5 Habits Of A Good Graphic Designer

  1. Create and use your resources

If you are a designer working solo you may not have access to instant feedback as you would if you were working for a company or on a team.  There are several great resources online for designers and thanks to social media, a lot of groups you can join online as well.  

When I get to something I can not just google, I contact a small group of designers I have come to know and respect over the years.  In time, your resource group will grow organically.  One way to make it happen more quickly would be to join art and design groups on facebook or meetup.com.

Through local art groups, I have found a lot of talented designers that have become my friends and are always inspiring me.

Another option is to simply ask friends and family.  I used to work as Art Director for a popular radio station creating all kinds of promotional art.  I would create a document with about 5 different versions of the artwork for a promotion, place it on the reception desk and ask anyone passing by to check-mark their favorite design as well as write down any feedback.  Just because people do not have a background in design, doesn’t mean they don’t know when something looks good.  Plus, it brings a new energy to the work, it’s more inclusive and it’s fun.  Asking for feedback is a 90% guarantee that you are going to come out with something better than you originally started with.

There are several websites that provide great design support as well.  A few of my favorites are http://www.w3schools.com/css & youtube.com for online tutorials.

  1. Set a proof/review deadline well before your client’s final deadline.  

Proof, proof and then have the client proof again.  Nothing is more painful then sending the printer a file with a crucial error on it.  

Make sure that if you are working in illustrator or photoshop that other layers are locked so that nothing else gets affected when you are editing the file.

After every change, no matter how “little”, have the client review it again and confirm it is what they want.  The last pair of eyes to confirm a project should ALWAYS be the clients.  Ideally you will want to proof it off a printed copy and not off the computer.  It also doesn’t hurt to “sleep on it” and send out the final version the following day.

You may have seen the joke going around about how a designer saves his files…


The reason for this file naming is to be sure that you do not end up sending the wrong file to a client or god forbid the printer.  And believe me it happens the best of us.  

Clients always need their project done yesterday but don’t contact you until tomorrow.

Give yourself 12 long hours into a project, a million “little changes” and see what happens.  Even if you get the client’s changes correct, you could possibly screw something else up in the file just by editing it at all.  Every time you tweak a file, there is a chance of screwing something else up.  This is why we save files as…, “Final1.jpg”… “Final2.jpg”…etc (like in the picture).

You could also try creating a new folder altogether and calling it “Final 4 Printer” or something to that effect.  Then save your final documents into that new folder.  Although you may end up with a lot of “final” folders.  “FinalFolder1”… “FinalFolder2”… etc.  🙂

Another option is to save a file with the current date in the name, “FinalCopy12-4-15.jpg”.  However that won’t work if you are making changes hourly.

  1. Know how to provide the files…

If you know the end results for your clients artwork, you can provide them with exactly what they need.  Typically logo design or any graphics used for print should really either be a hi-res jpegs or in an eps/vector based format.  

In the case where a client does not have the software to be able to proof an eps, you can always save the file as a pdf or a jpg. Just remember, when you start getting into saving alternate formats for proofing it can get messy.

Best way to send most files to a client for proofing is a pdf because you can send that same exact file, (usually) to a printer who can convert it to whatever they need.  However, I have run into a situation where someone was using a printer overseas and that printer did not know what to do with a pdf.  So live and learn.

I have completed artwork for highway billboards as well as for business cards.  I like using vector based images because it provides one solid image.  In other words it’s not breaking up into pixels like a jpg file.  This is good when you want the end result to be versatile, easily used for small or very large print jobs without losing quality.  The programs also run faster when you are working with vector art which is also a nice added bonus.

A lot of the time client’s do not understand this lingo and if you can get them to put you in direct contact with their printer you’ll both be better off in the long run.  Find out directly from the printer how they would like the files provided.  Often, the printer will even have templates for you to use for various print jobs.  

  1. Use design references & brush up on your skills

Picasso once said “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” That can be a very taboo topic in design.  However, when you want to create something genius for a client, it is helpful to look at the work of the geniuses that have come before you.

I use lots of different references depending on what I am looking to achieve.  

One reference I use a lot is art magazines and they are free to look at at the bookstore. My favorite magazine to look at for layout or advertising is “Wired Magazine”.  They have always had the best designs.  I also keep several logo design books around for reference.  You can probably check these out at a local library as well.  I use Design DNA “Logos”, which is great because they actually dissect the logo.  for instance, a cursive font may display femininity while the color brown adds a more masculine feel.  You can buy this book in paperback on Amazon for around $4.  

Another option to improve on your design skills is a weekend crash course.  I have done several and it doesn’t matter if you’ve been doing design for 15 years or just one.  Everyone has something to learn.  I was using Photoshop and Illustrator for probably 10 years before I went and took a weekend Adobe Illustrator course at the Art Institute of Atlanta.  My work and time improved immensely.  

There are countless online tutorials for brushing up on this or that, or how to achieve a specific effect, etc.  Be sure to do shoutouts for the designers after you have used their tutorials.  It’s the least you can do when someone just taught how to create inverted text along a circle path.  You can also subscribe and share on social media to help them out.

  1. Put the mouse down and back away from the computer…

Most designers are artists at heart.  When you start putting all of your passion into your client’s needs it can be creatively draining.  It’s important to get away from the computer and get back to what you love.  And it doesn’t mean you are not still working on your client’s artwork.  

You may need to draw a dragonfly or a frog for someone’s branding.  It can be a lot more fun and rewarding doing this offline in a sketchbook in a park or sitting in a cafe with a hot mocha latte’.  It rejuvenates you, it shakes things up.  Staring at a bright screen all day can be a creative killer.  Get up, get out and get back to what you love so you can give your client something that they love.

© Jessica Warren