Dan Sanchez
Minneapolis, MN

Lover of God, husband, father to THE princess and a cowboy, designer, code slinger, and mobilization director at Bethany Global University where I work to mobilize missionaries to take the church to where it is not.

Design Uncategorized

So you want to be a Graphic Designer…

February 9, 2011

Just recently a have had a few people ask me about where to start with graphic design. After I found that I was typing out the same information in multiple emails I knew it had to be a blog post.

What is Graphic Design?

Let us start with the fact that graphic design is NOT digital art.

Not every piece you have seen online or on a poster is graphic design. Some of it is just art that happened to be created by the same tools (ex: photoshop) that graphics designers use. So what is it?

Dictionary.com defines it like this: the art or profession of visual communication that combines images, words, and ideas to convey information to an audience, esp. to produce a specific effect.

The difference between digital art and graphic design lies in its purpose. Graphic design purpose is to communicate visually while digital art doesn’t have to communicate anything. In other words,

Digital Art: art made created with computers
Graphic Design: visuals that communicate something specific.

So the goal of a graphic designer is to simply communicate a message with visual tools like shapes, photography, illustration, type, sculpture, etc. Any lightbulbs? Good. Lets move forward.

5 steps to become a Designer

The more time you spend doing each of these the better you become at. For some Graphic Design school is the best way to learn, but for the few who like to learn on the go I created a well rounded list of how to teach yourself graphic design. Check out SCADs design curriculum for comparison.
  1. Get Technical: Don’t waist time trying to find free tutorials on YouTube. The best way to learn is through Lynda.com one video at a time. Your main tools as a designer will be the Adobe Creative Suite Design Standard which includes Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and Acrobat Pro.
  2. Get Style: After a few video series on lynda.com you learned how to cut an object from the background of a photo in photoshop and perhaps picked up some tricks for using path finder tool in Illustrator, but now what? The next best step is to start learning how to use those tools to achieve different effects. My favorite place to learn style is the tutsplus network. Follow along with their free service until you feel ready to jump to the premium for awhile. The more tutorials you complete the more stylistic tricks you will be able to put in your tool belt for later.
  3. Get History: Become familiar with the different phases graphic design has gone through over the last 120 years. Different color palettes and fonts resonate with particular eras in history. It would be a shame if you picked a modern font like Avant Garde for a 1910 period design poster right. I recommend Graphic Design: A New History for starters.
  4. Get Theory: There are a couple of books out there that will help you learn how to think like a designer. My favorite is Paul Rand‘s (design sage of old) Thoughts on Design, but if you can’t afford the out of print book I would also highly recommend the Design Basics Index that will go over design in a much more practical way.
  5. Get Going: Start doing it even while you are still learning. Experience will be one of your greatest teachers. Find groups that are looking for a handout like non-profits, church groups, art groups, or anything you find you are already a part of. Do they need a new logo, postcard, brochure or website? Do it probono(for free) and do your best work!
  6. Get direction: I do highly recommend finding an experienced designer who can let you in on some of the tips and tricks of the trade while you work on these projects (aka- art direction)
1 Comment
  1. Reply


    July 28, 2011

    Interesting. Thank you for these resources! And thank you for not saying the only way is to go sit down in the school bench for four years. 🙂