Is there a codecademy but for graphic design?

About me: I’m a web dev, who started on their code journey through codecademy. I really liked how many exercises + learning tracks there were on codecademy, and it gave me a really good starting point for learning to code.

I just finished the graphic design track by CalArts on coursera, which was a start in my design journey, but currently I am struggling to find a website or place to practice design with feedback. I feel like these sites are all over the internet for code, (educative, hackerrank, leetcode, etc.) but for design, there really aren’t that many. Any help would be appreciated!!!

Don’t think there is currently an design equivalent those free coding sites, however if you’re looking for practice, you might find this helpful:

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oh amazing! yeah something like this was exactly what I was looking for. I wish there was more variety in the challenges, but se la vi.

A few critical differences exist between graphic design and coding that make learning on one’s own less straightforward than learning to write code.

With code, there are correct ways, wrong ways, preferred ways, deprecated ways, and ways that involve choosing between acceptable options. There’s some of that in graphic design, but in far more ways, no cut-and-dried answers exist.

In graphic design, there’s the added slippery, nebulous complexity of aesthetics and whether or not the design is appropriate for the job at hand. There’s no such thing as a code validator for graphic design, nor can it be checked in a web browser to see if everything displays correctly.

Graphic design is, in some ways, akin to writing a novel or composing the score to a movie. There’s a big, grayish, multi-dimensional continuum between what most people would agree is good and not so good. Does the typeface work? Is the color too dark? Is the personality appropriate? Does it evoke the right emotions? Are there unintended connotations? Is it boring? Is it too loud or too passive? Is there too much tension, or is it too easy-going and forgettable?

I could go on, but there’s no book, no online tutorial, and no one opinion that will give you definitive answers on any of these kinds of things. Instead, it’s a matter of practice, evaluation, adjustment, critical analysis, mistakes, failures, successes, soaking in various opinions, and developing an increasing level of intuitive sensitivity based upon all these things over many years.

I won’t say that learning design is any more or less difficult than coding, but I will say that the learning takes place differently. And that difference doesn’t lend itself to something along the lines of Codecademy.


That’s very true, however I think you can break design learning down into two very distinct components: hard-skills and soft-skills.

Learning the hard-skills is by far the easiest aspect of design and you can find any number of tutorials online that will teach how to create almost anything you can imagine assuming you’re prepared to invest the time.

The soft-skills on the other hand are far harder to learn and master (as you mentioned).

I don’t know of anything free.

But I certainly wouldn’t recommend anything random.

LinkedIn Learning is free for 1 month - but it’s paid for after that.
It’s excellent and has lots of qualified tutors and courses across a multitude of disciplines.

Adobe have affiliated partners across the world

But I feel these might be aimed at just learning software
The filter on the left can narrow down your search

I second Just-B’s comments.

Take my words as an engineer-turned-designer:

Different from programming, there are no rights or wrongs in design. Almost everything is subjective and it takes a whole lot of eyes to decide whether a design truly meets the requirement of the project or not. Unlike programming, we don’t have any hard criteria like those to evaluate algorithms. A design can look visually attractive but when applied to the final products, one may find it highly inappropriate. Like-wise, a design can look simple, mediocre even, but when applied to the final products, it could become memorable as an iconic image. So there you have your problems: graphic design is subjective and there are no hard criteria to create an automatic system for evaluating designs. Because of these two problems, it would be very difficult to find a service similar to codecademy.

My advice would be to try and learn your soft skills through courses and practice. Once you’ve already gotten a hang of how to use software, try and study different designs from your chosen niche. Find good projects, or follow great designers and analyze their works, then try to replicate and make their techniques yours. If you are in need of another pair of eyes, try using social networks to share your designs with your peers and ask for their feedback. If you can, I would also recommend finding a mentor. A good mentor will help you to go a long way by analyzing and helping you to see your shortcomings. As for hard skills… do a lot of work, network, and connect with people even when they are outside of your line of work.

Good luck!

P/S: Forgot to add but there are websites that you could use to practice some theories in graphic design. For example: (Kerning practice, great for brand designers). There are similar websites for color theories as well, so try and google it!

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I agree. Breaking these skills into hard and soft, as you put it, is a descriptive and concise way of phrasing the difference.

I’ve tended to think of the hard skills as production or technical skills, such as those needed to use the tools or correctly prepare artwork for printing. The soft skills, in my way of thinking, are the design skills.

These are largely semantic differences. In my case, this might be due to my career beginning at ad agencies and design studios, where, at the time, design and production were separate jobs employing different people. Today, that’s not really the case — design and production aren’t as easily separated. I like your hard and soft terminology. I might start using it myself. :wink:

Anyway, self-learners tend to focus on the hard skills since there is a more straightforward path that involves tutorials and manuals. Learning the soft skills through memorization or how-to videos isn’t easily doable. It’s a bit like becoming a novelist; learning how to spell and type are prerequisites, but learning how to write well is a very different soft skill that builds upon those foundational prerequisites.

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Yes, but I might add that the analysis should involve figuring out the reasons behind those decisions and why they were appropriate (or not) for the job, the client, the target audience, or the project’s budget. Typically, it’s impossible to know all these things by simply looking at a finished product, but considering how the design might have been done differently using a different set of variables could be a productive exercise.

For example (among many possible examples), take a nice-looking mail-order clothing catalog. Admiring the design and replicating it is relatively easy but not especially informative. A better learning exercise could be to think through why the designer might have made some of her decisions. If the clothing seems geared toward 21- to 30-year-olds, what decisions did the designer make that were conducive to targeting that demographic. How might those decisions have been different had the target age range been ten years older or ten years younger?

Even these practice sites come with some caveats. For example, I don’t entirely agree with many of the kerning solutions in the practice site. My opinions aren’t necessarily correct, but neither are the opinions of the author. Like many things in design, opinions vary considerably, making learning subjective skills, such as consistent kerning, difficult.

Totally looking for something like this! Thanks. This feels like a better funnel for practice energy, thought and time than the crowdsourcing sites.

Thanks! Got into the discipline of doing 1 each day during Covid lockdown, was super fun. I found it a great way to practice and build proficiency and confidence operating the tools - is a great way to level up your hard skills.

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