I answered a post in Quora about how to become a graphic designer on your own. As we all continue to grow with mentors or with a select group of creatives, while formal education is essential, you can provide yourself with most knowledge although it requires a lot more determination and self guidance.
Here are some things to consider
- Get out of the way your technical skills so they never drag you so you can focus on thinking/ designing. Learn adobe suite or sketch and pixelmator like you breathe + all the shortcuts. Focus only on the programs you need to use, don’t learn everything. Be the master of a few. Get a subscription on lynda or similar. Do all the tutorials you need. Don’t skip chapters. 2 or 3 tutorials per software will do.
- Find out what kind of design you want to do. Read books youworkforthem and blogs designobserver, expand your database based on what you like (digital, environmental, publishing…). Don’t over think, just choose a few styles that connect with you.
- Make a list of the 10 or 20 best designers or studios based on your focus. Study their work and start projects of your own based on their portfolio. If it is an annual report for BMW, study BMW identity and consumer behaviour, do your own focus groups if necessary. Focus only on the style and type of clients of your 10 best designers or studios and produce similar works for yourself, yes copy.
- Research about consumer behaviour, read everything you can about Seth Godin , Clotaire Rapaille and Gerald Zaltman. You need to understand what and who you are designing for as well as explain why you did it. This is compulsory.
- Research about branding, you are creating work based on the values about an organisation, you need to understand how those values translate in a visual context. This video by Sasha Strauss is a great introduction, these are his recommended books on Amazon
- Build a portfolio online with behance, koken, wordpress or another CMS and update it only with your best work, 5 pieces will do at the beginning
- Introduce yourself to the studio and marketing director of the companies you have selected to establish a relationship.
- Send them monthly emails with an update of your work (ask for permission), send also postcards with the projects/experiments you are doing. Put a book together with your best work and send it to your top of the list studios (you can do this with blurb or others…)
- Focus on 2 themes corporate communication (real clients) and experiments, and offer a mix of both in your folio. If you avoid experiments you will be stuck with thier brand guidelines, and your progress will depend on the studio you work for.
- If you love the work you produce, however different, you will find clients that will pay you for what you love to do.