6 Essential Skills That Every Design Professional Should Master

Estimated reading time: 5 mins

Design professionals are the heartbeat of most countries’ creative industries. They offer innovative products and services to solve many problems in several sectors. The UK has a vibrant design industry, with data indicating that the country has the second-largest design sector globally. As a graphic designer, there are specific vital skills that you can learn to provide more services to clients and gain a competitive advantage. So, do you want to know more about which skills to learn for your professional development? Consider the following points.

  1. Design Software Skills

According to experts, it is relatively common for graduates of design courses to complete their studies without any real, beneficial software skills. This situation isn’t necessarily bad; as long as you have a firm foundation of graphic design principles upon which you can conveniently add these skills as you progress through your career. However, this needs to happen sooner rather than later because more employers prioritise a wider range of skill sets from employees. Without a firm grasp of software like InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop, you will likely even miss out on junior designer jobs. 

Learning software skills is also beneficial to even experienced professionals, as it gives you a boost when applying for positions. Therefore, focus on software skills that will develop you in areas you are most passionate about. For example, you can try out WordPress to grasp web design basics, as well as Blender to sharpen your 3D modelling skills and better yourself as a graphic designer.

  1. Digital Photography

According to 2019 Statista data, the UK is home to about 83,000 employed and self-employed photographers, audio-visual, and broadcasting equipment operators. Visual storytelling remains a central aspect of graphic design visual content, so learning some photography basics is undoubtedly an investment worth your while. Photography helps designers better appreciate vital concepts like composition and lighting in images, improving your overall designing skills. 

Also, stock images typically lack the originality that is central to visual storytelling’s authenticity. Therefore, learning how to shoot photos is a huge favour you do for yourself and your clients. You can capture distinct textures, visuals, and backgrounds that you can use in Photoshop and other programs. Your clients benefit from more original photos in their work, while you can earn extra cash in your pocket. These days, mastering photography can begin with a simple desire to read more about putting your iPhone’s stunning camera quality to good use; photography is undoubtedly a skill worth perfecting.

  1. Illustration and Fine Art Skills

Although you don’t need a fine artist’s drawing skills to become a graphic designer, several experts agree that it doesn’t hurt to possess decent drawing skills. There are numerous benefits to having fine art and illustration skills like technical drawing, painting, and sketching. The ability to create basic sketches facilitates quick thinking and brainstorming of ideas as a designer. You can quickly test layouts and typography concepts through sketches anywhere and anytime without necessarily needing a computer for sketching. Technical illustration skills also help you to develop better and more complex designs and illustrations for various projects. By perfecting your painting and Photoshop skills, you can experiment with more concepts without worrying about how much paint and canvas you are wasting.

  1. Typography

Many design experts agree that typography is one of graphic design’s cornerstones and should undoubtedly feature in your list of areas to master as a graphic designer. Typography is everywhere; on websites, logos, brochures, posters, and anything that has text in it. Therefore, modern-day designers must select the perfect typefaces that create their unique identities, evoke emotions, and capture an audience’s attention to stand out from their competitors.

Besides grabbing your viewers’ attention, typography also makes text reader-friendly, gives your brand value and tone, creates harmony and establishes good information hierarchy. Also, proper typography conveys professionalism, gives your designs unique personalities, and builds solid brand recognition for your clients. Reputable brands like Disney and Coca Cola are known for their distinct typography logos despite having so many competitors. It is undoubtedly a skill you should master to transform texts into impactful visuals.

  1. Coding

Although coding may seem like too specialised a skill to master as a graphic designer, some experts advise that you master it for two fundamental reasons. Firstly, you don’t know what project your studio will be working on in the future, and with the industry increasingly focusing on digital, it is never a bad idea to upgrade your skill set to meet future needs. 

Secondly, learning to code doesn’t necessarily imply an all-out attempt to be the next prominent developer. Instead, even mastering coding basics can significantly boost how you communicate your visual ideas to developers responsible for implementing them. You can present moving prototypes and animations to demonstrate how your design elements will function, making your creations more interactive. You can even use this as a stepping stone to go into website design, UX/UI design, and other areas. 

CV Compiler’s recent industry study of 500 jobs revealed that many employees now expect entry-level and senior designers to possess CSS, HTML, JavaScript skills, etc. Therefore, a solid coding foundation is increasingly necessary to get more pay, better projects to work on and remain competitive in the design marketplace.

  1. Print Design and Production

Many modern graphic designers focus on the illustration and photo manipulation aspects of graphic design, neglecting technical aspects of the craftsmanship like print design and production. However, experts say that proper knowledge of print design is necessary to make a fine design professional, so consider adding this to your arsenal of areas to master. 

Despite the rise of digital in the industry, print media knowledge is still invaluable. Print production skills translate on-screen creations into real-world designs. Consequently, consider visiting a print production house to learn about the print process, dot gain, ink density and saturation, bleed, colour use, finishing, etc. This visit is particularly crucial if you intend to work in editorial, advertising, or even in-house design. 

All designers can also gain extensive knowledge that may come in handy in generating initial ideas and finishing specs. With many designers focusing on the digital aspect, working knowledge of print production might give you a competitive edge to distinguish you from the crowd.

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