Computer design skills are vital in creating professional layouts. To become proficient, the designer needs a high degree of skill in the industry’s standard software programs, usually acquired through long hours of practice. You need to get comfortable with the software to create designs quickly and up to industry standards. Whether you are preparing images for website use or laying out a brochure for the printer, a graphic designer must know the right size, format, and dimensions for every different kind of project a client may need.
- Learn Adobe Photoshop
If you need to edit or adjust an image, Photoshop is your go-to program. Photoshop works with rasterized images that allow manipulation of individual pixels. This ability makes Photoshop suitable for photographic imagery, but not for website design, logos, fonts or any other type of graphic design work. You can use Photoshop to swap parts of images to change out a face, for example, or to insert a background or edit flaws in a photo. From healing brushes, lasso tools, feathering and burning, you need to understand and be able to use the numerous editing tools that Photoshop offers to edit images at a true professional level for your client. A good designer will not rely on stock images, since they are often generic and do not promote the brand.
- Learn Adobe Illustrator
When a client needs a logo or an illustration, you will likely use Illustrator to complete the project. Illustrator works with vector art, creating lines that can be expanded in size but still not lose clarity. A logo created in Illustrator, for example, can be used on both a business card, on which it’s no large than an inch high and on a billboard, where it appears 10 feet high. Illustrator has an extremely complicated line, gradient, and coloring tools that allow the user to make complicated projects. Like Photoshop, Illustrator, created as a tool with professionals in mind, is not an intuitive program to beginners. This program does not handle raster images well and will quickly get bogged down if you try to drop photos into your design.
- Learn Adobe InDesign
For projects that combine rasterized images with vector elements, you need a program that handles both effectively. InDesign effectively allows you to organize your text, create layout formats, insert image placeholders and then save the file in a format designed for professional printing. If you are creating the mechanical for a brochure layout to go to press, for example, you will save your final project into a folder that contains copies of your fonts and images as well as the design file. Because the program is essentially adding “placeholders” instead of real images, you can create a large number of pages without the program bogging down due to its size. Once you’ve learned Illustrator and Photoshop, InDesign is somewhat easier to learn, but it is still quite different from most tools and should be practiced until you gain proficiency.
- Earn a Degree in Graphic Design
We’ve all heard stories about people throwing off the chains of a bachelor’s degree to start multi-million dollar businesses. People like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg dropped out of college and went on to create companies that changed the world we live in. These stories reinforce the idea that a college education isn’t necessary – all you really need is old-fashioned grit, originality, and natural talent to succeed.
While it’s true that not every job in the design industry requires a graphic design degree, it is also true that some skills are very hard to learn on your own. A degree in graphic design from a reputable university demonstrates to clients, advertising agencies, and other employers that you are a serious professional who has put in the effort required to be successful.
- Choose an Area of Specialization
Having a niche helps narrow your focus to a single area, so you can get really good at what you do. For many graphic design firms, it is important to have a solid understanding of all aspects of graphic design, but a focus sets you apart from the rest of the professionals. If you plan to work as a freelancer, you want a very specific focus so that firms or companies are eager to hire you instead of other professionals in that area.
A few popular areas of specialization include:
- Logo Design
Being able to pinpoint the direction of a company and succinctly conceptualize it in a memorable logo is no easy task. Graphic designers work to create logos that are unique but yet still express purpose and meaning to the target audience takes not only the ability to think creatively but also a deep understanding of design history combined with a lot of skill and practice. Logos have to be instantly recognizable, with the ability to be scalable for both small and large branded materials.
- Web Design and Digital Design
Web and digital design are growing quickly in importance. Today, brands without websites or digital advertising lose a lot of business. Some estimates compare the lack of a website to closing the bricks-and-mortar location for an additional day each week. Digital designers must stay current with design and technology trends. A talented graphic designer with a niche in digital and web design must be able to understand the innate expectations of internet visitors, creating layouts and ads that are easily navigable and that function correctly.
- Multimedia Design
With a wide number of formats and platforms, some graphic designers choose to focus on creating designs that work across multiple forms of media. You may prefer to focus on video and audio to help produce commercials, tutorials, and podcasts for your clients.