How to Become a Better Graphic Designer

Drafting table with graphic design tools

Drafting table with graphic design tools used pre-computer design. © Alison Gilbert

Graphic design is a huge part of working on the web, and if you want to push your business further then being able to make crisp and professional looking digital images is an incredible edge to have. Many people will choose which products they buy and which websites they spend time on almost entirely by the way they look, and if your imagery is low definition and poorly designed then you’ll damage your reputation and make yourself appear amateurish.

It’s a great skill to have then, but not one that everyone is naturally gifted with. So if you need to improve your graphic design abilities, here’s how you can get better:

Get the Right Software

adobe master suite cs6 graphic designWhen I was younger I used to play the piano, and when my Mum got me my first Yamaha keyboard I remember suddenly feeling like Rick Wakeman (if that went over your head then look up Yes on Spotify…). The point is that with the right sound effects and beats anyone could sound amazing and Adobe has a suite of software that can help you do this. PhotoShop is kind of the same thing – adjust the colours, use a couple of filters, and even the ugliest picture will end up looking passable. Spend a little more time with it and you be able to crop, shadow and enhance just about everything you touch.

Learn the Features

Of course to really make the most of this though you’ll also need to know how to use the filters and the colour adjustment tools – and to do that you’ll need to spend some time watching tutorials online or getting a friend to show you. YouTube has a wealth of FREE knowledge on how to do just about anything and if you have a dual screen setup you find it goes even faster as you can work as the video progresses. A lot of it is just tinkering and messing around, so set aside some time to just experiment and see where it takes you.

Take Your Time

One thing you cannot be when you do graphic design is impatient. If you find yourself ever saying ‘that will do’ then your site or logo isn’t going to look great. You really need to spend your time if you want to end up with something that looks professional (you think Microsoft ever say ‘that will do’ when they design Windows icons?). As a best practice consider graphic projects like wine, sometimes you need to open them up let them airout before you can enjoy them. Try to at least put a few days between creating and the final design, it’s ev en better if you can work on something else in between.

Use Other Elements

If you simply don’t have time to make your image as intricate and smooth as you’d like it to, then one solution is to use another image as a resource. For instance a great way to make an abstract design is to take a photo out of a moving car and then enhance the colours/warp the image. Alternatively you can use a stock logo that’s in the public domain and then edit it to make it unique. It’s kinda like cheating, but it works. Stock images are a great sorce for jump starting creativity or bringing an idea to completiion.

Pay Attention to Details

It’s very important if you want your site to look its best that you pay attention to the minor details which means for instance things like the font. Often when someone designs an image they will forget that they’re using the default font and this can make an otherwise good-looking image appear very lazy. Create a check list and make sure you’ve done everything you can to make your images their best.

Outsource

Design still looking like a child drew it? Then it’s time to outsource your images and design and get it done by professionals. It might be a bit more money and a bit more time, but ultimately it’s one of the most important investments you can make for your business. Once you decide to go outside just be prepared to get what you pay for, riverr has lots of logo offers for $5 but don;t be surprised if they too look cheap or if you see them pop up on other sites looking sinmalr to your design.

James Sax is a technology lover and an avid blogger who is currently working as SEO manager for Link Wheel SEO You can follow him on Twitter to read his insightful tweets.

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SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING & GRAPHIC DESIGN [OPINION]

INTRODUCTION

It is difficult to pin point the exact date or event that signaled the death of graphic design. It took place sometime around the turn of this century.

THE CAUSE

What was the cause? In two words, it was social media. There was little need for visual input in this new technology. Facebook, twitter and LinkedIn, the three most popular, relied on verbal communication.

In fact, a short hand of sorts evolved with twitter since the maximum was

140 characters. Texting was the biggest culprit. It qualifies as a foreign language to anyone over 50.

It seemed like things were pretty well covered by the newly developing 21st Century social media. But then, was it? Something started to happen.

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT

A new app came on the scene. Its name was Pinterest and it was all visual. It took the social media scene by storm. No one could figure out why or how but it skyrocketed to extraordinary popularity surpassing many of the ‘veteran’ social media apps.

In addition, Google bought YouTube, Facebook bought Instagram and Yahoo absorbed Flickr. Although these were image and video venues, their acquisitions certainly signaled a return or a move forward to reconciliation.

Social Media Marketing Graphic Design came about as the fusion of the best of both twentieth century design and twenty first century technology. The fusion creates a synergy that provides the best possible opportunity for businesses to promote themselves.

CONCLUSION

As a result, many Facebook and Google + pages are now outstanding. They provide invaluable information both visually and verbally. They use each tool to maximize their impact and reach. Here is one of my favorite pages. I think you will see how well visual and verbal elements work together in a way that neither could do alone.

 

About Alison Gilbert

Through decades as an entrepreneur, I developed ventures in over a half a dozen industries including HEALTH FOOD | GRAPHIC DESIGN | BUSINESS PROMOTION | HOLISTIC HEALTH | DECORATIVE PAINTING | SOCIAL MEDIA | PUBLIC SPEAKING | WRITING. Eventually under the umbrella of ALISON*S ART, INC, they evolved into the dba MARKETING BYTES, a hybrid company specializing marketing small business using social media marketing and traditional graphic design services. Currently retired, I am focusing on teaching social media marketing graphic design and visual journalism. I can be messaged through www.facebook.com/alisondgilbert and tweeted @MktngBytesMaven and @AlisonsArt.

Freelancing in the Digital Age

A few weeks ago, I read the blog post of one of my colleagues at digitalbrandmarketing.com, Megan Campbell. Her post was titled, Why Twitter is Better Than Facebook for Marketing Yourself as a Freelancer.

It started off like this, “Working as a freelance writer means a lot of self-promotion. Really, working as a freelance anything means a lot of self-promotion. It is up to yourself to get your name and work out there for the world to see. You are, in a sense, a business. Fortunately, in this day, social media gives you the perfect platform for all the free self-promoting you could ask for. I can’t imagine how hard it was to begin a freelance career before the Internet existed.”

Drafting table with graphic design tools

Drafting table with graphic design tools used pre-computer design. © Alison Gilbert

I chuckled to myself not only able to imagine what it would have been like to be a freelancer before the Internet existed but also remembering what it was like. Although I was in the graphic design end of the communications industry, the characteristics of being a freelance writer are similar enough to merit my comparison.

I could not resist sharing my memories. I am slightly paraphrasing my comment about her post. ‘I think your article is excellent. In today’s economy and technology, you are right on the mark.

‘I do want to share with you and your readers what it was like in the 1980′s and early 1990′s to be a freelancer. It was easy! Social media did NOT exist and it was NOT a problem. It fact it was easier then than it is now to have to keep up on every platform where my name, username and password have taken up residence and will likely continue to do so on an almost daily basis as more new platforms pop up.

‘My first year, I had 25 clients. Most of them came to me as warm leads from a women’s group that I belonged to. Quite a few of the women worked at ad agencies. I hardly had to look for work. Granted it was a very different economy from today’s. But perhaps social media has evolved in response to these times and a much more challenging economy. Therefore given the chance for it to still be pre-digital and pre-social media, I would go back to the analog days in a heartbeat.

Designer's desktop© http://www.123rf.com/

‘Don’t get me wrong. I love social media. In fact, I am what we call an addict. Do I also qualify as an evangelist? I never stop talking and preaching about its many merits.

‘But on the other side of the coin is the fact that I now have to think about everything globally rather than just locally. It is a MUCH bigger job. I have met so many people in the two or three years since I joined facebook. I can hardly remember anyone’s name. It may be a part of maturing to feel that life was easier then than it is now. I think it is called reminiscing. But it WAS easier, definitely slower and simpler.

‘I easily made $15 to $20/hour, worked a 5 hour day, took an express bus to and from the client’s office, had my bag of tricks, a tool box the size of a book, not an iPad, my paste-up skills, and my lunch if I was working in an area where I did not know of places to eat. I often got paid very quickly. I could easily make $500/week and in those days that covered my rent. It was mostly a manageable life.

‘If you or anyone else are interested, I am the NY Graphic Design examiner.com. I wrote a series of posts about being a graphic designer before the computer age, through the transition from analog to digital and since the computer. I would love to hear what others think both about what you wrote about today and what I have indicated about how it used to be like compared to what it is like now.’

AUTHOR:

Alison Gilbert is the Digital Age Storyteller. She is a regular contributing author to DBME, writes The Marketing Byte Blog and is The New York Graphic Design Examiner. Alison is the owner of MARKETING BYTES Solutions 4 Local Biz. Located on Long Island, New York, MARKETING BYTES serves clients virtually everywhere.

Their boutique style – very personal service – hybrid company specializes in helping local/small biz generate sales leads by transitioning from traditional advertising to online marketing. Contact MARKETING BYTES at info@marketingbytes.biz or call 516-665-9034 ET

SOURCES
From the NY Graphic Design Examiner


OTHER RESOURCES

About Alison Gilbert

Through decades as an entrepreneur, I developed ventures in over a half a dozen industries including HEALTH FOOD | GRAPHIC DESIGN | BUSINESS PROMOTION | HOLISTIC HEALTH | DECORATIVE PAINTING | SOCIAL MEDIA | PUBLIC SPEAKING | WRITING. Eventually under the umbrella of ALISON*S ART, INC, they evolved into the dba MARKETING BYTES, a hybrid company specializing marketing small business using social media marketing and traditional graphic design services. Currently retired, I am focusing on teaching social media marketing graphic design and visual journalism. I can be messaged through www.facebook.com/alisondgilbert and tweeted @MktngBytesMaven and @AlisonsArt.

Social Media: One, Two, Three

social media icons © iniwoo.net

Social Media icons. 65 Bookmarks and Social Icons. © iniwoo.net

MY FACEBOOK ANNIVERSARY
When I first signed up with facebook a few years ago this month, I was gung ho. I wanted to be up there with the superstars batting 5,000 and having to get a fan page because there was no more room on my personal page. Well the names are not the only things that have changed since then.

‘Personal pages’ are now called ‘profiles’ and ‘fan pages’ became ‘LIKE’ business pages. They are now just referred to as ‘pages’. In an effort to comprehend even the most superficial of the latest facebook changes, timelines, page covers, no more choosing the default page, etc., I have attended webinars, read numerous blog posts and spoken to colleagues.


WHO CARES IF YOU ‘LIKE’ ME
During a fact filled webinar hosted by social media diva, Amy Porterfield, I got some real gems in addition to the big boulders of info. She emphasized the importance of users stopping focusing on the almighty ‘LIKE’ and indicated what was more important.

That really got me thinking about ‘SOCIAL’ media as a whole. We have reduced this term to a single hashtag, #socialmedia. I think this is a mistake. It is no coincidence that the term SOCIAL is put before the word media as two words. Internet media is distinguished from other types of media by the single adjective SOCIAL. Why does this matter? I thought about it and have concluded the following.


SOCIAL Media
Using SOCIAL Media correctly involves a three step process. All these steps apply to the myriad of online technological applications:

ONE: Introduction
The purpose of SOCIAL media is to introduce ourselves to others both as individuals and as business people, to begin to get to know each other, to interact.

TWO: Engagement
The way we get to interact is by engaging in conversation. A conversation is NOT ‘post and run’ or ‘LIKE’ me and I will ‘LIKE’ you. I see these so often it frustrates me to tears. A conversation, discussion or interaction is, for example, about my providing information of value, asking others what they think about it and getting responses. It is about starting a CONVERSATION, in other words, providing an opening for there to be one.

THREE: Relationship
Engaging in repeated conversations even limited to 120 characters (leaving room for re-tweeting) can start and lead to a relationship. The chances of meeting unlimited numbers of people on the Internet that we have interests in common with are staggering. The relationships that can form are real and rewarding.


JUST REMEMBER THIS
Whether it is in-person or virtually, it is human nature to connect, and want to connect with others, especially folks with things in common (tribes).  SOCIAL media makes this possible like no other tool of communication has done during any other time in recorded history. To be social on the Internet, just remember, it’s as simple as one, two, three.


AUTHOR
Alison Gilbert is the Digital Age Storyteller. She is a regular contributing author to DBME, writes The Marketing Byte Blog and is The New York Graphic Design Examiner. Alison is the owner of MARKETING BYTES Solutions 4 Local Biz. Located on Long Island, New York, MARKETING BYTES serves clients virtually everywhere.

Their boutique style – very personal service – hybrid company specializes in helping local/small biz generate sales leads by transitioning from traditional advertising to online marketing. Contact MARKETING BYTES at info@marketingbytes.biz or call 516-665-9034 ET


SOURCES

About Alison Gilbert

Through decades as an entrepreneur, I developed ventures in over a half a dozen industries including HEALTH FOOD | GRAPHIC DESIGN | BUSINESS PROMOTION | HOLISTIC HEALTH | DECORATIVE PAINTING | SOCIAL MEDIA | PUBLIC SPEAKING | WRITING. Eventually under the umbrella of ALISON*S ART, INC, they evolved into the dba MARKETING BYTES, a hybrid company specializing marketing small business using social media marketing and traditional graphic design services. Currently retired, I am focusing on teaching social media marketing graphic design and visual journalism. I can be messaged through www.facebook.com/alisondgilbert and tweeted @MktngBytesMaven and @AlisonsArt.

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