Practice graphic design

Hey everyone! Im a self taught graphic designer (still learning!)
I know a lot of the design elements, typography and basically anything I need to know before creating a design.
I want to use the skills ive learned but Im not sure how… Are there any assignments you would reccomand? How do you even start to work as a freelancer for the first time if youve never tried it? Any tips would help!

Hi and welcome.

You don’t. You get a job in a design agency and learn the ropes, otherwise you will be charging people money for a sub-standard service. You openly admit you don’t know what you are doing yet – that in itself isn’t a problem, we’ve all been there – so you cannot possibly be able to offer a service to paying customers with problems that need solving.

Moreover, I am very very sceptical of self-taught designers. Who was telling you where you were going wrong? Who critiqued your work? My advice would be to go and get an accredited education (not from an online ‘university’). If you have the passion for this as a career – and you’ll need passion to see you through the tight deadlines and all-nighters you’ll have to do to cut your teeth – then you should give yourself the best chance of success and do it the right way. Once you have an education, you’ll need, I’d suggest, 4-5 years experience, as a minimum, in the workplace before even thinking about a freelance career.

Apologies if this seems harsh, but there are so many under- and un-qualified wannabes out there now, armed with alacrity and ignorance in equal measure, that the market is saturated. You don’t want to even be swimming in the same pool if you can help it. If you have any chance of turning what I assume you love doing into a long-term career, you are going to need to build solid foundations.

I had alarm bells ringing as soon as I read this. You already know typography! I’ve been at this over 30 years and feel I’ve only scratched the surface of all there is to know. I know you didn’t intend it to, but that statement sounds somewhat arrogant, and not a little bit ignorant. I am not saying that to be hurtful, but it exposes your lack of experience. From that alone, I’d say you have a lot more yet to learn. Unless of course, you are one of those rare geniuses that just ‘get it’ in which case, I’ll shut my mouth!

Have you ever had your work critiqued? Aside from all the things I mention above, you also need an ability, a talent.

I hope this helps. Not what you wanted to hear, I’m sure, but they are my thoughts on your situation.

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First of all thank you!
My question is not about how to be successful in the job, I wont even think about charging in the next year or so.

My main question is what can I do to get better? What kind of exercises can I give myself?
Formal education is not a real option right now for me. Im learning anything I can from books and have a graphic designer who teaches me anything he can :slight_smile:

Thank you for the answer, I wasnt looking for a fake one, I just dont know anything about the work itself and would love to, I just feel like Ill never be ready even If Ill study for years.

If you have access to a tame professional, then make the most of him or her. See if you can do an internship with them. A formal education is the ideal. It will get you noticed on a pile of CVs (resumés). If you can’t, the next best thing is working in the industry and learning your craft. Fake exercises are not going to cut it really. They’ll look what they are in a portfolio. If you can get real life experience, that’s where I’d go.

What is your end goal? What do you want to do?

Id love to design posters, magazines, newspapers, those are the main things Id love to do eventually.
The graphic designer whos teaching me is exactly in that industry so I do have a chance to look at some of the work hes doing.
Is an intern, I wouldnt mind to get involved with logo design/UI design even thought its not my end goal

Logo design and ui design are completely different disciplines.

Look really hard at the magazine and newspaper industry. Are you ready to work in an online format?
While print will never die, most of that is moving to an online format. Or at least a dual presence.

Posters are usually only a small part of any type of campaign in which they are used. You don’t usually just “do a poster” unless it’s for a small event for a small organization. That’s all small potatoes, if it’s paid at all. That arena is where you see the folks buying templates and doing it themselves, or there is always an amateur ready to do one in Word and take it on the chin.

Posters like movie posters or concert posters are all part of a much broader, multi-faceted, heavily researched ad campaign. Movie posters are usually done by a division of the studio that created the film, or a commissioned design studio that usually handles all of the press releases. Concert posters start with the general theme of the gig, whatever that may be. It starts with the theme, then maybe the manipulation of the logo/cover art, and has tendrils going out into stage dressing and merchandising.
Like I said, aim higher.

Indeed. Couldn’t agree more.

… And to aim higher, you’ll have to play with the big kids and to do that, you need sound knowledge (and almost certainly, these days, a good education) and good experience. Otherwise, there will always be plenty of people who will go all out to achieve this, end up with the plum work and you’ll be left bottom-feeding for $50 logos. You’d need another career to make enough money to exist, and thus end up being a hobbyist. Hence my hard words initially. If you want something, you have to want it badly enough to want to go the extra mile to achieve it.

All depends what you want to do, but you are very unlikely to get into high-end publishing without putting in the hard yards.

Again, not saying this to put you off, but PrintDriver is absolutely spot on, you have to aim high.

Lots depends on where you live.

In some parts of the world, a university degree in design (or mountains of talent and luck) is needed if one expects to make a good living at graphic design. In the U.S., there’s a huge glut of designers competing for an ever-shrinking piece of the pie. Most of the lower- and mid-level work is being outsourced and crowdsourced to places where labor costs are cheaper — either that or purchased off-the-shelf in some kind of do-it-yourself template kit or service. For the higher-end, custom, bespoke work, in the U.S., for every job, you’d be competing against a hundred other people, most with 4-year college degrees and years of experience.

Where you live and what the situation is like there, I don’t know.

As those above me have implied, lots depends on whether you want to dabble making pocket change on piecemeal projects or whether you want to earn a good living doing top-notch, steady graphic design work. Dabbling is easier. Being serious enough to do what’s required to get a good, steady, well-paying job is something altogether different. As for freelancing without, first, having established yourself as a pro and having learned the ropes, well, good luck competing with all the other wannabes — it’s not a good bet.

As for newspapers and magazines, I spent many years doing both. At one time both were great opportunities for designers. I bailed out on both in the early 2000s when it became apparent that the internet was going to make both career dead ends, which is exactly what has happened. Once again, though, I’m coming from a U.S. perspective — in some parts of the world newspapers and magazines are still going strong, but I don’t know for how much longer that will be true. I’m not at all sure it’s a good, longterm career path anywhere.

If you’re dead set on graphic design and have ruled out a formal university-level design program, well, good luck. I really don’t know of any way to duplicate what a university teaches since so much of the learning is done during the critiques and within the step-by-step, structured learning environment that ensures the basics are covered. On your own, you’ll have no real way of knowing if what you’re doing is right or what you’ve missed. When teaching yourself, the teacher knows no more about the subject than the student.

That said, there are some pretty good hit-and-miss courses on LinkedIn Learning, Skillshare, Pluralsight and a few others. They cost money, though, but it’s still a lot cheaper than a formal education.

Consider a different career path. It’s a saturated market.

I advise you to work some time as an intern in a graphic design company. You may not earn money, but you will get the experience you need. In the future, this will help you get a high-paid job.

Internships are highly coveted things in the design field. The companies taking on interns are going to be hooked up with local schools (be they colleges and/or trade high schools) and it would be an absolute longshot for a person who is “self-taught” to be considered. If they made it to the consideration round for whatever reason, they would have to have a stunning portfolio that outshone all of the course-taught students, which is, honestly, not likely. And we have to pay our interns for insurance reasons so they better have at least the rudimentary skills to be useful. The field is way too oversaturated, even for internships. Consider how few design jobs there are right now. There are even fewer internships.

I completely agree with you. Finding a worthwhile internship is now very difficult, but it is possible for those who want it. By the way, pay attention to udemy and pluralsight courses. As far as I know, they are free in April. For example, I started to practice graphic design with free templates and layouts that I used to create a website for my friends

I’d be extremely wary of the non-paid internship. Before putting yourself into an unpaid situation, be VERY sure there will be a mentor with the proper chops in place. If you are just being an intern with no direction from a pro above you, the internship is absolutely useless to you. The whole idea behind an internship is a downloading of information from a pro to the intern. Otherwise you are just doing free work for a cheap bastard, while learning nothing in return.

But we do hire interns here, and the kids at the schools that have pre-contacted us to make grading arrangements get first dibs. It’s pretty much the same at all the agencies I work with (that I’ve discussed interns with in passing.) Outside the US your mileage may vary.

Agreed, but I’d also say that great unpaid internships can be fine when they’re obtained through a reputable school. Way back in the Paleolithic era when I was in college, at least one internship was required, and the school lined up the agencies. My required, school-sponsored internship was unpaid, but it was also at the best design studio in the state, which enabled me to work directly with some of the top designers I’ve ever come across.

However, yes, I totally agree with you. There are employers who just take advantage of free work, so being wary is appropriate.

Especially where no reputable school is in the mix here with a self-taught person. And often, a lot of colleges offering a design degree take no part in lining up an internship any more. Some don’t even require an internship to graduate. If they did, 75% of the class would fail as there are just none to be found. Ours aren’t even design internships. They more focus on the trades.

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