Projects Ideas?

I’m trying to get better at graphic design and have quality professional work in my portfolio as I have nothing in it. I’ve started brand projects and posted some on this forum, but I decided to start over this time because last time I had other classes to study for. That’s why my concepts look vague, but now that I’m on summer break I have time to do actual research to make stronger designs. Does anybody have some projects ideas that I could do? maybe create a fake brief with a design problem?

I have seen the projects you have posted and, what I am about to say is in no way a personal criticism of your abilities. To be honest, there is not a lot to criticise, as you are so early into the learning process. So, then it’s no fault of your own – unless, of course, you are 28 and have been doing this for 10 years already! You have a fairly long journey ahead.

What I would say is, before you start trying to fill a portfolio with lots of fictitious logos, do some more learning, combined with lots of practice. Learn everything you can about what the business is all about. Read about branding (Not isolated logo design – don’t get me started of the current plague of futile, isolated logo design). Understand how a brand can help drive a business or organisation forward. It is a huge subject in itself.

Learn about typography. Please, please learn about typography. The world is being polluted by young people wanting to be designers because it is cool, without ever having rendered 14pt Bembo by hand to gain a true appreciation and understanding and love of its structure, purpose and beauty. Learn from the greats. Jan Tschichold, Claude Garamond, Adrian Frutiger, Eric Gill. Read as far back as Aldus Manutius and as current as Jason Smith. Really understand and develop a passion. Read about how Brody, et al, affected the face (and Face) of the 90s. Find out about Massimo Vignelli, Malcolm Glaser, etc, etc, etc

Learn about how Jock Kinnear and Margaret Calvert changed road signage in the UK (saving countless lives in the process) and how it affected the rest of the world. Look at great brands like Lufthansa and London Transport. Learn how design can literally change the the world around us and change the way people live.

Learn about how the human mind accepts and processes visual information (a hugely overlooked subject by universities, yet a fundamentally important area for designers)

The list is endless. I’ve been doing this, pushing 30 years now and I still know nothing. I have only scratched the surface of an immense subject in human communication, After all, that’s what is all about; how we disseminate visual information to each other.

Find your passion, knowledge and understanding. Read. Read everything. – and not just the internet. Read actual books, At the same time, practice, practice and practice some more.

I know that all this sounds massively grandiose and probably more than a little pompous, but if you fire up a huge passion for the big stuff, the you will be far much better at the small stuff in the long run.

I am guessing you are still quite young and have the time to learn. Please don’t end up yet another in the army of vacuous logo designers.

All that said, if the passion isn’t there to begin with, my advice would be, find another path to take. This is a hard road to choose to take and you will need passion, drive and commitment if you are going to make a successful career out of it. That is not intended to put you off, but more to help you learn in the right direction.

Hopefully others here will temper this post with some actual help and answer your actual question, This is just my 2-penneth’s worth (spot the Brit!), for what it’s worth.

Good luck.


Thanks, I’ve also been listening to podcast it’s more business base then it is design theory. I also plan re-learning color theory aside from typography that too can be a struggle of mine. Do you know any good typography books?

In no particular order:

Typography and Lettering
Just My Type Simon Garfield
Twentieth Century Type Lewis Blackwell
An Essay on Typography Eric Gill
Stop Stealing Sheep & Find Out How Type Works Erik Spiekermann
A Treasury of Alphabets and Lettering Jan Tschichold
Twentieth Century Type Designers Lund Humphries
Why Fonts Matter Sarah Hyndman

Other related
This is an must-read (old, but still relevant, possibly even more so today):
Design for the Real World Victor Papenek
Do Good Design David B Berman
The Green Marketing Manifesto John Grant
500 years of printing S. H. Steinberg
On Brand Wally Olins
Frank Pick’s London V&A publications

Bit more left field, but important
Read books on the history of the Bauhaus (there are many)

These following three are primarily architects and furniture designers, but you can learn a lot about design and proportion.
Le Corbusier
Frank Lloyd Wright
Rennie Mackintosh

Also, read as much as you can about print production.

I am sure others can add to this list as there are bound to be some glarers I have missed. It is in no way a comprehensive list. I just looked at my bookshelf and listed some of the books I have read in the past.

Hope this helps

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I second the motion to read as much as you can. If you do not own a library card, be sure to get one. In addition to print books, most libraries have digital books that you can check out on your tablet or phone.

Which podcasts? I occasionally pop on the “Honest Designers Podcast” put on by DesignCuts. Lots of good info, however there are some of them that are more business-focused, you’ll just have to filter through them.

As for as practicing, how do I practice with illustrator? Because my software knowledge is subpar. My professor and teachers(even in high school) never really taught me in depth how to use the software or they did, but it was just copy what the teacher was doing. We never did any projects. Along with understanding, I need help with execution and making it look presentable actually looked liked I put time in to it.

I’m not sure how basic your skills are, but probably the biggest mistake people make when starting out is to use far too many nodes to describe a curve. If this is too basic and you are way past this, I apologise. However, even if you are more advanced but have never done this (and it sounds like this could be the case, from what you have said about your education in this area), then go back and do it anyway. Get this right and the rest is polishing and refining. It is the most solid foundation you can have for drawing vectors. It will also stand you well for drawing clipping paths in photoshop and if you ever get into type design it is an absolute must. (Don’t do it; nothing will suck your life away like designing a font!)

I cannot stress this enough; you need to master how the pen tool works. It’s all about knowing exactly where the apex of a curve is and being able to draw complex curves in the minimum amount of nodes. Placement and handle drag (distance and angle) are paramount to everything to do with vector drawing.

Trace things. Lots of things. Look at a full circle when you use the shape tool. It does it with just four nodes only. That is your benchmark. Try and recreate just that to start. Put a circle on a layer, lock it, then on another layer see if you can place the nodes exactly right in order to draw a new, near perfect circle in four nodes. This is a fairly easy one, as you can place them exactly top, right, left and bottom and constrain the handles to 90 degrees as you drag them (hold shift). It will give you a sense of how the handles work and determine the dynamics of the curve.

After that use simple images as templates (simple kids’ book illustrations are a good start). More simple parabolic and non-symmetrical curves.

It is all about developing an almost-intuitive understanding of where an apex is and what angle it’s perpendicular is, Once you get this, the rest is easy. You’ll do it frustratingly unsuccessfully for a while, then it will just click all of a sudden (like practicing anything really).

You could even try freehand drawing curves on a piece of paper, with a pencil, then marking where you think the apex of each curve and its perpendicular should be (though this is probably more useful a bit later, once you get a sense of where they should be). Also try to deconstruct existing curves by showing handles, so you get a sense of where they are. Once it all clicks into place, you won’t be able to look at any curve without seeing where this is.

Sorry, that was a very long-winded way to describe what is, effectively, a pretty simple concept. Well, at least, it is simple once it all clicks into place.

You can test your results, to an extent, with the reduce points filter (keeping curve integrity at around 95-98% – experiment with this by showing both the before and after), or even quickly, with the smooth tool. This second one may change your curve a little, but it will reduce your curve to fewer number of nodes. Examine how they are placed and their handle lengths and angles.

Have fun.

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