6 Tips for Amateur Graphic Designers

Sep 26 2014

I studied advertising in college. Yet somehow, since graduating, I’ve found myself in not one, but two positions where graphic design plays a primary role in my day-to-day. It’s safe to say self-education has been a major theme of my life for the past two years. Here are six tips & tricks I’ve accumulated during that time.

1. Ask questions

It can be hard to know where to start with design, but the more information you have, the easier the whole process will be. Finding out as much information as possible regarding your design project will not only help you hit the ground running, but also save time. Design is a subjective and mercurial field; questions help ensure that your vision is aligned with that of your client.

Questions could include:

• What is the client hoping to accomplish with this project?

• What tone should the piece establish?

• Are there any design mandatories? (I.e. logos or icons.)

• What’s the target demographic?

• Are there any similar examples that the client particularly likes and could show you?

2. Get inspired

There’s nothing like visual inspiration to get your creative juices flowing. Checking out the work of other graphic designers can motivate you and help you think beyond your initial design parameters. Websites like Behance showcase some of the best work out there and allow you to search by project type, popularity, and even color scheme. Visual examples also serve as valuable reference points when discussing project ideas with the client.

3. Put it on paper

In my experience, the best way to start a design project is using pen and paper. Not only can you craft rough drafts in far less time than when using Photoshop, but the hands-on element lends itself to a more immersive and creative experience.

4. Experiment

It’s a rule of thumb that your first idea is never your best. While it’s easy to get attached to your initial design, push yourself to come up with new ideas and iterations. This is where getting a second opinion really helps. Getting critiqued on your design work is a daunting yet crucial step in the design process. Whether the second opinion is another design professional, the nearest co-worker, or your roommate, every perspective is valid and will force you to evaluate your work in a fresh light.

5. Use high quality images

Nothing has the power to make or break a design like image quality. In today’s increasingly visual society, an image is often the first thing our eyes gravitate to. A poor quality or pixelated picture will appear unprofessional and lower the tone of the design as a whole. Another bonus to high-quality photos is that they can serve as the source for a cohesive color scheme. Grab your eyedropper tool and get clicking!

6. Justify your design

The best design has real thought behind it, reasoning that extends beyond “it looked cool.” Every element of your design should echo the tone and core messaging of the brand. This keeps your design cohesive and makes for a much more engaging and persuasive sell to the client. For example, you could use lines throughout to embody themes of connection and travel or echo the core silhouettes from your featured image around the page.

The design process is different for everyone, and eventually you’ll establish your own methodology and best practices. In the meantime, I hope some of this proves useful, and remember, if you get stuck – there’s always YouTube.

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