If you’re starting out in the world of graphic design, you might be asking yourself: What graphic design skills do I need to be successful? Where do I even begin to learn graphic design and develop those skills?
If you want to get hired as a graphic designer, there are a number of technical skills and soft skills you’ll need to develop in order to be taken seriously as a professional. In this article, we’ll break down the most important skills you need to develop as a graphic designer that will enable you to get hired, and excel in your craft.
Plus, we’ll dive into the most effective ways you can develop your skills over time. Ready? Let’s get straight into it.
🛠️ Technical skills graphic designers need
The job of a graphic designer goes far beyond making designs look visually appealing. At a professional level, you’ll be expected to master certain technical skills in order to do your job.
Work on developing your eye for design and become proficient in these technical areas of graphic design:
- Graphic design principles
- Design software & tools
- Working with typography
- Strong understanding of color theory
- Portfolio management
GET STARTED WITH THESE RESOURCES
- 21 Must‑Have Tools for Graphic Designers
- How to use color to evoke powerful emotions in your design
- 5 online typography games to improve your skills
- Create a compelling graphic design portfolio that lands work
😌 Soft skills graphic designers need
Just as important as technical skills are the softer skills you’ll need in your everyday workflow. By nature, the job of a graphic designer requires working with people—whether it be clients, teammates, or other project stakeholders. Strong communication skills and problem-solving abilities are especially sought after in the world of graphic design.
- Creativity & innovation
- Emotional Intelligence
- Time management
Learn more about each of these 5 soft skills and how to develop them.
How to develop your graphic design skills
Now that you know what graphic design skills you need to get hired, let’s dive into the most effective ways to develop your skills over time.
🤓 Take Online Classes
There are hundreds of online design courses you can take to improve your graphic design skills. From one-off courses that teach specific skills to online bootcamps that teach you virtually everything you need to get started, online classes exist to fit your needs. There are also courses that can fit virtually any budget, including free courses.
There are also online degree programs from colleges and universities around the world if you’d prefer to go that route. Or you can take individual courses through those colleges.
📚 Read Graphic Design Books
There are dozens of great graphic design books out there. Some cover specific topics, such as color theory or typography, while others explore more general principles of design. Graphic design books can also be an excellent way to discover the history of graphic design and study the design philosophies of some of the greatest designers in the world.
Be aware that older graphic design books may refer to outdated methods or technologies but the underlying principles they discuss don’t change much over the years.
🙋♀️ Find a Mentor
Learning from someone with more experience than you have can be an excellent way to improve your skills. Finding a mentor at work is an excellent place to start. Otherwise, reach out to designers you admire and see if any of them would have time for an occasional chat or to answer your questions. Be respectful of their time, though; many designers are busy with their own work and don’t have time to take on a mentee.
Internships can also be an excellent way to find a mentor. Keep an eye out for design internships, as there are both paid and unpaid opportunities available, and not every internship requires you to be enrolled in a degree program.
⚒️ Deconstruct Existing Designs
Pick a design you love and deconstruct it to figure out what makes it great. Look at the surface-level choices, such as the color palette and typography chosen, but also look deeper at the way the principles of design have been implemented. Also, look for areas where they “broke the rules” and did something unexpected or unconventional.
Choose a variety of design types to deconstruct, from websites to flyers to logos. When deconstructing their composition, think about why the designer might have made the choices they made. And consider how you might have done things differently.
💡 Practice Using Design Prompts
Practice makes perfect! Take time every week to create designs purely for the practice. Use design prompt generators or pick a type of design, a company, or a concept you want to explore, and then create a design or two.
Consider redoing existing designs to see what you might do differently or improve upon. This can be an excellent exercise in figuring out why designs work the way they do and exploring your own creativity.
Experimentation can be the lifeblood of creativity. Wondering why everyone seems to create a certain kind of design in a particular way? Try doing something different with it. You’ll either find an alternative method that works or gain insight into why it’s always done a certain way.
Experimenting with different design principles can also be a ton of fun. In addition to figuring out what works and what doesn’t, it’s an excellent way to figure out your own design style.
✏️ Ask for Feedback
Design doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Throughout your design career, you’ll receive feedback from other designers, clients, and supervisors. It’s best to get used to receiving and learning from negative feedback early on.
When you’re starting out, ask other designers you know for feedback on your designs. Asking clients or senior designers for feedback is also a good idea.
🎨 Start a Side Project
One of the best ways to get real-world practice and experience is to start a design-focused side project. There are a wealth of examples online for the types of side projects designers often create, from educational and informative websites to 365-day design challenges (where designers create a new piece every day for a year and share their examples on a blog or social media).
Side projects can incorporate many of the other improvement methods in this article, giving you opportunities to practice, experiment, get feedback, and learn entirely new techniques and skills.
Think about topics or types of design you’re passionate about and build a project around that so that you’ll stay motivated throughout the process.
Keep developing your graphic design skills
There are so many options out there to improve your graphic design skills and learn new ones, from taking online classes to finding a mentor to asking for feedback.
If you really want to level up your graphic design skills, employ as many of these options as possible (though you don’t have to do them all at once!). Improving your skills is a career-long endeavor, so figuring out the best ways to do so early on will set you up for long-term success.
Ready to launch your graphic design career? Explore graphic design jobs on Dribbble. ■