Graphic Design 101 Starter Kit: Foundations

Graphic Design 101 Starter Kit: Foundations

With the development of web professions, we witnessed the imminent rise in web and app developer and digital marketing vocations. Job boards across the internet offer ample opportunities for employment, since it appears, the world is in the constant lack of these professions. But the one vocation that ties the developers and marketers together is the one of the graphic designer. A role that has become one of the most sought-after professions. 

For all those who want to jumpstart their career in graphic design, the good news is that even though beneficial, formal education is not mandatory for achieving success. Like any other artistic skill, graphic design requires a certain innate desire for beauty, as well as hours and hours of practice. 

Where to Start?

Before you hit the ground running, these are the fundamental skills you need to master, which will, later on, serve as the basis of your work. 

  • Sketching: Before you come up with a solution, you need to be able to quickly present on paper all the ideas to clients. This will give you ground to develop the idea further and at the very beginning see if the client and you are on the same page. 
  • Composition: Knowing how to design effective and orderly layouts is the starting point that you absolutely must master.
  • Typography: The art of arranging letters and text to achieve the desired effect with the copy you are given. Here, you’ll need to pay attention to typefaces, letters, and fonts in general. You’ll also have to learn the rules of typography, how to choose a font and how they are combined in a document etc.
  • Colors: Knowing the theory and psychology of colors is important. It allows you to better communicate messages to your audience and trigger desired emotions that will prompt people to take action. 
  • Images: You need to learn how to find and use different kinds of images; how to position images on the page; how to work with different formats and types of images etc.
  • Print: Often underestimated by the beginners, as their sole focus tends to be on digital art. To be a comprehensive graphical designer who knows all about the document and swag print, you’ll need to cover this aspect as well.
  • Software: 95% of a graphic designer’s work is done on a computer and using various software is what you need in order to get the results you want.
What tools would you need?

What Tools Would You Need?

For starters, it would be lots of paper and pen, as you’d want to work on your sketching technique first. In time you will transition to the various software. Knowing which tool to use for which type of work can help your workflow and pre-press move more smoothly. Here’s a little pointer:

For print designInDesign Adobe (most popular)
Adobe FrameMaker
Adobe PageMaker
For photo workAdobe Photoshop (most popular)
Adobe LightRoom
For digital designAdobe Illustrator (most popular)
Suite Grafica CorelDraw
Adobe Fireworks
Adobe FreeHand
For motion graphicsAdobe After Effects (most popular)
Autodesk Maya
3D Studio Max

You don’t necessarily need to know how to use all of these design programs to be a good graphic designer. As a designer, you’d need to develop a set of core competencies in various work environments or choose to specialize in only one or two key programs. But, in general, flexibility is always the key to success, so keep in mind that. 

Where to Find Learning Materials?

Where to Find Learning Materials?

In general, there are many YouTube videos and online courses you can search to get you over-the-hump of a technique you’d like to improve upon. Here are some of the choices to consider:


One of the biggest MOOCs out there offers a wide range of free courses and paid specializations. Here you can find a lot of courses related to graphic design, but I recommend you start with the Fundamentals of Graphic Design.

This course is free and together with four other courses forms a specialization in graphic design from the California Institute of the Arts. “At the end of this course you will have learned how to explore and investigate visual representation through a range of image-making techniques; understand basic principles of working with shape, color and pattern; been exposed to the language and skills of typography, and understand and have applied the principles of composition and visual contrast.”


If you want to learn from educational videos created by the community of very skilled people, here you will find all you need. By paying the monthly subscription you get all classes at your disposal, you just need to decide where to start. I recommend you take the class by Daniel Scott who is an Adobe Certified Trainer teaching Adobe InDesign CC – Essentials Training Course. Here you will learn all you need to know about the graphic design for printing. As he states, “I will share every design trick I have learned in the last 15 years of designing”. Just what you need to excel in the field of print design. 


This platform offers a lot of different courses that you can enroll in either free of charge or for a very affordable price. Start from Learn Adobe Photoshop from the Scratch course. It will give you fundamental skills to work with the Adobe Photoshop software that is one of the most important tools for graphic designers. As they say, “this practical course focuses on the most important photoshop techniques and follows a unique task-based pedagogy which is great for beginners and intermediate learners alike”.


This Spanish MOOC platform is on the rise in Europe and offers courses in different areas of business. There are a lot of really good course bundles on design and creativity, usually come as a package of several different courses. I recommend starting with a course by Ji Lee, creative director of Facebook and Instagram, named Transforming your creative ideas into personal projects. This course will help you boost your creative side and develop projects from scratch. Also, a course by Aarón Martínez, an illustrator and 3D designer, called Introduction to Adobe Illustrator is worth checking out if you want to learn more about the digital design and this particular software. 

There are so many areas of graphic design and if you know which type you want to do it will be a bit easier to know which graphic design classes to search for. 

What Design Resources Websites You Need to Check Out?

What Design Resources Websites You Need to Check Out?

Before the big online boom, designers much like any other creatives, needed to work on their own designs from scratch. Luckily, a lot has changed since those days, so now there is a huge array of resources to help create designs faster and more efficiently. Some of them you can get free of charge and for some, you need to pay a certain amount. Since there are countless of such sources, to help you get started, here are some I find useful:

photosUnsplash, Pexels, Pixabay
iconsIconfinder, The Noun Project
fontsGoogle Fonts, DaFont, MyFonts
vectorsFreePik, Vecteezy
videopexels, videvo
other paid
design assets
creative market

You’d also want to pay attention to designers’ social networks like Behance, Dribbble or DeviantArt for example. Here you can find lots of artwork displayed and get inspo for your next projects, or get in touch with fellow designers and artists. These websites can serve you as a good starting point for your online portfolio. Keep in mind that if you’d like to control your own content and have other liberties like having a blog or video feature it would be best to invest in making your own website.

To stay up to date with the latest trends in the industry, as well as get informed about various issues designers face on a daily basis, I recommend you add some of these podcasts to your list:

  • The Futur – This is by far my favorite youtube channel that also has a podcast. As a beginner designer, you can learn so much from Chris Do who is going through both the design and business aspects. The combination is essential if you want to sell your work and yourself as a good designer and work on projects that mean a lot to you.
  • Overtime: Here you can find in-depth interviews with designers from different backgrounds covering topics such as web design, user experience, graphic design, and everything in between.
  • Women of Illustration: This podcast will be particularly interesting to all women illustrators since it features fellow female designers giving advice on growing their business and developing their voice.
  • The Honest Designers Show: A dynamic chat between 4 experts who are essentially there to help each other solve designer problems and exchange thoughts about the areas they were struggling with. Since they are all very experienced, by following this podcast you will learn some tricks on how to work on your designs better.
  • Creative Pep Talk: This podcast will help you make great art and thus build a thriving designer career.


What do you think so far? Are you ready to jumpstart your career in graphic design? Whether you are a beginner or know a little more about graphic design, it is always beneficial to stay up to date, and keep on learning. In the second part of our Graphic Design 101 Starter Kit, we’ll walk you through the dilemma known as full-time vs freelance work. Yes, the never-ending battle between full-time work and freelance is still going strong, and both sides have some solid arguments. So keep your eyes peeled to our blog section, we’ll be posting the second part of our Graphic Design 101 Starter Kit pretty soon. 

Note: This post is part of our series dedicated to graphic design. We are going to walk you through the basics of graphic design and give you pointers on how to thrive and have a successful career. Stay tuned for the release of our eBook on Graphic Design!


Danica Celebic

Activist, content creator, and social media specialist by day; an illustrator and tango dancer by night. In constant pursuit of unique life experiences.

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