How to Become a Graphic Designer Without a Degree

How to Become a Graphic Designer Without a Degree

Many aspiring creativity can’t afford to go to traditional art school or simply don’t have the time. However, now more than ever, people are proving these roadblocks are just myths by pursuing their creative passions in unconventional ways.

Skills You Need as a Designer

While you can learn how to be a graphic designer without a degree, you will still need a few basic skills to succeed in a professional graphic design environment.

Software Skills

Whether or not you have a degree, you will need to have a good grasp on design software. Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator are common design software tools, as well as InDesign for those working in print. In a professional environment, it’s likely you’ll use these design tools on a daily basis, so it’s worth getting familiar with them now. Fortunately, there are many ways to learn how to use these tools outside of a traditional college or art school.

Client Management and Communications Skills

Beyond creating beautiful designs, you’ll also need some basic business skills to succeed in a professional environment. For example, you should understand how to interpret and design based on a creative brief, create realistic timelines, and manage client expectations and communications. You will need to be open to feedback, with an understanding of how to incorporate those revisions into your designs until the client is satisfied with the final product.

Basics of Design Theory 

In addition to any innate creative skills you bring to the table, you will also need to understand the basics of design theory. This includes typography (arranging letters and text in a visually appealing way), balance, proportion, scale, and color.

User Experience

In design, user experience refers to the process of creating(creativity) something that is both visually appealing and functional. If you are designing web sites, for example, they must not only look good, but be easy and intuitive to navigate from a user perspective. Understanding the basics of user experience can help you become a more effective graphic designer.

How Do You Become a Designer?

Creativity Equipped with the necessary skills and a portfolio that showcases your best work, there are a few routes you can take to become a graphic designer:


One of the best creativity ways to break into the graphic design world without a degree is to make connections with other designers, as well as other professionals in the industry you’re targeting. Those connections can be instrumental in helping you land a position when a role opens up.

Establish an Online Reputation 

If you don’t want to seek out jobs in the traditional sense, you can also work to proactively establish an online presence. If you regularly post incredible work and attract enough followers, you can establish your reputation as an expert level graphic designer—which can help you more easily find a job.

Hear From a Successful Graphic Designer Without a Degree

Designer and top Skillshare teacher, Dylan Mierzwinski, is a great example of someone whose creative career didn’t begin in the classroom.

Teaching (and learning) on Skillshare has given Dylan the ability to practice what she calls the cycle of art: learn, do, share. By sharing her self-taught skills, she hopes to empower students to take risks and try new things. Income earned through Skillshare has also allowed her to focus on projects that she’s most passionate about.

“Financially, Skillshare has made it possible for me to move toward my real dream life as an artist. I mean… did you read that? I get to make my dreams a reality. (Cue cheesy 80s family sitcom music). I no longer have a 9-to-5 traditional design job that drains my creative energy with no payoff.”

Dylan’s tips for launching a creative career or side hustle? “Just start—my tried and true motto that gets me going on the regular. Just start somewhere, and follow the path it leads you down. Maybe you’ll start with a specific tool in a program, or maybe with color theory, or a designer whose work you like. It’s all connected, so just get going. And don’t use Papyrus or Comic Sans if you can help it.”

Possible Career Paths for Designers 

As Dylan proves, graphic design is certainly not a dying career. In fact, there are more options than ever for creatives interested in the graphic design field. Some potential career paths and specialties include:

Web Design 

This is a popular specialty for graphic designers. While this career path includes creating the overall design for a website, it also incorporates elements of user experience, including buttons, menus, interactive elements, and more.

Logo Design 

Graphic designers are often hired to create not just logos, but entire brand identities. This means that your design process could include taking a logo you created and envisioning it across an entire organization, from its signage to marketing collateral.

Marketing and Sales Graphic Design 

In many aspiring creativity organizations, there are ample opportunities to design marketing and sales collateral, from brochures to ebooks to trade show display materials. This type of design often spans both digital and print, so you can apply your skills in a number of different ways.

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