Becoming a graphic designer. Without going to design school.

By July 8, 2020 One Comment

Being a young Graphic Designer, when most people find out my profession it’s almost always followed up by the age-old question: “Oh, so where did you study design?” Well, I didn’t. 

I’d say the most reactions I get are “What do you MEAN you didn’t study design?” and “Then what DID you study?”. So, I go on and on about how I’m a self-taught designer to how I got into the creative industry and eventually landed myself here – as the Head Graphic Designer at Nimble.

Hold on, so what exactly did I study?

Let’s do a little flashback, to give you a little bit of a context of my educational background. I’m a communications graduate, specializing in journalism. (Yes, writing, so why not pursue copywriting right?) My first job out of school was in Client Management, followed by a Communications Manager role. My very first stint as a Graphic Designer was as a freelancer at Nimble, three years ago.

Now that we’re all up to speed, my initial credentials would never scream “The Most Qualified Graphic Designer”, because where in all that did I even pick up Graphic Design? That’s where I am extremely fortunate to have already a foot into the creative industry as I started to pursue a career as a Graphic Designer. The fact is, there’s more to a Graphic Designer than a diploma or degree – it’s what you can actually creatively produce.

Starting out

Learning how to grasp the essential tools as a Graphic Designer (Namely Adobe Suite) will be one of the most frustrating parts of your journey. I had always played around with Photoshop growing up, but I never explored software like Adobe Illustrator and beyond.

I had an awfully convoluted plan to wiggle my way into a Graphic Design job, lucky for me I found a more sensible route.


The first thing I did when I told myself “I’m going to be a Graphic Designer” was to download Photoshop and Illustrator (now I can safely say, they have become a software that I can work on with ease). I watched online tutorials to nail the basics, practiced on my own, and created personal projects to familiarise myself with the tools. 

I’m not going to sugarcoat it – it got tough, but you have to keep going. It’s easy to get frustrated and feel unmotivated when you hit a bump, especially since you’re learning alone and there’s no teacher or mentor to guide you. But whenever I met those bumps along the way, I always made sure that I could get over them, because only through the mistakes I made did I fully understand what I was learning.

Keep at it.

Finding every opportunity to be creative

It takes time to understand the basics of Graphic Design and it takes even more time to develop your own creative style. I’m still learning as I go along but this is where I can truly say practice makes perfect. It’s almost like I’m trying to make designing a part of my muscle memory – I want it to become second nature to me. 

Once I started getting the hang of the software, I wanted to start practicing on REAL creative briefs. No more random personal projects based off of Youtube tutorials. It was time to exercise my creativity. 

It might sound silly but after a month or two of self-taught design, I put myself up on a, a crowdsourcing site for anyone to hire top-notch designers for their projects. Realistically, I wasn’t expecting anyone to choose my proposed designs nor pay me for my work, but I was hopeful. 

Fast-forward weeks of design later, none of my designs were ever chosen by the clients. And that’s okay.

As I picked up these Graphic Design jobs from anywhere and anyone, I was being creative. I was getting used to the tools, finding what worked for me. I discovered new Graphic Design inspirations that I tried to emulate. It was all so hypothetical yet so real all at the same time.

That’s the thing, it might feel silly to be a dreamer, it might feel odd pursuing something you know nothing in, but all it takes is that ONE person who will place their faith in you to take you where you need to go as a creative.

All it takes is a leap of faith

As I said, my first real stint as a Graphic Designer was at Nimble. When Nimble was still at our small pink office, Bella’s sister, Nawwarah (who I went to school with 😉), slid into my DMs and her message read “Wondering if you’re keen to design a logo for one of my sister’s clients?”

I was ecstatic, to say the least. My FIRST Graphic Design job? My first client? My FIRST logo design.

Ok. Scratch that. I was terrified.

But I took the job, and bless Bella’s soul for seeing my measly portfolio (could I even call it a portfolio) and seeing some semblance of creative potential. That’s all it took, one person to believe in the work I was TRYING to do. 


That first logo design (which I must admit is not one of my best works) propelled me into more logo designs, then business cards, then digital artwork. And soon I had earned that coveted title of “Freelance Graphic Designer” which I so proudly updated on my Linkedin profile.

We’ll get there

I’m not going to lie, I’m still learning every day, I’m still working to perfect my craft. But 2020 me will always thank 2017 me, for pushing away my doubts and sitting down to watch hours upon hours of Graphic Design tutorials.

There were times when I thought to myself, no way can I get far as a Graphic Designer, I just don’t have the credentials! Eventually, I realized I never needed that piece of paper to tell me I could do it.

As cliche as it sounds, I don’t regret any part of the journey I took towards my career as a Graphic Designer. It actually made me stronger – a Graphic Designer with a communications degree meant that I see beyond just aesthetics of design but the overall marketing strategy too. 

So if you’re an aspiring Graphic Designer who has a background in IT or engineering or heck, even science! We’re so blessed with the amazing world of Youtube and online tutorials, we have what it takes to make it as a creative. With perseverance, discipline, downright crazy creativity, and a heart for the industry, I believe you’ll soon be getting the same questions as me too.

“Huh? You’re a Graphic Designer but you studied CHEMISTRY?”

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