Advice for newbie

Hello, I’m Nathan. Thanks for clicking into this thread! Here’s my little background, I’m looking to do graphic designer professionally and I’m only afford to learn it online. Now I want to learn graphic design(towards marketing and advertising first because I like to play around image editing) and build my portfolio so that I could apply for job.

I did watched PS&AI tutorial and play around a bit of it and read some graphic design book(layout grid, principal, typography, color theory&harmony).

My question is :
1. How do I improve my graphic design skill? Do I just look for reference(aka. copy other work) and curate it?
2. I don’t have idea to design(how the layout and style/trend should I use)
3. How do I differentiate myself from other platform(like canva)?

It would huge help if you can list the steps that I should take. If you have other idea to improve, please feel free to comment! :smiley:

Hi and welcome.

Firstly, let me start by saying that the following is in no way intended to put you off. However, currently the market is saturated with wannabe designers who did an online course in photoshop and who feel it qualifies them to be a designer. This means that to stand out, rather than skimming the surface because design is a ‘cool’ career, you need to actually know what you are doing and have substance.

There are two ways you can to this. Firstly get a entry level job in the industry and work your way up, learning everything you can along the way. However, for me, unless you are one of those few super-talented, constantly inquisitive, sickeningly brilliant types, you could easily miss out on one facet, that industry experience alone may not teach you. Namely, the academic; history, theory, critical thinking etc. If you are lucky enough to find employing a good studio and with a good mentor, the commercial pressures of business, mean no one is actually likely to stop and teach you these things.

To that end, my take would always be to get yourself a good education at a good university first. I know it is costly, but what price is invaluable? Firstly, if you meet the entry criteria, you would be assessed by people qualified to give you an idea of your aptitude. This is important. There are many things I love, but know I have no aptitude towards and no matter how much practice I put in, it will never result in the outcome I might want.

Once you establish that you do have an aptitude, then getting on to a good course will teach you things you don’t even know you don’t know yet. This, in itself is not a bad thing. We’ve all been there.

You ask what style or trend you should adhere to. This is entirely the wrong question to ask. The answer is none. Trends are transient. You need to learn how to come up with solid, effective ideas that solve problems and communicate them to the intended audience in the right way – not produce cool layouts that impress your peers. Questions about differentiation based on software. Again a long way off the mark, I’m afraid.

The best solution is a good education and then five years experience in the industry and then you might, just might, begin to be able to call yourself a designer. Sure it’s a hard slog, but there are no easy routes to anything worth having.

That is how you stand out from the crowd – and these days the crowd of charlatans is legion.

After all, those people interviewing you for a job will likely have enough experience to be able to tell the difference. With a good education, you also come to them from an expected direction. They’ll have a rough idea of what you already know and what you need yet to learn. If you are self-taught (unless naturally brilliant) you are a bit of an unknown. There’s no way of telling what you do and do not know, so you become a risk to employ. That said, if your portfolio is outstanding, then that will go a long way, but you NEED to be able to demonstrate your ability to solve problems. Of course there are always exceptions to any rule, but if you want to maximise you chances of building a long-term successful career, that would be the way to go, in my experience. Others may have a different take, but these are my thoughts on the matter.

Probably not what you want to hear, I’m sure, but better to get your ducks in a row at an early stage that learn it 5 years down the line.

Hope this helps, rather than disheartens.

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You have 3 areas to consider;

  1. Learning the software
  2. Getting good at design
  3. Finding a job

These are all very different and each requires a different set of skills.

I’ve been doing this for 30-odd years and I’m entirely self-taught, mostly because when I was learning the ropes there were no courses in this. In fact I taught an early night school class in what was then called ‘Desktop Publishing’ (it was the '80s lol).

I started out by copying layouts from magazines and newspapers, leaflets etc. This gave me a basic understanding of how the software works. It also gave me the basics of design, because to get the use of space right, the choice of colours and how to use fonts, the difference between headlines and body copy etc. are all important. I understand that an online course can show you how to use the software and some useful tips and tricks, but you will need to find a different way to learn design (maybe a different online course).

Finding a job? Good luck with that, sincerely. You may be able to get a foot in the door by doing freelance work but to earn a living doing that you will need to know about legal stuff, billing and taxes and you will need to learn how to handle your clients.

TL;DR Have a go, see if you have a passion for it. If you don’t, do something else.

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Thank you sprout for the insight, this helps me a lot

Here’s what I learn:
“No one is actually likely to stop and teach you these things in industry.”
" There are many things I love, but know I have no aptitude towards and no matter how much practice I put in, it will never result in the outcome I might want."
“Know that I’m risky factor to employer”

Main objective of graphic design

  • You need to learn how to come up with solid, effective ideas that solve problems and communicate them to the intended audience in the right way
  • NEED to be able to demonstrate your ability to solve problems

Thanks StudioMonkey for mentioning about the legal stuff, billing and taxes. This hit my blind spot. I might try freelance once I completed my portfolio.

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