Photo from Skillshare Original    Design Great Stuff: How to Make Merch with Draplin.
Photo from Skillshare Original Design Great Stuff: How to Make Merch with Draplin.

Whether you’re a budding graphic designer or deep into your career, it’s advantageous to continue challenging yourself in the craft. Not only does it keep you on your toes and scratch that itch to always keep improving, but a robust and ever-evolving graphic design skillset makes you more viable in the marketplace. The five graphic design skills we’ve outlined below are a great place to start.

1. Designing Real-Life Merchandise

Bringing your graphic designs to life via merchandise is a quick and surefire way to monetize your craft. It’s also a new skill anyone can learn no matter their existing skill level. We’re talking about designing pins, patches, stickers, t-shirts, posters, and hats — basically any tangible item you can design for others’ businesses or for your own. In Aaron Draplin’s new Skillshare class, he looks back on the past 15 years he spent making merchandise and extracts the juiciest bits. Students will learn how to identify which on-screen designs translate best in the real world, the most reputable vendors that can bring your designs to life, and “un-mess-with-able design files.”

Follow along the lesson exclusive below, and learn how to make a patch in Adobe Illustrator with Aaron Draplin.

2. Branding & Logo Creation

Though branding may seem easy enough, it’s a highly finessed graphic design skill. After all, a company’s branding and logo is often the first impression a potential customer has which can influence their desire to learn more about a product. In that sense, an expertly designed logo and quality branding can translate into dollar signs for a company. Color, spacing, typography, and imagery all come together in this skillset, and an understanding of the brand itself and human response is also required.  

From NBC and Chase Bank to National Geographic and the Smithsonian, Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv have designed many of the most recognizable brand symbols in the world. You can join Sagi Haviv in his Skillshare Original Designing Brand Symbols: The Principles & Process of Making Logos that Last.

National Geographic logo by Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv.
National Geographic logo by Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv.

3. Illustrated Typography

Graphic designers often speak via images but introducing beautiful uniquely illustrated typography into your artist toolbox will quickly strengthen your skillset. In general, typography is essentially words-turned-art, and it can often be used to elevate your designs and, at times, more clearly (and quite literally) communicate your message. Illustrated typography is the art of creating your own lettering, which gives your design more flair. As is the case with all design, there are many approaches you can take to creating your own unique illustrated typography. For example, Jennet Liaw uses a 3D approach for crafting “unique-yet-legible” illustrations, and there are more straightforward options, pop art styles, and beyond to learn, as well.


4. Motion Design

While pretty much all forms of graphic design communicate to the viewer in some way, motion design — a combination of sound and moving visuals — takes an artist’s ability to communicate with others to a completely new level. It’s essentially art-turned-motion storytelling, a graphic design skill which can be harnessed to create compelling advertisements for companies, meaningful campaigns around topical subjects, digestible explainers of convoluted topics, or pure art. Motion design isn’t a graphic design skill you can learn overnight, and it makes more sense for designers with a broad education to tackle this skill. That said, you can start off biting small chunks and working your way up the ladder, and the art form itself can be quite gratifying.  

Not sure where to start? We got you covered. Top teacher Jake Bartlett has over 20 classes to get you started with motion design.

5. UX Design

One could argue that our lives exist equally “in the real world,” and “online.” Wherever you stand on the matter, there’s no denying that consumers are spending much time browsing retail websites. The user experience — or UX — matters deeply, and it’s quite faceted. The ultimate goal when mastering UX design is creating a website that is user-friendly, which means that the designer takes any opportunity they can get to make browsing a complete joy. That means it’s easy to navigate and presents few cognitive roadblocks, is beautiful to look at and quick to impress, and makes buying or learning about the brand, person, or mission a breeze. Many consider UX design a middle ground between web design and graphic design and mastering this skill can quickly make you a hot commodity in the marketplace.

 These five graphic design skills range from straightforward to complex, so don’t feel like you have to chew them all at once. Depending on your current skill level, we challenge you to choose one from this list and begin mastering it today.

Written by:

Wendy Rose Gould