Graphic design is an immensely intricate and beautiful field with so much nuance and depth. To consider it a single discipline is misguided: it covers myriad subjects, from typography and color theory to human psychology and marketing. It's also a stepping stone to other exciting fields, like interaction and experience design.

What's great is that there is so much content about design out there that it's quite an accessible field to start practicing. I think the problem is that there's maybe a bit too much information to sift through on your own when you're starting out. I wrote this primer as a resource I wish I'd had when I realized I wanted to be a designer. I hope that in some way it helps you as you start learning, supplements your classes, or otherwise inspires you.

This is meant to be a living document. I plan to add content over time, if only for my own sake.

<aside> 📖 Table of Contents


Work by Milton Glaser

Work by Milton Glaser

Section I. Start With the Basics

This is likely where your classes are starting: laying the foundation on which a graphic design education can be built up from. Don't ignore this part because it'll only make things more difficult later on. Graphic design, to me, has a couple key aspects:

  1. Learning how to see
  2. Learning to solve problems

The first point, learning how to see, encapsulates the most apparent part of graphic design: that it's a visual practice, and that a successful designer must understand how to use typography, color, shape, form, etc. in order to create professional–looking graphic works.

The second is less apparent, but graphic design is more often than not about solving a particular problem. Most professional graphic design is done for a client who needs the design to achieve a certain goal; this could be a poster that spurs event attendance, a web landing page that converts visitors into customers, or a visual system that represents a brand and can be built upon by others. I think this is an aspect that I overlooked when I was first starting.

Work by Bethany Heck

Work by Bethany Heck

Learning how to see

This is where the fundamentals come into play. Broadly speaking, I think the most important fundamentals are:

  1. Typography
  2. Color