Designing your own graphics can be challenging, especially when you aren’t a trained graphic designer. It can look easy from the outset, but as you start designing and the hours fly by you soon realise there is a lot more to it then you first thought.

You may not want to learn everything about design (you have your own area of expertise to master) and the cost to outsource everything may seem out of reach. Learning the basics of design and keeping yourself informed and educated about design, while continually practicing, will see you creating better and better designs.

It will soon become a valuable skill you can use at any moment to get content and promotions out there. It’s a great skill to be able to create a graphic at a moments notice whenever you need it, without waiting on a designer or making sure you have the budget for it.

So let’s look at 7 simple ways you can improve your design skills, and create work that looks professional and builds your brand identity.

1. Follow Designer and Design Educators.

There are plenty of amazing resources out there to learn more about design. Having a nice list of design blogs, you tubers and Instagram accounts to follow, will keep you fresh on design knowledge and keep you inspired. When you surround yourself with great design work and listen to good designers regularly it will naturally uplevel your own skills. If you only surround yourself with other people in your own industry who also lack design skills, it is going to up the bar. You want to surround yourself with people who know more than you, who are going to push and inspire you to keep improving.

And while design may not be your primary focus, but simply something you want to improve upon, constantly feeding yourself with little bites of design education and inspiration will help you improve your skills.

Some people and blogs to follow-

2. Read Design Books.

If you want to dive a little deeper and really immerse yourself into the world of design and get a better understanding of how design work, reading design books is a great way to learn a little more in-depth and get a better understanding of how design works. I am someone who loves to know why things work and why they are done a certain way because it helps me better use that skill, when I fully understand why and how it works rather than just simply doing it.

Plus it is always nice having something you can hold in your hand, touch and feel and pull off the bookshelf whenever you want.

Some book recommendations-

  • Creative Strategy and the Business of Design- Douglas Davis
  • Universal Principles of Design- William Lidwell
  • Type Addicted- viction:ary
  • The Production Manual- abrose/ harris
  • How to Style Your Brand- Fiona Humberstone
  • Creative Personal Branding- Jürgen Salenbacher
  • The Little book of colour- Karen Haller
  • Brand Identity Essentials- Kevin Budelmann

3. Take Design Courses.

Design courses are a great way to get just the right amount of knowledge and guidance to get you designing better and creating beautiful graphics. It could be a short little intro course or learning the basics of a design software or a deeper dive into design.

Skillshare is a great place to learn how to use design software and pick up some neat design tricks. The courses on this platform are short and project-based, so you can learn small new skills.

Or if you are keen to quickly improve your overall design eye and skills and start designing more professional graphics I have my course ‘Design Better Graphics’ which teaches you the principles and rules of design and how to apply them to brand graphics.

4. Practice Designing with Personal Projects.

As they say practice makes perfect. But you might want to do some practice design work that isn’t going to be part of your brand ( aka get better at it before it affects your brand image).

If you want to practice getting better at design, without always experimenting on your own brand, creating designs for personal projects is a great idea. These projects could be related to a hobby, for things at home, or helping out a friend or charity. It can even be a made-up project. Feel free to experiment try things out and play around with design ideas and things you have been learning.

Often with our own brand we want things to be perfect, and we don’t want to get too experimental and mess up our brand identity and style, so having another outlet to practice on, is a great way to free you up and try out new things and push yourself without feeling constraint or worry about messing up.

5. Keep an Eye on Design Trends

While you don't want to be chasing the latest trends and changing your branding constantly, there are often some overarching design trends that will last a year or two, and keeping an eye on and noticing these trends can help you create designs that feel ‘now’ and exciting to your audience.

Keep in mind to always stick to your brand aesthetic and use your brand elements such as font and colours, but trends can inspire layout styles or the way you design special promos.

Notice what styles industry leaders are using, and what designers are putting out, are you noticing any patterns, are there certain layouts or themes that keep emerging. For example the trend of using leaf shadows, or large curvy shapes in backgrounds.

Read also: How to Create a Timeless Brand Identity | Graphic Design Trends 2020

6. Recreate Designs to Practice.

Artists often start out by copying the masters. This helps you understand why a design works and practice creating designs. This is not about copying other people’s work and using it for yourself. Instead, simply copy a work exactly to work out how they did it and make sense of it, and don’t share it.

It’s a learning opportunity, to see if you can recreate a work, you can learn a lot from the process which you can then carry over into your own unique designs.

It helps you get in the head of the original designer, and think about how they created something and why they may have done it that way.

7. Use Design Templates

Templates are a great starting point. If you struggle with staring at a blank page not knowing how to approach a graphic, using a design template will get you started with a good layout.

You can then tweak and customise it to make it your own. It will make you feel more confident with your work, as someone with good design skills has started the design for you.

Much like recreating designs to get better at designing your own unique layouts, working with templates is good practice, and will help open you up to ideas and improve your skills.

Over time you will rely less and less on templates and build confidence to create your own layouts from scratch.

Remember to just keep working at it and keep surrounding yourself with good design. No one starts out creating increasingly work.

The more you learn and practice the better the designs you will create.

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