Way To Practice

Hello everyone,
I am currently a student hoping to be a graphic designer. Unfortunately the program starts next year so I’ve really been groping on my own. Is there a way I can practice? I’m currently reading books and watching videos on the basics of graphic design.

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Others here might disagree in part, but looking at books, paying attention, and watching videos is probably all you should do at this point.

Years ago, in my design program, the first year was called the Foundation Program. Part of its purpose was to disabuse the students of their preconceptions about design, art, and what was or wasn’t good. The idea behind that approach was to start everyone off with a clean slate without the naive artistic ideas of an uneducated kid interfering with learning the right way to do things.

I thought it was a bit nutty at the time, but when I think back on what I thought graphic design was all about and what was good and bad was completely reorganized and turned on its head during that first year.

In hindsight, it was for the better. The trouble with practicing without a structured program or a mentor is that the teacher (you) doesn’t know anything more about it than the student (you). That’s a recipe for picking up bad habits that take time to lose.

I’d stay away from crowdsourcing. You’ll pick up counterproductive habits and attitudes from doing that. If it were me, as I said, I’d concentrate on books and other materials, and I’d make sure they came from legitimate sources and not from some kid in his parent’s basement showing step-by-step instructions on how to do flashy stuff.


Inner, mental “practice” is much more important than noodling with software. If you have the means, spend an afternoon just walking around a busy city. Digest and process the 1000’s of examples of design you’ll see. Notice the shapes and rhythms of the architecture, the signage, even the streets themselves. Imagine the decisions and processes that went into the things you see. In urban surroundings, you’re in “the market”. Nothing is accident, or in other words, everything is where it is, how it is, and what it is by design; everything. Drink it in, question it, answer it, weigh its effect.

Thank you Just-B I will continue reading ^w^

Thank you HotButton, this will help me be active too!

Find a visual arts college fair you can attend, and bring your portfolio. If you are still in high school, and in the US, your guidance counselor should be able to help you find one. At the fairs, you can go around to the booths of different colleges and universities and get feedback on what you would need to improve in order to meet their admissions requirements. It’ll vary from school to school. Some have very high standards, and some don’t have any.

If you are looking for something to start doing immediately… IMO, life drawing and art history are good places to start, they are cheap, portable, and don’t require any expensive equipment.

A secondary option would be the Adobe Classroom in a Book series, which is good for learning how to use their tools. The books for Photoshop, Illustrator and Indesign would be the ones most useful to graphic designers. But to be honest, if you don’t keep using the programs on a regular basis, you’ll probably forget. And the books are expensive. They won’t help you develop as an artist, because that involves the study of aesthetics, history and criticism, but they do walk you through the proper use of the tools.

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Thank you Mojo, I will!

something I always used to do was to take logos that I liked and try to reproduce them as an exercise. it’s a lot harder than you think, and helps you to identify fonts, bezier curves snd balance. you should try to recreate them from scratch, maybe using the font (if you find it) and keep doing it until you can’t tell the difference from yours and the actual logo. if you’re looking for just a basic exercise, that’s one way to practice.

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Thank you, mojoprime! I tried it just now ʕ ᵔᴥᵔ ʔ

While you’re doing that, don’t just pay attention to using the tools and being accurate. In addition to those things, please pay attention to the shapes and figure out why the designers made them the way they did. Why did the designers make the lines a specific thickness or the curves bend precisely the way they do. Pay attention to the negative shapes just as much as you do the positive shapes; they’re of equal importance. Change things just ever so slightly to see how those changes affect the balance, weight, rhythm, and overall appearance.

In addition to logos, trace the letters from a few typefaces. Be sure to trace well-designed letters from professional typefaces. Again, pay attention to all the things I mentioned above.

During my second year of design school (this was before computer graphics), we were required to fill an entire large sheet of layout paper with carefully traced letters from magazines and newspapers each week. We all had a well-developed appreciation for typography and letterforms at the end of the year. If you learn the intricacies of typography, honestly, you’re halfway home. This is because every glyph in a well-designed font is meticulously adjusted and refined in ways that consider almost all the elements of design (except for color) boiled down into a single set of shapes.

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I remember it well! Hours of hand-rendering pages of 14 on 16pt Bembo (again on 18, then 20, etc), 240pt Garamond, etc, etc. At the time, it seemed so tediously pointless. A few years later, once type ‘clicked’ for me, it is one of those things I am so grateful for now. It gives you an innate understanding of letterforms and a love of their inherent beauty.

I was lucky enough that my course still taught both aspects of type – digital and traditional. I’d wager, the latter is not part of any curriculum these days; though I really hope it still is. They’ll be a lot poorer for it, if not.

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