15 Graphic Design Tips for Industry Beginners
Being a graphic designer sounds like an easy gig, right? As long as you’re tech-savvy, and know which colors go with what, you’ve got it in the bag!
… Unfortunately not. Like many other design careers, being a successful graphic designer takes time, practice, and plenty of resilience. You have to turn products and services into stories that consumers can lap up. It’s more than just making something “pretty” - you have to make it conversion-worthy.
The story you create, as a designer, can be told with colors, fonts, textures, images, and many other graphical elements. This is every graphic designers’ dream: the moment you bring to life a creative vision. It’s important to be original with your designs, of course, but it’s also true to say that there are certain things that all good designs have in common.
But what are they?
We’re glad you asked. Without further ado, here are 15 graphic design tips - acknowledged by the very best designers in the industry. Packed with inspiration and quick fixes, you can use this article as a reference point for your journey into the industry...
Typography Graphic Design Tips:
#1 Less is More
In order for your design to be a show-stopper, you really need to make sure you have your typography taken care of. Often, font types and styles are an afterthought, hence why we’ve put this at #1!
The best typography designs stick to a font family - meaning there’s never more than 3 fonts on one design. There are a variety of font families favorited by designers all over the world - whether serif, non-serif, etc, the choice is endless!
The main point to follow with typography is that less = more
#2 Create a Hierarchy
Having a hierarchy within your typography is another important element for your design.
When you’re creating your artistic vision, you will already have a subconscious visual hierarchy in mind - what’s your title? Your sub-heading? Your small-print? Clear font sizes and selections help create a linear content flow within your design, so your viewer knows what bit to read and when. Without this, your design may crumble into typography overload - or even worse, your viewer looks at it in boredom and scrolls past...
#3 Two is Better Than One
You want to grab attention, don’t you? Well, the quickest way to draw a viewer’s attention to a certain element of your design, is by incorporating this nifty little trick: using two fonts in one title.
It works well because it adds a dynamic element to your design - as well as making you look like one sophisticated designer.
But don’t forget to establish that hierarchy! Whether it’s a change in tone, color, or bringing one font over the other - make sure your typography has some structure. Fail to do this and you could be looking at messy content.
This is a design tip many of us forget - however, accurate kerning truly makes the difference between a good design and a great design.
What is kerning? Essentially, it’s the space between each letter of the text. Ensuring consistent and equal spacing between each character will ensure that your copy looks neat, polished, and professional.
Have you ever created a design that just didn’t look right, and no matter how many things you changed, the issue remained? There’s a chance you may have been dealing with a case of ‘bad kerning’ - an issue that bugs designers everywhere for its’ subtlety. For an industry beginner, having a good kerning tool installed to track your font is definitely a must.
#5 Don’t Forget White Space
White space is sometimes forgotten, as designers often mistake it for empty space.
Wrong. White space allows the elements within your design to breathe, as well as provide an overall organized appearance.
If you need to make an element of your design more prominent (i.e. emphasizing a call to action, etc), white space is effective at doing just that. As a designer, you need to ensure every element of your design is 100% effective, and given the emphasis it deserves.
A blank section of your design doesn’t necessarily need filling - be brave, working with white space requires guts!
Color Graphic Design Tips
Now, if you’re working on a project for a client, and are confined to their specific style guidelines involving color, then this bit has been covered for you. But what about when you’re given free rein? Your new client has come to you with an exciting new project, and has simply said, 'have fun?' - what then?
The truth is, when it comes to color, plenty of designers - and even more clients - view it alone, as a means for decoration. They don’t take into account how color may help convey a message, how the color may complement or contrast with their brand, or how it will affect their audience.
As an industry beginner, this isn’t how you want to be. Allow yourself to be equipped with the knowledge, with these next set of 5 color-centric graphic design tips:
#6 Preference is Real
Your clients will have a preference for color, whether they know it or not. The truth is, what you think is perfect for a project, and what your client does, may (annoyingly) be two completely different things.
'But it’s an advertisement for a herb garden - of course it should be green!' we hear you shout in frustration… unfortunately, if your client can’t stomach the color of ‘fresh-cut grass’, you’re in trouble. Whilst it may be hard to sway away from your creative vision, you need to make sure you’re accommodating your client. They are the ones paying after all!
Alternatively, if this is your own personal project - you should still begin with preferences - only this time, your own. Do you naturally find yourself attracted to warmer tones? Then work with those first. Imagination and creativity stem from looking at and being absorbed by things we like, so make sure you’re providing enough fuel for the design fire.
#7 If it Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It
When it comes to commercial work, this phrase has never rung more true. Every designer wants their work to be original and one-of-a-kind, but at what cost? Purposely going against the grain of design can sometimes backfire, and make it look like you don’t really know what you’re doing…
Besides, if a certain color scheme or design element works in the industry you’re creating for, you will probably see it a lot. And yes, you could argue that it’s time for a change, and doing something different will certainly stand out, but you also want to make sure it conveys the message you want it to.
When it comes to client projects - play it safe, and stick with the tried and true color schemes. Take inspiration from the existing content out there, and give it your own unique input.
#8 Bring it All Together
Color can also be used when creating a vibe for the viewer - a visual experience that provides more than something simply pleasing to the eye. In order to figure out what colors, tones, and schemes you should be using, we first have to figure out what each color means.
Here’s a universally accepted list of key advertising colors, along with their connotations:
In truth, color theory has been around for a long time - so, finding a palette that will best fit your given project should be easy. Want something that’s bold, and fun? Try a pairing of yellow and red. Want something playful, yet mature and sophisticated? Try pink, purple, and black. You’ll soon realize the combinations are truly limitless.
#9 Follow the Trends
Let us clarify: if you’re working on a logo design, or perhaps some other highly personalized content, that’s designed to represent the company, then ignore this rule.
Why? Because logo designs and company style guides are designed to make the brand stand out. It’s no good to follow trends in this area, and blend into the never-ending mass of startup businesses.
However, when it comes to campaigns, events, banner advertisements, or releases, following some tried and tested trends is always a good starting point. Trends occur due to external factors - whether political, societal, technological, etc - and can have various outcomes. Take the 1960’s, for instance, where tie-dye was introduced, and the world was swarmed by psychedelic color. If you were a fashion business in that era, and you weren’t using this color palette in your advertising, you really weren’t doing business right!
If you consider working with the latest trends, consider one thing: whether or not they will complement your brand.
This is often an overlooked graphic design tip, so make sure you take note.
Picture this: you’ve just made your best work yet. The color palette works, the typography is on point, and your client is thrilled. But then, you realize you haven’t taken into account the production aspect. What if the whole design looks entirely different after printing? You spent so much time making everything perfect...
If this sounds like a disaster to you, make sure you’re prepared for post-production. Consider every application your design may find itself on - whether it’s a poster, a shirt, a mug, etc - make sure your colors not only work but are also available. Your client may want designs to be in black and white too, so make sure you have this format available at a second’s notice.
#11 Find Your Motivation
There are a variety of reasons to get started as a graphic designer in 2022 - however, one huge reason is that we are living in an ever-increasing visual society. People need design more than ever, and they are willing to pay top-dollar for it.
Whatever draws you into the world of graphic design, whether it’s an entire career change or the next step towards your goal, find your motivation. This is an important part of not only being a designer but also a self-employed person, as you’ll no longer have a boss or a team to help you when things get rough.
As long as you have a bank of knowledge, creative skills, and an original and authentic vision - you’re set for success.
#12 Practice = Perfect
This has never been more true. That phrase that you heard time and time again when you were younger, whenever you found yourself slipping up, has come back with a vengeance.
The key to growth and development at this point in your life isn’t simply more money or more freedom, it’s granting yourself the gift of self-education.
So, you didn’t nail your first project with flying colors. You didn’t pass your last interview or win that design competition. These setbacks should be seen in a new light - these are opportunities for growth, to work on new things, and to explore new possibilities in the creative field.
If you’re passionate about something, keep broadening your mind in this area. Work at it, and work at it some more. Becoming a pro at something doesn’t happen overnight - especially creatively - but it’s never too late to start practicing!
When starting off as a graphic design beginner, inspiration is one of the most important resources. Often, it’s why individuals decide to pursue a dream and become a designer!
The world of social media - particularly the likes of Instagram, and other media-based platforms - are a beacon for inspiration and showcasing new ideas. It doesn’t matter what your preference or taste, there are plenty of sources out there that could be beneficial for your creative outlet.
And why is inspiration so important as a new designer? Well, it helps you see what’s working. Take some time out to find high-quality content sources that resonate with your own ideas - see what established designers are doing within the industry right now. Having inspiration on tap will allow you to more frequently produce work, which is a great way to build out your design portfolio.
Speaking of building out your portfolio, isn’t it about time you found some projects? Whether you’re advertising your skills on social media or pitching for projects on a marketplace like Twine, you should be on the lookout for new opportunities.
For those of you that are new to the industry, this can feel like an incredibly daunting task - especially if you aren’t getting any interest from clients. Our advice? Don’t give up. Keep working on your own projects and showcase them to the world. Sooner or later, a client will come across your work and decide it’s exactly what they need.
#15 Start Now
Our final graphic design tip is to start now. The truth is, time is the only thing that you can guarantee. Whilst you’re contemplating whether or not to actually begin your design journey, you’re losing time.
As long as you’re prepared for the ups and downs of the industry, you have the best chance of succeeding. Besides, every career has its pros and cons - however, when your career is your passion, you may find the pros outweigh the cons tenfold.
What have you got to lose? With these graphic design tips, your existing passion for design, and the abundance of creativity you have to gain, your path seems pretty exciting.
Originally, a freelance painter and writer, Tannah Cantrell is a Digital Marketer at Twine - an online freelance marketplace. A true creative at heart, she spends most of her time browsing the internet and researching the latest design trends.