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Four Years of Graphic Design and Lessons Learned


Staff member
Not sure why you didn't just copy and paste it here - instead of linking away from the forum. You're asking for opinions but leading people away from the site... anyway I haven't read it yet.
Not sure why you didn't just copy and paste it here - instead of linking away from the forum. You're asking for opinions but leading people away from the site... anyway I haven't read it yet.
Sorry for that. I thought that it may be against rules and regulations. I am pasting it here. Pardon me if it has spelling and grammar mistakes. It is rough draft yet, I haven't polished it yet.
Four Years of Graphic Design and Lessons Learned
It was May, 2012, that I started learning Graphic Design at a so so multimedia school named Arena Multimedia. Going through various frustrations like not knowing what to learn and how to properly learn it. After wasting $2500 + in that school for a whole year and almost a $1000 at online courses, I finally came to some conclusions which I would like to share.

1. We are influenced by others

Design doesn't happen in a vacuum. We must first learn to look, observe and appreciate great designs which will then influence us and inspire us. As someone said "Inspiration happens to the prepared mind."

2. Artists are thinkers

A good artist is a good thinker and he must read and understand the history, culture and current times of the society he is living in and the audience he/she is creating for.

3. Quality is better than Quantity

There are so many books on graphic design, web design, HTML, CSS, JavaScript etc, that one can't read all of them even in one's whole life time. Also according to Mortimer Adler in his book "How to read a book", the quantity of mediocre books read is not important but the few high quality classics which are deeply read is important. So I concluded that one should read about fundamentals of each discipline of web development and then use other books for reference only. Only read the best books from cover to cover which are well written, promise great content and engage you.

4. Naysayers are losers

Get away from the naysayers. They are themselves losers. Just do it. Just DO IT. The difference between successful and unsuccessful is that successful people don't leave and unsuccessful ones leave in midway.

5. Write down everything

Make notes for everything you learn and for every project you do. it will help in monitoring your progress and will be a great resource for reference for later projects.

6. Reverse Engineering and Observation

After learning the basics, de-construct the designs of others you like. This applies to graphics as well as code. Do reverse engineering and observe each detail closely. Each part of the design and each line of the code is a piece of a puzzle which has a purpose. Try to understand what made this project awesome. Consult your notes frequently for understanding the code as well as design. Search your reference books if you can't find the answers then use google. As a last resort ask from your seniors and your fellow developers/designers.

7. Welcome the feedback of critics

You are your best critic but frequently get feedback from your seniors and fellow designers. This is critical for truly learning. It will hurt in the beginning and may disappoint you at times but in the long run you will thank the critics. Join design and web development forums, github, jsfiddle. Share your code and design for critique and discuss the issues you are encountering.
8. Steal but like an artist

Don't be afraid to ask. Don't be afraid to steal. But do steal like an artist. Understand the concept behind someone's successful work. Don't just copy it. Truly learn from it. Practice it. Grill it. Horn it. Tweak it. Mold it. Improvise it. Upgrade it. Tinker with it. play with it.

9. Be positive be persistent

Believe in yourself and work for your own mountain. Law of attraction tells us that you will get what you will believe in and for what you will work for. Be positive. Re energize your attention, your focus, your intentions and your effort to the goal you want to achieve.

10. No need to learn everything

Learn according to 80/20 principle which states that if we learn the core 20% of any discipline the remaining 80% is easier to grasp based on that 20%. So don't try to learn everything. Only learn the essentials and slowly and gradually learn the advanced stuff by experimentation and exploration. If you know the fundamentals, you are good to go.

11. The real thing is how to generate Great Ideas

It is my belief that developing a website is not the problem. You have services and themes which give you an option of making websites through drag and drop. It is my guess that in the near future 5 year olds will also be able to develop websites. Now here I am not degrading coders or coding. However, I believe that developing a thing is not a problem and any decent googler can hack a decent app if he understands the fundamentals of programming. But the important thing is what to develop. The real thing is the idea. If there is a great idea then there are trillion ways to develop it but great ideas need a different kind of effort. So apart from knowing the technical knowhow, we must also focus on learning to generate great ideas as well.

12. Practice for 10,000 hours atleast

Always keep practicing. Keep observing others work. Keep creating projects even if it is for fictitious clients. The more you work the better you get. Don't forget the 10,000 hour practice rule.

13. Read one Teach one

Immediately share your knowledge because when you will explain what you have learned you will analyze those aspects of the topic at hand which you don't normally realize. This will enhance your learning and will further grill what you learn in your mind.

14. Keep it slow but consistent

It will take time. Learning takes time. Don't burn out. Don't try to swallow it all at once. Don't panic. Don't rush. Swallow what you can digest easily. Slow down. Take baby steps. Plan and think but don't over think. Be consistent. Don't be tense and don't be over-relaxed either. The Learning Plateau is a normal process. Middle way is the best way. Have fun.

15. Do what you are passionate about

Don't just repeat random exercises for the code and skills you learn. Create a project of your choice and for which you are passionate about. Incorporate your newly learnt skills in your own projects and this way you will learn better.

16. We are all learners

Not every advice is to be taken seriously and not every advice is to be thrown away. Everyone has a point of view. God has blessed you with a brain Thank Him and use it. Judge everything, analyze and reach a conclusion. You can correct yourself later on even if you are wrong about anything. Accept it when you are wrong. Correct it. Improve. Nothing is personal here. Be cool, be nice and learn like a gentleman. Remember "We are all learners".

17. Every teacher is himself an advanced learner

Don't take your teachers' words as God's un-alterable revelation. Your teacher is nothing but an advanced learner himself. Reach to conclusions through your own experiments and observation. Your teacher can only help you if you are ready to explore unfamiliar terrain yourself.

18. Don't re-invent the wheel

There is no need to re-invent the wheel. Building from scratch projects are for only learning the foundations. Once you are strong in foundational knowledge, the fun part begins. You have so many resources on the internet in regards to Content Management Systems, themes, templates, code snippets that you can create anything. Though you must know what those designs and codes mean. However, no need to recreate that which is already there. Instead focus your energies in acquiring the skill of the good judegment i.e. when to apply what solution and how to apply it properly.

19. Be clear about what you want

Be clear on what you want to achieve. Clarity to your goal is necessary. Without it you can't achieve anything. Your subconscious will only provide you with solutions if it knows what really you want to achieve. Great designs depend on great ideas which are well understood and well executed.

20. Don't leave the Pencil

Tools are just tools. The main thing is what works best. For me analog tools for ideation and sketching is must. I use computer only for digitizing and refining my work. You don't have to have every sophisticated and expensive gadget available in the market. Pen, pencil and paper do just fine either for sketches or notes/planning.

21. Creative Process is the main thing

Watching tutorials for how to create a thing in photoshop or so and so application helps. However the real thing to learn is how to write a creative brief. How to make mood boards and when and why to use them. What are some great brainstorming techniques like mind-mapping, word-association and shape association. How to do research about the project you are creating. What to look for. Where to get inspiration from. Not only focus on How but also on Why and What?

22. Best tool for the Project

Try to achieve similar results through different apps. For instance if you see a program created in Ruby. Try to create it in Javascript or any other language. Find out what can and what can't happen. How one platform is better than other and in what area. Acquaint yourself with the tools and find out their strengths and weaknesses, so that when you indulge in real project, you choose the best tool for the project.

23. Make a todo list for your Project

Before starting a project make a list of steps you want to take like different phases and stages of the project. Similarly in coding first write a pseudo code in plain English about what you want to achieve and how you will achieve it (or how you think you are going to achieve it). After that translate it in real code.

24. From rough to polished

Before publishing an article we write it's draft, improve it and polish it. Likewise in design there has to be a storyboard, initial sketches, wireframe before properly preparing a polished design and publishing it. Nothing is perfect but through practice we keep getting better.

Learning is an ongoing process and a successful designer/developer must yearn for more. Feel free to share your comments. What you have learned along the path. Do you agree or disagree to any of my conclusions?
Not sure why you'd think it's against forum rules... it's just a post. You want answers. This is a forum.
Ok! Actually I just got kicked out from a facebook group last night because the admin thought that my posts were irrelevant without warning me. That has made me cautious. I don't want to get banned as I love this forum. I don't have a university education in Graphic Design, so I don't want to lose whatever resources I have. Folks are really nice here helping each other. Without critique of the experts , we newbies can't progress in the right direction.


Staff member
Hey Omer, welcome to GDF.

I just read that and you've made some really good points and there's some good advice in there.
I especially agree with the bit about the pencil. :D

What were your "irrelevant posts" about to get you kicked? Just curious.
I'm always talking rubbish on here but then I think the Mod's are quite tolerant... or maybe just kind? ;)
Hey Omer, welcome to GDF.

I just read that and you've made some really good points and there's some good advice in there.
I especially agree with the bit about the pencil. :D

What were your "irrelevant posts" about to get you kicked? Just curious.
I'm always talking rubbish on here but then I think the Mod's are quite tolerant... or maybe just kind? ;)
Hey Scotty,
That was a facebook group for newbie coders (Web Development). I posted some links about graphic design, web design and creativity but I thought they will also apply on coding.

I posted "Everything is a remix series"
In which the main message was that everything in this world is copied, transformed and combined with other ideas to create a new thing. This is what creativity is. Nothing is built from scratch. I thought that was a very good concept and could be applied (already applied) on programming and coding. For instance, people collaborate and code on github, jsfiddle etc. Other interested programmers give their own suggestions and improve the app. Thus through collaboration open source projects are borne and people all over the world have the opportunity to learn and benefit from each other.

A similar concept was explained in the book "How to steal like an artist". There were some other design related posts and I think Web Developers must also know the design side of things. I also posted about wordpress and website tutorials from youtube and udemy which were liked by more than other members of the group.

However my creativity related posts were reported and deleted and without warning me first, the admin just banned me after two days of membership.