You don’t always have to spend money to make money. There’s plenty of free information available and it is now possible to learn how to design online. Here are twelve great tips, all at no cost to you.
1. Learn Your History
You might think that design’s path through time is irrelevant, but understanding the cultural and technological shifts that have led to current trends is essential for being the best designer you can be. For a comprehensive look at the history of design, see DesignHistory. For a more pop-cultural approach, try DesignIsHistory.
2. Understand the Basic Terminology
Do yourself a favor and study this. It’s a basic glossary to start familiarizing yourself with the industry lingo.
3. Navigate the Design Blogosphere
You already have a head start on this one. Creative Market is just one of many design blogs worth a read. Take some time and pick out blogs that speak to you and your aesthetic. We recommend DesignTaxi and Smashing Magazine.
4. Follow Your Favorite Designers on Social Media
These designers post great articles, artwork and inspiring advice. There are lots more to follow on this roundup.
5. Research the Greats
Take some time to understand the minds and perspectives of great designers of the past. There is plenty to learn from the geniuses that have shaped our field, so study them carefully. Start with these movers and shakers: Saul Bass, Paula Scher and David Carson.
6. Study Other Designers’ Work in Online Marketplaces
The internet is the best way for new designers to display their work. Study what is selling and what isn’t, and try to identify why some designers are successful while others remain unpopular.
7. Use Free Adobe Alternatives
If you’ve been around this space for enough time there’s one truth that you’ll eventually have to come to terms with: design software isn’t cheap. Until you can afford the pro tools, use the many free alternatives available. Pixlr is a great Photoshop alternative. Inkscape is closer to Illustrator/InDesign. Snapseed (iPhone) and Snapseed (Android) are amazing on-the-go design tools for your handheld device.
8. Take Free Online Classes
9. Watch Great Design YouTube Channels
10. Watch TED Talks on Design
TED Talks are like free mini-master classes, so you should have a basic understanding of the design world before watching. The more you know about the field, the more you’ll get out of each talk. Here is a curated list that we created to inspire you.
11. Practice by Recreating Your Favorite Work
Take a look at some famous graphic design pieces and try to recreate them. As you do so, don’t just trace them. Instead, envision the entire creative process behind the designs: what was this person thinking about when he/she decided to include this? What was the communication goal here? Put yourself in that designer’s shoes.
12. Make Something New
There’s no better way to learn than by doing. Don’t underestimate fun, free projects that take you out of your design comfort zone. No matter how rough or overwhelming it gets, finish these projects. At the end of the day, these are the opportunities that allow you to explore your range and grow as a designer.