Graphic design become a highly popular profession in the last ten years. With the easy access to computer and the internet more and more people teach themselves design from tutorials, online courses and most recently - Instagram. Is it true, that anyone can become a graphic designer nowadays? Is University still relevant? And how to unpack all the resources out there? In this article I'll share with you my story and my learning process.
I've always been interested in arts and crafts, but my journey with graphic design began in late 2015. I started looking at design books in charity shops shortly after I moved to the UK. Through I have a formal education in the Industry I still consider myself self-thought. Why? University is just one of many pillars of design education. It's the foundation. Graphic Design is a rapidly growing sector and If you want to stay in the game you have to adapt constantly.
I'll be talking about my experiences, what helped me the most and where I found the value. Your experiences might be different than mine, and that's fine. I'm also pretty sure that you may come across a different site with tutorials or read a great book - let me know what helped you the most.
For three years from 2015 to 2018 I studied graphic design at Open University in Poland while I was working full-time jobs here in the UK. During that time graphic design was in the back seat of my life though I felt very strongly that this is something that I’m interested in doing. The university I went to provided me with some basic information about art, composition, colours, and typography. I become familiar with the Adobe Suite: mainly Illustrator and Photoshop. At the same time, I started realizing that the education I’m getting is pretty outdated, focusing more on art than design.
Around halfway, through the course, I decided to focus on graphic design and learn as much as I could in the little time I had. I started bringing my computer to work so I could work during my breaks on uni projects or learn new tricks. Through the Internet, I discovered many online platforms with tutorials on a variety of topics from software, print techniques to business. Since then I become a frequent user of Skillshare and YouTube; where I learn from: The Futur, Dansky, Will Paterson and other people who shared their knowledge.
I won't lie, the Internet helped me a lot. Most of the knowledge from there is free, which is also beneficial when you are just starting. Another major influence on me and the way I look at graphic design come from the books I read. There is a lot of great books to read if you’re a graphic designer and I can't cover all of them in this post. The ones which I read early in my design career and which are close to my heart and I often refer to are:
'Made You Look' – Stefan Sagmeister
'Logo design love' – David Airey
'Just my type' – Simon Garfield
'Work for money, design for love' – David Airey
'The 22 immutable laws of branding' – Al Ries and Laura Ries
'It’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to be' – Paul Arden
The Design Community
In the last year of University, I discover the power of the graphic design community and started to attend workshops talks and short courses. I live in London where multiple events are happening in one day, but I'm pretty sure no matter where you live you can still attend talks or conferences from time to time. I still try to go out and meet new people at least once a month. It's good to try different community groups and events to see what you like. I'd also recommend to try to think about what do you want to get out of these events. Is it to just meet people, learn a new skill, meet your design heroes, etc. Some of the events I recommend in London: Ladies Wine Design, The Design Kids, Glug, Nicer Tuesdays, Collage Club and just keep an eye on design studios (newsletters or social media) as there are a few who host talks and workshops.
A short course held in Poland in which I participate in 2018 - Sztuka Projektowania / The Art of Design was a breaking point in my career. Up till that point, I didn’t meet many designers in real life. This course helped me position myself correctly and work side by side with real professionals. Which is crucial if you don't have a working or study group.
Going back to University
Shortly after that, I committed to studying a master's degree in graphic design full-time, a one year course in graphic design here in London. This year taught me everything I didn’t have the chance to explore earlier. At Middlesex, we have access to all sorts of workshops: photography studio, print facilities, 3D print, print room, animation support, and laser-cut room. I did use all of the workshops while I was working on my projects. It might sound funny but University taught me how to think, which I’ll be forever grateful for. It taught me to experiment, make room for play, learn the craft and be able to stand up for the work and talk about it. Being in a room full of other students and having this space to work together is a great opportunity to test if you're a team player. Talking and writing about work is super important. Ideas that are just in the head may seem awesome till you start talking about it to a friend who doesn't get any of it. Forming those ideas and visualising them is the key to get others on board while discussing it.
My tube journey to University and work were extremely long so I had to keep myself busy during that travel time. Here comes the power of podcasts and that includes many podcasts about design, business, presentation, and life in general. Shouts out to the Creative Pep Talk, This Way Up, Not Overthinking and The Futur Podcast. More than an hour each way to Uni become just a little bit nicer an hour to University.