So I think I've come as far as I can with design by teaching myself. I really need to polish my graphics up and even look at better understanding fundamentals of design, as I have no formal training. So for someone like me without a formal education in design, what would you guys suggest in terms of online classes, books, and good tutorial sites for becoming better at PS, Illustrator, and overall a better designer (including typography, layout etc). Basically the closest to earning a degree without going back to college.
I understand the concept of practicing - but practice only makes perfect when done correctly. I can golf and golf and golf, but if my swing is horrible and never corrected, it won't do you any good. I'm at that point where I'd like constructive feedback, and would appreciate the formalities of proper art design education, short of going back to another degree of course
I was thinking about joining Tuts Plus and take all their online courses and tutorials. Also live by one of the biggest universities in the US, see what kind of night classes they have.
Are the books not of any interest?
It is a tricky question Bades, because there are so many aspects wrapped up in design. Certainly learning to use the software is a part of learning, but there are many more aspects to good design that are independent of a computer.
If you want to hone your craft I would start by reading anything that interests you and take note of those things you really like. Some people love working with illustrations but aren't so fussed on Photoshop work. Others are the complete reverse. Others like to be familiar with both and use them together.
You are right though that practice can only take you so far. Real world experience is where the tools of the trade meet the harsh reality of deadlines, complaints, restraints, budgets and boards. (Sounds appealing right?). If you want to get some experience ask around your friends and make yourself available for some freelance work. Work with charities and mock up products for them, logos, letterheads. Treat it like a real job and take the time to learn as you go. There will be no shortage of sports clubs, community groups etc that would love to use your current skills. Offer them a few hours for free.
Here at the office we often get approached by new grads. Their portfolios are great and full of wonderful examples of what they've done. But often they lack the speed of being tied to a deadline with a budget. Or they lack the refinement of a client's demands to use only 3 colours. Design is a fantastic craft but it rarely operates in a vacuum. There are few people who get to work at the top tiers where the magic of endless revisions can occur.
There are tons of ways to improve your design, but ultimately unless you have some goal you are working towards there is no incentive to do endless tutorials.
One of the simple ways I improved my photography was by reading art books on perspective. Don't be averse to trying avenues you may not think have immediate relevance.
No, books are great, and I plan on picking a bunch up. Just trying find something a bit more substantial. I feel like I need that environment where I can receive constructive feedback from seasoned designed folk. Perhaps online classes, local university classes? Stuff like that
Just expose yourself to a lot of perspectives and find time to really dedicate some time to practice whatever you learn. Online classes are also great, except that most of them are not for free.
Things that helped me:
Learn about visual heirarchy - very important in design
Learn about white space in design
Do as many photoshop/illustrator tutorials as possible (one a day if possible)
Look at blog posts which contain site inspiration - expose yourself and pick out things you like and try to emulate them
Download as many fonts/textures/brushes as possible
Design as many sites as possible
Try designing in loads of different styles - if you always design sites with drop shadows and gradients, do something minimal with only black and white, if you only use flat colour, try and use textures
Experiment with different mediums to achieve effects (scanning, photographs, different themes)
Practice practice practice! If you're committed you'll get there in the end
Hope this helps
Practice, be confident.
Appreciate, don't immitate.
Teach yourself and let others teach you.
The best way to really get up to speed on your design skills is to refresh your vision and imagination. You should look around and see what is being done now a days with other people. Check out their work to see the quality level you need to match. Of course doing some tutorials will also help you get back that skill set.
Yes, that's very worthwhile, especially as you can also look under the hood and see how they did it. It's like a painter learning from other artists—essential, really.
I think you'll always have to be learning something yourself. If you feel you've hit a wall, find a way to push harder
If you want to get back to basics, focus on Typography, Layout, Proportion, Alignment etc. They will do wonders for your work over the latest photoshop tutorial teaching you how to apply fancy effects or gradients.
For typography I recommend
And of course, just keep working on new projects, comparing with other designs and constantly asking 'how can I make this better?'.
You need to look around at tutorials and garner the basic skill set first. I also recommend looking at the trendy techniques now. Design now is different than design 2-3 years ago even. Times have changed and you need to know what effects and what trends are popular for NOW.