Some aspiring Graphic Designers may want to break into the field, but they know that they can’t uproot their lives or change their plans to accommodate a four-year undergraduate degree program. There are opportunities available to these students, but the path to a professional graphic design career will be less obvious. Anyone interested in learning how to become a Graphic Designer without spending four years learning at a university should learn some of the steps they will need to take.

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

Can You Really Become a Graphic Designer Without a Degree?

It is very possible to become a Graphic Designer without a college degree or with a college degree in a completely unrelated field. Students will need to spend a great deal of time learning specific graphic design skills and preparing a design portfolio for potential employers. The process will be more fraught, but it is unlikely to be as long or as expensive as earning a degree.

Step #1: Learn About Graphic Designer Field

The first step for any aspiring Graphic Designer is to learn about the field and the kinds of training and skills you’ll need to enter into the profession. Graphic design is a wide and diverse field of study, so students looking to change careers will need to decide what tools they want to learn and what kinds of projects they will want to pursue. Most Graphic Designers will use a combination of Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign, so students will want to decide which of these programs is right for them.

Students interested in learning more about the tools and techniques involved in graphic design should consider consulting the Learn Graphic Design resources available through Noble Desktop.

Step #2: Learn Graphic Designer Skills

The most important first step as an aspiring Graphic Designer is to learn graphic design skills. Most of the four years of a bachelor’s degree program are spent mastering the tools of the trade, and students looking to bypass a university program will need to find other routes to master these skills. One of the best ways to learn these skills is by enrolling in a career-focused graphic design training program, such as the ones offered through Noble Desktop. For example, Noble’s Graphic Design Certificate program will cover all of the major aspects of graphic design education. This includes not only hard skills like Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign but it also includes training in theories of design and professionalization skills like portfolio building workshops. Enrolling in a course like this is a solid replacement for the skills training you can expect to receive in a four-year college degree program.

To learn more about the Graphic Design bootcamps and courses offered by Noble Desktop, consider exploring the course listings available on their website.

Step #3: Get Experience in Graphic Designer Projects

Once you leave a career-focused training program, you’ll have received hands-on experience and training, but it will have been accelerated. This means that students are likely to need more time to develop the on-the-job experience to become accustomed to the nature of the work. Students may want to consider applying to graphic design internships, though these may be difficult to find for non-students. Another way to build experience is through volunteer work, but this can quickly become more of a burden than an advantage since it can result in students doing far too much free work.

One good way to gain live hands-on experience is by enrolling in a live training bootcamp, such as Noble’s Adobe Illustrator Bootcamp. Courses such as these are a great place to build experience and become more familiar with the programs being taught. They are also a good place to get more experience in the real-world applications of the programs in question since these courses aim to teach students to use graphic design tools on the kinds of projects they can expect to work on in entry-level Graphic Design positions.

Step #4: Develop a Graphic Designer Portfolio

One of the most important aspects of finding a graphic design job is building a compelling and deep design portfolio that will impress hiring managers. While many certificate-granting career programs will dedicate substantial time to helping students build portfolios, they will still be limited to the work that they are producing in class. This means that their portfolios will be fairly unfocused and are likely to include materials that a more polished portfolio would alter or junk entirely. It is a great first step, and in courses like Noble’s Graphic Design Certificate program, students will receive focused guidance on portfolio design exercises, but you’ll still want to consider how the portfolio can be improved.

The first important step is understanding what a Graphic Designer’s portfolio should look like. To find out more about this, consider perusing Noble’s Graphic Designer Portfolio article. The next step will be refining your existing work and making your portfolio more coherent and well-constructed. This is another reason to consider volunteer and freelance work, since it allows you to work on projects that will become part of your professional portfolio.

Step #5: Build a Graphic Design Network

Although it is important for aspiring designers to have a strong portfolio, they are also going to want to build a network of colleagues and potential clients and collaborators who can help them find work. This networking labor is important in almost every career field, and Graphic Designers need to build these networks. This is especially true for designers who didn’t attend a college or university design program and don’t have a cohort of classmates and instructors they can lean on for these early networking opportunities. Students looking to enter a graphic design career without a college degree will already be at several disadvantages in this regard, so working hard on building this network will be important.

There are a few ways to build these networks. Freelance job boards often have places where workers can come together to meet one another and work on networking projects. In addition, students can consider partaking in professionalization seminars and activities, such as mock interviews, networking meetings, or other informal training opportunities. Students can also network with other students when they enroll in professional training seminars like those offered through Noble Desktop.

Step #6: Apply for Graphic Designer Jobs

Once students are comfortable with their skills training, portfolios, and networking practices, they are ready to apply for jobs. They will want to build a collection of job materials that include their resume and a linked in profile. In addition to this, they’ll want to prepare for interviews and work on building the soft skills needed to impress employers. The one-on-one professional development mentorship seminars provided to students in Noble certificate programs will cover many of these skills. 

Students will also want to consider whether or not freelance work is right for them. If they decide that they want to work as a freelancer to build early career skills and develop a portfolio, they won’t need to worry as much about building interviewing skills or a resume, but they will need to learn how to navigate the world of freelance work. This will entail finding and negotiating their own contracts and interfacing more directly with clients at all stages of the project.

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.