16 Year Old Seeking Advice On All Things Graphics

Ollie Crook

New Member
Before reading I would like to establish that although I am 16 I would like to be treated as an adult and after reading the information below if the only reply you have is "Your too young yet" then its alt+left arrow for you!

Hello my name is Ollie and I am a 16 year old currently in college aspiring to become a web or graphics designer.

Currently in my first year it is now come to the point in my life where I must look towards the future and begin to direct my life down the path that I would like it to go. I would like to become a web or graphics designer (I have not yet decided which path to take) and I am posting on this forum to seek general advice about the world of graphics.

A few quick questions I would like answered will be written below but if you have any extra information whether it be a good website or a handy trick or tip then please feel free to contact me.

Mac or PC - I have never really used a Mac as I find myself instantly getting lost and confused, I shortcut my way through 80% of windows but I know that Mac have a good name for themselves in graphics today.

Software - What software should I be using, currently I use Ps (Photoshop) for everything which I know is a bad thing to do but its the software I have grown the most comfortable with. From research and my knowledge the software I was thinking of learning would be Photoshop for images + graphics + editing, Illustrator for creating vectors, InDesign for printing.

Hardware - My worst area. I know what is needed to run programs and how Motherboard, Processor, RAM, HDD, Graphics Card etc all works, that about as far as it goes.

Additional Information - Fonts, Pictures, Peripherals, Websites, Tutorials etc

Hope this is in the right section and what not, not a big forum person but I hear its good to have a look around and meet other graphics people so I may stick around!
Firstly, congratulations on being so focussed at sixteen. Now, forget about software and hardware and havd some fun. Go out, draw. A lot. Cut up bits of paper, make paintings, scrapbooks, collect ideas you like. Look at great art and design, go to galleries, watch films. Oh and draw. Did I mention that? Then try and get yourself on a foundation course, where you will spend a year just being creative. Then, if you still decide you want to be a graphic designer ( as oppose to a photographer, product designer, car designer, furniture designer, theatre designer etc etc... Then get youself a place on a decent degree course. That will take three years, and they'll teach you all about what tools you need to do the job. Oh, and make sure you keep drawing. After that, you'll probably end up on a placement somewhere, where you'll keep learning. Then if you're lucky you'll get your first job, where, guess what, there's still loads to learn. That would be a good start.

Or you could ignore me, get a Mac, learn Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign, and be one of the many very average designers out there that never properly learned their craft.

And you might want to be treated like an adult, but with respect, you aren't one. I'm 41 and I still know nothing, I just stopped believing that I know everything.

If you're still hell-bent on what you're doing, read A Smile in the Mind, The art of Looking Sideways, anything that will teach you how to think as oppose to web tutorials that just teach you how to make pretty bevels.

Oh, and draw.

If you go down the web route you'll almost certainly be PC based and tbh it's probably the best way to work on web. If you decide Graphic Design is your bag the you will need to know how to use a mac as they're industry standard and you'll be putting yourself at a disadvantage in the job market if you don't know your way around OS X.

The Adobe Creative Suite is industry standard software and you will need to know it inside out to have any hope of getting on in graphic design. BUT.. If you intend taking up some kind of degree in design, you will get some level of training in the relevant software (that goes for using a mac too) so don't stress about not knowing how it works just yet.

Hardware is a tricky one as it depends what you're doing. I've worked for companies that use bottom if the range mac mini's & companies that use very high spec mac pros & they both run the required software with a reasonable level of success.

Creative suite comes with a whole hosts of fonts and you'll build on them over the years and as for tutorials, just google.

Good Luck
Good points from Spark about forgetting the hardware/software side of things. Nowadays, it's easy for people to claim to be designers without actually having any design experience. Chances are, if you eventually enroll on a design degree course, your first year will be spent designing work with pens and markers on layout paper. This is where you really get to think about your layouts, in terms of the fundamentals; is the hierarchy effective? Does that title need more space below it?

When working digitally it's easy to get blinded by how precise things look simply because they're rendered perfectly by technology. It's because of this that we have an influx of "designers" who seem to think ghastly, flashy Photoshopped images constitute graphic design. Not to criticise those people, we all had to start somewhere, but an idea behind something is more more important than it just looking nice. I'd also highly recommend you take a look at the book "The Art of Looking Sideways". This is full of clever, but simple designs that all focus on an idea.

As mentioned, Mac OS and Adobe CS are the industry standard tools, but they are just tools. Technology won't make you a better designer, and honestly, a lot of designers I see raving about Apple and Adobe are just pretentious snobs who do the reputation of designers as a whole no good. You can design equally as well using Windows if you know what you're doing. I use a Mac myself, but that's really personal preference. It's not for everyone, and I wouldn't expect an enthusiastic young designer to follow suit because they think that's how it should be. Same with software, there are alternative versions of some of Adobe's packages, which can produce the same final outcomes if the user knows what they're doing with them. Saying that though, I would highly recommend the CS Design bundle eventually as you WILL be expected to know it. Plus, with student discount, you can get it for about £300, which is a massive saving.

You should build your own collection of fonts eventually, but I wouldn't worry about that just yet. You need to have a good understanding of typography before you know what to look for, which you will only gain in time. Avoid downloading hundreds of thousands of fonts as a bundle as they will likely all look similar in some way, and you'll just be confused with regards to which to use. Instead, build a legitimate collection (i.e. buy the font) a typeface at a time. Get to know it, what it's good for, what feel and emotion it conveys, and eventually you'll know which designs you can and can't use it in. Font collections are cheap in the long run. Some may seem expensive, but someone with a great deal of knowledge has taken the time to handcraft them, plus they will last you your entire career, so consider them an investment (like a mechanic's tools).

The same goes for peripherals really, just buy them if and when you need them. I bought a graphics tablet recently, but have done without it for years because I never had a need for it. In time you'll know what you need. Don't go out and buy a 'design kit', just let it happen naturally. :icon_smile:
@Spark - I feel like your trying to tell me something, is it that you want me to draw? I have recently bought a plain A5 notepad and a pack of pencil and I pretty much sketch in my own time, on the train, when I've finished my dinner, when there's nothing on TV or just when inspiration strikes. I took art in high school where I was taught a million and one different ways of art so I pretty much just do anything with anything and try to make it artsy.

@Dave - Thanks for the reply.

@Paul - I may have to give that book a read, thanks for the input :)

As for all of you just a general thank you for the replies, I have another full year to decide and look at university courses, although you guys are saying artsy courses are the way forward but my drawing on paper are nursery level compared to my drawings on computers, my paper drawing skills just suck but I'm working on them. If you have any extra information please let me know :)
Typically, most drawing you will do as a designer will be 'scamps', quick drawings of layouts, just rough ideas for designs. When people say to draw designs on paper, they don't necessarily mean to go and sketch people in a park, but rather to get the ideas for designs out of your head and into some kind of tangible format that you can look at, show to people and discard easily if needs be. Obviously, you can do this digitally, but pen and paper is quicker, easier, and there's less temptation to be tweaking things.

I have an example of some design sketches on the forum somewhere, I'll see if I can find them.


Here you go, from an older post. Notice how the sketches just focus on overall layouts, rather than getting bogged down on intricate details. http://www.graphicdesignforums.co.uk/illustration-forum/5388-drawing-2.html#post26246
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Ahh that's a bit clearer now, I assumed pretty much creating the final design just in rough on paper then transferring it. If its just things like that then I may have to buy some more pencils :3 Thanks for the help, I'm designing some leaflets for my local council as we speak, I could post em up when finished if you like?
I think it is fantastic to see a young guy like yourself, so focused and determined on a particular career path and I wish you all the best. The guys above have pretty much said it all. Don't worry about things like, "should I be using a mac or pc?" Use whatever you are most comfortable with. I use both! But I tend to work faster on a PC, as I am more familiar with them. As for choosing between web or graphics? Just go for which ever one you enjoy most or become better and more confident at. But you will have to give both a try first, who knows you may not have to choose, as you might equally enjoy the two. But you also have to realise design does not just come down to 'graphics' or the 'web.' Design has many other offspring to it that you may have overlooked. You just have to find the area in the world of design that suits you best, and the best way to do that is to simply try as many things as you can, while you are still young. Believe me, time flies!
Thanks for your input CLHB, I've been using PC forever so I guess I'll stick with it and just learn how to use a Mac in case I go into a business and there are Macs everywhere.

Do you fancy expanding on the offspring you was talking about? I think I know what you mean but lets not embarrass myself eh? ;)
This pretty much sums up what I mean:

Then, if you still decide you want to be a graphic designer ( as oppose to a photographer, product designer, car designer, furniture designer, theatre designer etc etc...

Also Paul made a very good point about buying 'tools' naturally when you feel you need them, as oppose to just getting everything you can get your hands on for the sake of it. I recently bought myself a whiteboard that I have stuck behind my door. It is a different and fun way to get my idea's down and it makes a change from using paper. Also, it brings about a nice perspective having it up at my height level and being able to stand back away from my door and take a good look at my drafts/ideas.
Oh I so want to do that, buy a bunch of whiteboards and connect them together, just to have a constant canvas to draw on!
Heyy Guys!, Just thought I might update you all!

I'm 17 now. I am in my second year of college and it's going great, I enjoyed my first year even including all of the spreadsheets and databases I had to create! But obviously graphic design and web design were my favourite subjects. Tried a Mac, wasn't my thing PC master race ;D. As for software I currently have adobe CC. Hardware I haven't even thought about it once.

@Spark - I'm not gunna lie the drawing didn't really work out. I just found no need and couldn't do anything with it at the time as I had no computer till about 3 months ago. BUT my girlfriend bought me 'The art of looking sideways' for christmas and I must say was a good read, I am currently reading it again as it is a lot to take in on one read through. When I'm done I will surely check 'A smile in the Mind'.

@Paul Murray - I have a few fonts in the bag, haven't paid for any yet but that will come later. I had a go on my brothers graphics tablet and I don't think it is something I REALLY need right now, just learning to lay things out seem more important than being able to draw more precisely. Like I said earlier the drawing kinda went out the window as I had no need to do it. Although I did sketch some designs and layouts for my notepad only website I had to make in my Web Design class and like you said none of them were at all nice, some people couldn't even understand them but I could and it resulted in helping me in later production of the site.

@CLHB - In the classes I took I thouroughly enojyed both Graphic and Web Design classes. As well as mixing the two together for things such as banners, tabs logo's etc. But this leaves me in the same position as last year, which should I take a university? Web or Design? I seem to enjoy them both but which would be more beneficial. I have spoke to people within web design and people within graphic design and they left me on the fence about it as well. And you are right! time has flown, I am on my second year and will be applying for university in January! I still haven't invested in a whiteboard yet but they have them at college and I was getting funny looks stood in the middle of the library sketching on a whiteboard but I loved it!

Just again going to say thanks all! Here's something I did last year that I have recently found within my files.

- http://i.imgur.com/JfdpZRh.png

Note: Sorry about any spelling and grammar, it's 3am and i'm tired!