How to become a graphic designer without a degree

Even though a design degree seems the safest way to go, it's not the only one. If you're looking to become a graphic designer without going to school, you're in the right place.

Leaving aside that the degree will teach you both foundation skills and theory, you can grow as a graphic designer without taking those courses.

The downside of getting a degree is spending 3 to 4 years of your life studying, and not to mention the substantial amount of money you'd be spending.

So, if you're more into learning by yourself, here are 10 steps to start.

Take your time to specialize

specialize in graphic design

The graphic design is really a very broad industry where you can specialize in. While a degree in graphic design will get you ready for all the fields, you can pick one specific one and excel in it.

Not to forget that developing a deep knowledge of a specific skill will give you the advantage for that position in any company. They will pick you with a deep knowledge of a specific skill over someone with a degree and general knowledge of all the fields of graphic design.

For example, the logo design is one are that always has a great demand among others. This will suit best the people who are tempted on communication theory behind consumer behavior.

Or, if you're more interested in technology rather than pen and paper, you could specialize in mobile app and web design. You would be designing how a web or mobile app would look like.

If you feel like learning more, you could always attend hackathons or company events and get some valuable experience for this side of the industry.

Specializing is one of the most effective ways to become a graphic designer without a degree.

Know your software

Whether you're a fan of technology or not, you can't escape it when it comes to graphic design. You'll have to master all the software you'll need in order to become a graphic designer.

Even the designers who are used to the old fashioned way of designing have to use the software to give life to their project. This includes making digital copies and editing project remotely.

The most famous software you can use are:

  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Adobe Illustrator
  • Adobe  InDesign

The obvious choice people seem to seek are the Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, but if you're planning on working on print you'd fit great with InDesign.

Lucky for you, you don't need to attend courses to learn those skills. You can learn them easily by yourself using free or paid tutorials. You'll get an amazing knowledge just by watching them, and get a great start for your career.

Invest in the tools

You'll be spending the majority of your career using the tools, so you might as well invest in them.

Your laptop or computer and the software are the key components for your success, and they have to be up to date.

Software like Photoshop require a significant speed and space from your computer, so that's the first thing you need to upgrade.

One of the biggest starting challenges will be whether using a PC or a Mac. The Mac is most commonly used by professionals of the field, but the choice lays solely in the budget and personal choice.

Take a look at this guide to watch the list of the best laptops for graphic designs.

graphic design tools

Develop your style

Your style is what defines you and differentiates you from the others.

The style can often be the factor to become great in the graphic design field, whether your goals are to get an in-house role or build your own company.

Normally, and very obviously, developing your own style will take time and a lot of practice.

It might be hard at first to develop a style as a graphic designer without a degree, but you will do eventually.

Be that as it may, when you start finding your style groove (the area where what you're the best at meets that you prefer to work on), that's the time to start honing it.

A great way to develop your own style is to take projects from other designers and recreating them as your own version.

After mastering that, you can go back and start a project with your own style from scratch.

Get in touch with the user experience

graphic design user experience

Have you ever been to a website or mobile app, and had it hard to understand what it does? Was it hard to navigate between screens or pages? Were there a lot of ads?

That's what a terrible user experience is.

In theory, the user experience is the process of creating a product that is easy to use while keeping the user pleasure in mind. This means fusing the elements of branding and usability + functionality together.

This is a very important are that designers need to understand because they will work alongside developers. The importance lies on the fact that the developers will expect the design to reflect important concepts while being easy to use.

Take time to master this, for this is one of the first things that gets the user's attention.

Know the business of design

While the graphic design is a creative job, it does operate within a business environment. This means that there are business skills you can bring to a role that doesn't necessarily lie in the knowledge of graphic design.

These skills include:

  • Client negotiating
  • Designing and writing business development proposals
  • How design work is costed
  • How the time is tracked

A lot of these skills can be learned by reading online and keeping up to date with the latest advice from people in the field.

Following relevant people on Twitter is a great way to go for this.

Don't forget the theory

All this practical experience will help you a lot on becoming a graphic designer without a degree, but it would be foolish to think that that is all you need.

Believing that you don't need the theory to be a designer without a degree is one of the most common mistakes in this path.

You'll have to understand the design principles, which remains one of the most important part. This can be self-taught by reading and research.

A great way to go is to break the theories into smaller tasks, with the colour theory. If you haven't heard of this theory, you can ready about it here.

Another way to go is to look at a more complex course like the TutsPlus graphic design self-study course.