Are you interested in a career in Graphic Design? Discover what it takes to become a successful Graphic Designer, including understanding design principles, mastering Adobe software, and building a strong portfolio.

Key Insights

  • A Graphic Designer is a creative professional who uses text and images to communicate a message. They must stay up-to-date with current design trends and work well in team settings.
  • Graphic Designers use professional design programs like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, and must have good time management skills as they often juggle multiple projects.
  • Essential tools for aspiring Graphic Designers include design books for understanding concepts, Adobe software for creating designs, and a computer system that supports these programs.
  • Learning methods range from free introductory seminars, on-demand classes for flexible schedules, to instructor-led programs for interactive learning.
  • Aspiring Graphic Designers must familiarize themselves with design trends and relevant Adobe programs, practice their skills, build a portfolio, and start a job search in their area of specialization.
  • Noble Desktop offers graphic design classes, bootcamps, and a comprehensive Graphic Design Certificate program, providing students with the necessary skills and mentorship for a career in Graphic Design.

You may not know it, but your daily life is full of work created by Graphic Designers. People in these roles design visually appealing images to quickly communicate a message about a service or brand. If you enjoy working with technology, keeping up with trends and expressing yourself creatively, you might have considered becoming a Graphic Designer but were unsure about how to get started. If that’s the case, this guide is for you.

What is a Graphic Designer?

A Graphic Designer is a creative professional who combines text and visually appealing imagery to share a message with an audience. This could be through advertising, social media, or product packaging, to name a few. They are well-versed in design principles like color and typography and are committed to staying up-to-date on the latest trends. Whether they work for an agency or freelancer, they collaborate with clients and other team members to create high-quality designs that appeal to new and existing customers. 

In addition to proficiency in professional design programs like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, a successful Graphic Designer must also work well with others. Graphic Designers rarely work alone, and since their job is to create a product that matches a client's vision, they must be willing to accept feedback and suggestions from others. Time management skills are also crucial for a Graphic Designer; since most of them work freelance, they often work on multiple projects for many clients simultaneously. 

Read more about what a Graphic Designer does.

What Tools Do I Need To Get Started?

When diving into a new career path, many people hope to keep their financial investments to a minimum until they’re sure the career is a good fit. To that end, books are an excellent (and affordable) way to keep costs down as you learn graphic design basics. Designing Brand Identity by Alina Wheeler helps readers understand how a design concept evolves over time. Seeing a concept through from inception to launch also demonstrates the various processes that a Graphic Designer may be involved in. How to… by Michael Beirut is quite handy as well. Beirut is a prolific, lifelong designer who has worked on campaigns for internationally renowned brands. This book details his experiences in the industry and he shares insights into how he developed some of his most recognizable work.

Graphic Design Certificate: Live & Hands-on, In NYC or Online, 0% Financing, 1-on-1 Mentoring, Free Retake, Job Prep. Named a Top Bootcamp by Forbes, Fortune, & Time Out. Noble Desktop. Learn More.

The specific computer programs that a Graphic Designer uses will vary slightly from position to position, but most of them are skilled in Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. Adobe uses a subscription model, which makes it easier to update the software and make improvements requested by customers. While there are individual plans for each program, an aspiring designer’s best bet is likely the All Apps Plan since they’ll need multiple tools to accomplish their work. This plan costs $54.99 per month (though students can purchase this plan for $19.99 a month), and Adobe does offer a free seven-day trial to get you started.

Adobe programs require particular computer specifications to run properly. Depending on your current laptop or desktop, you may need to invest in an upgrade. The MacBook Pro is considered the gold standard for Graphic Designers, but at nearly $2,000, these devices are expensive, and it may not make sense to purchase one until your career is more established. If you’re looking for an affordable option, you can look into older versions of the MacBook or other budget-friendly laptops with adequate storage space. Luckily, Adobe programs run on Windows and Mac operating systems, so you don’t have to worry about losing your work if you switch later. 

Steps to Become a Graphic Designer

There are several things you’ll need to accomplish before your new career as a Graphic Designer is ready to launch. These things may take place in any order (or a few may happen simultaneously), but all of the steps below are vital to building a solid foundation for your design skills.

Choose a Learning Method

Deciding how to learn the required skills is often the first step of any career change, but the way you acquire this knowledge will depend on a few factors. If you’re just wanting a broad overview of graphic design to see whether it interests you, a free introductory seminar or tutorial might be a good place to begin. You can view Noble Desktop’s Intro to Graphic Design seminar and decide how you want to proceed. There are also a handful of on-demand graphic design classes for those with a busy schedule who cannot commit to a full course. However, these programs require a great deal of self-discipline and lack an instructor's guidance and support.

When pivoting to an entirely new career, many people appreciate the benefits of live learning. Instructor-led programs are interactive, and students can receive immediate guidance and feedback on their work. While more expensive than on-demand classes, many of these programs provide additional perks, like free retakes, career support, and networking opportunities. You can search for graphic design classes near you if in-person learning is your preference. There are also plenty of live online graphic design classes for students who wish to learn remotely.

Learn Design Trends and Relevant Adobe Programs

Graphic Designers regularly use many different software programs, most of which are found within the Adobe Creative Cloud. The most common tools are Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator, but others depend on what other areas of design you may want to specialize in. You can start to learn these programs through free resources such as Noble Desktop’s Graphic Design Youtube playlist, which includes free introductory seminars called Intro to Adobe Illustrator and Intro to Adobe Photoshop.

Of course, knowing these programs doesn’t mean much if your designs aren’t in keeping with current trends and basic design principles. Many designers take advantage of free online forums to learn from other professionals and get critiques on their designs. You can also follow more established designers on social media to keep an eye on their work and make a note of how their designs change over time.

Practice and Build Your Portfolio

Once you’ve gotten the basics of the necessary Adobe programs down, there’s no way around it– it’s time to buckle down and practice. You can look for freelancing work immediately if you feel confident, but it may be wiser to practice on your own before being responsible for creating someone else’s vision. Some designers practice recreating designs by their favorite artists to see how they were done. Others create free work for friends, family members, and local businesses. These are all low-stakes ways to hone your skills without someone else counting on you, giving you the freedom to take your time and learn from your mistakes. 

As you practice and complete odd design jobs here and there, you’ll be adding your work to a digital portfolio. This is a living document that you can add to as your skills improve, and you’ll use it on job interviews to demonstrate your qualifications to potential employers. Adobe Portfolio is ideal for graphic designers since it’s already included in your Adobe Cloud subscription, which you’ll need to access other programs. 

Begin the Job Search

This process could take some time if you’re hoping to land a job at a single agency, but freelancing is exceedingly popular amongst Graphic Designers. The good news is that every freelance project you complete is another addition to your growing portfolio. You may also get your foot in the door of your dream company through a freelancing opportunity, since a lot of designers find work through word-of-mouth. You’ll also want to search for jobs that are relevant to the area in which you want to specialize, like logo design, package design, or layout design. To ensure you’re ahead of the game, it’s wise to review job postings in advance so you know you’re preparing yourself appropriately. 

Why Become A Graphic Designer?

As the old saying goes, “Choose a job you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” For artistic professionals, earning money while being creative is reason enough to pursue a career as a Graphic Designer. However, this profession offers a host of other perks. To start, Graphic Designers work across nearly every industry, so there’s always something new to learn and new people to interact with. For instance, a professional designer might start their career working for a marketing agency before pivoting to healthcare, film, or education. 

Design is also a highly collaborative and rewarding field. You’ll work on designs with input from other professionals, and at the end of that process, you’ll have a concrete product to show off. Finally, Graphic Designers can choose to be self-employed and work remotely for added flexibility. Freelancing may not be for everyone, but knowing the option is there is certainly a bonus, especially in an age where a positive work/life balance is highly sought-after. 

Read more about whether a Graphic Designer is a good career.

Learn the Skills to Become a Graphic Designer at Noble Desktop

If you want to start a career in graphic design, the graphic design classes offered by Noble Desktop are an excellent place to start. Students can take all their classes remotely or in-person at their Manhattan campus. For students who want to start slow by just learning one popular design program, Noble offers an Adobe Photoshop Bootcamp, an Adobe InDesign Bootcamp, and an Adobe Illustrator Bootcamp. These beginner-friendly courses take just a few days to complete and will provide students with foundational design skills.

For those who feel ready to dive into a more comprehensive program, Noble Desktop’s Graphic Design Certificate might be a better fit. Students will complete hands-on assignments using popular design programs, including Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign. This program is ideal for those hoping to start a career as a Graphic Designer. Certificate students at Noble Desktop receive individual career mentorship, where experts in the design industry help craft resumes and portfolios and provide helpful tips for finding lucrative employment. 

If a class isn’t feasible for your current schedule, Noble Desktop has a host of resources on its website to help start your graphic design career. You can browse their collection of articles about Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign if you’re curious about how each program works. You can also review information about other design tools to see if another field might interest you more.