11 Tips for being a better graphic designer

Better graphic designer

Become a Better Graphic Designer

I’ve been a graphic designer and web designer for close to 10 years now. Even though I’ve been in the industry for close to a decade, I understand the importance of always trying to become a better graphic designer. I’m always striving to hone and refine my skills so that one day I may be considered a master in our industry. I’ve learned a lot of things along the way, so I decided to share some helpful tips for being a better graphic designer.

Study different cultures

One of the best ways to become a better graphic designer, is to study different cultures and develop a better understanding of how the world works overall. Looking at different cultures and alternative lifestyles gives you a different perspective than looking at the world from your own shoes. You can apply this to the world of graphic design, because you’re more open to new ideas and concepts that are off-limits to more closed minded people.

Always create a design brief

A design brief will help you lay out your objectives for the project so that you can see it as a whole. When you can see the big picture, it’s much easier to break it down into manageable chunks that you can process. You can make stronger connections between each piece and part of the project. A design brief enables you to set a list of goals and helps you keep track of all of the details of the project.

Never work without a contract

Whether you create a written estimate that your client signs, or you create a detailed contract, be sure to get everything in writing before you start any project. This safeguards you against any bad client you may run into that try to take advantage of you or your services. In your agreement, you should lay out what you’re going to do for the client and break down each task and how much each task will cost your client. When both parties understand what is expected of them, the overall project will go much smoother. Your projects will be better overall, because you focus more on solving the design problems, than battling clients in court or having to handle legal matters.

Stick to deadlines

Every project has a deadline. No client is going to let you work on their project as long as you would like, or until you decide to get it done. Make sure to set a dedicated deadline for when each project will be completed. If it is a multi-part project, set a deadline or milestone for each portion that needs to be completed.

Always be sure to deliver your projects by the set deadline. The client hired you, because they thought you’d get the job done. Be sure to hold up to your end of the bargain and deliver all files by this set deadline. Your design materials are worthless if they come in late.

Do a lot of research surrounding your project

Some of the best design solutions can come from a deep understanding of the subject matter. When you take the time to delve deep into a project and related information, you make viable connections that can lead to unique and creative design solutions. Understanding how your topic is associated with society, and culture as a whole will help you to develop a message that connects well with the target audience.

Strive to learn new skills

The world of graphic design is constantly evolving. It’s tough to specialize in one particular area of design. This makes it important to diversify your skills enough to be marketable in multiple situations. Learn new skills and tricks of the trade to keep your designs fresh and cutting-edge.

It’s also important to keep up with new software developments. You don’t always have to have the latest and greatest software. But you should have fairly recent versions of the software that you use every day. Programs such as Photoshop and illustrator should be upgraded to within at least the last three versions. Adobe is always coming out with new upgrades and features to make your life easier. If there upgrades are significant enough, it can vastly increase your productivity. This will enable you to focus more on the design concept, then executing it on the computer.

Keep up with the latest design trends

It’s important that you regularly read industry related sources, such as reputable design websites and magazines. Staying up on current design trends will keep your work relevant, while keeping your work marketable. Keep in mind that just because a trend is popular right now, doesn’t mean you should use it in your own work. You should only follow a design trend, if it solves problems for your client and works with their project.

Keep everything simple

I know this sounds vague, but let me explain. Everything that you do, should be simplified and streamlined from start to finish. It doesn’t matter if it’s how you invoice your clients, your workflow, or even your design concepts themselves. Keeping everything simplified will help to keep things clear in all aspects of your career. Your concepts will always be clear, in your designs will always be affected. Over complicating your design solutions will make them less effective in the long run. People should not have to work to understand your design solution. It’s always best, if your work makes a connection with the audience in the easiest way possible.

Design with emotions

Emotions are a powerful thing. When you can leverage the proper emotions in your design work, it will be much more effective overall. The whole point of design is to deliver a message and have it be as effective as possible. Humans in general, are driven by their emotions. If you can tap into those emotions, you will have an instant connection that is better than any flashy design that you could ever come up with. Think about how effective the AKC commercials are for raising funds for abused animals. Pet owners have a strong bond with their animals, and seeing commercials of terrified animals, with sad messages, while hearing sad music in the background is highly effective. I know that every time I see the commercial, I want to curl up with my pet and hold them tight. As upsetting is the commercial is, it is highly effective.

Start all design projects with a concept

In a technology driven field, it can be really tempting to want to start your newest project on the computer. However, you should only be sitting down to a computer, to do research. The most effective designs start with the concept and are developed through sketches first. Once a concept is refined, then it is time to be executed on a computer.

Have a good understanding of math and geometry

I know this sounds boring, but math and geometry are a big part of design. Creating shapes at the proper angle, and understanding spatial relationships between objects will help your designs be more effective. This applies not only to objects, but every letter in the typography of your work as well. The relationships between letters are just as important as the relationships between shapes in your design. Too much space, and the text can be hard to read. Not enough space, and the letters will be too jumbled to read.

I don’t know how many times I’ve had to use math when creating circular designs. Knowing the numbers that go into 360° evenly, is something I use often when creating a radial design that revolves around a circle.

Conclusion

As graphic designers and web designers, we should always be striving for self-improvement. The better we are, the more successful we will be in the field of design. To be successful, and to stay successful, it is important to always be improving ourselves and our skills. If you have any helpful tips for becoming a better graphic designer, feel free to leave them in the comments section below.