graphic design tips

5 Books Every Graphic Designer Should Read

Graphic Design is one of the most exciting fields to work in these days, and while there are plenty of YouTube tutorials to supplement your graphic design studies, it still pays to read good, old-fashioned, books on the subject.

Graphic Design

Here are some of the books (whether it’s in print or on your e-reader), that every graphic designer or aspiring graphic designer should read:

Thinking With Type
by Ellen Lupton

Perfect for editors, typographers, writers, publishers, and students who want to learn the best use of font for branding and other uses, this beautifully written visual guide provides the latest information on style, font licensing, captions, lining, and details such as the use of small caps or enlarged capitals–all neatly organized in three chapters that are easy to consume. 

A Smile in the Mind
by Beryl McAlhone 

London-based writer McAlhone has a special interest in design that makes this an essential and resourceful book. Highlighting esteemed works from international designers from Japan, Europe, United States, and Great Britain, this entry takes you through hundreds of visuals and illustrations that will no doubt inspire the reader.

by viction:ary

A marvelous source for both amateurs and masters, Multicolour showcases an expansive library of themes, titles, and more. Like many of the books on graphic design, turning each page offers an emotional voyage of color that is as much fun for your eyes as informative for your brain. The palette series includes black & white, gold & silver, neon, and its most recent, pastels.

Logo Modernism (Design)
by Jens Müller

This book focuses on the architecture, art, and product design, of the modernist movement that had its peak from 1940 to 1980. Using around 6000 brand names and their history, Logo Modernism is an incomparable resource for designers, publicists, and brand specialists, as well as those who have a passionate interest in the social and cultural history of 20th century corporation and consumerism. 

Drawing Type: An Introduction to Illustrating Letterforms
by Alex Fowkes

An impressive showcase of the work 72 typography creators who have designed a diverse array of fonts for posters, packaging, boards, and more. At the end of the publication, a notebook can be found suggesting exercises that graphic designers will find incredibly useful.

Lessons You Can Learn from Freelance Graphic Design

There are many career paths you can choose from if you want to be a full-time graphic designer. Companies are always looking for new talent to design their logos, give their website a modern look, or make their product irresistible. But today, working as a graphic designer doesn’t necessarily mean working in the same office or on the same project for weeks, months, and even years. Thanks to the power of the internet, graphic designers have more freedom than ever to carve their own paths as freelancers.

Even if your ultimate goal is to have a comfortable position at a company, here are a couple of lessons you can only learn as a freelance graphic designer:

It’s All About Self-Promotion


In this day and age there are countless other graphic designers grasping for the same opportunities as you. As a freelance designer your goal is to get yourself noticed no matter what it takes. Whether you’re a veteran or new to the business, it is essential to self-promote and cultivate a vibrant professional network.

This is why every graphic designer should have a robust portfolio that showcases their skills. Your portfolio is your way of giving potential clients a taste of your talent and creativity, so be sure to put up and feature work that will leave them craving more. Freelance graphic designers learn the valuable lesson of carefully and diligently marketing themselves to stand out and win jobs, which in turn pushes them to produce better work that they can later show off.

Balance & Organization Is Everything

The average freelance professional often works from their own home, which is where they keep their TV, video game systems, and other temptations. Freelancers also make it their responsibility to earn enough projects to pay the bills without making the common mistake of spreading themselves too thin. This is why a freelancing professional won’t make it long without proper organization of workflow to keep them focused and on track.

As a freelance graphic designer you’ll learn the value of staying organized. Instead of missing deadlines, you’ll deliver fantastic work because you made sure to give yourself enough time to do it. Success as a freelancer also comes down to how well you balance your work and regular life — otherwise you’ll either burn yourself out or always fall behind.

Good Work = Continued Work

The best graphic designers of our time didn’t reach the heights they achieved on their first try. Much like any other creative career, graphic designers don’t really discover what they’re truly capable of until after they’ve had years of experience. And there’s no better way to continue growing and learning than by winning repeat clients who are willing to keep paying you for your work.

Repeat clients are the best thing for a freelance graphic designer because it means you’ve found someone who not only loves your work, but trusts you and depends upon you for consistency. But to hook a repeat client, you have to impress them with the first work you produce. As a freelancer you’ll learn the value of always putting your best into each project, since you never know which client will end up filling your wallet for years.

Rejection & Failure Will Only Make You Better

If there’s one phobia most people can relate to, it’s the fear of rejection (you may have discovered this feeling with the person you had a crush on in school or during your very first job interview). As a freelance graphic designer, you’ll most likely run into rejection sooner or later, but that isn’t entirely a bad thing.

Losing a client for not meeting a deadline or delivering something that wasn’t accurate to their request is a valuable learning experience. It will teach you to be better organized and take more time to understand what the client wants. You may even get the courage to take risks and get more creative if you find that clients aren’t impressed when you give them exactly what they asked for.

There’s always something new to learn even from a project that doesn’t end well. Freelance graphic designers sometimes learn this the hard way, but this too can become a positive. Freelancers must learn to take rejection and failure and turn it into encouragement to do better the next time around.

What have you learned as a freelance graphic designer? Let us know in the comments below!

4 Common Mistakes that Beginner Graphic Designers Make

So you’re fresh out of design school and looking for a professional job to show off your skills? Or have you been tinkering with Photoshop and Corel Draw long enough to realize you can make a career out of designing things? If you’re a beginner in the big bad world of graphic design, there will be some mistakes that you’re bound to make (or are perhaps making at this very moment) that may leave you wondering why your career hasn’t kickstarted already. And so we’re here to help you avoid some very common mistakes and improve your skills as a designer.

1. Abusing Photoshop Tools and Trying Too Many Things At Once: So you’ve learnt all the nitty-gritties of Photoshop and can rattle off the shortcut keys with ease. But guess what: You’re absolutely overwhelmed by the amount of knowledge, and when you sit down to design a flyer or logo you experiment with all the tools … and the result looks like a child’s collage.
Quick Fix: Set challenges for yourself. Make a list of the tools you use the most and try to design something without using any of them. Restrict yourself to using a fixed number of layers or a black and white color palette. Not only will that make you creative, but it will save you the trouble of trying everything at once to see what works best.

2.  Making Poor Fonts and Typography Choices: You’ve discovered the world of free fonts and you’ve downloaded just too many brushes and the birthday card you’re supposed to design looks way too comical. Or the logo of a company just doesn’t look professional enough. Chances are you’ve gone on a font overload.
Quick Fix: Typography is a whole new field and if you’re not good at it, take a separate course to understand the fundamentals of how it works. Gaining some knowledge of calligraphy also might help. Once again, try to design with standard fonts and, if you’re using something fancy, limit yourself to one fancy font. Follow the aesthetics of simplicity and minimalism when it comes to fonts and you should be fine.

3.  Relying More on Software Than on Your Originality: You have the latest versions of all the software installed in your computer and — sometimes even for a simple project — you usually end up using more than three programs to design something. And then you’re out of creative juices.
Quick Fix: Realize that design software is a means to an end, and you’re the designer. Rely more on your own originality than on snazzy photo-editing features. As a graphic designer, don’t forget to cultivate your skills in drawing, sketching and painting and sometimes take a break from digital art to practice doodling. Remember, it is your creativity (and not Photoshop) that makes the design.

4.  Not Reading the Brief Carefully Enough: If you’re a newbie, you may be overconfident and care more about showing off than understanding your client’s needs. So even if you make something that is truly brilliant, it may be rejected because it wasn’t what the client wanted.
Quick Fix: Read the brief as many times it takes you to understand exactly what your client needs. Call him/her up and clarify if you need to. Graphic design is a part of the utilitarian arts and whatever you create has a target audience. So, keeping that in mind, underline the keywords and make a plan before you begin designing.

And whatever you do, don’t set unrealistic goals. Be grateful at how far you’ve come and be excited that there’s so much more to learn and create!  

Is Age-Responsive Graphic Design the Future?

Responsive web design is the idea that a site can be created to provide the best viewing and interaction experience possible — no matter what device you’re using. In recent years this philosophy has become a popular topic of discussion among web designers.

This makes sense considering that people today are spending more time surfing the web on their mobile phones and tablets and less of that time on their desktops. Instead of crafting different layouts and navigation functions for different devices, a site designed with RWD adapts according to what is being used.

But due to the complexity of web design and various differences between desktop computers and smart devices, the responsive web design approach is not without its skeptics. This is why only so many publishers are using responsive designs while the rest continue creating unique designs for each platform.

Adapting To Your Needs

Despite the technical challenges, many are predicting that RWD will improve our internet experience in an innovative way soon. We’re talking about age-responsive design, which involves websites that are designed to restructure depending on the age and interests of the user.

Online advertising has sort of been doing this for many years now. In case you haven’t noticed, what you search for in Google and online retail companies like Amazon influences what ads appear while you’re surfing Facebook and other social media pages.

An age-responsive website can take things one step further by using that metadata to determine your age group. After all, the interests of a man in his 40s aren’t the same as a high school freshman. This means a middle-aged person won’t see the same content as a teenager despite visiting the same page.

User Experience Designed For You

Age-responsive websites can also be designed to provide the perfect user interface experience depending on your age. For example, it’s no secret that elderly people require bigger font sizes and spaces due to their poorer eye sights. This includes providing more muted palettes that are easier on the eyes as well as stripped-down interfaces that are less confusing.

Teens and adults, however, will want more options in a navigation menu and aren’t affected by attractive, colorful schemes and animated images. Of course, preteens and younger users may enjoy brighter colors but also require simpler layouts and big fonts. With age-responsive design, the user interface reshapes to accommodate the user based on their age group.

The Challenges Of Age-Responsive Graphic Design

Whether or not responsive web/graphic design is the future depends on how well today’s designers can overcome the many technical challenges. One strong case against RWD is the fact that web performance may be affected. People assume that because a mobile website is smaller and shows less visible content, it should load faster. Instead, tests have shown that a website page doesn’t not load quicker on a mobile phone when compared to a desktop browser simply because the screen is smaller.

The problem with this is that people expect their mobile experience to be the same as their desktop even though mobile internet speeds are slower than broadband. This means that a responsive-designed page, no matter how optimized, is unlikely to load as fast as a page specifically designed for mobile. In other words, age-responsive websites will most probably load slower on your mobile devices.

Other claims against RWD is the fact that designing one is very complex. This means these kinds of websites will require more time and effort to create, which means higher costs. As an aspiring graphic designer, this is great news if you learn how to design age-responsive websites. But when comparing costs, a client might prefer a regular website if it means they’ll spend less money.

Age-Responsive Design— The Future, Sooner or Later

Despite the challenges, it’s likely that age-responsive design will become prominent in the future. Companies and businesses will realize that even though it may cost them more money to make, it will pay off when they see more people visiting their site due to it adapting to their needs and age. Always-improving mobile internet speeds will also play a role in bringing us to a time when each website feels like it was made for you.

What to Include in Your Graphic Design Portfolio

Whether you’re still a student, fresh out of college, or already have a job but want a better one, a graphic design portfolio is vital nowadays. Your portfolio can be your key to entering the industry, and your strongest tool in presenting yourself, your design work, and your goals to prospective collaborators. Your portfolio is more than your calling card. Think of this as one of your greatest design projects so far: You are designing a project that communicates who you are as a designer to the world. Companies and clients don’t only want to hear you talk about how great you are at graphic design — they want to see your designs, and they want to get a sense of what sets you apart as a designer! Overall, an effective portfolio should showcase “design solutions that demonstrate effective communication.”

The following are four tips we recommend when deciding what to include in your graphic design portfolio. No matter which aspect of the graphic design industry you have your heart set on, considering the following will help you stand out as you pursue your dream job.

Include Your Top Work at the Start and End

Your goal should be to wow the viewer of your portfolio from start to finish. A great way to do this is by starting with one of your strongest designs so it’s the first thing they see. If you’re going with an online portfolio, arrange your page/s so that your strongest example is readily available and catches their attention first. At the same time, you also want to save one of your top designs for the end as well.

This makes it so that the possible employer leaves your portfolio on a very positive note. All your work should impress the viewer, but your final piece should leave them thinking about your designs even after they’ve moved on to the next part of their hiring process. If you get called in for an interview, you’ll have a better chance of referencing one of these start/end pieces and the interviewer knowing which one you’re talking about.

Present a Short Video Reel

While their goal isn’t to see if you’re good at video editing, agents and hiring managers are usually impressed when a graphic design portfolio includes a video clip. Instead of having to click through all your design samples on your portfolio site or flip through physical pages, they can get a glimpse at your best work quickly and effortlessly via video.

Don’t worry; your video doesn’t have to be long at all. Since most hirers only spend a minute or two glancing through a portfolio, a minute or two is enough time to make sure they see your designs. Music is a very powerful tool, so add some music to give the person observing your work a more enjoyable experience.

Have Samples of Different Types of Graphic Design

What kind of work you show off obviously depends on your skills and interests as a graphic designer. But whether your goal is to work on logos and branding or you prefer user interface design, potential employers want to see flexibility.

For this reason, we recommend trying to have pieces that display your ability to orchestrate production elements (typography, geometric vector artwork, photo manipulation, infographics designs, motion graphics, and interactive print media) in service of clear and compelling communication. Doing so, you’ll demonstrate a wide range of abilities and familiarity with programs, making you attractive no matter what graphic design job you apply for.

Ask Others When Choosing Your Best Work

You definitely want to include the designs that best demonstrate your skills, creativity and experience. It can also help to take time to show your work to others and ask them which they think are the best. Creating an effective portfolio can be a tough process, but it’s worth taking the time to carefully vet and curate the pieces you choose to include. After all, your portfolio itself is a work of design, and with some care and artistry it can effectively communicate exactly the kind of designer you are to someone new to your work.

What does your graphic design portfolio say about you as a designer? Let us know in the comments below!