How to become a graphic designer without going to university

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5. Designing Brand Identity: An Essential Guide for the Whole Branding Team by Alina Wheeler

This book is a best-selling toolkit for creating, building, and maintaining a strong brand. From research and analysis through to brand strategy; design development through to application design; identity standards through to launch and governance – Designing Brand Identity offers brand managers, marketers, and designers a proven, universal five-phase process for creating and implementing effective brand identity.

Enriched by case studies showcasing successful world-class brands, the book takes a detailed look at the latest trends in branding, including social networks, mobile devices, global markets, apps, video, and virtual brands.

Priced at £25.69 | Buy the Book

6. Thinking with Type: A Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Editors, and Students by Ellen Lupton

Thinking with Type is a straightforward primer that presents practical information about typographic design that can be immediately applied within the context of design history and theory. It is divided into three sections – letter, text, grid – each accompanied by an essay explaining key concepts, and then a set of practical demonstrations illustrating that material.

Thinking with Type is a state-of-the-art pedagogical tool, that will be essential reading for anyone who wishes to learn design skills.

Priced at £14.88 | Buy the Book

Acquire the right setup

I’m not going to sugarcoat it; graphic design can be expensive when it comes to setting up. You’ll definitely need a laptop, desktop computer, the right software (a subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud is a must), a Pantone colour guide and perhaps even a pen tablet, like a Wacom Intuos.

If money is tight, hit up eBay for secondhand gear or enjoy a one-year warranty courtesy of Apple and its Certified Refurbished products.

If you’re going down the digital design route, then Sketch is an excellent affordable piece of software and one we teach at Shillington alongside Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign.

Learn how to use the tools of the trade

No graphic designer can live without software. That’s why you need time to master what’s available. Adobe’s Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign are the obvious choices – and there are tutorials to help you get started.

These user guides and tutorials for Photoshop and InDesign are extremely useful, for example. Then there’s Sketch, with its own documentation to show you the ropes.

Elsewhere, you could also try one of the many how-to tutorials, courses or eBooks courtesy of Tuts+. Or there’s Creative Live or Skillshare which both offer seriously good design classes from some of the world’s most respected names in the industry. Not forgetting Lynda where all courses are now also available on LinkedIn Learning.

Teaching yourself is possible, but challenging. You’ll also need to get away from your computer to benefit from face-to-face interactions with other people to truly become a successful designer.

Get inspiration from established designers

Start following the industry’s biggest and best graphic designers. See what they’re sharing on Twitter and read their own blogs. Get inspired by their work and career wisdom.

At Shillington, we often invite leading figures from the industry to come and talk to our students. We recently welcomed Hey Studio founder Verònica Fuerte to our London campus. She delivered a talk on her company’s approach to design as well as their studio culture and creative outlook.

We’ve also interviewed and gained insights from Build, IDEO, The A Board Dude, Jane Bowyer and Studio Dotto.

Find out what’s happening in your local area and go to as many talks and events as possible. If you’re based in Manchester, for example, then there’s PechaKucha each month. Or excellent annual festivals such as Design Manchester. At Shillington, we have our own handy events listings, detailing what’s happening near our campuses in New York, London, Manchester, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

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