1. Know What’s Out There
Just as the title says: you need to know what’s out there. What’s been done? What’s trending? In which area do you think there is untapped potential? Of course, this is also dependent on the brief of the project. You might find a loophole in the trend and think there’s some potential to expand in that particular market. But, it is also important to look in the right places to fit your client’s requests and demands.
Let’s compare this to shopping for shoes.
Your client specifically requests that they want red high heeled shoes. Even though you think that brown sneakers are the future of shoes, you wouldn’t head to the mall and go shopping in the sneakers section, would you? But, what you would do instead is head over to the high heel section of the mall, and start looking for the best choice the mall has to offer. There are so many types of high heels: stilettos, flat wedges, platforms for starters. This would be where you think about how it would suit the client. If they are a woman who works in an office, a high heeled stiletto wouldn’t fit their lifestyle, but rather something that looks professional whilst keeping their comfort levels up.
This is exactly what we mean by knowing what’s out there.
To be able to pick the best choice and direction of your work, you’ll first have to explore the playing field a bit beforehand, and then make a calculated decision about how you want the outcome to be. By knowing what is out there, you’ll be able to provide reasons behind your design to your clients more objectively and fluently.
2. Find Inspiration, but do not copy
We understand that it can be challenging to come up with something new for your project. But under no circumstances that it is okay to copy. Finding inspiration for your work is extremely important as a way to broaden your horizons, but it is never okay to take that work and tweak it to make it your own.
But why can’t I?
It would be devastating if you put a lot of effort into your work, only to have someone take credit for it afterwards. It doesn’t allow you to grow as a designer as well as if you were able to create something on your own instead. By taking work from others, you miss out a lot on the process of creation, which builds up over time with the effort you put in.
Just don’t do it. It hurts other people’s feelings, and in the long run, it hinders your growth as a respectable designer.
3. Small Details Matter
“It’s attention in the details that makes the difference between average and stunning” – Franics Atterbury
Consistency is key.
Repetition helps people to remember. If you are creating a brand identity for a client, you would want to make sure that their identity is consistent throughout all media to keep the integrity of the brand intact. Put in some effort and time to make sure the right colours are used throughout, and that the typography is the same. This helps create a memorable and distinctive brand appearance.
Initially, as a student in university, typos might be fine from time to time. But when you start working in the real field, typos are frankly inexcusable. You might not see it, but others will definitely take notic. And yes, we’ve intentionally spelt “notice” wrong to make a point on this topic. Every small detail matters and contributes to a professional, and trustworthy brand.
How would you feel if Apple came out with a product announcement and wrote iPhones as “iPone”? Brand integrity would definitely suffer, even if they just missed out on one single letter.
Take some time to recheck everything!
4. Experimentation is Key
Have you ever heard of the term “never settle” in the context of a relationship? Well, in this case, graphic design is now your significant other. Never settle! Let’s take some time and clarify what we mean by never settle.
Push The Idea As Far As Possible
It’s not going out on a whim and creating something that is extremely eccentric but rather looking at the project from a different perspective to broaden the possibility of designs. By experimenting, it means to go through the process to see what doesn’t work and why, and what works the best. This definitely helps create more effective design solutions, to take the brand to a whole new level. By pushing boundaries and trying out new angles and techniques to approach the same briefs over and over again, you’ll eventually get out of your comfort zone to produce something unexpected.
Keep a sketchbook and write down all the ideas! Never settle on the first idea.
5. Typographical Skills
So… What is typography?
By definition, “typography is the art and technique of arranging type to make written language legible, readable and appealing when displayed.” Type is used everywhere. Knowing this, typography and graphic design are soulmates. The importance of typography in graphic design cannot be overemphasized.
1. Type Pairing
You’ll need to be able to select which typefaces to use. Some typefaces are designed specifically for display purposes, so if you are designing something that is meant to be read, choosing a display font for body text isn’t suitable. In this situation, choosing a typeface that has been designed for reading long text in mind is more ideal as it serves its purpose.
I Am Very Font of You
To create dynamic in your design, you could opt for a combination of using Sans serif as your display while pairing it with serif for body texts. The choice is endless. If you are looking for something traditional, try going for typefaces that are classified as “old-style” such as Bembo. If you are looking for something more high end or luxurious, try typefaces in the “Didone/ Rational” classification such as Bodoni or Didot. Looking for something futuristic and bold? Try typefaces in the “Geometric” classification such as Avant Garde or Futura. Researching a little more in-depth into the classification of fonts can be very advantageous to your future as a graphic designer. If you are interested in the role of typefaces in branding, visit our other blog post: “Typeface Design for Brand Awareness”. The information you read there will most definitely be handy for you in the future.
2. Margin, Tracking, Kerning, Leading
After being able to select your typeface, you’ll also need to understand how to make them work well. This process is called typesetting. It includes basics such as margins, tracking, kerning and leading.
Set a System
Setting margins is vital when starting your design. You’ll need to set up values so that you can always stick to this system of the layout. Without it, your work could look like a jumbled mess as there is no coherent system for audiences to follow through when looking. In any case, where you are interested in editorial design, this knowledge is essential.
Tracking is the spacing between each letter. Kerning is used for letters such as V and A. Most of the time, type designers have already included this process for users in the design process, but they can’t design to cover all usages. If V and A is scaled up and used in a billboard, without kerning, the spacing between these two letters will cause a disruption in the rhythm of reading. Leading is the space between sentences. If you want the reading to be comfortable, try opting for a higher leading value. If reading the text is not your main design priority, reduce the leading value so that the sentence is more compressed together.
“I like this colour, it looks pretty, I’ll go with this.”
It is very easy to just pick out a colour in your design program. So, why is knowing how to pick colours important? Regardless of it being a branding project, a logo, or a simple presentation to show your client, the colours that you choose to pick out is equally as important as your design. It is important as a graphic designer to understand how colour affects modern consumers.
Primary colours, secondary colours, tertiary colours are the foundations you should know of, but having a bit of terminology such as hue, value, tint and intensity can be beneficial to you as a graphic designer when discussing colours in a project. Understanding colour harmony is also a good place to start. If you want to learn more, check out our in-depth article about colour theory.
7. Feedback, feedback, feedback!
It is not uncommon to reach a roadblock in your design process. Being able to reach out for help and critiques can really help you grow as a graphic designer. Sometimes, other people are able to see what we’ve missed out on or lacked in the design. Is your message or story clear? Is the typography suited for this brief? Is the usage of colour appropriate in this situation?
It Takes Two Hands To Clap (Maybe Even More)
Being able to accept criticism and improve on your design is one way to grow as a graphic designer. Asking for help is not a sign of lack of confidence, instead see it as a learning opportunity and a way to evolve your designs to the next level.
8. Which Platform are you designing for?
Instagram, website banners, Facebook photos are something that we see in our everyday lives. Nowadays if you notice our digital habits, screens and applications come in all shapes and sizes. As the future of design moves towards digital screens, graphic designers have to be able to design for the right platform.
A little bit of background research is important to get the dimensions right. It wouldn’t make sense if you designed something in A4 size and scale it down to fit in an Instagram post, would it? This is what we mean by the importance of designing for the right platform. Instagram posts are supposed to be eye-catching. If it is a body of text that has a super small point size, would you as a user want to read it?
9. Know your Target Audience
You can’t shoot for success if you don’t know where your target is.
You might have some questions. “Why can’t I design for everyone?”, of course you can there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But knowing your target audience helps in being able to develop smart and effective marketing strategies for the brand you are designing for. When you “send” out a specific message, you’d want somewhere/one to be able to direct it to successfully. This does not necessarily mean that your design is restricted only within that target group, but instead you can view it as your focal point.
If you are trying to sell rollerblades, it wouldn’t be a great design choice if your branding is old and lifeless. Your target audience should be kids and teens, so wouldn’t it be a better design choice if you went for a more upbeat and colourful art direction?
Shoot for the target, but aim for the bull’s eye.
10. Failing is Okay
“Do not be embarrassed by your failures, learn from them and start again.” —Richard Branson.
Failing is not the end.
Not many people can start designing and create a perfect project on the first time. Designing itself is actually a very subjective topic, what is regarded as sloppy might be the style or look that the particular designer was going for.
It All Comes Down to Intention.
Regardless, practice makes perfect. As we’ve mentioned in the topic above, experimentation is key, so never settle on the first design. Try to be able to master the foundations of design such as basic research and knowing your target audience, along with typography, typesetting, colour usage and program efficiency. Once you get the hang of it, there is no doubt that your basic skills as a graphic designer will improve vastly. Be patient, and keep learning.
Now that you know where to start… get busy! We can’t wait to see what type of graphic designer you’ll grow to be. Don’t be afraid to reach out and share your ideas with us, we’d love to hear from you and answer any questions you might have.