As a graphic designer, it’s important to surround yourself daily with anything and everything related to your profession. Most importantly, graphic design doesn’t end with a diploma in your hand. Much like any other ever-growing industry, you’ll have to make sure you stay on top of the trends and learn new things daily or weekly. So where do you start? Over my years of being a graphic designer, I have 3 tips and resources to get you started on the right track to bettering yourself as a designer.
Tweet This: Having a degree isn’t a “one-stop shop” to becoming a great graphic designer.
Tip #1: Getting Involved
When I was a graphic design student, I didn’t really go to any conferences. This should never be the case in any part of your career, whether you’re a student or a professional. Attending a conference or workshop not only gives you current information and insight into what the design industry is doing, it also gives you an immense sense of respect and inspiration. When I attended Forge 2014 here in Omaha, I not only gained local connections to the design community, but I also got to hear career insights, tips, and experiences from guest speakers. I also got the opportunity to meet fellow designers and gain respect for not only the people who spoke and who I met but the profession of graphic design itself. Seeing real-world applications of design and experiences from fellow designers is something you just need to experience in person than just reading about.
AIGA — Join your nearest chapter and you can always stay up to date on what’s happening in your design community. Becoming a member is cheap, and it’s well worth it to stay in the loop and see what other designers are doing.
Tip #2: Write Articles or Blog
You might question this tip, but writing or blogging about design actually helps you advance in your career. When you write about design (like “how to” articles, design opinions, best inspirational websites, etc.) it requires you to actually do the research required to write valid articles and you’ll find yourself trying and learning new things so you can write about them. Writing also helps boost yourself as a credible designer and can give you more connections. There’s no con to writing because even if you don’t have many readers, you’re still helping yourself learn and try new things.
Your Own Blog — If you don’t have your own website, you should — preferably on WordPress. If you don’t have a site on WordPress, you should, at least, create a blog from here because WordPress has amazing blogging and sharing capabilities.
Medium — This is a resource I just learned about which makes writing to large audiences easily accessible and free — no coding or self-managed blog required. In fact, it’s not a “designer-only” blog. Anyone can write here. The pros of this amazing resource are getting to talk or speak to not only your profession’s community, but anyone else who is curious. It’s definitely worth checking out.
Tip #3: Never Stop Learning
This is the most important tip, which is why I saved it for last. If you stop learning, you will become obsolete — this is just how the graphic design industry works. My last tip to you is to do two things. First, get familiar with and learn WordPress because as of October 2015, more than 77 million websites use WordPress. That’s about 24% of the internet, to be exact. Two, learn, or at least, get familiar with coding. This will not only help you evolve as a graphic designer, but it will help you communicate more effectively and design more appropriately for your web development team. A solid web development and web design collaboration can bring awesome results.
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Lynda.com — Get yourself an account and start with WordPress Essential Training. Paying for an account may seem debatable, but the fact is that it’s incredibly cheaper than taking additional university, community college or specialized school classes. Plus, Lynda offers more credible classes and information than free YouTube lessons people self-create. You’ll save yourself the trouble in the long run.
Treehouse — You don’t have to be a web developer, but knowing and understanding basic code will put you much farther ahead of the other graphic designers out there who don’t know it. Plus, your web development team will appreciate a better line of communication and understanding. Treehouse is another resource you’ll have to pay for, but just like Lynda, Treehouse offers authentic coding lessons that are much more affordable which you can take at your own pace.
Having a degree isn’t a “one-stop shop” to becoming a great graphic designer. You need to move with the profession as it advances, and it isn’t hard to do — it just takes daily practice. My advice is to never stop learning and to surround yourself with anything and everything graphic design. Attend local conferences to keep your passion ignited, write articles or blog posts to help you try new things or do research about your field and always keep learning with a Lynda or Treehouse account. Adding these tips to your daily or weekly routines (except conferences, take them when they’re most convenient) will help you maintain your skills of being a great graphic designer.