Learning how to become a graphic designer without a degree is key so you get to succeed in this field – regardless of not being one of those who got into design school. Yes, it is possible for you to compete even without a degree!
There are people who are lucky enough to get into school and get a degree or a course that they really want. However, there are also some people who are not as lucky – some are either forced to choose other courses due to certain limitations or worse, not being able to pursue a degree or course at all because of financial constraints.
There are also those people who just realized – later on in their lives – that they actually wanted to try something new! Something that interests them – however, because of responsibilities, they are unable to take another degree in pursuit of that new interest.
Perhaps some moms have gone through that phase. An example is wanting to do graphic design but without a degree or experience at all.
Guess what? In this day and age, everything is possible! Today, you can do graphic design work even without taking or pursuing a degree! Now, you are shocked!? Well, thanks to innovations – and we do not necessarily mean the technical innovations – today, people are more open to giving everyone a chance for as long as they’ve got the right skills.
So, how to become a graphic designer without a degree?
That’s precisely what we are going to talk about today. We are going to share with you how to become a graphic designer without a degree. We are going to impart something that hopefully will spark that interest in you even more to pursue your new passion.
Just so you know, there are so many opportunities in the graphic design industry. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of graphic designers is expected to grow by 3% from 2018 to 2028. It may not be that big compared to other professions, but it still is a good projection, and it means competition will really be high in this field.
So, having said that, are you ready? If you are, let’s get started!
WHAT IS GRAPHIC DESIGN?
To start off, it is just right to have a full understanding first what graphic design is all about. What the concept of graphic design is. This, hopefully, gives you more understanding, at the same time, will allow you to appreciate graphic design even more.
According to the Interaction Design Foundation, graphic design is “the craft of creating visual content to communicate messages. Applying visual hierarchy and page layout techniques, graphic designers use typography and pictures to meet users’ specific needs and focus on the logic of displaying elements in interactive designs to optimize the user experience.”
Furthermore, graphic design is apparently an ancient craft that dates back to past Egyptian hieroglyphs to 17,000-year-old cave paintings.
The term originated back in the 1920s’ print industry and covering a range of activities, which includes logo creation. Graphic design concerns aesthetic appeal as well as marketing — particularly getting viewers’ attention using images, color, and typography.
WHAT DOES A GRAPHIC DESIGNER DO?
Of course, before jumping into the ocean (in this case, graphic design), you have to make sure you know what you are getting yourself into.
It is important that you know exactly what a graphic designer does — it’s totally a very essential part of knowing how to become a graphic designer without a degree.
According to the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), working as a graphic designer includes the following:
- discussing the requirements of the project (the brief) with clients and colleagues
- providing costs for the project
- choosing the most suitable materials and style
- producing rough sketches or computer visuals to show the client
- using specialist computer software to prepare designs
- producing a final layout with exact specifications for typefaces, letter size, and colors
- working to budgets and deadlines
In addition, the role may also include producing 3D designs for exhibitions, packaging, as well as displays.
A self-taught graphic designer, Kayung Caleb Lai, shares seven steps on how to become one without a degree. Check this out:
WHAT SKILLS DO YOU NEED TO BECOME A GRAPHIC DESIGNER WITHOUT A DEGREE?
You know, what’s nice about living in this era is that you have so many references around you that you can use to be able to hone whatever emerging talent, skill or interest you have.
For instance, even if you do not get into college and earn a degree in graphic design, you can still self-study and learn whatever information you need in order to make yourself better at it. You have YouTube tutorials, there are books about graphic design, there are websites, and in some cases, if you have time and money to spare, you can take an online short course on graphic design just so you learn the technicalities (which is not necessarily required, but is good to know).
Now, so what skills do you need to be able to work like a graphic design who doesn’t have a degree specific to it?
Well, here are some of the basic or usual skills that companies or client look for in a graphic designer:
- Drawing and design skills
- Creative ideas
- IT skills (optional)
- Ability to find practical solutions to problems
- Excellent communication skills
- Knowledge and expertise in using design and image-editing tools (such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, InDesign or QuarkXPress)
- Work portfolio (or sample work)
In addition, you will also need the following technical requirements:
- Desktop design software (e.g. Adobe Illustrator, InDesign or QuarkXPress)
- Image-editing packages (e.g. Adobe Photoshop)
- Reliable laptop or desktop computer
HOW TO BE A GRAPHIC DESIGNER WITHOUT A DEGREE?
Now, it’s time to talk about the process of how to become a graphic designer without going to school.
As we have said earlier, becoming a graphic designer even without pursuing a degree in graphic design is possible. Here’s a step by step guide that will help you become one:
STEP 1: Learn the Basics
One of the common mistakes of people who wanted to pursue a graphic design career is that they thought immediately jumping into Photoshop is the key. Here’s the truth — learning how to do Photoshop does not and will never make you a graphic designer. In the same way that buying a paintbrush does not make you an artist.
In order for you to become a graphic designer, you have to start with the basics — it’s precisely working on the foundation.
First, is to learn how to draw.
When we say learn how to draw, we do not necessarily mean, you have to sit in a room with a group of other artists and try drawing a naked woman. That’s not the point.
Learning how to draw is learning some basics so that you can be comfortable or have ease sketching using a pen. You do not need a lot of things to learn how to draw — in fact, you only need a pen and a sketch pad. Practice every day until you get used to it and you can say that you are already comfortable using a pen in the drawing.
You can also check out reference books or YouTube tutorials to get ideas.
Second, learn basic graphic design theory.
There are books or references that you can read to know the basic graphic design theory.
Basically, it’s learning about typography, color, as well as design using a grid.
Third, learn the basics of user experience.
It basically refers to the process that design people use in creating products that will give users meaningful and relevant experience.
Lastly, learn how to write.
You see, one of the requirements to be a graphic designer is excellent communication skills — that includes writing. To stand out from the rest, you have to be a good writer in order to better communicate your design.
Note that in order to be a good graphic designer, you also have to be a good communicator. You have to think through the entire user experience, choosing every single word you use carefully.
Remember to write for humans, for people and not in the academic tone to sound smart.
STEP 2: Make Time to Specialize
Just so you know, graphic design is a broad industry that comes with different specialties. Since you do not have a graphic design degree that could help set you up with a foundation in the theory of these specifications, you can focus instead on a specific niche or specialty.
Depending on your interest, you can specialize in logo design, web design, mobile apps, etc.
Developing a deeper knowledge about a specific skill set will give you a more competitive advantage especially when it comes to applying for jobs.
Now, the question is how?
As earlier mentioned, you can watch YouTube tutorials, read books and references specific to the specialty you want, or you may also consider attending local hackathon or start-up events. If you have spare time and money, consider taking up crash courses or workshops on and offline.
STEP 3: Master How To Use Graphic Design Software
So, now that you already learned the basics and you have chosen a graphic design specialization, it’s time to master the craft particularly using Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator.
These two are actually the most commonly used among graphic designers. We, however, suggest that you start learning how to use Illustrator first. Using Photoshop becomes so much easier if you already know the basics of Illustrator. A fun fact, Illustrator is what graphic designers use in making icons and logos.
How to learn Adobe Illustrator?
There are a lot of books and references on and offline that you can use. There are also online tutorials — mostly available for free that you can watch as you hone your skills. If these are not enough, there are also in-person classes that you can attend to learn how to use Illustrator.
Choose whatever method works best for you. After all, it is part of building a good foundation for your graphic design career.
How to learn Photoshop?
Just like learning Illustrator, there are also tons of books and other references available out there. You can also opt to watch online tutorials, or choose to attend in-person classes or workshops to learn how to use Photoshop.
Remember whatever method of learning you choose, at the end of the day, the goal is to learn and master the craft.
STEP 4: Invest in Tools
Let’s say you have already built up the foundation on how to become a graphic designer without a degree, what comes next?
Well, the next thing you need to do is to build up your tools.
There are two major and very important investments you need when pursuing a graphic design career. You will need a really good computer and software. These two are the major components of your professional graphic design work.
Software like Photoshop and Illustrator require specific space and speed. Thus, we highly recommend checking the technical requirements of the software first before buying your computer (assuming you do not have a computer yet). When buying a computer though, we highly suggest that you get the latest ones as they are more compatible with most graphic design software.
Ideally, you go for Mac as this is the widely used computer among graphic designers. But then again, you have to consider your budget — especially if you are a stay-at-home mom. You have to ensure you have set aside a good amount of money for this, right? Otherwise, look at other options. There is — for sure.
STEP 5: Build an Online Portfolio
How to become a graphic designer without a degree?
As part of your journey towards becoming a graphic designer sans the degree, you have to work on your online portfolio.
Gone are the days when portfolios are stuck together in a paper folder. Today, everything is stocked online — including your design portfolio.
Building an online portfolio does not necessarily mean building a website (although that is the end goal — creating a professional online portfolio for prospective clients to see). Today, there are many free platforms online that you can use. There’s WordPress blog, Tumblr, and more. Choose the platform that works best for you.
It’s always best to keep everything handy so anytime a prospective client asks for it, you can easily share it with him or her.
By the way, a very important friendly reminder, when building your portfolio, you do not need to put all your projects in there. A portfolio is a place where you put in your strongest work only. Set aside everything else.
Also, when building your portfolio, note that you do not necessarily have to be unique and original right there and then. It will eventually come. But as a newbie, you can take inspiration from other people’s work for now – and slowly build up your own.
STEP 6: Study and Learn the Business of Graphic Design
One of the things you need to learn on how to become a graphic designer without a degree is that although graphic design is a creative job, just like any other profession, it operates within a business environment. This means you need to acquire certain skills you will need in the industry that lies outside the theoretical or practical teachings of a degree.
Work on skills like negotiating, writing business development proposals, as well as design briefs, and costing. These are essential especially if you want to build up a professional graphic design career — whether working for a company or as making a business out of it.
While all these may sound very professional and scary, don’t worry because all of these can be learned online. You can read blogs and other references online to learn how to do it all. Eventually, you will master all these skills. It takes time so don’t rush.
STEP 7: Get a Job as a Graphic Designer
Once you are done with steps one to six, now it’s time to keep the ball rolling as they say.
There are different ways you can land a job as a graphic designer. You can either look for a graphic design job online through different job listing channels, or you can go to a local job search workshop specific for designers.
You may also opt to build on your network first by joining graphic design groups both online and offline and eventually, work on getting a job.
Finding a job as a graphic designer without a degree can get a little intimidating at first, but do not let that affect you. Instead, let that encourage you.
Remember that no successful people in this world get into where they are without taking risks and fighting their own demons. So, just have faith in yourself and send out applications until you find the right graphic design job for you.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON HOW TO BECOME A GRAPHIC DESIGNER WITHOUT A DEGREE
It’s amazing how time has changed. Today, you can now explore other interests like graphic design and build up a career in it without the need of having to get a degree.
With so much references online, exploring your passions has become so much easier these days.
So, are you thinking of pursuing a career in graphic design? What steps have you taken already?