7 Tips to improve your graphic design skills
Design is one of the most creative fields in existence today. The sheer hunger and drive to create an astounding work of art with nothing but a sliver of an idea and a blank canvas.
All around us there are testaments to the creativity of graphic design: from breathtaking ads we see daily to seamless and refreshing website interface designs and legendary logos like Apple and much more.
In fact, trying to imagine a world without design is a scary prospect. It wouldn’t be world worth living in. This is why designers in every industry strive to always do better than their last great project.
As a designer, one of the inevitable dangers you face is that your mental freedom, creativity and power of artistic innovation can sometimes run out on you without warning. What do you do then? When you look through your portfolio and begin to notice a painful redundancy and a lack of imagination?
How do you get out of it? Whether you make designs for web design, logos or in print, here’s a few tips you can use to improve your graphic design skills and bring inspiration and creative freedom back into your design efforts. These steps will reveal how you pave the way to becoming a true top quality designer.
1. Experiment yourself into overdrive
Redundancy may show that you are very skilled at using a particular design element but it can easily become a drawback when your portfolio is filled with client work that all look alike. That’s a serious stumbling block in the way of prospective clients.
One of the best ways to improve and add to your design skills is to maintain a culture of experimenting. Take on a lot of throw away work. Whether it’s giving yourself a tough design assignment or taking a number of pro-bono work, constantly work at using features (on Photoshop, Illustrator and others) and incorporating design elements that are not your forte and watch your ability improve and your skill set continue to broaden. Plus, this helps improve and diversify your portfolio.
2. Study under a design sensei
“You’ll never be the best. There’ll always be someone better than you”. This statement may look discouraging on the surface but it’s actually one of the most comforting facts for any graphic designer.
What it means is that you can never run out of people to learn from and people to be motivated and inspired by.
Make a habit of scouring through the works of every design great you know and admire – ancient or contemporary. Watch their YouTube channels, devour all their contributions on forums, read their books, study their design works, reach out to them personally if you can.
Always seek opportunities to study under designers ahead of you who have attained and surpassed design heights that are still dreams to you.
3. Have a better designer critique your work
Look at this like you just took a test and submitted it to your class instructor for grading. Whenever you complete a design project that you love, chances are you will probably see it as the best work you’ve ever done and maybe it is.
The responsible thing to do here is to submit your work to a designer who is a veteran in your design field (or at least someone significantly better than you) for assessment. He will give an unbiased and professional critique of your work, drawing from a more advanced skill set and robust experience. This will help you identify aspects of your design you need to improve.
You can also collaborate with them too. If you can let then pick apart your work, then you can surely work with them, can’t you? There are few things that are better than working with someone who sees your advanced work as beginner material.
4. Share your work with your circle of designer friends and the world
Don’t make the mistake of hoarding your designs for fear that the world can “steal your ideas”. There is a huge probability that others already possess all your design talents so the only way to get ahead is to keep learning. And one of the ways to keep learning is to get honest, unbiased feedback from people.
Feedback from your design friends is good because two heads will always be better than one, especially if the heads share the same interests. Show your work to the public (social media, graphic design blogs and forums) because they will always give you feedback you can rely on no matter how hurtful or raw they sound.
Feedback always provides you an opportunity to evolve and innovate. Just make sure to avoid critiquing from anyone while you are still working on the design because that can stifle your creativity.
5. Revisit an old design project
This is more like a method to measure your growth as a designer. Dig through your portfolio and select some of your old designs. At the time, you probably saw them as masterpieces. How do you see them now?
If they pale in your eyes, that’s a sign that you’ve become better. Take a step further and rework them. Your finished work will show clearly just how much improvement you’ve made and give you that needed motivation to push for more.
6. Learn from design history
Who would have though one of the ways to move forward is to take steps backwards. Design has a definite beginning and everything we consider great design today evolved from and we’re inspired by earlier forms of art and design theories.
Go back to the fundamentals of design and study them with an open mind. This will gift you with a more grounded base from which to launch beyond what you already taught you knew and give you the ability to birth new design ideas.
7. Participate in a graphic design contest
Nothing like a good old figurative butting of heads to get your creative juices flowing. Sign up for a design contest where you get to square off against other graphic designers who can match your skill.
Scenarios like this are excellent for pushing you to find an edge above them. While there may be a prize at the end, remember that the real trophy is the growth you experience as a designer by contesting. If you learned something new, you are a winner, same as all the other participants.
There are many more ways to improve yourself as a graphic designer, however, none of them will work if you do not love what you do. Graphic design is a labor of love, so hold on to your passion and push your creative instincts to help you climb your way to climb your way to the ranks of the graphic design elite.