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 doesnt make you an artist. Start with the foundation.

First, learn how to draw.

  • You dont have to sit in a room with a bunch of other artists trying to draw a naked woman.
  • You dont 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 bookYou Can Draw in 30 daysand practice for half an hour every day for a month. Ive looked at a lot of drawing books and this is one of the best.

Learn graphic design theory

  • Start with the bookPicture This. Its 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 ofthese tutorialsevery 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

  • Dont 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. Dont write in the academic tone you used to make yourself sound smart in school papers.
  • ReadMade to Stick, one of my favorite books of all time. It will teach you how to suck in your readers.
  • Voice and Toneis 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 isnt good enough, kill it. Start again.
  • Get another pair of eyes. Ask for feedback on your work from people who care about design. Dont know anyone? Make some designer friends??go to designermeetupsand events.
  • Get the opinion of people who dont care about design, too. Show your work to people who would be your users and ask them to try your website or app. Dont 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. Dont argue. If you ask someone for feedback, theyre doing you a favor by giving you their time and attention. Dont 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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