If You Can Do It, I Can Do It: A Graphic Designer’s Guide To Figuring Out

This article is for graphic designers who want to learn more about design but aren’t sure where to start. It’s for people who are looking for a way to better understand the field and develop their own unique style.

I’ve been a designer for nearly 10 years now and have had my fair share of learning curves while working on projects ranging from web development to print design (you can see some examples here). 

I’m also someone who enjoys teaching others whether it be through speaking or writing so when I came across this Reddit thread full of questions about graphic design, I thought it’d be helpful if someone could answer them all in one place!

Beginning Graphic Design: Fundamentals – YouTube
Overcome challenges in graphic design with confidence.
Embrace uncertainty and learn from experienced designers.
Navigate the transition from full-time work to freelancing.
Avoid common rookie mistakes for a successful design career.
Discover strategies to find freelance graphic design work.

1. Look For Inspiration Wherever You Can

The first step to creating something you’re proud of is to look for inspiration. Inspiration can come from anywhere, and it’s important that you’re always on the lookout for it. Inspiration can be found in other people’s work, movies, music, or even just walking down the street.

I personally love looking at other designers’ portfolios for inspiration (especially when I’m not feeling so great about my own). 

Designers like Peter Mendelsund and Matthew Le Merle have amazing portfolios full of beautiful work and even if their style doesn’t match what I’m working on right now, it always helps me get out of a rut by seeing how someone else approached a similar project.

Going through these kinds of portfolios will also make sure you have an idea of what’s popular right now; this will help with your research later in this post!

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2. If You’re Going To Steal, At Least Do It Right

When you’re trying to figure out how to do something, it’s often helpful to look at what other people have done. This is especially true when it comes to creative projects since it means you don’t need to reinvent the wheel every time.

I’m not talking about plagiarizing other people’s work (that’s bad), but instead taking inspiration from their ideas and building on them. This is one way that design movements like Minimalism got started in the first place a designer would take an existing style and tweak it just enough so that it felt new again; then they’d start a whole new movement!

Here are some tips for doing this ethically:

3. Photoshop’s Most Important Functions In Four Steps

If you are familiar with Photoshop, it’s likely that you can do this without much explanation. However, if you’re new to the program or want to do something simple but are not sure how to go about it, here are some quick steps for the most common functions:

Select the area you want to edit.

Edit the area.

Save your changes before moving on to step 4! It’s important to save often so that if anything goes wrong (and believe me, something always goes wrong), you’re not stuck starting over from scratch or losing all of your progress thus far on a project (or worse yet having your computer crash).

Export any finished pieces as necessary so they can be used in other applications such as HTML5 games and [insert other media here].

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4. The Secret To Perfect Kerning? No More Than Four Letters And Two Spaces Per Line

Kerning is the process of adjusting the space between characters to make the text more visually appealing and easy to read. The most common way this is done is by changing the spacing between two letters that are next to each other, like A and V or P and O. 

Kerning can also be used to make words look better when they are of certain sizes, but it’s often best not to kern too much as it can cause awkwardness in reading if you get too detailed with it.

Kerning isn’t just something graphic designers care about it’s something we should all be thinking about when designing anything with text! 

If you’re making a logo, for example, you don’t want your client’s name or business name looking bad just because they didn’t know how important this little detail was when creating their brand identity (which could have been avoided if only they’d consulted an expert first). 

It may seem like nothing more than spacing out letters until everything looks right visually; however, there’s actually more science behind kerning than meets the eye…

5. How To Get The Perfect Color Palette

The second part of this graphic design process is to pick your colors. Getting the perfect color palette can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. There are many ways to find inspiration for your own personal color palette, and you’ll need to experiment with different methods until you find one that works for you.

Here’s a list of some options:

Get inspired from anywhere. You can use online sites like Tumblr or Pinterest (or even physical magazines), or even just look at the colors around you! Your room might tell all sorts of stories about who you are and what kind of person lives there so pay attention! 

If something looks good, chances are it will look even better in print or on-screen when it comes time for designing things like posters or websites later down the road.* Discover your own unique style by experimenting with different techniques as well as various tones within each hue family.* 

Use a color wheel if needed but not just any old one; try one specifically designed for graphic designers! This type allows users easier access when creating palettes because they allow easy swapping between hues while still keeping track of which ones were used previously.* 

Use contrast effectively by using two complementary colors instead of three equally spaced out ones so viewers’ eyes aren’t distracted when looking at more than just one color element on the screen 

Remember that contrast isn’t always achieved by simply making two opposite things stand out against each other it can also involve combining two complementary elements together regardless of whether those elements would normally be considered opposites (for example blue sky + green grass).

Take advantage of the psychology behind certain hues like reds/pinks being used often during valentine’s season because they remind people subconsciously how much love feels like warmth.”

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6. “Helvetica,” A Documentary About The World’s Most Popular Font, Is A Must-Watch Film

You should watch “Helvetica” if you’re interested in the history of typography, or if you’re a graphic designer who wants to learn more about why Helvetica is so popular. The film will also teach you about many other fonts, including Akzidenz Grotesk and Frutiger, which are also quite common in design work today. 

If your goal for watching this movie is finding inspiration for your next font project (or getting better at picking out great fonts), then I’d say it was worth it!

7. Don’t be afraid to start over

If you’re a graphic designer, chances are that you have several projects on the go at any given time. And if those projects aren’t going so well and feel like they’re spinning their wheels? Don’t be afraid to start over.

I know it’s scary because it means re-doing all your work and getting new files together, but sometimes it’s easier (and faster) than trying to fix something that isn’t working out.

Also: sometimes the best thing you can do is just let go of a piece and move on.

8. When In Doubt, Make It White

White is the absence of color, but it can also be used as a color. Its value lies in its power to create contrast. Use white for spaces that you want to feel spacious and open like a blank canvas or empty space.

White also creates a sense of balance. Even if you’re using other colors in your design scheme (like black), remember that white will work hard to counterbalance them and bring everything back into equilibrium.

9. Also When In Doubt, Make It Black

When you’re working on the text of your design, black is the safest bet. It’s easy to read and has a sense of authority and power. If you’re unsure about what color to use, black is always a safe choice.

The reason why black is so powerful is that it’s easy for our eyes and brain to process quickly. We don’t want to be distracted by other colors when we’re taking in information, so black allows us to focus on what matters most: the text itself!

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10. Remember That Simple Is Often Better (But Don’t Overdo It)

The trend of minimalism is all the rage and for good reason! Clean lines and simple shapes are very popular. However, it’s important to remember that simple does not have to mean boring or bland. 

If you want to use a lot of white space in your designs (which can be visually interesting), make sure you have enough information on each page so that users don’t get lost or confused.

There are lots of ways to use white space without making something look empty:

Use shades of gray rather than black text as much as possible; this makes text easier to read on monitors that aren’t set up properly with a clear contrast between text and background colors/images.

Keep borders around objects very thin if they’re not necessary otherwise; this helps create an overall clean feel without being distracting from the content itself (and makes them less likely for people who are colorblind). 

For example, instead of having thick solid borders around everything including the page header area which takes up most screen real estate when viewing full-screened images from their respective websites’ home pages (like we do at work!). 

Consider making those areas transparent instead so that viewers can see more easily through them without losing any useful information about where they’re looking relative to other parts within these website sections themselves as well as other parts outside these sections too! 

This can help create more visual interest while still keeping things easy for everyone who needs access regardless of whether such individuals happen  to be sighted or not.”

11. Always Have A Great Headline Ready

Always have a great headline ready. The headline is the first thing people will see, so it needs to be great. A good headline will inform the reader what the article is about, or encourage them to click. A bad headline could be boring, confusing, and not descriptive enough of what you’re trying to say. Try these tips:

  • Keep it short but descriptive
  • Use original and memorable words that stand out from other articles on similar topics (but don’t forget about Google!)
  • If there are specific keywords you want people searching for, include those too!

12. Use Your White Space As Wisely As Possible

As a graphic designer, you need to use white space as wisely as possible. White space is the empty space on your page. It’s the area between things, around things, and sometimes even in the middle of something. The more white space you have in your design, the less crowded it will look.

If you have a lot of white space, people will think your design looks professional and clean. If there isn’t much white space at all (or if what little there is has been used up), people will think that you haven’t spent enough time on it or aren’t confident about what it looks like.

White doesn’t always mean white! White can also be colored backgrounds or borders with no image or text inside them at all – just plain old empty zones where no color exists yet we still call those “white areas” because they’re not any other color either (like black).

13. Fonts Matter, So Take Your Time Choosing Them

Don’t know the difference between serif and sans-serif? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. The truth is that most people have no idea what kind of font they’re using in their printed materials or on their website and it’s totally fine!

Here’s an overview: Serif fonts use small strokes at the ends of letters to make them look more formal and elegant. Sans-serif fonts are simpler, with no added detailing on the edges of letters. Display fonts are larger in size and used for headlines or titles. 

There are hundreds more kinds out there, but these three should cover most of your needs when choosing a font for design projects (even if they don’t cover all of your questions).

Once you’ve got an idea about how different types can work together, it’s time to start picking out some good ones! There are tons of free options online Google Fonts is one great source but before you do so keep in mind that not every typeface will work well with every project; 

Sometimes even two different styles within the same family won’t mesh well together due to their proportions (think “tall” versus “wide”). Don’t be afraid to experiment until you find something that suits your tastes best; once again: It takes time!

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14. Don’t Ask For Or Take Criticism Too Personally

There’s a reason we don’t always like to hear negative feedback. It can be hard to accept that someone doesn’t like our work or thinks it is bad. But when it comes down to it, criticism is the only way for us to get better at what we do. If you’re a designer and you want people to hire you again and again, then getting good at taking criticism will be key in establishing yourself as an expert in your field.

So how do you take criticism objectively? Here are some tips:

  • Be prepared for negative feedback before the project begins
  • Make sure that everyone involved understands their role in providing input on the design process
  • Ask questions about exactly what parts of the design need improvement if there isn’t much direction from clients about where improvements should be made (this can help ensure that problems are solved rather than simply ignored)
  • Graphic design is hard but with determination and the right attitude anyone can learn to do it well enough to be successful
  • Graphic design is hard. You will mess up a lot, and you will probably want to quit. You won’t be able to do everything you need to do in one sitting, so don’t expect too much from yourself at the beginning.

Before deciding what kind of graphic designer you want to be, determine what it is that you need to know and start there. Once that foundation is built up, it becomes easier and less time-consuming for us all!


The takeaway here is that if you can do it, I can do it. With the right attitude and a little help from Google, we can all be graphic designers.

Further Reading

Here are some additional resources to further your understanding of graphic design and enhance your skills:

How to Learn Graphic Design: Explore a comprehensive guide on effective methods and approaches to learn graphic design and kickstart your creative journey.

How to Learn Graphic Design: Tips from Coursera: Coursera provides insights into learning graphic design, offering valuable tips and resources for those looking to acquire design skills.

Career Guide: How to Become a Graphic Designer: BrainStation’s career guide outlines the steps and strategies to become a successful graphic designer, covering essential skills and pathways to enter the field.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do I Figure Out My Career?

The best way to figure out your career is by doing it. You can read all the books and articles on the subject, but at some point, you just need to get started. If you’re not sure where to start, try doing a few random projects with different people in different fields, and see what sticks.

Look for opportunities that excite you or allow you to learn new things those are the ones that will help shape your future career path!

How Do I Become A Graphic Designer? 

This is the most common question and one which I have answered many times before. If you want to learn how to be a professional designer, check out my Guide To Becoming A Graphic Designer. It breaks down the different phases of your journey to becoming a professional and gives tips for each step along the way.

What Is The Starting Salary For A Graphic Designer? 

The answer depends on where you live – if we’re talking about San Francisco or New York City then expect around $60k-$70k per year, but if we’re talking about Portland or Austin then it will likely be closer to $40k-$50k per year (a much more reasonable price-to-living ratio).

What Is Graphic Design?

Graphic design is the process of creating visual communication in order to convey a message or idea. This can be done through print media, web pages, brand identity, and even environmental design. You can learn more about the definition of Graphic Design on Wikipedia.

 Is Graphic Design A Good Career Choice?

Yes! According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), “The demand for designers is expected to increase by 16% from 2014-2024, which exceeds average growth for all occupations”. 

Additionally, it’s important to note that graphic designers are not limited to working in advertising agencies they also work with companies large enough to have their own internal design departments like Apple or Microsoft as well as small start-ups looking for help starting out without much money on hand.  

Yet still want something professional looking without having gone through extensive training themselves first before hiring someone else who will charge them exorbitant rates because they’ve already established professionals themselves who know what they’re doing.

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