How To Become a Graphic Designer - A Quick Start Guide | Lindsay Marsh | Skillshare

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How To Become a Graphic Designer - A Quick Start Guide

teacher avatar Lindsay Marsh, Over 500,000 Design Students & Counting!

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.

      Class Preview


    • 2.

      How Much Can I Make?


    • 3.

      Before You Get Started - Let's Talk About Software


    • 4.

      Learn The Designer Triad


    • 5.

      A Day in The Life Of A Designer


    • 6.

      Where to Start Learning


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About This Class

READ FIRST! This class has been totally updated. To see the latest version of this class visit the following class link:

Do you want to know how to become a Graphic Designer? Where do you start? This class gives you a good jumpstart and helps point you to the right places to get started. We will discuss how much you can make, what programs to learn, where to find them, the best resources for design elements and we will go over the designer triad (illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign), and why we need to learn each.

This is not a technical class, I do offer technical classes in design, if you are interested. I designed this class for people wanting to explore the possibility of this as a career option and how to get started exploring that curiosity. 

If you are interested in learning the designer triad (Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign) I have several technical classes, just check out my skillshare profile. 

As always, feel free to ask questions of all types in the community section of this class!

Meet Your Teacher

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Lindsay Marsh

Over 500,000 Design Students & Counting!


I have had many self-made titles over the years: Brand Manager, Digital Architect, Interactive Designer, Graphic Designer, Web Developer and Social Media Expert, to name a few. My name is Lindsay Marsh and I have been creating brand experiences for my clients for over 12 years. I have worked on a wide variety of projects both digital and print. During those 12 years, I have been a full-time freelancer who made many mistakes along the way, but also realized that there is nothing in the world like being your own boss.

I have had the wonderful opportunity to be able to take classes at some of the top design schools in the world, Parsons at The New School, The Pratt Institute and NYU. I am currently transitioning to coaching and teaching.

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1. Class Preview: Are you ready? Explore a day in the life of a graphic designer. Find out how much graphic designers typically make freely or in house. We'll explore that we'll learn about the designer, tryout, illustrator and designs and Photoshopped, which want to learn first where to start learning. I'll go over where to find The best resource is for spots, photos and for vector illustrations. I even show you where I find great graphic design communities online that can support your learning. Let's learn together. 2. How Much Can I Make?: So this one is definitely gonna be a different, more honest kind of video, cause we're gonna talk about money. So how much money can I make? As a graphic designer, so has a freelance. I'm freelance. Of course you could be learned design and become an in house designer as well and get a salary and benefits. And when you first start out, you might make about 35 to 40,000. If you're in the United States and you can earn anywhere from probably your senior graphic designer, you can make up to 85,000 or a little bit more, and the next step is became becoming an art director and then a creative director. And you could make 100,000 plus if you have a good 5 to 10 years of design graphic design experience. So that's pretty awesome. If you were go to do freelance and you could make, uh, your first couple years, you might make you know 10 to $20,000. If you're in the United States and then you're gonna be able to maybe add about 5 to 10,000 year Depends on your hustle. It depends on how much you go out and get your clients. But this kind of just at what I've seen personally and what I've seen other people accomplish. Eso maybe by your 45 you are full time. You can quit whatever job you're doing already, and by then you've really mastered those three programs and your bill Awesome portfolio. It charged more. And then you can make anywhere from 40 Teoh 85,000 year, working kind of 30 to 35 hours a week. Maybe even if you get really fast, you've done it a long time. You can make about 50 to 70,000 working about 25 to 30 hours a week. So, um, if you were to work 40 or 50 hours a week, you could make a lot of money, is a freelance designer, and so there's two different kind of pricing models you can price hourly or you could price per project, and that's going to depend on what you want to do. I have gotten really fast at what I do. So instead of charging hourly, I charged per project, and so per project is gonna benefit me because I could get things done as fast as I can and get your project and and get paid as much as I want. Really, if I work really fast, do things very well with high quality. Um, so I knew per project. But every once in a while, for a non profit, or if I'm not quite sure how many hours it's gonna take me, I will charge hourly. Um, and that rate could be $30.100 dollars. So you know it's really going to depend on people all over the industry. There's if you're part of those Facebook groups are gonna be ableto hear more about where they charging. There's lots of great discussion and debate on what do you charge, and it's gonna it's gonna slowly rises. You get more experience, but you're not gonna make you not be able to charge 35 or $40. When you first start out, you're gonna charge maybe $10 an hour. And as you build your portfolio, that's acceptable. People say that's way too low. But she got a charge, which you can charged until you build that quality portfolio, because it's going to be hard to prove to people, especially without a design degree that you're worthwhile if you don't have a strong portfolio. So you have to lower your price so you start low and entice. That's because kind of an honest kind of overview of how much you could make, I think you can become full time and make a decent income. You're not gonna come a 1,000,000 a year, but I think you can do very well be satisfied. You're not gonna be traveling and paying for dry cleaning and paying for your gas to drive all around town. It's gonna be worth kind of less stress to be able to be a designer, be at your home or if you're an in house designer, you know that hasn't sent rewards and benefits because it could help insurance world. Okay, definitely. That's also good to 3. Before You Get Started - Let's Talk About Software: today, we're gonna talk about the designers triad or better known as Photoshopped illustrator and design the three programs you want to get really comfortable with. If you want to become a designer, so the very first thing you want to do before you even take classes or go online and try to teach yourself any kind of design work. You need to get these programs whether you go through the Adobe free trial and get a free 30 days or whether you get older software. That's totally fine. Get it cheap or used the adobe creative cloud, which is what you see here. Um, so I pay. I had a really good deal. I pay about 29 99 per month for the Adobe Cloud. I got a special deal that I locked into a lower rate, but normally it's 49 99 a month for individuals. Of course, if your student in college or any kind of student, you could be able to get a student discount, so just be aware of that and also non profits as well. I think it a break, Um, so what I do is I go ahead and get the whole creative cloud suite. So that's gonna come with way more than just the triad. But get a whole bunch of other ones as well. That will also prove useful so you could do the annual plan to pay. Monthly plan is gonna be more expensive, but I just dio ah annual plan paid monthly. I always look out for deals and get $20 off if you get an email that says, you know, sign up now for a year and you can get 20 to 30% off. Ah, so we'll be on the lookout for those deals. So this is what I have. These are the three programs you really need to get familiar with, so go ahead and download them on on your computer. You can purchase older software, but there is, ah, problem whenever you have. Whenever I save something and illustrator in design are Photoshopped. I'm using. You see there's a CC there next to photo shop that stands for Creative Cloud. So if I save any of my files in the creative cloud, old older legacy version of photo shop and designer illustrator will not be able to open up my files so I was kind of forced to get the latest version. Ah, the creative cloud just so I can open files I got from other agencies and other designers to do work because there was no backwards compel it a bit compatibility. So keep that in mind. If you're using older software, you might have a trouble using templates that you download online or files from another designer. You're gonna have some issues opening and using vials, so I definitely get the creative cloud just so it it's automatically updates for you. It's a bummer because you have to pay a monthly fee now instead of just buying it outright for $500 or $1000 where it used to be for all three of these, Um, but in the end, it ends up being better cause you never have to pay. Ah, larger sticker price like that. It's OK, so I have these three programmes thes the three that we're gonna dive into a little bit, just kind of do a quick overview and we'll see how to master the designers. Try at 4. Learn The Designer Triad: Now that we know what the designers try, it is which is illustrator and design and Photoshopped. Now we're gonna go in and find out why you need to know these three particular programs. Why not other programs? So let's go ahead and start with the one that you probably need to focus on first. And that's gonna be Adobe Photo Shops was going click in here. So it's a dhobi photo shop. You're gonna be able to edit photos and do any kind of work with photo manipulation that you can use on advertising and also being able to convert photos to black and white are taking black and white photos and converting into color for ads is also done in here. I do all of my raster image work in Poteau Shop, and there's two different main kind of file types you gotta work with. As a designer. There's Raster, and there's Vector. Raster is anything that's going to be a image that's posted online. It's a J peg. It's going to be a P and G. It's a kind of ah kind of a flat, inevitable image. And then there's also Vector, which is gonna be with illustrator comes into play, and so we'll go over a little bit a little bit about that in a later video. So let's go ahead and just kind of I'm gonna go and kind of show You kind of hop around a little bit. I'm gonna go to a free stock website called Pecs. ALS p e x e l s. I'm actually gonna go into this a little bit. In my resource is video where he confined free photography vector illustrations to really kind of help you get jump started into building your portfolio and kind of learning and playing around a little bit. Um, so let's go ahead and download the first image we see it's going download this. Ah, lot of these are royalty free. They're free to download, and you have the copyrights to use them. Ah, this one says for personal commercial use, and I don't even have to put their credits. That's what's so great about pixels. Um, I can put this photo on a T shirt and sell it if I wanted to. There is no ramifications for copyright, so I'm gonna go ahead and drag this into photo shop, so I always kind of work with photography and any kind of image manipulation. So let's say I'm doing a black and white advertisement. Well, I want to make sure it's in the gray scale environment, so I'm gonna go to image mode grayscale. So this is the kind of program I'm gonna use to be able to do this kind of manipulation. If I want to do a photo shop action which actually have a class on put a shop actions, I can actually run in action. And it's gonna actually add filters in here to make it look like an instagram filter. So there's all sorts of things you can do in voter shop. That's that's gonna be unnecessary tool to learn in terms of putting ads together and working with typography and developing logos. I do not use photo shop. I actually use Illustrator, so we're gonna pop into illustration anytime. I need to do any kind of photo manipulation or photo editing. Photo shop is key. It's a great first program toe learn. Of the three, it's probably has the most tools and could be the most overwhelming. But, um, I believe when you really just focused on photography, and better manipulation and filters. It's a little more approachable of a program, so I always would recommend start with Photoshopped Master photo shop. Then I would actually hop into illustrator I think illustrators one of those underrated programs out there. I'm gonna actually just open up. Um, let me open up something I've been working on with a client. Um, let's see. Let's find something I can open up. It's arranged by datemodified. I use a Mac Max are awesome. If your designer Mac is key, they have better, more vivid light display and color display. Ah, there. Color displays are usually way above and beyond What you find on the Dell or whatever pc is still in business, so I highly recommend that. So let me open up. Let's open up this one. So open up, illustrators kind of give you a quick overview of illustrator. Illustrator is great because everything is done in the vector environment. So you can import all your photos that you, um perfected or manipulated voter shop. You bring him in here and you create everything. I create logos, advertisement, social media. Um, illustrator is pretty much where I live. 80% of my day. I'm an illustrator, So mastering the vector format is so crucial. Um, so let me go ahead and go. As you could see, I can almost concept this is me doing a logo design. So, as you can see, I started off kind of Ah, with a little bit, some ideas. This is totally kind of a fun side business one of my clients is doing, um and so you can kind of see where slowly evolves. You start toe talk with the client, see what they want. You kind of see me pushing. That's a great thing about illustrator. Is this gigantic art board and I can just do all my concept and just like a ah pin and note pad, this is basically my pin in the new pad so you can kind of see it evolving. You could see you know, me sketching and trying to figure out little things. You can kind of see where we are ending up with finished kind of not Nestle finished yet. We're still in the process. You can see us trying to apply it to kind of a final product, and this is Ah, this is an image So this was imported from Ah, Photoshopped. But over top is the vector image that we actually drew an illustrator. And so you draw everything using the pin tool, and that's right here and actually have an illustrator crash course. If you're interested in learning all the technical had a use illustrator. Ah, but this kind of a quick overview of Okay, why do I need to learn? Illustrator? So photo shop is for photo manipulation and getting photos really finished doing any kind of color work on photography illustrators for any logo design, anything that's going to be shapes, um, that you go to put together and any kind of typography, or if you're gonna be doing an ad design, I also would recommend illustrator. And so what's left? Okay in design. Okay. Why do I need to learn in design? If there's anything that's going to be and I'm gonna go ahead and open up with C, I'm working on a 21 page annual report. Um, seeking kind of see illicit in design is fantastic for anything more than one or two pages . So as you saw an illustrator, we kind of saw that one art board you can export it. You have this one file. Ah, but if he ever do a book or anything more than two pages, you have got to learn in design theirs. Fantastic. Copy and font control paragraph control. Any time you do a magazine, even if it's a digital magazine and you're working with a lot of copy or text, you're definitely gonna want to do it in design. So this is kind of a going to go ahead and go to view. Uh, let's do this high quality display. So this is an annual board adjusted for a client. We just send it to the printer. So a lot of this work I didn't photo shop, like doing all this intricate photo work. And then I bring it all the photography in here and then on an in design, I'm able lay out all the pages. I'm able to provide all of the copy. So I pasted the copy and formatted it. So it's great because you can have images and they could kind of make it magazine style. And you can have the text go around images as well. Ah, these air infographics. I did this in the illustrator because it's, you know, lots of little graphics and text I love to do Keep that in vector and did that in illustrator and just popped it in Here is an image And then I was ableto do all the text and editing in here and in design. So, in design is so important to figure to be doing large documents on even small ones, even ones that are for five pages, anything that has intricate copy or text that you're gonna need to work out, Tom. So the hairston more infographics. I kind of did these an illustrator and then I imported him. And as a j peg, you can kind of see how with this project I use all three. I used the Triad. I used photo shop to do photo manipulations. They use illustrator to do the intricate design or any kind of local work. And I used values illustrate for that night put it all together and in design to create the actual 21 page document. So, as you can see, it's pretty long you know you're gonna have when you're a designer, you're gonna have these kind of tedious jobs as well. You're gonna be able to do a logo, it's gonna be fantastic. Then you're gonna have to do this 22 page report or however long it's ah, and it's good. They're gonna come back with revisions. They're gonna change all these names a couple times, so it's definitely you're gonna have those jobs. But you know what it pays, pays money, it pays the bills. And, you know you can even have fun with it if you get to do some infographics or something. You know, there's always something fun to do and design those with this kind of a quick overview of the triad. The designers try. Add the things you need to learn, a kind of which ones you need to go first. So Photoshopped illustrator, then lastly, you can master in design, and if you can master these three programs, build a portfolio, you are ready to be a designer 5. A Day in The Life Of A Designer: so I wanted to do kind of a day in the life of because I know a lot of you guys are wondering, OK, do I even want to be a designer? What's it like? Um, so this could be a very honest and candid video about, you know, even how much I make how much I made when I first got started. Do I enjoy what I do? What do I do on an average day? Um said today was a busy day. I woke up and had about 10 different emails to answer, and that's very normal. I have about six clients I work with regularly, and every once in a while I'll rotate a new client. And so I'm constantly shifting different years around to different brands that I work with . So I'm working with one brand that does A B and C and then the very next 10 sec seconds or 10 minutes later, I'm pulling up another project tweaking it that has a different brand to it. So I have to think about Okay, now I have to worry about how did they wanna look and logo is different. And so I have folders. I try to keep everything organized on my desktop and you'll learn your own filing system. I use a Mac. Have said that, uh, previously it's it's been amazing. I would highly highly recommend a Mac you confined when used to refurbish very cheap. So there's no excuse for cost being an issue. You should definitely invest in yourself. Invest in the Mac. You're already investing in that software. Invest in the Mac. That's the next thing you need to do. Um, so usually, you know, I'm kind of doing some work. I'll kind of open up some things I've done. I'm gonna go ahead and arrange this by datemodified Just kind of some things I've done recently. This is for a client, a new client called the center There Nonprofit. So I was kind of while reworking some concepts for them. Um, and I wasn't really liking kind of the direction they were putting me in. And that's something that you have toe to deal with is you need to please your clients and ah, lot of creatives have a problem with pleasing clients because you don't get to be Ah, you're creative. You have to kind of be creative for your client and give them what they want and that it sucks. So you have to. There's a little bit of give and take. You can't just be creative and your own sense. You have to please the clients. And so there's, like, certain things that I was having to do with this client they wanted to see. Um, their whole idea was a big, um, as in kind of a welcoming environment, the fig and the seeds and growth. It's kind of something you're doing is a nonprofit, and they had me do an outline of the fig. But I think it looks like an onion. And, you know, if they like the second round, it has sent this today and they could I have to deal with this logo being an onion. Um, and I really love some of the stuff I was working on before. Um, you know, kind of this with the big, but you know what? They may not like it, and we may go in another direction, and I would hate that, but that's the job. You please the client, you get paid, you could build your when you build your portfolio. You can always use what you like. You don't have to do with the final approved concept is. But that's just the reality of being designer is they're going to do. They're gonna give you some copy that you don't like, or they're gonna give you a photo that you have to use that you don't want to use. You know, you're just gonna have to deal with kind of the hassle of that. So, you know, I do a lot of logo work. That's 20% of what I do. I do a lot of ad work, so just putting together some ads. I do a lot of monotonous kind of work, like doing this pin. Um, they gave me the stats of the pin is the writing pin, and I'm just doing kind of I'm an illustrator. I live in illustrator. A lot of things I do an illustrator. So I was doing this pin, and this is the in print area of where the pin will be printed and it's just their name. It's not very exciting, but they needed a designer toe, put it to the right specifications and send it as a PdF to the printer so that's very boring. But, you know, you get paid for these little jobs. I keep track of all my hours in the note pad, and I'm able to create invoices at the end of the week. And, you know, that kind of motivates me that, Hey, I get paid for this, and I get to be creative. Sometimes I don't always get to get my way, but I'm still getting paid for this and I'm at home and I get to be with my kids and sometimes I'm in. I'm in my pajamas right now, so there's always this this this definite Plus, I don't have to get ready it off to do the commute every morning. It's awesome. So I will do as many pins as I can instead of ah, awarding, being in a stuffy bank office or where whatever I would be doing outside of this, but you get to do some beautiful things. Um, here's something I'm working with. Uh, we're doing all sorts of re sizes, so they needed it for Ah, Facebook, Twitter, social media. They're also doing posters and banners. Of course, you're gonna have to learn how to deal the re sizing. This is kind of ah, banner we were doing This is a large Get the learned to work with large, uh, files. Course I do all this stuff in, Illustrator, I do some photo work in a photo shop and I do if it's not a multiple page document, and design kind of collects the dust for a few days. Um, so I'm trying to pull up one, so they're gonna want J pegs, of course. Had to come up with the branding of this year long event. Siri's. And we tried about 10 different versions of how to arrange all this. We had the bubbles in the center with the dates on the left. We had the trees individually coming out, and it took a couple of rounds. But we were able to finally figure out something we were all happy with, and it took took some time, and then you're doing all these re sizes for a couple weeks because they couldn't need all these different sizes. That's kind of where the monotony kind of comes in, but it's still fine. I still enjoy being able to take a design like this, and I'm gonna have to try to get that concept toe fly on a totally different sighs. So something's very vertical. When something's very hot horizontal, I gotta find a creative way, Um, to make it all the same brand they could all look the same, have, ah, brand continuity and look continuity. So that took some noodling and some messing around. And that's where he experiences as a designer really comes into play. It's how you can kind of do that on the fly and do it really quickly, and sometimes the quickly work, the more you get paid. So you kind of have some motivation toe. Get it done, but get it done well as well. Um, so it's kind of just a quick overview of the day of the life of a designer to kind of see if, if it's right for you, that's something wanna continue to pursue. I thoroughly enjoyed. I've been doing for it for 10 plus years, and I hope to do it for another 10 years. At least. 6. Where to Start Learning: Okay, So how do I learn how to be a graphic designer? And do I have to take an expensive college course or get a college degree in graphic design ? Absolutely not. I do not have a degree graphic design, but I have a 10 year full time career from it. And how did I learn? 10 years ago, what was the very first steps that I did? There's two different steps that I took. I went on YouTube back when it really was kind of first starting, and I watched videos. I watch tutorials just like the one you're listening to. Over and over. I just soaked up as much as I could about programs, but I don't really have any particular one to recommend. But just type and learn graphic design. And if you if you also want to, um, learn the triad, you know that you want to start with photo shop, then you want to do illustrator. Then you want to do in design. Last so you know, learn photo shop and there's so many free resource. Of course, you watch a a 32nd ad, but you know, uh, nothing's totally for free, But let's say, learn photo shop. So you know, you click on this, guys, you gotta worry about the ads. La la la la, la, Skip, skip, skip. But you're gonna be able, Teoh, learn the program. I'm just kind of skipping around, but soak this stuff up. I watched probably thousands of hours. Um, you know, learn Photoshopped first, and it was traded than in design. Um, and then you're able to play around and a lot of ways that I, um you know, of course, skill share your already subscribed to spill share. There's some really good people out there teaching. I have a crash course, but there's just so many really good teachers out there. Um, so if you just kind of go to graphic design, you're going to kind of see some really good stuff. This guy's pretty funny. Um, but if you're not into the humor thing, there's still a lot of really good stuff like basics of Photoshopped. What I've noticed is YouTube is actually better to learn the technical side of photo shop. You wanna learn what all the many buttons are? So I want to know what? How do I work on the toolbar? What's the layering system like? How do we work with typography and spacing and current ing just like here? How to attain changes? Sizes What fonts? Air good. What was fought hierarchy? How do I do? Um, what's the difference between RG B and C and like a gray scale? All of that I find like the technical parts of learning design. I thought I found free YouTube videos to be more helpful with the technical side and with the concept side in terms of what's a thought? What's a sand Sarah font? All these things I really find skill share to be more valuable for some of ah, that kind of stuff. Kind of higher level kind of design stuff. Um, so that's this kind of going forward What you could do? Um, another thing I did is I joined active communities of other graphic designers that are learning, um so, like, Reddit has kind of a really good, um, graphic design where people kind of post it's actually a subreddit graphic design. So if I just dio graphic design and there's forums as well, I'm already subscribes. Click on this So you see other people's work and ah you see people critique it and you could post your own work and get critiqued. And yeah, your first couple of negative critiques are gonna hurt your feelings, but you get over it. You know, you end up getting thick skin when you are designer because people are gonna rip your stuff up, especially when you're first starting. It's gonna suck. But, um, this kind of keep pressing on. Don't let anyone stop you because, yeah, you're going to be You're gonna not be very good Awesome at first. But you're going to see your work slowly improved. So this is kind of people giving good feedback. They are actually post some good YouTube tutorials on here as well. So just kind of joined active community. So if you guys learn together and you could see what other people are doing and also, um, Facebook's got some really good, um, graphic sign groups. I'm probably a part of eight different ones on Facebook, so you can definitely check out someone here and be part of an active community where they do the same thing on Reddit. They kind of post articles that help you out, kind of motivate each other so Facebook of Red and her big ones course being active on the YouTube and still share in terms of learning. If you do all those for a couple of months and you master these three programmes slowly by , kind of doing some samples yourself and going through some of the materials and you're well on your way.