top tips for budding graphic designers banner

Top Tips for Budding Graphic Designers

Any new career can be a minefield to navigate and usually provokes a lot of apprehension and general nervousness. Having some guidance, advice and tips from people already in the industry you’re looking at delving into can help with easing those feelings of nervousness and generally preparing you for the new path you’ll begin to traverse.

The beauty of a career in graphic design is the unlimited access to creative freedom and the abundant opportunities you’ll have at your fingertips. The tips we have to share will ultimately help you to navigate the path you’ll be taking into this beautifully rich vocation.

Our top tips for graphic design beginners

Get inspired

You’ll both subconsciously and consciously notice your design eye taking effect wherever you go. Everything and anything will inspire you, whether an apple in a tree or a cow in a field. Whilst this is great, it’s a little tricky to incorporate things you see in day-to-day life into work briefs.

You need specific visual contexts to ignite the fires of inspiration inside you and to provide you with some content ideas for future designs and projects. There’s a sea of different moodboard platforms such as Pinterest and inspiration websites like Behance for you to set your sights on in order to fuel your inspiration.

Just remember that plagiarism is real and it’s serious. Never rip-off somebody else’s work and give credit. Inspiration is just that, to inspire you, not to copy.

Start off simple

You’ve got to learn to walk before you run. By diving into complex techniques and trying to overcomplex your designs by cramming everything and anything into it will do you no favours for your graphic design career. Your design is trying to convey a message so by muddling the design with too many elements, your message may get lost in translation or misconstrued.

One thing you’ll pick up as you go throughout your graphic design career is the art of balance. By starting your designs off simple, you’ll find it easier to perfect the balance of the elements you’re including within your design. A simple, well balanced design will result in a clear and easy to understand message.

Practice with a range of software

The tools you’ll have at your disposal as a graphic designer are seemingly endless and there will be something for everyone. There’s software to suit your style, your needs, your budget and your preference. For example, tools such as GIMP or Inkscape are solid starting choices for low-budgets whilst the more mainstream option of Adobe is a front-runner for others with a little more to invest.

Once you’ve comfortably tried a range of software for your graphic design projects, you’ll likely need to start looking at becoming a little more proficient in one avenue, simply because of the specifications of job roles. It’s suggested to have tried and tested as many different tools as possible but becoming a pro in just one software suite, such as Adobe will increase job prospects when you’re crossing that road.

Learn the basics with these design tips

Of course you’ll need to know the absolute fundamentals of graphic design to go forth in the business. There’s some basic practices and design theories to learn that helps with mastering graphic design:

fundamentals of graphic design

1. Psychology of colour

Colour is key in graphic design, it does so much more than just make designs look pretty, it helps with conveying a message and evoking emotion.

2. Visual hierarchy

The order in which you layout your design elements can help with giving your viewer a clear navigation to follow. Making the most important information, whether text or image in the most prominent place on your design draws the attention to that first, everything else can come secondary.

3. Typefaces and fonts

When it comes to the fonts you use in your design, make sure to try and keep it limited to just a couple of typefaces. Overwhelming your design with too many font styles makes it look busy and uncoordinated. Choose a font that speaks to your design and stick with it.

4. White space

Not always meaning literally, white space more refers to the empty spots of your design. Making the most of white space helps your design to breathe and prevents it from feeling too crowded. Think about resizing elements and only including what’s absolutely relevant to your design.

5. Spacing

Like mentioned earlier, a well-balanced design proposes a clear and concise message. To create a balanced design, you need to be vigilant with spacing. Grids can be used to help separate elements of a design and dictate where to place each.

6. Dimensions

Regardless of the types of designs you’ll be looking at creating, understanding dimensions will play a big part in your projects. For example, social media platforms all have different size requirements for posts. Creating a design that doesn’t match these requirements means losing aspects of the design you’ve invested time and effort into.

7. File types

Making sure to use the right file type for your design means that when it comes to print or is used for its outcome, your lovely new design will be seen at its fullest capacity.

Embrace your creative block

You have to be realistic with yourself in graphic design. Nobody is able to be completely ‘on it’ 24/7 and when it comes to creativity, encountering that dreaded ‘creative block’ is to be expected. The best way to tackle it is to embrace it.

If you try to confront, tackle and challenge your creative block, you’ll just be making it more difficult on yourself to get back into the flow of things. Instead, try to find ways to help it move through its flow. For example, you can try the following to help with embracing and eventually concluding your mental block:

  • Write anything at all, whether it’s an observation of your surroundings or a fictional story
  • Doodle
  • Change your surroundings, go outside for a walk or meet up with a couple of friends
  • Try to do 1 thing in 30 different ways
  • Listen to anything, a podcast, your favourite playlist

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes

As cliche as it sounds, making mistakes is vital to learning and growing. Without making mistakes, you will never learn. And without learning, you can never expect to grow and further your graphic design skills.

Not only can failure serve as a means of motivation but it can sometimes surprise you in ways you may not think. A mistake can lead to a new opportunity or a little lightbulb moment. That small error you made? It could actually end up looking like an amazing new idea or style. And that new style or idea may end up being a major part of your next project.

Your portfolio is crucial

If fashion designers or artists were to never showcase their work, they wouldn’t get noticed or hired for events. Their portraits and mannequin displays are their portfolios, the work they show to the world in order to get recognition and credibility. Banksy, for example, is a massively recognisable figure who publicly displays his portfolio by exhibiting his graffiti on many different street spots. It’s his powerful portfolio that intrigues people, gets them talking, makes him stand out, verifies his status and most importantly, communicates a message.

Regardless of the pathway you’re looking at taking in graphic design, whether freelance, agency or in-house, a solid portfolio will be the evidence that convinces your clients and peers that you’re worth taking onboard and showcases your creative personality.

Take criticism constructively

Criticism of any form can be a difficult pill to swallow. The human ego takes hits pretty severely and being told what you’re doing wrong or could be doing better is always a tough obstacle to tackle head-on. However, there is always a takeaway from criticism, whether it is positive or negative.

Much like the saying, every cloud has a silver lining, receiving criticism is one of those things you just need to unpack without emotion to find the critique hidden within.

Pay attention to trends

The skills and techniques needed to create graphic designs will stay pretty much untouched but styles come and go. These styles and trends are what will be the defining factors of all your projects. Nobody wants their design to look outdated and as if it came out of a decade long past.

Keeping an eye on trends both out in the real world and via online outlets will help your designs to stay attention-grabbing and remembered. But remember, being able to stay on top of trends in itself means that you must be able to embrace change. It’s tough but try not to get too stuck up on one style, because it will be old news 5 years later.

What our graphic designers have to say

Our design team here at Milk & Tweed is composed of some pretty unique individuals who have all walked different paths in life and have different experience levels. From junior designers to creative directors, each team member has their own knowledge to pass on to you.

(Creative Director)
"Be a sponge. Learn, listen and try and take everything in. Starting out you will be at the bottom of the ladder, with people above you who have done it for years, listen to them, ask them questions and learn from them.

If you really want it, do the extras. Do free logos and work for friends and family businesses to improve your experience and portfolio. Try and do placements at studios, not every studio is the same, some you will like and some you won’t - but listen and learn."
(Junior Designer)
"Don’t worry about getting the best design possible first time every time. Try lots of different things and don’t rush the process. Try not to be precious with your designs, speak to the people around you & take their advice.

One other thing that I would say helped me purely focus on my ideas and designs is learning the software the best you can. This might mean doing some extra hours outside of your job etc to help you fully understand the software because once it’s second nature you can focus on your project without wasting time figuring out how to do something."
(Head of Design)
"If you haven’t got a good idea, start by sketching out some bad ones! It’s easy to get stuck waiting for that one perfect idea to hit you like a bolt of lightning.

Whether you’re working on a logo, a website or a brochure, a good starting point is to quickly and roughly map out as many ideas as possible. It’s then a lot easier for you and any designers around you to start selecting and developing anything that has potential."
(Junior Designer)
"Take a step back from your work, literally and figuratively. If you're working on a design for a long time it's quite easy to miss something obvious or just find faults within a perfectly good design.

You can end up focused on one element of design and miss out some key parts of whatever task you're working on. Also sketch, sketch, sketch. Make lots of examples there’s bound to be at least one good idea. Maybe even two."

Graphic design is a fine art that takes time, practice and some serious dedication. It can feel easy to get lost amongst the sea of your competitors but with the tips we’ve walked through, you can feel a little more comfortable with your start in the industry, whether you’re deciding to go freelance or work in-house.

You can always drop an email ( or give us a call (01249 847 447) if you’re ever keen to get more advice from our expert designers or if you’re ever looking for some work experience.

Let's create together

Get in touch

Select your plan and one of our team will get in touch