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Like the title describes. My profession is NOT graphic design. On the other hand, I occasionally work with those who are and would benefit from being able to better see things from their perspective.

Where should I go? What should I focus on as I try to brush up on concepts?

Thank you, -b

PS: I am not looking for this to turn into a Photoshop tutorials thread. I am interested in background, not implementation.

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This is a bit overbroad. Maybe you can narrow this down a little to specific fields of graphic design (web design, app design, print, etc.). –  Lèse majesté Jan 30 '12 at 20:36
For the love of Christ himself, never ask a designer to 'make it pop'. Jokes aside, the other guys here have a pretty good list of things. The best one is to be open about your knowledge of design. We know when people are trying to talk the design language, as the old saying goes 'you can't kid a kidder'. –  James Earnshaw Feb 5 at 16:23

4 Answers 4

up vote 5 down vote accepted

You've got a good start - don't try to pretend you're something you're not. Most folks will respond much better to "I am not quite sure of the process involved here - can you go into a little more depth?" than to someone obviously trying to fake it.

If you're looking for the underpinnings of graphic design, look at things like:

  • Color theory (which colors work together to create certain moods, feelings, etc.)
  • Page layout (placing elements in certain ways to ensure people look at them as well as knowing how different cultures look at pages in different ways)
  • Basic concepts of UI design such as redundancy (an elevator button that says "Up" as well as showing an arrow pointing upwards) and common visual cues (putting a push panel on a door that you want people to push and putting a pull bar on the other side)
  • The design process, which involves generation of a concept (or several concepts), feedback (from clients, users, other designers - this is otherwise known as "watching your beloved little puppy that you've groomed and fed and raised from birth being dropped into the dog fighting ring")
  • Trends in design (shudder). What's cool now? What are the major movements, schools of thought, prevailing aesthetics, etc.

Ask. Ask designers you know, look on web sites. It's okay if you don't understand or like everything you see (I sure as heck don't). Challenge things that don't seem right. Get opinions from diverse groups of people.

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You made my day with "...beloved little puppy ... dog fighting ring" :) –  Alan Gilbertson Jan 31 '12 at 0:19
We used to call jury day in college "the dogfight". –  lawndartcatcher Jan 31 '12 at 12:58

I'd like to add a few more points, this relates to the business side.

  • Understand what the client's needs are. This will help you in your research, approach and delivery

  • don't be afraid to try different concepts. think: mild, average, and out-there.

  • develop good communication skills so all parties involved know what to expect. Use email, phone calls, send rough-drafts, etc.

  • continue tweaking your design, there is always room for improvements. It's the little details that will make your work stand out.

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The biggest thing to understand is that the solution should always be viewed and critiqued in the context of the target audience and business objectives. Those that aren't directly involved in Graphic design certainly have opinions, and often valid, but they often fail to realize they are their own personal aesthetic opinions and they may have little to no bearing on the design problem that trying to be solved.

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Personally, as a graphic designer, I love having constructive feedback, not just from other trained professionals within the field but people who know very little about the art form. This is a great way, I find, to improve my work.

Designers will recognise influences and understand the piece as a piece of design however this isn't always positive. Truly great design work isn't work that only appeals to other designers like some sort of In-Joke. Great design can and should be recognised by everyone. It may technically good work, but it also needs to be fit for the purpose and the consumer - and 9 times out of 10, the consumer isn't a designer.

My advice to you is, if you are genuinely interested in design, read blogs and magazines such as Creative Review just for the enjoyment and for you own taste within design. But in the main be constructive with feedback, and let the designers act upon it as they see fit.

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