With so many new tools available for editing images and video, it can’t be too long before we start teaching elements of graphic design as a core competency in school. Until then, design is still something most of us have to seek out on our own.
In my experience, graphic design is a field in which you sink or swim based largely on the quality of your portfolio. This means it’s possible to become a professional in the field without necessarily having to go back to school. I did this myself over the last few years, but some recent developments have made it easier than ever to teach yourself design on a budget. Here’s what I’d do if I had to do it again today.
Adobe Creative Cloud
The hardest part of trying to learn graphic design on my own was first getting my hands on a copy of professional-level tools. At the time, Photoshop alone would set you back almost $1000. The entire Creative Suite would probably have cost more than the computer you’d run it on. I ended up talking someone in the graphics department at work into letting me borrow an old copy of Photoshop when the department upgraded, but today, that wouldn’t be necessary.
A few weeks ago, Adobe announced the Creative Cloud, a new subscription based model for their tools. From the literature on the Creative Cloud site, in
a few weeks it will be possible to get your hands on full versions of ALL of Adobe’s CS6 tools for just $50 a month. This is a huge deal for anyone
wanting to learn or use these tools on a budget. Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign…finally professional level tools are affordable for everyone.
Price: Basic Subscription – $25, Premium Subscription - $37.50
Once you get your hands on the right tools, though, you still need someone to show you how to use them. Enter Lynda.com.
Lynda.com is a huge online library of training videos for hundreds of modern tools. They have entire courses by experts in all kinds of things from Twitter to Microsoft Word to Adobe After Effects. The best part is that for the price of just $25 a month, you can have access to ALL of their videos. Watch as many as you want as many times as you want. And for just a little more a month you can get access to exercise files so you can follow along with the videos as you watch.
Lynda.com already has tons of videos ready to go for Adobe CS6, so you know the information is up to date. And they have courses that can take you from
beginner all the way up to advanced skills.
I taught myself Photoshop using YouTube videos and other stuff I found online. But then I found out about Lynda.com and used it to learn Illustrator and
InDesign. I highly prefer the structured content and video quality at Lynda.com to any other method.
Price: As much as you want to spend
There’s one more essential piece of the puzzle for becoming a graphic designer. Knowing HOW to use the tools is one thing. Knowing WHAT to do with those
tools is something completely different. In order to learn that, you have to expose yourself to as much design theory and examples of good work as you
can. You can get a good amount of that just browsing the internet these days, but to really succeed you need to study. That means hitting the books and then practicing what you learn by trying to reproduce good works yourself.
I’ve found that most public libraries are lacking when it comes to design texts, so I’m gonna recommend you use the rest of your monthly budget to
actually buy some design books. I constantly want to refer back to mine so I really prefer to own them anyway. Here are a few suggestions to get your
The Non-Designer’s Design Book by Robin Williams
Graphic Design: the New Basics by Ellen Lupton and Jennifer Cole Phillips
Univeral Principles of Design by William Lidwell, Kritina Holden, and Jill Butler
Visual Language for Designers by Connie Malamed
Thinking with Type by Ellen Lupton
Grid Systems: Principles of Organizing Type by Kimberly Elam
Everything by Edward Tufte
[Image Credit: SeemingLee]