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How to become a Graphic Designer: A beginner’s guide

By Academy Xi

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Feeling drawn toward the creative realm of graphic design? We’ve unpacked some key considerations to keep in mind when starting the journey on your new career path.

Choose the right graphic design courses 

While there are a range of training options to choose from including a graphic design certificate or graphic design degree, it can be hard to know which the best option is to invest your time and money in. One thing is for certain – it is vital that you do your research to find the course that is the right fit for you, your lifestyle and the outcomes you desire.

A practical and helpful approach to take can involve looking at job listings for graphic designers in places you would like to work. Scan the skills and attributes within the job description that the employer is seeking in a successful candidate and cross check these with the graphic design course curriculums and reviews from others who have taken the courses you are considering. This will assure you receive training across the software and tools that you’ll be expected to have a command of in the workplace.

Online graphic design courses designed by industry professionals can offer you flexibility, a supportive student cohort and some will even provide career support upon graduation to secure your first gig.

Consider your career goals 

Perhaps you’ve already dabbled in graphic design and are looking to formalise your training across the latest software. Or you’ve toyed with the idea of graphic design while working in another field and are ready to transform your career path entirely. Whichever your current position, be mindful of whether you’re wanting to upskill or retrain and find courses that reflect your starting point and deliver outcomes that support where you want to end up. 

Other factors to keep in mind are your availability and budget. If you’re working full time and juggling other responsibilities, having training that is flexible will be important – self paced options could be the golden ticket for you. For others, full time with a fixed structure might be a preferable approach. When considering your budget, you want to know the course provides you with skills that ensure you’re job ready when you graduate – which might not mean the cheapest course on the market. Cutting corners in the short term financially could result in needing to do further upskilling later. Shopping around for the best fit training on all fronts is important. 

Master graphic design software and tools 

Ensuring that you have a comprehensive understanding of the industry favoured graphic design software and tools is an absolute must. It’s also wise to check that any training you are considering, whether that be online graphic design courses, graphic design certificate or graphic design degree, covers the software currently being used in the industry. If you’re unsure, contact the provider to confirm.

Here’s a round-up of the software we recommend you consider learning as a starting point.

Adobe Creative Cloud

This subscription gives you access to the latest releases of advanced creative software apps, which means you can get your hands on updates as soon as they’re released. Most graphic designers use Adobe Creative Cloud, so you can’t go wrong getting your head around all it has to offer. Within the subscription, you will be able to access the full suite of software, including the following which are used industry wide. 

PhotoShop: Considered the best imaging and graphic design software created by Adobe, it’s the first to master. You can create, edit and retouch illustrations, photographs and artwork and have the ability to simulate real-life photography. PhotoShop is also powerful for designing mock-ups of apps and creating image models.

Illustrator: This vector graphics software is used to create anything from typography and illustrations to logos and icons for use across web, print and multimedia. Illustrator can be used in conjunction with other Adobe software to create powerful graphic designs.

InDesign: Known as the industry-standard software for publishing, InDesign empowers you with the tools to create top shelf layouts so you can edit and create high-quality designs and prints from scratch. Develop anything from books and magazines to posters and newsletters – anything that can be printed or used for online design needs. 

Get real life graphic design work experience 

It is well worth investigating which courses on the market offer you opportunities to work with actual clients in the field. Nothing beats the experience of working with actual clients when you are training to become a graphic designer – the more hands-on design experience you can gain with the techniques and skills in situ, the better. 

Learning how to take a creative brief to reflect the needs of a real-life client, completing the design, submitting your work, and receiving feedback for amendments is an invaluable experience. This complete process will show you the reality of the daily work involved as a graphic designer.  

The Graphic Design: Transform training provides you with two real live client projects. Not only do you receive the benefits of real-life experience, but you also get to build your design portfolio with actual examples.  

Begin building a graphic design portfolio

It’s imperative to have a one-stop location where any prospective clients can view your graphic design portfolio examples and it’s never too early to start.  Many graphic designers create a graphic design showcase website to display all their work, organised in categories of their different client areas or project types.

Make sure you save all your design work, whether you’re drafting your own ideas, or those that you create during your training. All of them can help to form your portfolio.

There are graphic design training options that include portfolio building as part of the curriculum, which will result in you graduating with a showcase of your work, ready for prospective employers and clients. The Graphic Design: Transform course offers exactly this, in addition to professional advice from industry mentors who are currently working in the field. Unlimited 1:1 mentoring is also offered to students so that they can receive ongoing personalised feedback on their work, portfolio approach and industry guidance on their skillset.

Build relationships in the graphic design industry

As with any industry, having contacts and building working relationships with others in the graphic design world can have a positive impact on your career. Training in an environment where you are working with other students who will soon be your peers is a great way to begin building these relationships, as is having tutors and mentors who are actively working in the graphic design industry. These contacts can provide you with opportunities to meet others in the industry who can offer invaluable support, advice, and employment. 

Find your niche as a graphic designer 

As you work through your training, you may find that a particular aspect of graphic design appeals to you more than others. Once you have found your design niche you can focus your efforts on that market, strengthen your speciality and with time and experience, pitch yourself as an expert in that realm. 

Niche areas include typography, branding, layout design, poster design, website design and packaging design. It really comes down to what you feel passionate about and which skills you have to support it.

There’s also options to do additional study to pursue graphic design in the context of User Interface or Front End Web development.


How to start a career in graphic design

In as little as 12 weeks you could learn the fundamentals of Graphic Design and have the beginnings of a professional portfolio. 

At Academy Xi our graphic design courses are delivered in two online formats to ensure you can flexibly accommodate study with your existing work and life commitments, within a supportive learning environment including classmates and an industry experienced mentor. 

After a practical course to complement your existing skill-set?

Graphic Design: Elevate will expand your expertise in a social and supported environment, held over 6-months, self-paced. 

Looking for a total career change?
Graphic Design: Transform will equip you with the latest industry skills, unlimited 1:1 mentoring, two live client projects and have you graduating job-ready. 

Want to discuss your transferable skills and course options? Speak to a course advisor today and take the first steps in your Graphic Design journey.