in the long run. This is especially true if you’re starting out at a well-established company or agency and need someone to vouch for you or write a reference letter later on.

Even if you hold a degree in graphic design, getting some real-world experience through an internship or junior-level job is always recommended.

By doing so, you’ll also be able to add your new creations to your portfolio (just make sure you honor copyright laws and attribute the designs to the relevant companies you worked with!).

Another benefit of getting some work experience is that you’ll form professional relationships with other graphic designers, art directors, motion designers, creative teams, and design teams and become part of the design community in your area and online.

7. Learn Professional Copywriting

Many may overlook this step, but it’s a great skill to have as a graphic designer. In a graphic design position, your primary focus should be all the visual design elements. However, any copy you use in your designs significantly affects how your work is received. Often, the initial tagline or story for a campaign is formulated by the graphic designer and not the copywriters!

If you work at a company and always have copywriters doing the writing and checking the copy for you, you can be more “free” to make mistakes. However, you’ll need excellent written communication skills if you're a freelancer or self-employed.

You won’t always have the luxury of relying on a copywriter or someone who can edit or check your copy for any grammar mistakes, so it’s always helpful to work on your copywriting skills early on. Graphic designers with solid writing skills always have an advantage over those who lean on “Lorem Ipsum” placeholder text.

Excellent copywriting skills as a graphic designer don’t mean knowing how to write short- or long-form copy (in other words, you don’t have to be a great writer). It simply means that you possess the skills to write brief descriptions, clever one-liners, enticing calls to action, attention-grabbing headings, and so on.

It also means that you must be extra careful with typos and grammar mistakes and learn how to reflect the particular voice of any brand you’re working with.

8. Stay Up to Date with Current Design Trends

Biggest web design trendsBiggest web design trends designed by Lily for Fireart Studio. Connect with them on Dribbble; the global community for designers and creative professionals.DribbbleLily

Graphic design is a constantly changing field that keeps developing and evolving every year. While this is a great thing, it also means that you, as a graphic designer, will have to keep up with the new trends that come up each year.

One simple way to keep up with the current visual design trends is to follow well-known graphic designers or pay attention to your fellow graphic designers.

Prospective clients and employers are always looking for graphic designers who don't stick to the same style their entire design career but try to adapt and evolve every year. Companies always want something fresh to keep their audiences and customers engaged.

Staying up to date with current graphic design trends also means using new and updated graphic design software programs. You can also use any other online program to help you develop and grow, such as VR/AR design tools and animation software.

9. Choose an Area of Specialization

If you want to work for an agency and have some certainty over your annual salary, you should consider a degree program geared toward the graphic design industry.

An undergraduate degree won't be enough to land you a creative director job immediately, but a graphic design education can help boost your likelihood of beating the median salary.

Although this is not a requirement – many “untrained” freelance designers are very successful – it’s always helpful for you and your clients to know which area you specialize in. That doesn’t mean you should focus on only one area and leave other graphic design areas unexplored.

It simply means that you should find out in which design area you excel and brand yourself as the best one in that particular area. For instance, you may be especially talented in logo design, motion graphics, web design, etc.

Having a niche will help you set yourself apart from other graphic designers and convince companies or clients why they should hire you instead of others specialized in the same area. It’ll also help you target and reach the right potential customers, such as those looking for a logo, an ad, a website, etc.

10. Never Stop Learning

How to Become a Graphic Designer in 10 Simple Steps (7)

If you’re not pursuing a college degree in graphic design right now, it’s still essential to stay in the “student” mode and never stop learning. Even if you’re well established in your graphic design career, pushing your design skills and exploring new trends is the best way to stay ahead of the game.

Yes, following the latest trends is always recommended. But you don’t have to stay a follower your whole career. You can also be original, create new design concepts on your own, and hope that your work and evolving style will inspire others.

If you decide to get a college education in graphic design later, that’s also a viable option. It’s never too late to go back to school! However, your level of education in this field should never stop you from building a career in graphic design. Practical experience will always set you apart from those with formal education who lack experience or grit.

Your Next Steps

We’ve listed some simple steps in this article for you to take once you decide to follow a career in graphic design. Most of these tips are helpful for beginners and freelance graphic designers, agency graphic designers, and in-house graphic designers because every graphic designer needs the same attitude and skill set.

If you’re looking for more inspo, check out our graphic design tips to make you a better designer and some of the best graphic design examples we’ve found.

We hope we’ve given you some valuable tools to take your first steps toward becoming a graphic designer. If you’re ready to get started, go ahead and download Vectornator for free and see what you can create with a few essential tools: your iPad or laptop, an Apple Pencil, and your imagination.

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How to Become a Graphic Designer in 10 Simple Steps (8)
How to Become a Graphic Designer in 10 Simple Steps (9)


How to Become a Graphic Designer in 10 Simple Steps? ›

There are 10 principles of design in total! They're also known as the elements of visual design, and are: movement, balance, contrast, proportion, repetition, rhythm, variety, emphasis, harmony, and unity.

What steps should I take to become a graphic designer? ›

How to Become a Graphic Designer in 5 Steps:
  1. Learn graphic design principles.
  2. Enroll in a graphic design course.
  3. Learn key graphic design tools.
  4. Work on your own projects to develop your graphic design skills.
  5. Develop a portfolio to showcase your graphic design work.

What are the 10 basic principles of graphic design enumerate? ›

There are 10 principles of design in total! They're also known as the elements of visual design, and are: movement, balance, contrast, proportion, repetition, rhythm, variety, emphasis, harmony, and unity.

What are 5 steps of the graphic design process? ›

The 5-step Graphic Design Process
  • The Creative Brief - an important first step. The creative brief sets the tone for the entire project. ...
  • Conduct Research. ...
  • Brainstorm, Brainstorm & more Brainstorm. ...
  • Review at the 10/50/90 Stages. ...
  • The Final Product. ...
  • 5 Reasons Why You Should Hire A Graphic Designer.
Sep 30, 2020

How do I get my first graphic design job? ›

How to get a graphic design job
  1. Develop your skills. Start familiarizing yourself with essential graphic design tools and software packages. ...
  2. Consider formal education. ...
  3. Get an internship. ...
  4. Begin freelancing. ...
  5. Develop your portfolio. ...
  6. Find and join an industry community. ...
  7. Prepare your materials.
  8. Study the organization.
Jul 21, 2022

How quickly can I learn graphic design? ›

The time it takes to become a Graphic Designer can vary depending on the person's education and experience. A typical university program can take four years, while a graphic design course or UX design bootcamp can range between a few weeks to a few months.

How can I learn graphic design with no experience? ›

How to Become a Graphic Designer with No Experience 2023
  1. Website development. ...
  2. Print media. ...
  3. Gaming. ...
  4. Social media. ...
  5. Study basic graphic design principles. ...
  6. Take an online graphic design course or earn a certificate. ...
  7. Learn essential graphic design tools. ...
  8. Hone your graphic design skills through personal projects.
Oct 4, 2022

What do I need to know before starting graphic design? ›

Let's recap what graphic design skills you need to get hired:
  • Know Photoshop, InDesign & Illustrator like the back of your hand.
  • Be familiar with HTML, but not a master.
  • Do not forget to get some experience with UI/UX.
  • And Microsoft Office, Print Design and the rest of that list.
  • You need 2-3 years of experience.
Jun 18, 2018

What are the 12 rules of graphic design? ›

There are twelve basic principles of design: contrast, balance, emphasis, proportion, hierarchy, repetition, rhythm, pattern, white space, movement, variety, and unity. These visual and graphic design principles work together to create appealing and functional designs that make sense to users.

What are the 4 rules of graphic design? ›

The four graphic design principles are contrast, repetition, alignment, and proximity (C.R.A.P.).

What are the 7 concepts of graphic design? ›

The fundamental principles of design are: Emphasis, Balance and Alignment, Contrast, Repetition, Proportion, Movement and White Space.

What is step 7 in basic steps of design process? ›

Step 7: Improve

Prototypes are built quickly for a reason. Chances are that you will create a few of them while you perfect the design. Step seven is not so much a step as it is backtracking to the planning phase and determining what should be changed in your design, building a new prototype, and testing again.

What are the 5 C's of graphic designing? ›

Enhance the way your work impacts others by using the 5 C's: Content, Consistency, Color, Connection, and Clean.

What are the 7 basic principles of graphics and layout? ›

Emphasis, balance and alignment, contrast, repetition, proportion, movement, and white space are the cornerstones of the principle of design.

Can I self taught graphic designer? ›

There are certainly exceptional self-taught graphic designers who have launched careers without a formal education. While it's true that it can be done, that doesn't mean it's the best route for you.

What is an entry-level graphic designer called? ›

Junior graphic designers are entry-level graphic designers with little to no work experience. Junior graphic designers are also called junior designers, associate designers and production artists. They work with senior graphic designers on projects.

What does a beginner graphic designer do? ›

Entry-level graphic designers train to become skilled in the manipulation of colors, shapes, fonts, images, photography, print design, logos, and animation, and may use computer software or draw by hand.

How do I know if graphic design is for me? ›

If you dream of spending your days doing something active at work, graphic design might not be the right career for you. Design is inherently a desk-based job. If you enjoy spending your days in front of a computer being creative and collaborating with others, then design is a great fit.

Can I become a graphic designer in 3 months? ›

It is possible to become an amateur Graphic Designer who is well on the road to becoming a professional Graphic Designer in about three months. In short, three months is what it will take to receive the professional training required to start building a set of competitive professional job materials.

Can I become a graphic designer in 2 months? ›

Yes, you can grasp the basics of graphic design in 2 months, but it takes several years to master it. In fact, you'll learn that even decades later you can keep improving your skills. This is the main reason senior graphic designers are paid more than interns.

What is basic graphic design? ›

What Are the Basic Elements of Graphic Design? Line, shape, form, texture, space, imagery, typography and color. Understanding each of these basic elements of graphic design in isolation will help you see how to bring them together and open a whole world of creative possibilities.

Do you need to know math for graphic design? ›

Pursuing a degree in graphic design requires significant artistic training, but understanding key math components is also necessary. Being aware of the math course requirements at both the undergraduate and graduate levels can help you assess if a degree in graphic design is right for you.

How do I create a logo? ›

How to design a logo
  1. Define your brand identity.
  2. Seek inspiration.
  3. Determine logo style.
  4. Choose a type.
  5. Decide on a color scheme.
  6. Pick a font.
  7. Outline a logo shape.
  8. Create a logo.

What are the golden rules of graphic design? ›

One of the golden rules of graphic design is using alignment. Organization and order are of high importance, especially when, but not limited to, placing texts. Randomly doing so will result in disorder and clutter, which can make your viewers turn their attention elsewhere.

Can you become a graphic designer without being able to draw? ›

Graphic Designers do not need to draw but instead need to create appealing designs using assets such as images, typography, illustrations. In contrast, an Illustrator will focus on drawing to communicate a message.

What do graphic designers do on a daily basis? ›

Graphic designers typically do the following: Meet with clients or the art director to determine the scope of a project. Use digital illustration, photo editing software, and layout software to create designs. Create visual elements such as logos, original images, and illustrations to help deliver a message.

What are the 80 20 rules design? ›

The Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 rule as its also known, is a productivity hack of sorts. The idea behind it is: 80% of the effects of any given process come from 20% of the effort put into it. To illustrate this in a UX context, it's like saying: 80% of your users use 20% of your features.

What is the 70 30 rule in graphic design? ›

70% of the painting is large shapes and 30% is small shapes (details of the scooters.) If this composition was divided into 50/50 of each, the viewer would not know where to look and the painting would become rather boring.

What is the 60 30 10 rule in graphic design? ›

The idea is simple. When you choose a new color palette, 60% of the palette is dedicated to the dominant color — usually, we call it neutral. Secondary color, or complementary, makes up 30% of the palette, and a third color, accent one, is used for the remaining 10% of the design.

What are the 6 basic principles of graphic layout? ›

Start with the six principles of design: balance, pattern, rhythm, emphasis, contrast, and unity.

What are the designing 7 rules? ›

There are seven traditional and universal principles of design, which are significant across the industry: emphasis, balance & alignment, contrast, repetition, proportion, movement, and white space.

What are the 6 laws of design? ›

Answer: the 6 fundamental principles of design which are: balance, proximity, alignment, repetition, contrast and space.

What are the 3 principles graphic? ›

To best communicate visually, the three main principles of design to consider are typography, hierarchy and color.

What makes a good design? ›

Good design is a concept defined by industrial designer Dieter Rams's principles: It makes a product useful and understandable, is innovative, aesthetic, unobtrusive, honest, long-lasting, thorough to the last detail, environmentally friendly, and involves as little design as possible.

What are the 3 basic principles of graphics and layout? ›

The elements, or principles, of visual design include Contrast, Balance, Emphasis, Movement, White Space, Proportion, Hierarchy, Repetition, Rhythm, Pattern, Unity, and Variety. These principles of design work together to create something that is aesthetically pleasing and optimizes the user experience.

What are the 11 steps in the design process? ›

Stages in the Design Process
  • Analyze the situation. Before beginning the design, sort out what problem you are trying to address.
  • Write a brief. ...
  • Research the problem. ...
  • Write a specification. ...
  • Work out possible solutions. ...
  • Select a preferred solution. ...
  • Prepare working drawings and plan ahead. ...
  • Construct a prototype.

What are the 9 steps of the design process? ›

  • Identify the Problem.
  • Do Research.
  • Develop Possible Solutions.
  • Choose One Solution.
  • Design and Construct a Prototype.
  • Test the Prototype.
  • Communicate Results.
  • Evaluate and Redesign.

What are the 12 stages of the design process? ›

Terms in this set (12)
  • 1) Define a problem. *Identify a problem that exists. ...
  • 2) Brainstorm. *Present ideas in group. ...
  • 3) Research and generate ideas. ...
  • 4) Identify criteria and specify constraints. ...
  • 5) Explore possibilities. ...
  • 6) Select an approach. ...
  • 7) Develop a design proposal. ...
  • 8) Make a model or prototype.

What is the theory of graphic design? ›

What is design theory? Design theory is a system that helps graphic designers better understand how they can communicate a message to audiences through visuals. It involves identifying the different elements in an image and explaining why they're important.

What is a layout in graphic design? ›

What Is Layout Design? Layout design is the process of arranging visual elements—like text, images, and shapes—on a given page. Layout design is important for any project that conveys a message through eye-catching visuals, like magazine layouts, website design, and advertisements.

What are the 4 steps to making a graphic design? ›

Conduct graphic design research. Brainstorm design ideas. Review process at the 10/50/99 stage. Present final product.

Which degree is best for graphic design? ›

A bachelor's degree in graphic design is the most common educational foundation for entry-level graphic designers. Through this degree, students develop skills in design layout, photo editing, and narrative imaging.

What are the 7 rule of graphic design? ›

The fundamental principles of design are: Emphasis, Balance and Alignment, Contrast, Repetition, Proportion, Movement and White Space.

Can I become graphic designer without degree? ›

Well, the good news is that you do not need a degree to become a graphic designer. Graphic design is an amazing creative career with limitless possibilities, but there are definitely certain things you need to know before embarking on your new role.

What type of math is used in graphic design? ›

Geometry in Design:

Geometry is a branch of mathematics that deals with shapes, sizes, and positions of figures. It is an essential tool in graphic design, where designers use shapes to create visual hierarchy and balance in their designs.

Is it hard to be a graphic designer? ›

Becoming a graphic designer is not hard if you understand the basic knowledge and skills you need to master as a designer, have dependable and quality resources for study and reference, and develop consistency for practicing and improving from the very beginning. However, IT WILL TAKE TIME.

What is a beginner graphic designer? ›

An entry-level graphic designer is responsible for producing still images, videos and other visual elements for websites, magazines, presentations, television, movies, billboards and other media. These professionals are crucial for an organization to build and maintain a brand as well while driving sales.

What are 9 basic principles of graphic design? ›

The main principles of graphic design are balance, contrast, emphasis, repetition and pattern, proportion, movement, white space, unity, and variety.

What are the 5 principles graphic? ›

That's why understanding graphic design principles is essential. In this article, we've looked at five principles: visual hierarchy and contrast, balance and space, repetition, color, and variety.

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