Three Steps to Demystifying Graphic Design

Demystifying Design 

Are you considering becoming a graphic designer? Or maybe you are in a creative field and want to build your skills? Getting started in the design industry can be confusing, and you may have a lot of questions. Read on for a broad outline of the steps necessary to become a designer for those curious about the industry. 

1. Decide what tools you will need to learn 

The Adobe Creative Suite is the gold standard for graphic designers, but when you are just beginning your graphic design journey, there are three main Adobe products you might want to focus on: Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, and Adobe InDesign. Read a little bit about each software and decide which ones you want to learn.  

Adobe Illustrator: Illustrator allows you to create your own original graphics. It is a vector program, which means you can scale your graphics up and down without affecting the resolution of your design. It can be used to create logos, marketing graphics, packaging design, digital art and so much more.  

Adobe Photoshop: Photoshop is a complete photo editor that can do everything from small retouches to complete art pieces. It is a raster program, so your work can’t be resized without a loss of quality. Photoshop can be used to create product mockups, edit the lighting and colors of images, remove backgrounds from images, make gif animations and more.  

Adobe InDesign: InDesign is a layout program that is great for formatting publications like magazines, articles and books. It doesn’t allow you to create graphics or art, so it works great in conjunction with Illustrator and Photoshop. If you are creating anything with large amounts of text, InDesign is necessary. 

While Adobe is the professional standard for graphic designers, it can be difficult and time-consuming to learn on your own. In SMU CAPE’s Graphic Design Certificate Program, instructors are highly experienced in Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign and can provide a smoother and more in-depth learning experience. They will also teach you what makes good graphic design and how to create compelling and effective work. 

2. Develop a Graphic Design Portfolio 

Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign all have their own tools that you will have to learn. The best way to learn these tools is through mini-projects. Completing a project is satisfying and gives you something to show off on a portfolio. Portfolios are the most important thing you can show a potential employer. Anyone can say they are good at graphic design, but you have to be able to prove it, and a portfolio is a perfect representation of your skills and your design style. Create your portfolio as soon as you begin learning, and update it regularly. There are many services that you can use to design a portfolio including Adobe Portfolio, Wix, WordPress and Squarespace, so explore your options and determine what works best for your needs. Here are a couple of examples of portfolios from past SMU CAPE Graphic Design Certificate program students Emily Piepenbrink and Bonnie Pickett 

3. Gain Professional Work Experience 

Mini projects while you are learning are great, but working with real companies is even better. Once you are more confident in your design abilities, begin seeking out professional work. Freelancing is a fantastic way to build your resume if you have no prior experience in a creative field. You may have to network to find clients at first. Start small. Small businesses with small budgets will gladly pay you to do ad hoc design work for them. Once you have a few clients, it’s easier to get more. If you are already in a creative field like marketing and are looking to transfer into a more creative role within the field, make it known that you are learning graphic design. Your current employer may be willing to change your position or add some more design work to your job description. If you are looking to switch roles, then make sure to link to your portfolio on your resume. Many different jobs require graphic design knowledge, so explore your options to find the best fit for your skillset. Some job titles to look for include Graphic Designer, Art Director, Packaging Designer, Technical Designer and Brand Designer.   

Feeling overwhelmed on your design journey? Let SMU CAPE guide you. Our Graphic Design Certificate program begins multiple times each year and applications are open now.