Can you be a Graphic Designer with no formal training?

I am a graphic designer, I have no formal training, no qualifications. Sometimes I don’t even know what I’m doing in Photoshop. Don’t even get me started on illustrator and all those other ones that I pay a monthly subscription for.

But despite all that I am a graphic designer!


Do you struggle to say that exact phrase?

If you are self-taught like me, I bet you do. When people ask what I do, and I tell them I’m a graphic designer. I then follow it up with saying that I make and sell printable artwork and greeting cards for my own business. Or that I do props and promos for productions that I have been cast (as an actor in). Despite all the work and knowledge that goes into my designs, I am typically asked what my day job is or something along those lines.

What qualifies as a qualification?

In my opinion, the line is blurred in the creative industry. I started a design and engineering degree a couple of years back. But I soon found that it wasn’t the right path for me. In the first few weeks, we were taught about learning styles, and I soon discovered that structured learning wasn’t for me.

I’m an impatient soul, and I want everything now. I don’t want to spend three years working through work that I don’t want to know or already know to get a piece of paper that says I am qualified to do what I am already doing right now. It would be different if I wanted to design cars or something equally technical, but I don’t. I want to design greeting cards and stationery.

Both feet!

So, I jump right in, with both feet. I play with photoshop and numerous other design programs and press buttons and see what happens, and press undo if it doesn’t look right. The worse comes, and I can’t figure out how to do something, there are support forums and professor google.

And this type of learning is my type of learning! And to be honest, it fits in pretty well with the creative industry I want to work in. It would be great to get a job with one of the prominent greeting card designers or even the smaller ones, but I’m equally happy to have my own business and put my little stamp on the world that way.

I am a graphic designer

But being self-taught does have its downsides. It can be slower, in the long run, programs like Photoshop can be very daunting to a newbie and can sometimes be very off-putting. But does that make me any less of a graphic designer? Maybe so, maybe not! But I am here to share my knowledge about the technical stuff anyway.

What do you think are the most significant struggles about having no formal training? And does it impact significantly on the creative process? How can I help you on your journey? I would love to hear your thoughts, so please leave me a comment.

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  1. lizzillusions

    Someone has to comment, might as well do it myself

  2. Laura

    Absolutely love the site Lizzie. Well done 😊

  3. Adam

    I too am self taught, started in 97 and do alot of private work. Ive been a print buyer for 10+ years, print estimator for 5 years and basically self taught is the best way.

    Refreshing to read this and good on you!!!


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Lizzie Emery

Lizzie Emery

Loves Acting, designing things, my family, going to fan conventions, the colour green, geeking out,  binging on TV shows, custard creams and the perfect cup of tea!

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