In this post, I will tell you how to learn graphic design faster.
For the past seven years, I’ve been teaching an introduction to graphic design course in college and I’ve helped hundreds of students develop a solid foundation after only one semester.
Some have even gotten their first jobs after completing the course.
But you ask:
How fast can you learn graphic design?
In my experience, you could acquire a solid graphic design foundation in as little as 65 hours of focused, dedicated work that consolidates design principles and theory with practice projects that will become your first portfolio.
How will you accomplish this?
I will show you what I call the TPPR Method for learning graphic design in a faster, more focused way.
Let’s get to it.
How Fast Can You Learn Graphic Design?
If you want to learn graphic design fast, it means you are highly motivated. That’s a great thing.
You might be in need to change careers, generate extra income on the side, begin an online business, or simply get into a line of work that allows you to be creative and flexible. These are all excellent motivators.
How fast can you really learn graphic design? Of course, as everyone will tell you, it depends!
It depends on your level of motivation, the quality of the resources you use, how much practice you can get under your belt, and how much experience and talent you already have.
In my experience, the most committed students will acquire a solid foundation in graphic design after 45 hours of classwork and about 20-30 more hours of directed software practice.
Time and again, I have seen this work.
And the idea behind my calculations are not crazy.
Josh Kaufman, author of The First 20 Hours; How to Learn Anything… Fast!, asserts that the first 20 hours of practice are crucial to grounding yourself into acquiring a new skill. He believes that “you can usually achieve the goals you set yourself in around 20 hours of deliberate practice.”
Kaufman is not saying that 20 hours will magically “make” you a graphic designer. What he is saying is that you don’t need to become an expert (with 10,000 hours or practice or more) to really understand what you’re doing and getting started.
In a recent Q & A with freelance savant Jamie Brindle, creative director Michael Janda, author of Burn Your Portfolio, discussed how you “can learn more in 8 hours on YouTube than you’d learn in a semester at graphic design school.”
My point is this:
You could learn enough graphic design to land your first paid work in a relatively short amount of time.
In the end, it comes down to this:
Learning the fundamental aspects of graphic design all at once and at your level.
In my experience teaching graphic design, the TPPR method has been the fastest way to learn graphic design.
Learn Graphic Design Faster with the TPPR Method
The TPPR Method is a simple strategy for learning graphic design in a more efficient, streamlined way.
TPPR stands for the following:
Theory, Practice, Portfolio, Repeat
That’s it. It seems simple but, believe me, it’s a powerful strategy, the one I have used to great success to teach graphic design to beginners.
The success of this method is that it combines all the fundamental aspects of graphic design into an integrated learning strategy that you can remember and act upon.
If confused, unmotivated, or simply wanting to give up, choose any of the actions:
Study design theory by picking up that book on the corner, try to improve on that tutorial that gave you such a difficult time, ask friends if they’re in need of a flyer or logo. And repeat.
Think about it:
How is a traditional graphic design college curriculum organized?
Learning occurs in a sequence.
That means you first learn design theory, which is often a prerequisite to start learning graphic design software. This knowledge then leads to a final project that may become part of your portfolio.
You can’t go to the next step before you complete a previous step, and so on.
After 4 or 5 years, you will have a degree in graphic design. But that simply isn’t the most efficient way to learn graphic design fast.
And even after all this time pursuing a degree, you won’t necessarily be a graphic designer.
Because there is only one way of “being” something, and that is by “becoming” it.
A degree in creative writing or journalism will not make you a writer. A degree in computer science will not make you a programmer. A degree in fine arts will not make you a painter.
Only by writing, programming, or painting consistently can you become the writer, programmer, or painter you want to be.
This is also true for graphic design.
TPPR Method For Learning Graphic Design Faster
With the TPPR method, you are working on all the foundational aspects of graphic design simultaneously.
Let’s look at the TPPR method in more detail.
If you want to become a true graphic designer, design theory is fundamental.
Many can learn to click buttons on Illustrator or Photoshop, but few really understand the rules that govern visual design.
In other words:
Learning the software is not that complicated. Understanding the elements and principles of design is more challenging.
An understanding of graphic design theory is what separates professionals from amateurs.
For example, anyone can plug-in some information into a logo maker and create a logo. Few truly understand the principles of logo design.
The good news is that you can learn graphic design principles. It takes study, observation, and practice.
If you start to learn design principles from the very beginning, you will develop a solid foundation for understanding what to do with graphic design software.
As you begin to study and observe the principles of graphic design, you must also start to experiment with and learn graphic design software.
Don’t worry if you are still struggling with design theory.
As you begin to create your first graphics, you will be making important associations that will help you understand design principles. You will begin to observe design elements, such as lines and color, and notice how they behave.
It is crucial that you begin to build on software skills from the very beginning.
Start with simple projects, such as a basic icon. Look for beginner tutorials on YouTube and build your confidence and skills from there.
In my experience, vector graphics software, such as Illustrator, is easier to learn as a beginner. The reason is that you can create graphics on a canvas, just like drawing on paper.
In fact, I use Inkscape, which is as powerful as paid software but is absolutely free.
Take on small projects and build your skills from there. Think about some basic graphics you could create:
- A logo for a friend
- A set of icons for a school sign
- A newsletter for your church
Start practicing every day and you will notice that both your understanding of design as well as your skills will start to quickly improve.
The key words here are practice and consistency.
Step 03: Portfolio
If you want to become a graphic designer fast, it is crucial that you start building your portfolio from the very beginning.
What is a graphic design portfolio?
A portfolio is a collection of your best work that demonstrates not only your skills and knowledge of graphic design, but also the different design formats in which you are proficient.
For example, a portfolio should demonstrate your ability to work the most common formats, such as:
- Website layouts
- Basic print formats, such as flyers and posters
A portfolio is important because it shows your abilities and experience.
The more items you have in your portfolio, the more experience you will reflect to a prospective client or employer.
It is perfectly natural to first have a beginner portfolio. As you mature as a designer, so will your portfolio.
All your first little projects can become part of your first portfolio. The important thing is for you to start creating a collection of your work that signals that you are already a graphic designer.
Your work is what actually reflects that you have become, in fact, a graphic designer.
How to Create an Online Portfolio?
Today, there are many channels available to you with which you can build your online portfolio.
You can use social media platforms, such as Instagram, to show your graphic design work. Also, you could show your work on design communities, such as Behance.
Finally, you can easily set up your digital portfolio web page using Wix.
Step 04: Repeat
The final step is easy: Repeat these actions.
Repeat this: Learning design theory, practicing, and adding to your portfolio.
You must do this consistently and simultaneously. You must do it with intention and drive.
Visualize it as if you were a beginner pilot: The more flight hours you add to your log, the more you become a real pilot.
Graphic design is the same as any skill.
Log in the hours of study and practice, and you will start to improve. The more you do it, the more you become a graphic designer.
Soon enough, you will start believing it. You will start feeling like a graphic designer.
I truly believe that you don’t have to spend hundreds of hours and dollars to learn graphic design.
If you have a repeatable system, such as the TPPR approach described here, you could acquire a solid foundation in graphic design quicker than you think.
How fast do you think it would take you to learn graphic design?
Leave a comment below and let me know.