Graphic design can be overwhelming for beginners looking to get a few projects under their belt. However, with the right attitude and a few of these tips, you’ll be well on your way to building an impressive design portfolio.

Start Collecting The Things That Inspire You

Seek out the work of designers who’s work you admire and collect their works. Surround yourself with work you like and respect. Whether it’s a collection of Pins on Pinterest or decorating your office with posters or torn pages from a magazine, having these things around you will not only inspire you but will also reinforce your tastes and sensibilities.

For instance, well-known designers like Rusty Cook, Daniel Nelson, Xinkui Wang and Jen Vasseur maintain profiles on Pinterest. If you want to teach yourself about design, it’s always great to be inspired by the masters in this discipline. If you notice a beautiful piece of design that grabbed your attention or that really communicated something profound to you, add it to your collection. Pretty soon, you’ll find your voice through the work you love. 

Behance and Dribbble are also great sources of inspiration.

Observe. Always.

A formal education in design can teach you many things. However, there are some lessons that can’t be learned in a design class. In fact, some of the best designers in the world don’t have degrees in design (many do, of course). 

Jessica Svendsen, an American graphic designer currently working for Apple, discovered her love for design by accident. “As an English major, I primarily studied modernist literature because those authors used visual signifiers to defamiliarize the deader, modernists experimented with how typography, composition, and book design could be part of the narrative. But these preoccupations with the visual and the textual extended to my other academic coursework,” – Svendsen explains.

Consume and look upon things you like. Then, take some time to observe and internalize these works. Each infographic, illustration, or icon you look at contains lines, shapes, text, and other elements that are combined in a masterful way.

The process of analyzing different designs will help you learn about how certain design elements are implemented into practice. As you develop better skills with your own designs, you’ll start to create your own workflows and use tools that the master designers have used to create particular elements.

Pay Attention to Alignment, Balance, and Flow

No matter how complex your design may be, balance and flow will always be cornerstones of any design project. Being able to distribute the visual weight evenly and logically throughout the design can be one of the most powerful tools in a designer’s arsenal. This takes a lot of time and energy to master, of course, it also takes a lot of failed attempts. 

Find Your Own Style in Typography

One of the crucial aspects of graphic design is typography. Sooner or later, you will have to design with type and you may find that it can be one of the most challenging aspects of being a graphic designer. You’ll find many guides and how-to’s about typography but nothing beats having your own insights gained through your own experiences when it comes to type. Therefore, jump in feet first and find your own style and learn to use typography effectively in your own work.

Experiment a bit and find the perfect style for the particular project you’re working on. Again, observe and analyze the graphic design work of designers you admire and try to learn about how they use type in their work. Take a look at the projects featured at – you’ll notice awesome fonts used in the most unexpected ways.  

Learn to Use Color

When you’re a beginner it’s very tempting to try to use every skill you have learned and showcase all your knowledge in a single design project. As a result, your creations can be full of colors, fonts, shapes, and all kinds of elements that — while technically sound — can sometimes make for a confusing composition. Your familiarity with the color wheel doesn’t always guarantee a good design.

Instead, learn about how color affects your designs and how it affects your audience. Go for the colors that grasp the mood you aim for. For example, green reminds people of peace, freshness, and nature, while deep blue can be mystical, intriguing, or even depressing. Take a look at your favorite product packaging. What are the color combinations on a store shelf that attract your attention? Analyze how cohesive the design is and try to achieve the same impression. Take a look at these fantastic color scheme generators to get you started.

Respect the Rules of Hierarchy

Hierarchy is an extremely important aspect of graphic design. Hierarchy, in short, is the prioritization of the elements in your design through scale, compositional placement, typography, and color. The most important message of the design should remain dominant no matter how many other elements you use.

“I think of design as problem solving,” – says graphic designer Susan Kare. “It’s really important to understand all the factors involved in a creative challenge (e.g. the audience, the business landscape) before working on visual solutions. I explore many avenues while brainstorming since there’s never only one ‘right’ answer.” If you take a look at Kare’s work, you’ll notice that every element of the design attracts the right dose of your attention.

Get Feedback and Learn From It

It’s important to know what other people think of your work, especially in the beginning of your career. The whole point of design is to create things that communicate messages and convey ideas to other people, so you should never be afraid of their feedback.

Embrace criticism and use it to your advantage. Having the right attitude when it comes to your critics will not only silence them, it’ll make you a better designer.

Embrace the fear you feel when showing your work. For graphic designer David Pearson, fear is one of the forces that drive him to success. “Fear plays a substantial role when it comes to moving my own work on. Fear that people will suddenly get bored or accuse me of regurgitating.”

Follow Your Passion

You should always work on something you really like or something you believe in. For example, it would be difficult for you to create a promotional poster for a hamburger if you’re vegetarian, right? Of course, in the beginning of your design career being picky with the projects you take on won’t always be possible. However, if and when you are able to choose which projects you will work on, be sure to pick projects you can get excited about. Passion will always feed your enthusiasm and your enthusiasm will almost always lead to great design. 



Stephanie Norman is a professional writer with 4 years of experience from Sydney. Also, she works as web designer and content marketing specialist in Australian Writings, a company that offers assignment help for students. You can follow her at Facebook and Google+.