how to improve my graphic design skills

Discussion in 'Design and Graphics' started by monsoco, Jul 5, 2007.

  1. monsoco macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2007
    #1
    What would you suggest is the best way to improve my design/graphic design skills? I am out of college and the last art class I had was in 7th grade. Just start drawing/painting things? Take a college art class or two or twenty? Buy a self-help book? I am horribly bad with art/design or anything involving graphics. I love the command line and my sites/icons/graphics look like crap, I'd like to work on that.

    Thanks.
     
  2. Sdashiki macrumors 68040

    Sdashiki

    Joined:
    Aug 11, 2005
    Location:
    Behind the lens
    #2
    Grab some markers, pencils, paint, ink, whatever.

    And draw, sketch, doodle, create.

    Get a blank book and begin. Get your brain to spew what its got, onto the page. Youll find something you can do well and enjoy, feed it.

    Or if you want to be more adventurous try your hand at graffiti, try to keep it legal.

    Other than taking graphic design classes, maybe try creating your own font, thats always a good excercise. Make a brand and some products.

    Use Illustrator if you want to go digital.

    The worst you can do is nothing.

    Post some of your work here. :D
     
  3. shecky Guest

    shecky

    Joined:
    May 24, 2003
    Location:
    Obviously you're not a golfer.
    #3
    is your background in art/design and you are just feeling rusty or stagnant? or do you have no training/experience in it and want to start?

    are you looking to gain/improve your skills in concept/thinking/process/analysis or in production/computer/sketching/drawing? or both?
     
  4. monsoco thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2007
    #4
    No training in any of that. My training is in Math/Computer Science with 0 focus on graphics, or even UI related things. So I am looking to start/improve my god-given abilities in that area (and my skills in that area are pretty elementary, that's for sure).

    Definitely both. I somewhat see them as going hand in hand, e.g., becoming a better artist also makes you a better concept thinker, etc.

    I see my specific interest in art applying directly to computer related activities (designing websites, icons, graphics, etc.). But I am not limiting myself to just "doing" those kinds of activities if it takes more to really develop as an artist.
     
  5. TheFuzz macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2006
    Location:
    LA
    #5
  6. shecky Guest

    shecky

    Joined:
    May 24, 2003
    Location:
    Obviously you're not a golfer.
    #6
    ok..... understand that i am coming at this answer from the standpoint of someone who teaches undergraduate- and graduate-level graphic design and who is a graphic designer as a (much more than) full-time profession.

    if you just want to be able to make better icons for a website, well, i guess a photoshop/illustrator class is worth your time. if you want to make better looking websites, then maybe a UI class is worth your time. in other words, if you are looking to improve a specific skill then a class/mentoring/internship/whatever in that specific skill set will not hurt.

    it sounds like you understand that this is a very limited approach to learning how to be a better designer in general. with that in mind i would say you need to start from the basics of form, color, type, layout, hierarchy, meaning, etc.. and build up the background before you can start to make really good work. you can do this by doing some stuff online, by reading some specific books, etc.. but ultimately the best way to really learn how to be a critical visual thinker and communicator is to be in a room with a bunch of other people trying to do the same thing and having an involved dialog about the work. the easiest way to do this (tho not cheapest) is to take classes, and specifically is to take a number of classes that use a sequential methodology to teaching you graphic design. this will take time and depending on your situation, money.

    having said that there are ways of doing some learning on your own time (books, etc..) doing exercises and getting critique and dialog on them via some web forums; none of which i personally have found are worth the time, but then again i went to a design school so i have had the group critique experience.

    good luck!
     
  7. one3 macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2004
    Location:
    Vancouver-ish
    #7
    The other aspect of all this is talent. To be a great designer you just have to be born with a talent for that type of work. You can be a good designer by studying a lot, practice, etc. .. but if the raw talent is not there it's hard to become a really great designer - if not impossible.

    It's no different than singing. I can't carry a tune. Period. I could take singing lessons every day for the next 10 years and I will NOT become a great singer. That's just a natural talent you are either born with ... or in my case. Not!

    However, of course EVERYONE can improve their current skill set with practice and observation. I think one way is to find some good designs (web or otherwise) and try to copy them (for your own use only of course!). It will get you practicing and the same time copying makes you study in better detail someone's good work and pick up the details and techniques that make a good design.

    Best of luck!
     
  8. jczubach macrumors 6502

    jczubach

    Joined:
    May 15, 2007
    Location:
    northwest
    #8
    talent is highly overrated pete, get over yourself.

    some of the most capable people i have known were born without any innate hoohaa. lots of dedication, hard work, and a compulsive drive for excellence often separated them from the lazy 'born talented' pack. i've seen and admired your work. just hope you don't believe your own hype....
     
  9. one3 macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2004
    Location:
    Vancouver-ish
    #9
    Despite your thread title ... I do think you brought up a very valid point. I don't agree that talent is 'over-rated' BUT at the same time I completely agree with you that dedication and hard work are VERY vital and you are right that just because someone is talented does not mean they will make a good designer.

    I do still strongly believe, that assuming dedication being equal, there is this intangible aspect of talent that does set some people apart (I was not trying to imply I was one of them).

    I too know people who may not have the best natural talent, applied themselves to their projects and came up with great designs just based on hard work and a desire to do the best they can.
     
  10. Jim Campbell macrumors 6502a

    Jim Campbell

    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2006
    Location:
    A World of my Own; UK
    #10
    Steal. Steal from everywhere. Keep a notebook/scrapbook if your memory isn't up to scratch, but every time you see a piece of design that makes you go "Cool!", nick it, and try to work out how it's done.

    Pay particular attention to typography. Although it seems to be slightly unfashionable, typography is a subtle and graceful discipline that can transform the most mundane of designs when done well, and wreck the most appealing design when done badly.

    Just as a starter, here are the three golden rules of typography that were drummed into me as a studio junior:

    1) Leading: never, never, set the leading to less than the point size in any body of text containing more than about four words.

    2) All fonts contain ugly kerning pairs. Look out for them and fix them manually.

    3) Horizontal scale: don't do it. Pick a wider font.

    Cheers!

    Jim
     
  11. monsoco thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2007
    #11
    Wow! Thanks for all of the responses.

    I guess I'll have to start with a notepad and book for now. Then work in classes as I can.

    I also agree that talent does play a role, but that it is often overrated. I believe the truly great people in whatever-line-of-work are usually separated from the good people by hard work and discipline. (Though that doesn't exclude the occasional freakily talented person blowing them all away.)

    I never even thought of the "stealing" option :) But I guess that makes some sense. Often in computer science when a person trying to improve his or her programming etc, you copy things like algorithms from others who have mastered the art. And as you learn how they did what they did, and why they did it, you can begin to develop some of your own style. (I don't mean copy and then try to pass off as your own -- rather when you are in school and you learn things like quicksort and how and why it is the way it is, and where it works, etc.)

    Thanks again. I think Sdashiki is right, I should just get started. That's the first step.
     
  12. Jim Campbell macrumors 6502a

    Jim Campbell

    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2006
    Location:
    A World of my Own; UK
    #12
    "Talent borrows, genius steals."

    (Variously attributed from Malcolm Maclaren, through Oscar Wilde to Picasso ... I don't have time to track down the definitive attribution)

    Remember that almost no idea exists in a vacuum, and the phrase "This is totally original" actually translates as "I have no idea where this is ripped off from." Taking the sense, the core, of a cool piece of design and applying to a different medium, or in a different context, will look original, even if it's not!

    Case in point: ever seen a flyer or poster for a 'Gothic' event that uses the font Typographer Display? That was me. Seriously, pretty much no-one in the Gothic scene ever used that face before I introduced it into the branding of the UK's "Carnival of Souls" festival, for whom I was the designer for about 5 years, and since then it's been all over the place.

    Original? No - I loved the effect since Dave McKean used it in some of the promo artwork for the Arkham Asylum graphic novel, so I nicked it and redeployed it. That simple!

    Cheers

    Jim
     

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