“I bought Photoshop, will you teach me your tricks?”

Clients have said to me before, “I wish I was more artistic, then I could just learn the software.” Turning on a computer and installing Photoshop does NOT make you a designer. It will lead to frustration and poor quality. You want to learn the tricks of the trade? Here’s how.

I have some natural artistic ability. I always have. But it was a raw asset that required much honing. In college, I began an intensive, four-year program for a Bachelors of Fine Art (not Art, not Science—Fine Art) in Graphic Design. I spent long nights in the campus art annex, working for hours on drawing, sculpture, or painting class assignments. I kept journals of effective use of color, patterns, techniques, and type. I drew countless self-portraits (because let’s face it, friends will only sit for your drawing so many times before they’re tired of going numb). I studied art history, color theory, and photography, preparing research papers and presentations for them. I was reviewed and approved for a design track and began taking classes on information design, web design, illustration, concept development, typography (that’s the study of fonts—yes, fonts), and printing technology, to name a few.

I dedicated my life to solving visual problems. Earning this degree consumed my days—and most of my nights—for years. I also worked part-time at a printing company, and then at an advertising agency. Upon graduation, I had a full-time job and was ready to begin my career, but that was just the beginning. My college experience was nothing compared to the pace and volume of work expected in my professional life. And since you can’t fit more hours in the day, I could only practice working more efficiently. I've been freelancing for the last 10 years, and I've had a LOT of practice.

The truth is, there are no tricks. If you want to do it yourself, great! Go to school and get the proper education. The world always needs more highly qualified designers. If that doesn’t appeal to you, then allow yourself to recognize the graphic design professional as a valuable part of your marketing plans.

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