How to get a decent foundation without formal education

Discussion in 'Design and Graphics' started by estorstenson, Jun 27, 2013.

  1. estorstenson macrumors member

    Jan 30, 2013
    Hi all,

    I am a developer and I can do backend development reasonably well, but I have a marginal sense of design. I am not professionally doing web work, but I hope to switch over to doing it full time after building up my portfolio (I have a few projects under my belt so far, and one currently in the works).

    So far, I've been using purchased templates that I've modified to suit the needs, but I'd really like to teach myself the basics of design so that I can create decent looking stuff without relying on someone else. I realize that once I am doing this full-time, I will likely be working in semi-segregated environments where the design team is separate from the backend folks, but I am finding I enjoy certain aspects of the design process, so I would like to learn as much as I can.

    What is the best way to teach yourself the basics of design? Do you start with Typography? Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated.
  2. 12dylan34 macrumors 6502a

    Sep 3, 2009
    This might not be a huge help, but just start making things by yourself, with the help of tutorials if you need to learn the software. It's all about practice. It's sort of tough to teach yourself what looks good, and what doesn't by just reading about it in a book, or through analysis, rather than just an intuition about its appeal (which can, and will become honed over time)

    Things that I made 2 years ago looked perfect to me at the time, but looking back, they suck pretty badly.

    Say to yourself "I want to make a cool typographic poster," for example, and do all that it takes in the name of research to make something that you think looks good. It's something that you get better at pretty much exclusively through doing.
  3. fig macrumors 6502a


    Jun 13, 2012
    Austin, TX
    The previous poster is exactly right, you learn by doing.

    That being said, it's best to learn by doing with some guidance :) Here's some recommended reading for you:
    Thinking With Type
    Design Elements: A Graphic Style Manual
    Graphic Design: The New Basics

    These aren't by any means a be all end all guide, but they'll give you a good jumping off point. Visual Literacy is also a really good book for design exercises you can do to help sharpen your design skills.

    Other than that, showing your work and getting feedback is huge. Whether it be on here, on another design forum (don't know of any offhand, sorry), or to a designer you know the best way you grow as a designer is by having your work critiqued.

    You'll be generally not good at first, which is ok :) The more work you do the better you get.

    Hope that helps.
  4. estorstenson thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 30, 2013
    This is what I was looking for. Thanks!

    I'm mostly interested in front end web stuff, but I want to understand the ideas behind good design. I've been working on visual stuff for a few years, but I am still in the "meh" stage IMHO. I think part of the problem is that I don't have a particularly visual mind. So, it's not intuitive like it might be for some folks. So, a somewhat guided approach is what I am looking for, rather than trial and error (which is great for learning, but a very slow way to progress).

    My goal isn't to become a designer, but to be able to put something acceptable together for side and personal projects.
  5. macuser453787 macrumors 6502a

    May 19, 2012
    Galatians 3:13-14
    Very true. Getting the feel of it is part of the process, and is something you can't really learn from a book.

    LOL been there for sure! Even more so looking back 10 or 15 years! :)

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