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  • Beginners Information?

    Hello, I have a few questions/void's in my information, that I need informed on. I'm a Junior in high-school, and I'm beyond interested in becoming a graphics designer/web designer, but I'm not exactly sure where to begin. I've been messing around with free programs like for years now. I just recently got Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator six-ish months ago. I've sort of been "dipping" into freelance sights like (if that is considered a 'freelance' sight) and haven't really been as successful as I've wanted to be. My logo designs have been hit or miss basically. So I'd like to know, what is your design process for things like logos, backgrounds, websites etc. I usually just open up the old Adobe Illustrator and mess around till something clicks. I'd also like to know if anyone has the knowledge of any websites, forums, blogs, tutorials, anything that could be useful, please don't hold back. I really love the world of graphic designs, it'd be a beautiful thing to make a career out of this, I just need to know where to start.

    Thank you,

  • #2
    Welcome to the forum Chris. Please read these important threads posted HERE and especially HERE. They will explain a lot about how the forum runs, from the rules and regulations to frequently discussed topics to the background on some of our lingo and inside jokes.

    I hope you enjoy yourself!

    Where to begin. Logo design is a specialized corner of graphic design, and probably not the best pool to dip your toe into first. To successfully design logos, you need to know about color theory and branding, among other things.

    Do you draw? I'd suggest that you get a sketchbook and an HB pencil, and start sketching. Take a drawing class, and learn about shapes and how they reflect light and cast shadows. In Illustrator, learn how to use the pen tool. In Photoshop, learn how to retouch photos with a natural look.

    Read up on typography. Start looking at type everywhere you see it and start learning the reiliable workhorses for text, and some display typefaces for headlines.

    I'm sure the other forum members will have an additional ton of advice and recommendations for you.

    Now get to work!
    This post is brought to you by the letter E and the number 9. Those are the buttons I push to get a Twix out of the candy machine.
    "I put my heart and my soul into my work, and have lost my mind in the process."


    • #3
      Thank you for such a quick reply. Do you know what area of graphic design, in your opinion, would be best for a beginner to start our in? I'm truly open to anything and everything, I just love the ability to take a white box on a computer screen and turn it into something that makes people say 'wow'. And as for drawing, let's just say I'm a "stick figure" kind of guy. but hey I might as well give it a try. I'm more than willing to put in time for this amazing career.


      • #4
        Definitely check out Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, by Betty Edwards, and Looking Good in Print, by Roger C. Parker. Both should be available at your local library, maybe even your school library.

        I can't stress enough that you learn some drawing skills. You intract with the pencil & page in a more personal, tactile way than you can with a computer. I'm not the world's best at drawing, but I can sketch thumbnails.
        This post is brought to you by the letter E and the number 9. Those are the buttons I push to get a Twix out of the candy machine.
        "I put my heart and my soul into my work, and have lost my mind in the process."


        • #5
          Are there any design classes that are offered at your school or local art school? A class would be a good way to get a general introduction to design. Software is a only a tool and while you are learning, you should be working on skills to make you think and design. Drawing skills, brainstorming skills, colour theory and typography are some things to look into.
          It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn't use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like "What about lunch?" Winnie the Pooh


          • #6
            My school offers an "art" class, but I haven't taken it since probably 7th grade. I was just simple stuff like making poorly drawn self portraits or learning about artist. There was no real "learning". Pretty much just getting an A if you did the work, no matter how poorly drawn it was. No tips or corrections or anything of that sort. As for local art schools...I live in practically the middle of no where so I don't think there are any of those around, none that I've heard of at least.


            • #7
              If you don't mind doing a lot of plumbing (i.e. writing code) web design might be a good place to start. Especially since you can get very far with just Photoshop and a text editor. If you're on a Mac you're in luck because it has Apache and PHP preinstalled.


              • #8
                I would recommend drawing, I agree with Garricks 'Drawing from the right side of the brain' is a great book. Drawing is about learning to see, which, believe me (as I teach drawing and this is always the deal), you don't see what's in front of your eyes as you think you do. Learning to see simply expands your visual world, which expands your main primary tools, your eyes and brain.
                When I don't have a specific idea for a logo I sit down and start drawing, I am always surprised at what comes out. Nothing I could think up without a pencil in my hand.

                There is a science to creating good design, based on the science of how the eye folows the darks and lights thru a page, I don't have a clue who teaches it, or if it is even taught in design schools. I got it from my high school art teacher and it is invaluable. Try googling 'the elements of design' you may be able to find something following that...

                Learn photoshop, illustrator and indesign - has great tutorials.

                Get your hands on as many magazines or design books as possible and just look. Or just magazines. What did that designer do that you love. What did they do to create a certain feel to their work? You want to get specific, you are learning how to create a certain 'feel' with abstract line shape and color. File away as many ideas as possible, (just don't copy anyone).

                And there's plenty of places that want interns, (if you can afford to work for free for awhile...)
                I did 6 years of book design, which is what taught me all about the intricacies of type, I could never recommend book design enough.

                If you're feeling incredibly brave and self confident post some stuff in the crit pit to get feedback on what you're doing from professional designers.

                When you start it always feel like your lost at sea, at least I did (and I had a professional art background), but the more you get into it, the clearer it becomes.
                Good luck!


                • #9
         tutorials on logo design actually kinda suck from a signmaker's perspective. One of my major pet peeves with some of these online tutorials is that they are made by people who shouldn't be making them (and there is no compensation for the people who do know to make them right).

                  That said, as far as those freelance sites, if you are doing your logos in Paint or Photoshop, that would not be acceptable format. A photoshop .eps is not the kind of .eps file a logo should be saved in. You also need to know about spot colors, and color theory and branding like Garricks mentioned.

                  You aren't even a student yet. Freelancing is putting the cart way before the horse. I don't even suggest to graduated design students to start as freelancers. They should work for someone else and learn all the ropes they can before stepping out on their own. Don't practice on your clients when honing basic skills.


                  • #10
                    Drawing on the right side.... c'mon. At your age you want to be drawing on the wrong side of the brain.

                    (I once did a successful art college pub poster using the cover art from that book, only the nude was holding an empty whiskey bottle and the title was changed to 'Drinking on the Right Side of the Brain'. Thus, legends are born...)

                    But I do agree that for you, at your age? You need to get away from the Borg-mind influence of designing with computers and software.

                    I mean, I can say (like the other guys) that you should just learn to love pencil/pen/marker and paper... but, let's be realistic. Would you have got as far into this whole skill area if it was not computer-based? Probably not. Do you want to be an illustrator or a designer? I've been both and as much as I love illustration I can tell you that you don't need awesome drawing or media skills to be an awesome designer. You need awesome THINKING skills.

                    I'm not saying it's a bad thing to leave behind paper and other atom-based media, but you have to also go with your wave of inspiration. So if you think going paper is going to make the difference and you can handle the self-discipline that requires (even a good eraser is no match for multiple undo's) -- then absolutely, jump in.

                    But the most important thing is that you keep practicing coming up with, and studying IDEAS. Keep thinking. Keep goofing around with the visual language of layout/ideas/elements and stuff. And what's the best way to set that up that will work for YOU?

                    Me? I use a Nintendo DS lite, most of the time, which you can buy dirt cheap, used. Then you need a 'now very hard to find' cart, like AceKard to allow you to run Colors and/or DSNotes and Animanatee. Three great little (free) homebrew apps. Two of which tap into the pressure sensitivity function of the DS tablet (as far as I know, the ONLY ones that do). I find I use my DSi more these days though, using FlipNote for my doodling -- the battery charge life is amazing and I love working low-rez, lo-colour and the fact that I can grab all kinds of simple, strong stuff in low-rez black and white dither using it's camera. I'd say that 95% of my current work starts as a low-rez black and white line 'note' from my DS.

                    Low-rez, fat line. Usually. That's a trick I picked up from the late, great Leo Burnett's website ( -- check it out) that states: Big ideas come out of Big Pencils. It's true! Too many beginners get stuck and/or obsessed with tiny, gentle, build-up thin lines -- don't. Get big, and get thinking. Big lines force the solution to be simpler, bolder.

                    Or, if you've got wealthier pockets, go for the iPad I guess. Kinda primitive drawing hardware though because it can do so much more, it's too easy to get distracted. Design is a discipline, not a distraction.

                    And check out the name "Von Glitschka" if you want to improve your drawing and digital drawing skills. He's got some awesome tutorials and stuff on his site.

                    Now get out there and get some stuff to show us.


                    • #11
                      If you plan to go in for a design degree you'll end up taking a few drawing classes anyway. I also grew up in the middle of nowhere. I took Drawing I through a local community college that offered a few evening classes at my high school. Perhaps there's something similar in your community. Even if you eventually decide to go into a career other than design, a drawing class could still count toward general electives.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by start View Post
                        My school offers an "art" class, but I haven't taken it since probably 7th grade. I was just simple stuff like making poorly drawn self portraits or learning about artist....
                        Depending on how good your teachers are "learning about artists" can be a great way to learn about art and how to create it effectively.
                        I could give you a dose
                        but it would never come close
                        to the rage built up inside of me
                        fist in the air in the land of hypocrisy


                        • #13
                          Art classes rarely hurt, and can help enrich your understand of composition and layout later on.

                          Looking Good in Print is one of my fave books (awesome suggestion Gar). Definitely check it out. Amazon sells the latest edition.
                          I'd rather be hated for who I am, than loved for who I am not. ~ Kurt Cobain


                          • #14
                            Learning to draw is a lot like learning to sing. It's intimidating. And why do so many people seem to have a 'natural' ability to do it so well?

                            The secret is that in many, many cases -- 'natural ability' is in fact, just diligent study and practice. (Crap! I knew there was a catch!) And that's over years, and years. Some just start a lot sooner than others.

                            Two big things about learning new skills is to convince yourself that you are LEARNING, not earning yet (wow, what a great advantage!) -- and that gives you license to FAIL and FAIL BIG! And that's what you want. You want to fail big enough to clearly understand what it was that blew up on you.

                            Big failure ability is truly an awesome power! But only if you fully exploit it. Do you understand what went wrong? Right? Can you articulate that to another person, clearly?

                            This is where classrooms trump self-help approaches all the time. Eventually you develop a kind of 'inner art director' who will be both the biggest motivator and the biggest SOB you'll ever want to meet. Keep eyes and EARS and mind open when it comes to crits because this is where the bulk of the synapses will set deepest, and most productively. This is also where your skin toughens just as you're learning to appreciate the kindness of a well-placed punch in the head from someone with honest feedback.

                            Take full advantage of the Crit Pit here - and wherever you can find similar opportunities for review. It takes a lot of courage to be creative -- and a lot more to try and make a career out of doing so.

                            Good luck!


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Audentia View Post
                              Art classes rarely hurt, and can help enrich your understand of composition and layout later on.

                              Looking Good in Print is one of my fave books (awesome suggestion Gar). Definitely check it out. Amazon sells the latest edition.
                              I'll second with Audi said and third what Garricks said!!!

                              Personally, some of the most intimidating and fun I've had in school thus beginning drawing classes. Just's supposed to be fun!!! And if it's're doing something wrong. LOL
                              "Go ahead, make your logos in PS. We charge extra money to redraw your logo into vector art so it can be printed on promotional product. Cha CHING! " - CCericola






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