How I Became A Graphic Designer Without Going To Design School

What do you do when your status quo is nowhere near ideal, but the prospect of change is too hard to comprehend? Looking back now, this is where I found myself not too long ago. Well, let me back up a little. For the purpose of this article let’s just say that my frustrations began in December 2014 (in reality it was much earlier than that.)

I had just finished a master’s program and should have been excited at the prospect of getting a great job and doing the everyday thing. But I was kind of terrified because I didn’t exactly want to do that. But what did I want to do? As is my usual practice when I’m overwhelmed, I made a list and started to work through it. Nothing seemed exciting. Then I got to one of the entries on my list — Graphic Design — and a light bulb went off in my head!

You see, I have always been fascinated by design, all forms of design and wished I could do it. I love to create, so I’d been trying things since my first Blogspot page on the internet. I had managed to cobble together a website for my Master’s degree capstone project without any real design skills and got by with free tools and what I thought was my natural eye for design. But what if I could do more? What if I could learn those fancy tools? Would I be able to do better design and finally fulfill this longing I’ve had for years?

Well, I decided I could, so I downloaded the Adobe Creative Suite trial version and got to work learning what I thought I needed to know to be a graphic designer. I started with the beast — Photoshop. I searched on YouTube, clicked on the first beginner tutorial video I could find and got ready to tame that beast. But why was I so confused all of a sudden? Why did the guy’s interface look so different than mine? What was that dull ache I was beginning to feel in my temple?

To cut a long story short, I gave up and concluded it was too hard. I didn’t have what it took. I’d have to go to design school, start from scratch, follow along with a tutor in a real class environment if I hoped to make any sense of this.

My creative suite account expired, and that was it.

Or was it?

Many months passed and I started to feel a deep longing for my long-lost dream. By this time, I had a job that paid the bills and kept me reasonably challenged, but I just couldn’t shake the feeling that I was climbing a ladder that was leaning on the wrong wall. Was it too late for me to learn graphic design? I wasn’t even trying to get a job as a designer at the time; I just wanted to make stuff.

My frustrations led me to the obvious place I knew I could find some form of solidarity — Google. And what I found gave me hope, some much-needed girl power and more importantly, a clear direction.

Karen X. Cheng had written a blog post about how she became a designer in 6 months and got a job without going to design school. I devoured it! Dana Nicole also had a blog about how she made the jump and the crucial things to consider if you were looking to do the same. These were my girls!

Why had I been afraid for so long? Oh, I know why! I had put the cart before the horse. In my excitement to learn what I thought I needed (read: Photoshop), I overlooked the thing I needed most — basic knowledge of the principles of design.

Photoshop wasn’t an untamable beast — and it certainly wasn’t the only beast that needed taming. All I had to do was put all my ducks in a row, and I cannot tell you enough how helpful it was to me that these remarkable women had shared their stories online. Their experiences gave me hope that I could do it, too, so I dug in. I spent extra hours after work studying and learning and I loved every minute of it!

I’ve since secured a design job without having to apply for one. (A story for another day!) I’m still learning and growing and looking forward to more design adventures, but I wanted to share my story for anyone out there like me who might be looking to take the jump. You can do it too, and if you don’t put the cart before the horse, it should be a delightful journey you’d be glad you embarked on.

So, I was going to share a detailed process that should help you get started without having to go to design school (if you don’t want to or can’t afford it), but I don’t want to reinvent the wheel, so I’ll link to Karen X and Dana Nicole’s blog posts here. Their entries are easy to follow, and you’ll find the resources listed there very helpful.

Even though I worked through their suggestions, I had to create a process/curriculum that worked for me, and I suggest you do the same.

If you’re reading this and you’re thinking, ‘Hmm well, I’m not trying to be a graphic designer, but I do need a cover for my book, a flyer for my event, a logo for my business…’ you get my drift :) then I’m your girl!

I’m excited to partner with creatives, authors, businesses and entrepreneurs to bring awesome dreams to life. Contact me here and let’s get it done!

Oh, and here’s my portfolio so you can check out some of my work: remiroy.myportfolio.com

Thanks for reading and go make your dreams happen!

Out here trying…