Learning Graphic Design on my own


I want to advance my knowledge in graphic design. The most obvious route is sign up for a master's degree. However, none of the master's programs that I can afford satisfy me, and the ones I'm interested in are generally too expensive. Besides, there is a plethora of online/offline resources that anyone can integrate in self directed studies. There are podcasts, books, websites, blogs, youTube, etc. With this in mind, I've decided to learn graphic design on my own.

What do I already know?

As much as I'd like to think I know something about design, for the purpose of this blog I will assume I know nothing. It is important that I approach self-education this way, so I won't miss out on anything when thinking I “already know about it." This is one of the many pitfalls of being an autodidact that have plagued me in the past. Even if I already have some academic and professional experience in design, I'll start from the basics. Although I'll just link to other tutorials when I need to explain how to use a program or a certain technique.

Since before I graduated high school I've been interested in graphic design. Instead of pursuing studies communication design I decided to study architecture. While in college I became heavily interested in expanding my skills in graphics to help with architectural design reviews and presentations. I acquired other complementary skills, like photograph, logo and web design on my free time, as well as benefited from the irreplaceable interactions with my studio mates. All this gave me the confidence to take on side jobs in photography and graphic design, which helped me understand a small fraction of the profession through the fiery crucible that is client work.

Autodidact n. a self-taught person

Learning while teaching

They say the best way to understand something is to teach it. Don’t get me wrong, learning from hands-on experience is great, but I want to take advantage of education and it's preparation. I've decided to share my experiences learning graphic design while attempting to teach about design on the blog. This will hopefully help me structure what would otherwise become a hectic process in my mind. Consequently, this will exhibit my findings and exercises for the benefit of readers while encouraging them to join the conversation (and critique).

This blog's will serve as an "open source notebook." My posts are encouraged to be expanded upon and challenged by reader’s comments (assuming anybody reads me). This way the conversation keeps moving forward and informs my course. I hope this will turn into a trusty record I, or any reader, can reference in the future to aid in the self-education of graphic design or related disciplines.

How do I do this?

How to learn on my own?

I will approach this as a series of investigations, design exercises, and lectures. Understandably, nothing beats real human interaction in a design studio, or real reviews from experienced professionals and academics. But I'll do my best to critique myself, and move on to the next activity (it’s so easy to get stuck in the cycle of reviewing a project unlimited times) when the didactic process is satisfactory.

These are some starting guidelines:

  • Portfolio and client work will remain separate from blog lessons. This way “academic" assignments and investigations serve as a playground of ideas, isolated from professional responsibilities (which can be it’s own kind of playground).
  • Take advantage of my control of what I learn and when I learn it. If I see something I'd like to know more about, I'll include it as it's own lesson.
  • Always cite sources of information, always.
  • Include links to articles, books, or websites that are relevant to the lesson.

This blog will be a great challenge. I mean, my writing skills are a little rusty, so the tone and workflow will likely transform itself, hopefully for the best, throughout time. I can’t wait to share my process with any readers that stumble upon my blog.

If you're interested in keeping informed about my journey, you can subscribe to receive a notification when my posts go live. I also invite you to share my blog with anyone that might be interested in the content.

What topics do you think I should be addressing first? Let me know in the comments section below.

Linked Bibliography

Book: Heller, Steven. The Education of a Graphic Designer. 2nd ed. New York: Allworth Press, 2005.

Book: Shaughnessy, Adrian. How to Be a Graphic Designer, without Losing Your Soul. New ed. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2010.

Article: "How to Learn on Your Own." Metacademy