Sample Chapter Excerpts from How to Succeed as a Graphic Designer

We want to open your eyes to the potential and reality of becoming a true design professional. Here is a quick taste of what you can expect from reading Designers Insights. We’ve carefully selected some edited excerpts from different chapters to give you an honest feel for the content, our advice and our intentions to help you become all you can be in the business of graphic design.

1. “Here’s your opportunity to increase your professional value while you increase your potential in the graphic design marketplace.”

Our intention is to assist today’s aspiring designers by giving them inside knowledge that will make them more valuable in the marketplace in any economy.

Perhaps you feel that you have tons of creative talent, growing ambitions and are ready to conquer this creative business and make a name for yourself. Or, maybe you feel you are not that creative, that you have limited talent and therefore feel less ambitious and wonder how you’re ever going to make it in this creative business.

By showing you how to improve your design capabilities, the resulting positive leap forward will lead you to better paying positions and create a more satisfying, rewarding, long-lasting career… in any market, recession or business climate. What we will share with you will provide you with more than job security. Our insights will give you employability.

Our objective is to give you all the facts you need. It may not always be pretty, but you will know everything you need to know about this business. We will give you the cold, hard facts. Some stuff you will not want to hear, but need to.

By the time you’ve finished reading this Guide, you’re going to be pumped up to succeed! You will gain all the key knowledge and information that you need in order to create the right career plan, put it in motion and find the right people to associate with.

2. “We’re passing along to the next generation the special knowledge we’ve gained from our years of professional experience in the design business.”

At, our mission is to preserve the quality and integrity of what made graphic design a great profession in the past, by sharing our knowledge for the future.

We are passionate about great design. Let us share with you our observations and concerns, and why we thought it was necessary to publish Designers insights at this moment in time.

We believe that connecting with the next generation and integrating our proven, quality concepts is a key strategy to exposing them to industry practices and knowledge. How can we expect our clients or the general public to see or acknowledge the difference between good or bad design, if the next generation of designers can’t even see the difference for themselves? It’s our role, our responsibility to pass along this precious knowledge.

On one hand, we have never had so much creative control over our work with the innovative tools at our disposal today. But on the other hand, we quickly forget what made our profession great and so in-demand by business. At this rate, most of our traditional design knowledge is going to be gone forever if we are not diligent.

3. “Three basic skills you must master to become a successful graphic designer and build your professional career with.”

These skills provide the foundation for any high quality graphic design project. It has nothing to do with your creative abilities; but everything to do with style, form and function. These are the basic skills you are no longer taught in school that can make the difference between true professional graphic designer services compared to amateurs, who also use Apple computers and the same software you do to generate their simple little graphics.

Regardless of your creative ability or lack of creative ability, if you master these 3 basics skills you will have a long and successful career in graphic design anywhere in the world.

Skill 1 – Your ability to create and consistently use a layout grid and understand how various layout grid systems work.

Every design project starts with a layout grid. Always. No exceptions. We don’t care what look you are going for, but if you haven’t figured out by now your layout grid system for that particular concept, you’ll never be able to repeat that look consistently, your project will never have visual harmony.

A layout grid is the invisible force that gives the visible its structure and holds everything in its proper place.

Skill 2 – Your ability to strictly use and apply basic and advance typographic standards to every project.

You may have mastered the use of layout grids, but if your typography skills are weak, you will never advance to the next level of what makes a true senior graphic designer or art director a true professional. In our opinion, “Type is everything” to a design. It is the definitive line that separates the amateurs from the pros. It is how we communicate complex messages effectively.

The greatest designers always had a love affair with type. It’s a great mistress, a great passion. Sometimes you fight with it, but when it clicks, and things are coming together, that is where true magic happens. We will repeat it again, ‘type is everything’ to a design. It is the beginning and the end of success in graphic design.

Skill 3 – Acquire highly-developed……

4. “We’ll tell you things you’ll never learn in school, what you’re responsible for and help you create a lasting impression with the people you do business with.”

Fortunately for you there are still skills and craftsmanship that can be transferred from a Master to an apprentice, but that only happens in the real world. If you are lucky enough to work with the best, you will study with the best and possibly have a chance to also become one of the best. It’s that simple.

School curriculums have somewhat lost touch with the real working world. The truth is, it’s not the school’s responsibility to teach industry standards.

Don’t get us wrong though. School will always have its place and is very important in your development as a designer. For most people it’s a transition period from youth to adulthood. From being dependent to being independent. From not working to being in the working force.
You will learn fundamentals in school. Since it is not the place of an employer to teach you how to use a computer or a software, school is there for that reason and to introduce you to the realities and expectations of the workplace and indirectly, the lifestyle of being a designer.
So, if you’re truly seeking that superior knowledge and experience, it is only available from a Master practitioner. So our advice is find your Master and use him or her as a mentor.

5. “You need to overcome your dependence on design software and rediscover the lost art of typography.”

With the coming of the digital age, young designers have lost basic typographic knowledge and awareness of strict rules that need to be followed. In its place, the responsibility became that of the software programmer who relied on mathematical averages to kern type instead of basic human typographic knowledge and know-how.

It’s true that 20 years later, software and type foundries have become better at typesetting, but to the trained eye: the senior designer, art director or the master typographer, a machine will never typeset columns or headings the way a human with the right knowledge can. It’s critical that these skills are still learned and understood. It’s critical that we share and pass along this precious knowledge because the next generation, today’s designers, are also practicing typographers.

We strongly recommend that if you want to follow trends and even be able to predict accurately what will be the next big thing, you need to constantly study graphic design books and industry magazines from around the world and always be on the lookout for who and what is HOT. Get all the subscriptions you can. Read all the design books you can lay your hands on. Visit as many websites as you can.

But what most young designers don’t know or need to be repeated is that every thing has always been done before. If you wish to be truly creative you need to study the old ones, the true Masters, the people who invented it all in the beginning. Most young designers have never heard of the great legends who have made graphic design what it has become. Master typographers like…

6. “The art of visualizing is the real secret of creativity that stimulates your imagination and your development of conceptual design.”

When you are visualizing or imagining something you are entering the special zone where everything is created. Our imagination is our most powerful tool of creation.

Creation is happening all the time. All creation starts in your mind, not on your computer or a piece of paper. Experienced designers never turn to their computer for ideas. It always starts with the process of analyzing what the client’s wants and needs are. This is followed by them visualizing and really focusing on seeing the final product or image in their mind’s eyes. As you gain more experience, you will also start to intuitively know exactly what would be the perfect fit for a certain type of client or design project.

We never immediately work at the computer if we don’t have a clear idea of what we’re going to do. We know it’s going to be a big waste of time and end up being very frustrating. What you should always have, before you start rendering anything, is an idea or picture in your mind and learning to visualize is critical.

The key, when you are visualizing, is to only focus on the end result. That is the only thing that should interest you. Never dwell on the problems because whatever you give focus to will develop and grow. Give all of your attention and energy to the final product because the final product contains all the solutions to every problem.

Whatever you focus your mind on, you will bring to fruition. Visualize on what you want and what you want will soon start to appear as a picture in your mind’s eye. Remember, your mind is the most powerful, creative tool known in our universe.

Knowledge is inspiration. Just like in any field, you have to train to get better and this also applies to creation. First you need to be inspired. The best way we know to get inspired is to start looking at other people’s work.

Of course you can start by buying a bunch of current design magazines. Go through them with your enthusiasm and passion. Search for that gem of a design. That one which stands out on the page. Take notice of the design credits. You want to know who designed it. Who was the designer, the art director and the studio it came from? Pretty soon you will be able to start recognizing that designer’s, art director’s or a specific firm’s style on other projects they worked on.

7. “Service is everything! Being a designer you are in the service business. Better get used to it!”

Client service in the design industry is multi-dimensional. And all of it needs to be quality. So here are some tips for successfully living the reality of client service.

The client IS always right. Even though that is not always the case. Clients must feel that they are making the right decision. The challenge for the designer is getting them to believe in you and have faith in the recommendations you put in front of them. Getting them to that point means you’ll need to educate them…because they are NOT designers (even though some think they are).

You need to become a good listener. You need to be diplomatic. Senior designers and art directors know that giving the clients what they want and expect is more important than proposing a design direction, concept or graphic style that they think would be perfect for that job, but realize it could be an uphill battle to sell.

Clients need to feel that the project is a collaboration and that they are working together with you to produce the best possible result. You need to explain to them the issues you are dealing with so that they do understand. Making informed decisions makes clients feel comfortable and at ease.

So just face it, a designer is in the service business and the best sales people, the ones with the most interpersonal skills, will have met with a lot of success in their career if what they deliver in terms of product and service is of superior quality. If you are passionate about design and love what you do, selling will be easy and contagious. It has a strategy all its own, that once learned, is never forgotten.

A client needs to get a sense that you have their best interests at heart and not yours. Always find time to work and develop new connections. That’s the best and fastest way to grow your business and meet with greater success in your design career.

Designers with the most success know how to make themselves indispensable in the eyes of their client. They have found ways to service them in a personal way and it’s not because they are the most creative. One thing is for sure, successful designers are all excellent listeners. So listen to your clients and hear what they are saying. They want you to clearly understand their needs.

You’ll quickly come to know something about the fundamentals of the business of design. It’s built on creativity, but it’s maintained and nurtured on client service. Never forget that.

8. “You can succeed as a designer during any downturn in the economy.”

As today’s economy stumbles forward and industry sectors continue to suffer while trying to rebound and adapt to the changing business models, graphic designers are also feeling the effects of this global shake-up. Here are some general observations and recommendations that will provide you with job security survival insights, should you be feeling the uncertainty of the situation.

Some people are always looking for good job security. They figure that if they could just skim through life without worrying about their job that would be the best life ever. They are always hoping to get a ticket to jump on the train that will swiftly bring them through life without ever having anything of significance disturb their job security. I don’t know about you, but what a boring career that would be.

Let’s face it people, you should forget about job security, that was your parent’s battle. Ours will be about creating opportunities and cooperation. Forget about competition where there are a winner and a loser; the winners of the future will work in cooperation with others to succeed in this global economy. We can say with certainty that gone to the Far East are the manufacturing jobs of tomorrow. Today, a western company needs to work in cooperation with an eastern manufacturer if they want to be profitable.

Rich countries will need to be very creative to maintain their standards of living by creating new jobs and opportunities. The traditionally poor countries are starting to create middle class citizens and the whole world is now watching, wanting the same things and wanting the same opportunities. Our economy now depends greatly on the health of the global economy and the world’s riches are starting to balance themselves out. Western designers are already competing with eastern designers on the Web.

So here we are today. You can work for the biggest design firm, that’s been in business forever, but no business can be protected against the next economic downfall or the next recession. That business can be out of business in a heartbeat and you’re left out on the sidewalk with your false sense of job security.

The only real job security is your employability. When you are really good at what you do and have acquired many skills, you become very difficult to replace. You need to make yourself irreplaceable, indispensable. Employability is truly the only job security you’ll ever have in today’s economy.