How I Became A Graphic Designer Without Going To Design School

How I Became A Graphic Designer Without Going To Design School

Image for postPhoto by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

Gone are the days when you required a formal education to be taken seriously as a designer. With the rise of the internet and content sharing culture, there is an excess of information available out there for those who are passionate and willing to learn. Last week, we wrote about how to earn money as a freelance designer, but today we want to focus on the Graphic design as a career path.

Graphic designers create visual concepts, using computer software or by hand, to communicate ideas that inspire, inform, and captivate consumers. There is no business that exists that does not need some sort of visual communication in the form of logos, business cards, fliers, promotional materials, and so on, and this makes graphic designers one of the most sought after people and graphic design one of the most easily transferable skills across any sector.

We asked one of our in-house graphic designers, Faysal Biobaku, how he got his start as a self taught designer:

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How old were you when you decided to become a designer?

22 years old

Why did you decide to become a designer?

I studied IT so it wasn?t too far off for me, but I leaned more towards art, and I loved to draw, so naturally I found graphic designing appealing.

How did you start learning graphic design?

I downloaded software like photoshop and illustrator, and I watched online tutorials. I created personal projects and used them as practice. I also reached out to people and I offered to create logos and business cards for free. I was focused on building up my portfolio and practicing my skills. It is very easy to be discouraged and unmotivated when you are trying to learn things especially when you hit a snag and get frustrated, but what was most important for me was to not give up, and I never slacked because I kept my focus on my end goal.

How long did it take before you felt you had learned what you needed to know?

It took me a year to master the basics, but design is a process in which you are constantly learning. Software is always changing, and new software comes out all the time. You have to stay on top of your game. Learning is also half the battle. After that you basically learn on every job.

How did you begin attracting paying clients?

After I have built up my portfolio I started soliciting clients, online and in person. I never turned down any job, even those I didn?t know how to do. I always accepted the challenge, and learned while I was executing. The more difficult things I was able to do, the more I was able to charge higher prices and confidently defend my work.

What journey has your career taken you on?

I started off creating logos, fliers and complimentary cards. Then I got a job working at a company remotely while I was still in school. It was challenging because it was the first time I was fully responsible for the visual communication of a company. While my friends were playing games on their laptops, I was working and earning income. After that, I freelanced for while. Sometimes, I created projects for myself and approached companies with it, for example I re-designed my schools UI and presented it to them. As a designer, its all about creating opportunities for yourself.

What do you like about designing at Paga?

I?ve been at Paga for 8 months now. It?s a new challenge with every brief. It?s not the same regurgitated boring or tedious work, which keeps me on my toes.

What do you like about being a graphic designer?

I love that its such a versatile career path. I can literally work in any kind of company because every business needs visual elements. It is a great feeling to be able to interpret someone?s vision into its visual representation. I am constantly designing, even just for myself, so it is easy to take on side projects to keep your mind and skills sharp, and of course, make extra money on the side. I have designed things like T shirts, wedding invitations, phone cases, product packaging and book covers. To be a designer is to have a skill you can easily transfer to anything, which is great.

With time, effort and dedication, it is very possible to teach yourself to become a graphic designer. Some of the steps involced include:

  • Learn how to draw: You cannot design if you cannot communicate your designs, therefore learning how to draw by hand or by computer, is a must. You do not have to be Picasso or an amazing artist. All you need to know is how to clearly communicate your ideas visually.
  • Learn the basics of design: Learn about color theory, grids, spacing, typography, which are the basic theories of visual design.
  • Learn how to use relevant software: To be a skilled graphic designer, you need to know how to use certain design software. Google is your friend: there are millions of tutorials out there via various channels, and it is easy to isolate the thing you are trying to learn about. Be curious and resourceful, and you can access a wealth of online information.
  • Don?t be basic: After you have garnered the basic design skills, take it a step or two further and specialize in an area of interest. This will make your skills even more desirable and enables people who are searching for something specific to turn to you. You may specialize in logos, invitations, web design, user interface design, iconography, infography, mobile apps design etc.
  • Practice, practice, practice: Theories are just that: theories. Until you are working on a project and you are able to apply the things you have learned, you will never be confident as a designer. Learn on the job, learn on personal projects, always try to apply new skills you have learned to executing actual projects.
  • Build your portfolio: Nobody is going to hire a designer who?s work they are not familiar with. Therefore it is important to have a portfolio that shows the range of skills you have and things you have done in the past.
  • Get to work: Congratulations, you are now a graphic designer, now book those jobs, and enjoy the fruits of your labor!

For more detailed steps on how to be a self taught graphic designer, go through this post by Karen Cheng, on how she learned to become a designer in 6 months while working a full time job.

Good luck! Share with a friend who is searching for a new career path today!

Making Life Possible is our ethos at paga, and it is what keeps us committed to our mission of providing inclusive financial services for all Nigerians. With over 15,000 agent outlets and 9 million+ customers, we are inspired by the stories of the community we are building and the people we are empowering by making life possible every single day.


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