9 Technical Skills You Should Master as a Graphic Designer

Working as a graphics designer is demanding, and employers expect top-quality work—regardless of whether you freelance or have a full-time job. To deliver on these expectations, you must possess several technical skills.

These skills are spread across several fields, and mastering them will help your work stand out. They’ll even help you find new ways of thinking about graphic design, all for your benefit. Are you ready to see what they are? Right, let’s jump in.

1. Digital Typography

What is digital typography? It involves choosing and combining the appropriate layout, font, and color palette, among other things, for a digital image or design. As a graphic designer, you must understand the principles of digital typography if you want to create designs that stand out to clients and viewers alike.

You will use several aspects of typography while working, including tracking, alignment, leading, and kerning, key elements of typesetting. There are also theoretical principles behind certain typographical choices; you should learn these to understand how and why some designs look better than others.

Finally, you don’t want your designs to irritate viewers and distract them from the primary message. So, knowing how to fit different typography options will help you optimize your designs for compatibility.

2. Coding (HTML, CSS, JavaScript)

Coding knowledge is essential for graphic designers who also work on web design. While you’re unlikely to have to build a website, you may encounter minor coding issues and bugs. Knowing how to code can help you solve these without too much fuss.

HTML is particularly valuable as it helps you comprehend how the front-end development of a website works. It lets you understand what will be displayed on the site. Conversely, knowing CSS is essential to understand how the site will display your work. Consequently, you’ll be better placed to design the visuals that best fit the website and appeal to its users.

3. Design Principles

The most important design principles to understand are hierarchy, white space, repetition, contrast, proportion, and alignment. Each principle brings a different detail to your work, enabling you to create visually appealing, well-balanced designs.

Alignment refers to the structure of your design and how the elements are laid out. A properly aligned design typically looks sharper and more harmonious, allowing viewers to glide over the images without stumbling on out-of-place text or unnecessary lines.

The best graphic designers also employ white space in their work as it provides a calming backdrop to stimulate viewers visually. When paired with appropriate contrast effects and appealing patterns, white space can be the core element that makes a fantastic graphic design. Tools like Adobe InDesign are fantastic for effectively learning to apply these principles.

4. Branding

As a graphic designer, a key part of your job description will be branding, whether for your full-time employer or client. Branding involves creating an identity that incorporates a brand’s values and ideas.

Thus, you must know how to incorporate those elements into the brand’s visual imagery using illustration, photography, typography, and other basic design elements. Additionally, keeping the brand’s identity consistent across various platforms is crucial, and your work should resonate with the brand’s audience.

5. Color Theory

Color theory is the set of principles that guide how graphic designers use color schemes and selection to communicate with users. It typically involves understanding human psychology, culture, and optics and how these factors combine to make color an integral part of human perception and judgment.

You can take color theory classes to help you understand how color palette tools work. Some great classes include this beginner’s guide on Udemy and another on LinkedIn. Thus, you will know what design choices to make and can defend them if you have to.

6. Ideation

Ideation, also known as idea generation, refers to developing new ideas and concepts. As a graphic designer, it is one of the most important skills you must cultivate as you’ll need it when working on new projects.

Idea generation involves researching and evaluating various concepts. These are important for knowing what to work on and how to do it. Of course, brainstorming with your client/employer is key to figuring out the basic requirements, and you go from there.

One popular technique you can use while going through the process is SCAMPER (an acronym for Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to another use, Eliminate/Elaborate and Rearrange/Reverse). Alternatively, you can employ moodboards.

7. UI/UX Design

While this skill isn’t required as a graphic designer, knowing it can be advantageous in your career. The techniques and principles applicable to UI/UX design are similar to graphic design principles. They can help you create more engaging, user-focused visuals that appeal to more viewers.

Furthermore, several employers now list UI/UX design as a bonus skill in graphic designer job descriptions. So, if you’re familiar with UI/UX design, you have a better chance of landing those jobs. And, of course, you may be able to negotiate a better financial deal with the employer/client.

8. Photography

Learning photography is something many graphic designers find useful as it opens you up to new ideas on how visual elements work together to create different effects. Finding a photography style is more complicated, but you can look at various websites to find photography inspiration.

You can also take photography lessons to improve your understanding of space, color, and other visual elements. In the long run, knowing how to apply photography principles like rhythm, repetition, balance, and unity to your work can be the key difference between you and the next guy going for your dream job.

9. Portfolio Management

As a graphic designer, maintaining a portfolio is non-negotiable. Your portfolio is the key to getting more work and better opportunities, allowing potential clients and employers to see what you can do. Of course, it should contain your best work, and keeping it fresh and updated is a no-brainer.

While creating a portfolio isn’t easy, maintaining it and making it as attractive as possible is even more important considering the competition. Consequently, you must learn how to manage yours effectively. Things like laying out your designs properly and using social media sites like Instagram, Pinterest, Dribbble, and Behance should be top of your list.

Finally, you should know how to let your portfolio reflect your brand through its aesthetic and tone of voice. As your work evolves, update your portfolio, allowing it to reflect your design style and growth.

Improve Your Graphic Design by Upskilling Now

Graphic design is built on specific, time-proven concepts, and combining those with the above skills can take your career to another level. If you follow basic design principles throughout your creative process, developing innovative ideas will be easier for you, and you’re more likely to land a dream gig.

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