<strong>Teach Yourself Graphic Design: A Self-Study Course Outline</strong>
Teach Yourself Graphic Design: A Self-Study Course Outline
Fortunately, it isn’t required to go to design school in order to be a graphic designer. A good foundation in graphic design history, theory, and practical application will help you hit the ground running. There are plenty of resources available in which you can learn graphic design on your own. Don’t set your expectations to high at first, as it will take enthusiastic study for years to become great. You can do it though!
If you would like to learn courses graphic design from the ground up, through self directed study, then this article lists some great resources that will get you started with your design education. Also, even if you do go to design school, at least three-fifths of your education will be through self directed study anyway.
Understanding the Principles and Theory of Graphic Design
There are a few graphic design principles that effect every project you’ll create. Understanding these principles conceptually and learning to apply them practically will formulate the foundation of your graphic design education. Let’s take a look at the basic areas you should study to get a solid footing in graphic design.
- Shape, Spacing, and Rhythm
I remember first learning these basic design principles, and they seemed so foreign at first. It took me quite some time to get comfortable with these techniques. In school we did a beginner project that consisted of drawing triangles, just to communicate emotion through placement, shape and spacing alone.
- Color, Texture, and Imagery
Understanding the basics of color theory is important and getting a feel for how to work with colors. Color can make areas of a design pop off the page or recede into the background. The use of texture can enhance the feel of a design. In print design texture can be the actual feel of paper or other materials. Imagery can also blend in with texture and is loaded with colors. Learning how to balance these is a delicate craft that will take some practice to apply well.
- Working with Type
Your ability to use type is one of the things that differentiates graphic design from other visual professions. A big part of graphic design is understanding typography, developing your knowledge of typefaces, and how to apply them in your design. This will be a constant study throughout your career.
Standing Strong with a Historical Graphic Design Grounding
Philip Meggs book (see below), is a must have for every graphic design. You should read it from cover to cover. Also, as you go through spend time researching areas that interest you the most. Pick at least three areas to go into detailed study with and learn as much as you can about them. One area of interest for me is the Bauhaus, which was a graphic design and craft school founded in the early twentieth century. I find the subject captivating, probably because it combines so many of my passions: art, design, history, and education.
Learn from Professional Graphic Designers
Aside from studying graphic designers throughout history, you’ll also benefit by studying contemporary designers whom you identify with. A couple designers I found inspirational while I was in design school were David Carson and Carlos Segura. Both of these designers utilize typography in intuitive, innovative, and illustrative fashions. They helped encouraged me to get expressive with my use of type, spacing, and texture. While the approach they practice in design isn’t appropriate for every project, it certainly helped develop my graphic range and ability to think illustratively through graphic design.
You may fall in love with some other approach to design. Also, you’ll go through numerous phases, where you’ll be attracted to something else in design. This is part of what’s great about the field; it’s so diverse. Don’t be afraid to emulate designers approaches on some projects. It’s a good way to learn. Then you’ll move on to something else and it will become part of your collective design experience.
Developing Your Proficiency, Intuition, and Flow
Part of becoming a good graphic designer is becoming one with your tools. If you can wield a pencil, and quickly sketch down conceptual solutions, then you’re a more proficient designer. Of course, when working within programs the same thing applies. If you’re a logo designer, the better you know Illustrator, the better a designer you’ll be.
Being proficient with your tools helps you to be able to enter an intuitive flow like state when working, but it’s more than that. The better you know design, your medium, your chosen field of focus, your toolsets, and your workflow, the easier it will be to sink into that space where decisions come easily and time disappears. This flow state is a big reason why people choose any art related field, like graphic design; they enjoy being in the flow of creating and working visually.
Putting it All Together
Good luck with learning graphic design. Keep in mind, an undergraduate course takes numerous years to complete, and some even go on to grad school, so don’t set your expectations to high in the beginning, whether you attend school, or go it independently. It’s OK if it takes even years to master graphic design. Just study, grow as a designer, don’t give up, and you’ll get there. Be sure to have fun along the way, or else what’s the point?