How To Improve Design Skills For 2021

As digital and graphic design technologies keep on advancing day by day, it can be quite challenging to balance your creative needs with all the marketable skills required for career advancement. If one wants to reward his/her career with new design skills, then learning new technologies is more important than anything.

Staying up-to-date with new web technologies and diversifying your skillset may be a daunting task. But once you get on that path, this will definitely let you break through a vicious cycle of being stuck with some dead-end jobs. So, understand the value of upskilling. Try not to underestimate the value of learning about the design industry online.

In this post, we are going to talk about where to begin in order to upscale design skills to make more money or get hired for design jobs in 2021.

Learn how to make a step forward to upscaling design skills

Whenever it comes down to learning a new set of skills, evaluate what your current situation is and determine what priority is specifically for you. Decide where exactly you got frustrated and how you can move forward. 

Have you been stuck with a job that does not give you a path forward? Or with a tired bag of technical tricks that don’t do much for you anymore? Break free of the shackles and start drafting your potential ways for the future! Just get out of your comfort zone and get started. Challenge yourself. Set yourself adrift in a new sea. Take your time while exploring new design solutions before you start a challenging project. 

Don’t be afraid to expose yourself to graphic design that challenges you. Take design courses online you’ve never taken before. Document examples of graphic design you learned through these courses. Pick up publications you’d never pick up and note examples of design that clashes with your assumptions. Even try to immerse yourself in a subculture online you’ve never explored. Learn how it represents itself through design.

Try a design tool you’ve never used before. For example, break out the paints if you’ve only ever done work in graphic design digitally. Or borrow a digital stylus or any other implements that you’ve never used before in your design projects. Use new tools for your next project to reshape the project while executing the design.

Undertake a project where the mission is very different from the ones you’ve ever done in the past. Let its objectives propel you in new directions. Respect the problems it forces you to try and solve.

Don’t stress out about how much time it will take to learn new design skills

Yes, graphic design is a competitive field. So, stay passionate and it will become a profitable field to be in! Spend some time learning programs and different areas you may not have been taught in formal training. For example, find passion in a UX visual design field or digital publishing design.

If (for some reason) you feel that you’re not good enough to keep up with the competition or too afraid that no one will hire you, then spend time training yourself. Take online courses created by professional designers and UX engineers, learn about digital publishing, and find your niche. The graphic design market is highly competitive but also interesting. 

Therefore, if you do it with passion, it will make it much easier to work in and stay employed. So, do some research, learn with courses online, and don’t be too hard on yourself. Since you’re going into a marketable field, with enough knowledge you’ll know how to market yourself more effectively. Besides, in-demand skills are not like the fashion industry where trends change with every season. Once you learn and master them, those skills will never fade away and will serve you for a long time.

Learn coding languages to improve your design skills

If you want to become really marketable in web design, then stick to web development. A good understanding of website management will help you with creating graphic elements and will expand your opportunities. Once you get solid skills in web development, you’ll never lose your clients. Talking from the personal experience of other web designers, they’d do some front end development when they just started. However, after a while, most of them wanted to broaden their skills even further.   

Of course, there will always be people who do everything better and faster than you. But don’t worry. As long as you stay focused and do your job well, you will be fine. Find those who are willing to help you with web development – front or back end. Try to find a partner that will be able to help you to learn coding languages more effectively. 

There is so much to keep up with development these days, so many technologies to expand to. If you know HTML/CSS, you can do work on the server-side and become a great full-stack developer. Pretty priceless.  

Work on JavaScript skills because this is still a primary scripting language for client-side programming. Javascript will let you do things that would be hard to implement with HTML or CSS. JavaScript is heavily used for resolving server-side programming tasks. No wonder why JavaScript is still so popular. However, bear in mind that web development is just another industry used for creating expansive and interactive websites. In other words, don’t limit the things you influence yourself with to only web development alone.

Learn skills that can create additional revenue streams

No secret, most graphic design skills are used for advertisements, social media, flyers, posters, logos, T-shirt prints, etc. All these design projects bring additional revenue streams to graphic designers. And all the necessary skills that are able to create these designs can be learned quickly. If you take one or two online courses, you’ll learn them even faster. Big bonus right there.

Stick to those skills that you’d want to spend your time on learning and then working with on a daily basis. If you can’t imagine doing something or anything in terms of design for at least 20% of the time, then don’t worry about it. There is no sense in learning this skill then. 

Also, graphic designers can draw additional revenue streams by doing branding. In fact, branding is a matter of ads. So, skilled graphic designers are able to design any kinds of ads that can be later used for branding. 

Apart from the designing process itself, a skilled graphic designer can guide and lead their design and make it the exact way they want to. If a designer has enough qualification, they can entirely do this part on their own. Branding is one of the branches that require a set of different diverse skills, so learning those skills is a good idea for graphic designers. If they want to make more money, of course.

Learn about requirements for your dream design jobs

Have you been pondering what new skills you need exactly to become more marketable? Then hop on the job boards to find out what current requirements for the job of your dream are. Make a list of these requirements and use it as a map for yourself to know how to land the job you’re after. 

Once you made a list, make a step further and learn the skills that you need to add to your current skills. Scout around LinkedIn to see what highly professional designers’ portfolios look like. Check them out and find inspiration! Nothing is criminal about learning from the experiences of other designers. 

If you do lots of hands-on research, you’ll get a much better idea of the most desired skills that companies want. This approach is more effective than doing a whole bunch of random guesses about what is that you want to learn. 

Look at some most sought-after career options below and take notes:

  • Web Publishing.  Requires website design skills in implementation and maintenance, as well as honing their skills in using HTML. Also, you’ll need to know website publishing programs, such as DreamWeaver.
  • Computer Graphic Design. This area requires skills in photo editing and paint programs, as well as basic computer and technical skills.
  • 2D and 3D Design. You need to develop skills in designing and constructing 2D and 3D forms.
  • Digital Photography. This area involves photographic processing skills along with image manipulation and creation skills.
  • Digital Editing. Requires skills in editing and manipulating animated images.
  • Desktop Publishing. Skills in this industry include design techniques, electronic production, image and file management, printing, and page layout.
  • Drawing. In addition to developing drawing skills, practice skills in perception, conceptualization, observation, and expression.
  • Visual Design. The visual design needs not only a lot of creativity but also a solid knowledge of color theory and visual presentation skills.
  • 3D Modeling.  To be good at 3D modeling, you’ll need to hone skills in software like 3ds Max, Blender, SketchUp Pro, MilkShape 3D, and Pixie.
  • Raster Effects and Imaging.  Requires to be very good with Adobe Photoshop. Software specific skills include editing with raster software, creating special effects, and scanning.
  • Vector Design and Graphics. Work on your skills using Adobe Illustrator.
  • Flash. Designers develop skills in creating a website using video, sound, and 2D vector animation, programming, and implementation.
Think outside the box and learn beyond your area of expertise

Another effective way to upscale your expertise is to try projects that go beyond the limits of your current job. In the same industry, of course. For example, if for the most part, you’ve been dealing with web design projects, look what other projects are out there in mobile development. Why mobile development? In actuality, mobile development is not that different from web design. For example, you can transfer your knowledge that you gained while building websites to creating a mobile app.   

Go ahead and try UI design or visual design because it is a lot easier to move to those areas if you are a graphic designer. Being a graphic designer and knowing UX design is pretty seamless. Basically, you are laying out a structure and adding functional ideology to it (buttons, forms, animations, etc.).  

Key points to think about:

  • Moving to UI design is far easier for a graphic designer, than UX design.
  • Moving to visual design is even easier.
  • Visual design is kind of a middle ground between UI and graphic design.
  • UI/Visual design is more likely what you would enjoy.
  • UX design requires more different skill sets.
  • Many hiring companies don’t understand UX and think a UI designer is a UX designer. So, wear the hat (if you want to) and odds are they’ll never find out.
  • Once you move into UI design, it’s going to be far easier to move them again into UX design.

A graphic designer is the most suitable person to become a UX designer rather than a business analyst, project manager, data analyst, etc. In order to start learning UX, one should have a blunt of knowledge between design fundamentals and user info. Designers have a true advantage here. 

However, when shifting from graphics into UX, keep in mind that just as graphic design can become cluttered with unnecessary stylizations or distractions, and so can UX. Therefore, maintain an objective perspective in UX design based on the experience you are crafting.

Last but not least, most design industries cross-over quite a lot. If you want to focus on UX, you’ll need to specialize in interactivity and technology. Being solely a graphic designer will not put you in a competitive position if you just want to do an occasional website. Even within UX and Graphic design, you’ll still need to find a niche to differentiate yourself.


Remember, most graphic design graduates aren’t very good at what they do at first. That’s why many seek additional mentorship willing to do lots of side projects so they’ll get better with more experience. Often it’s the little things that take a design from being “meh” to being “oh, that’s great!”. Knowing how to address those little things intuitively takes experience and time.

The other challenge is working on your own projects vs. working for others. A good designer needs to learn how to design for others and not as much for yourself. This basically means learning how to view criticism without feeling offended. Remember, even bad criticism has some value. So, seek it out! Accept criticism with appreciation. Whenever someone offers to improve your future work, learn how not to take it personally (as someone pulling you down) and also don’t take it for granted. Accept it, embrace it, and learn from it. 

Once you get really good at something, go ahead and teach others! Teaching is an effective way to explore your own skills and creative abilities even further. When you teach others, you build new connections and find like-minded people, which can greatly contribute to your future projects. Build an online course and offer it online for others to learn from! That way you’ll contribute to the design industry and receive more feedback about your own work.

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