How to become a designer with no degree

By / in Design, Learning / Posted March 11, 2018

In today’s job market, skills and experience are more important than anything else. When it comes to 21st-century careers such as programming and design, a person’s actual skills and work experience are far more important than a degree. You can become a designer with no degree if you take the three steps outlined in this article.

Step 1 – Learn the basics 

Don't skip learning the basics of color, typography, and graphic design.

First learn the basics of color, typography, and graphic design!

Just buying all the tools won’t get you closer to producing excellent results in design. First of all, you need an “eye for design”. You have to learn how to draw as well as learn about composition itself. Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean that you have to whip out perfect portraits and caricatures. The key here is to learn drawing basics so you are comfortable sketching and moving your ideas into reality, or at least on to paper. 

Next, learn a bit of design theory (50 resources to learn all the basics of design and graphic design, good stuff!). Then learn the basics of color, typography, and designing with a grid. Finally, begin learning the basics of graphic design, user interface (UI), and user experience (UX). Don’t skip learning the basics – you need a strong foundation to become a good designer.

Step 2 –  Learn the tools

After learning the basics, you’ll be ready to use the tools of your work. With a solid knowledge of both UI and UX, you’re ready to learn programs like Illustrator and Photoshop (the order is not accidental). Understanding Illustrator will allow you to create better vector-based graphics (you will learn what these are in the tutorials above).

Illustrator is a more advanced vector program that allows you to work on graphics in a more clean and professional way. You can work with vectors in Photoshop, but the control over them is not the same. While Illustrator mainly works with vector files, Photoshop is primarily a raster-based program that produces bitmaps. Again, don’t worry about these terms, you will quickly learn what they are in the tutorials. 

Learn the tools of the trade - Photoshop and Illustrator.

After the basics, learn the tools of the trade.

When learning the different tools and platforms, you will quickly find out which one you work well with and have fun with. Once you discover which one fits you, stick with it! This is the most crucial step in your design career, so choose carefully!

I recommend that you explore all of the design fields – from mobile app design, web design, prints, illustration, animation, to 3D modeling and more. When you choose one or two you enjoy the most, focus on them and become a designer in that specific field. Being an ACE is better than being a ‘Jack of all trades’.

Step 3 – Build your portfolio

Again, what companies are looking for and willing to pay you a lot of money for is – skills and experience. That means having a solid personal portfolio will get you in the door. Don’t worry, you don’t need to work on real projects with real clients to build a good portfolio. However, you do have to get creative and think about your own side projects to complete. Or, you could find a design competition and enter it to show what you can do. You should also continuously complete graphic design exercises & tutorials. You don’t always have to be original or reinvent the wheel; it’s good practice recreating other designs. In the beginning, it’s completely fine to get design inspiration from sites like Behance or Dribbble. After some time, you will find your own style.   

So, that is how you become a designer with no degree. After these 3 steps, you will have the skills to work on your own as a freelancer, with a company, or with a design agency. This will bring you more experience and progress your career. Remember – once you get the job, keep learning!


 A final piece of advice

Find designers to teach you or connect with Learners to learn together

Knowers can help you learn the basics and tools.

One of the best ways to learn something is to learn together with others. Find Knowers that can help you learn design basics, tools, and help build your portfolio. You can search for professional designers to teach you or connect with Learners like yourself to learn together. I would be happy to share what I know with you, so get in touch with me on the LearnX app! Download LearnX now and get your design career started. Ciao!