How do you get a job as a designer without going to design school?

The biggest mistake is jumping into Photoshop too fast. Learning Photoshop does not make you a designer, just like buying paintbrushes doesn’t make you an artist. Start with the foundation.

First, learn how to draw.

  • You don’t have to sit in a room with a bunch of other artists trying to draw a naked woman.
  • You don’t even have to get that good at drawing. Just learn some basics so you can be comfortable sketching with a pen.
  • You only have to do one thing to learn how to draw: get the book You Can Draw in 30 days and practice for half an hour every day for a month. I’ve looked at a lot of drawing books and this is one of the best.


Learn graphic design theory

  • Start with the book Picture This. It’s a story book of Little Red Riding hood, but will teach you the foundations of graphic design at the same time.
  • Learn about color, typography, and designing with a grid. If you can find a local class to teach the basics of graphic design, take it.
  • Go through a few of these tutorials every day.


Learn some basics in user experience
There are a lot of books about user experience. Start with these two quick reads that will get you in the right mindset:


Learn how to write

  • Don’t fill your mockups with placeholder text like Lorem Ipsum. Your job as a designer is not just to make pretty pictures — you must be a good communicator. Think through the entire experience, choosing every word carefully. Write for humans. Don’t write in the academic tone you used to make yourself sound smart in school papers.
  • Read Made to Stick, one of my favorite books of all time. It will teach you how to suck in your readers.
  • Voice and Tone is a website full of great examples of how to talk to users.


Learn to kill your work

  • This is the hardest step in this whole guide.
  • Be prepared to kill everything you make. Be prepared to violently slaughter your precious design babies. The sooner you can embrace this, the better your work will become. When you realize your work isn’t good enough, kill it. Start again.
  • Get another pair of eyes. Ask for feedback on your work from people who care about design. Don’t know anyone? Make some designer friends — go to designer meetups and events.
  • Get the opinion of people who don’t care about design, too. Show your work to people who would be your users and ask them to try your website or app. Don’t be afraid to ask strangers — I once took advantage of a delayed flight by asking all the people in the airport terminal to try out an app I was designing. Most of them were bored and happy to help, and I got some great usability feedback.
  • Listen. Really listen. Don’t argue. If you ask someone for feedback, they’re doing you a favor by giving you their time and attention. Don’t repay the favor by arguing with them. Instead of arguing, thank them and ask questions. Decide later whether you want to incorporate their feedback.

 

Asked on June 5, 2014 in Design.
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Learn Logo Design

  • Learn how to make a logo that doesn’t suck: Logo Design Love
  • You’ll want to take it a step further than a logo though. Learn to create a consistent brand – from the website to the business cards. Check out this book, Designing Brand Identity.

Learn Mobile App Design

  • Start with this tutorial to get your feet wet on visual design for mobile apps.
  • Read this short but very comprehensive and well-thought out book on iPhone design: Tapworthy. It will teach you how to make an app that not only looks good but is easy to use.
  • Geek out on the apps on your phone. Critique them. What works and what doesn’t?

Learn Web Design


Now for the hairy question of whether you need to know HTML/CSS as a designer: It depends on the job. Knowing it will definitely give you an edge in the job market. Even if you don’t want to be a web developer, it helps to know some basics. That way you know what is possible and what isn’t.
There are so many great resources to learn HTML and CSS:

  • My favorite free one is Web Design Tuts.
  • My favorite paid one (pretty affordable at $25/month) is Treehouse. If you’re starting from the beginning and want someone to explain things clearly and comprehensively, splurge for Treehouse tutorials.

Answered on June 5, 2014.
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