Graphic design is a career path that can go in multiple directions. Some designers work for small companies, others for larger organizations. Like copywriting and digital marketing, graphic design is also one the top careers for freelancing. And it’s considered one of the top 10 in-demand technical skills right now.

Training in graphic design can prepare you for positions like:

  • Designer
  • Graphic Designer
  • Design Director
  • Visual Designer
  • UX/UI Designer
  • Digital Designer
  • Motion Graphics Designer

Where to Start

If you’re a beginner in graphic design, you may wonder where to start. Do you learn design principles first? The history of commercial design? Modern design software?

It can all be overwhelming, which means you’ll need to start with the simplest tool of all: learning fundamentals.

The Big Five

Design is a broad field, but there are five basic design principles:

  1. Alignment - This applies both to typography and images.
  2. Contrast - Basic contrast of shape, color, and other elements is another essential.
  3. Balance - Balance includes symmetry or asymmetry of images and text.
  4. Repetition - Repetition may include patterns, shapes, text, or other elements.
  5. Proximity - Refers to where design elements are in relation to each other.

Consider studying all five design principles in some detail. This will give you an overview as well as a basic understanding of how and why different elements and different media get used in ads.

Making It Pay

While you may be familiar with some design software already, like Photoshop or InDesign, earning a living in graphic design is an entirely different matter. Graphic Designers in the U.S. earn a median salary around $50,000 per year, but you don’t get to that level without a plan.

Once you have expanded your understanding of the five basic principles, it helps to learn more about color fundamentals and history. You may find it fascinating how different cultures view different colors. An international color symbolism chart is a handy tool to keep close by as you’re learning to make your design work pay.

Plan to review design history, principles, and modern tools to some degree before you jump in with both feet.

Find the Best Alternative

If you gain a solid foundation in design principles and history before mapping out your strategy, you’ll have a better idea of whether you prefer to work primarily with digital design or traditional platforms as well. Consider the following options for your education.

  • Free Online Tools - YouTube videos and tutorials on graphic design are certainly beneficial to beginners. You can find a wealth of information and even how-to videos, though these can only take you so far. Consider following Designers on social media platforms like Pinterest or Instagram, and you’ll learn how things work in the field.
  • Short Workshops or Seminars - Want to start learning Photoshop? Beginner classes may give you a great overview and even some practical experience in a day or two. While limited in scope, they can help you decide whether graphic design is right for you.
  • College/University Design Programs - Historically crucial for many Graphic Designers, a four-year degree can give you in-depth training as well as a chance to build a large portfolio. However, many entry-level positions today demand knowledge of the Adobe Creative Cloud, and do not necessarily require formal degrees.
  • Design Bootcamps or Certificates - Among the most popular options today, immersive design bootcamps or certificate programs offer training in a matter of months, not years. Noble Desktop’s Graphic Design Certificate is a prime example. It provides students with 78 hours of training in Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign, as well as an overview of design concepts and processes.

Additional Bootcamp Options

If the bootcamp learning model appeals to you, there may be others appropriate to your goals and budget—especially if you plan to use your training in motion graphics, video editing, or another design-centered career.

Noble Desktop offers multiple certificate programs appropriate for targeted career goals. The following are related to the fields of digital design, visual design, animation, video, motion graphics, and web design. 

  • Digital Design Certificate - Covers Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign; covers graphic design, visual design portfolio-building. 
  • Visual Design Certificate - Includes Adobe XD, Photoshop, Illustrator; also covers graphic design, visual design portfolio-building.

From Beginner to Design Pro

As you work to build technical skills that support your talent, you’ll want to get paid for your efforts. A part-time job, an internship, or even launching a freelance career can be the way to begin.

Here are some steps to grow and sustain a design career:

  • Start (and finish!) Portfolio Projects - You can build a great portfolio of design projects for recruiters to review. You’ll want samples of your work in categories like social media graphics, websites, or even book design.
  • Continue to Expand Your Network - You might think graphic design pros are mostly artistic loners, but many spend a considerable amount of time networking. Meetups, seminars, and formal networking events can lead to great connections.
  • Get Certified - Once you’re working in the field, you can expand your skills formally—especially if you work extensively with the Adobe Creative Cloud. Consider the following certifications.
    • Adobe Certified Instructor for Creative Cloud Design & Layout Solutions
    • Adobe Certified Instructor for Creative Cloud Video Editing Solutions
    • Adobe Certified Professional in Graphic Design & Illustration Using Adobe Illustrator
  • Professional Organizations - Depending on your specific industry, and whether you freelance or gain full-time employment, there are several organizations that may be perfect for you.

You may also find other organizations in your area, depending on your location. As you expand your network and continue to develop your portfolio, you’ll find success in this ever-evolving field.