Along with adding things up and tending to rope burns from gym class, art is something that kids pick up early on; after all, a line of blue paint or a hexagon with a pair of legs are still the only things parents want to stick on their fridge. It’s a shame then that it’s not possible to teach an enduring artistic ability too – by the time we got to High School, many of us were drawing hands and feet with the grace of a gorilla newly introduced to pencils.
There’s an unaddressed need for art skills among adults though – writing a résumé, creating an avatar, making Christmas cards or building a video game (not as niche an interest as you might think; coding is more popular than playing football in the UK) all benefit from design chops. It’s also valuable in blogging – nobody wants their website to look like a Geocities site from 1997. Ultimately, being able to draw can be a money saver as well as a point of pride.
So, how does the regular Joe or Jane get started with turning three decades of incompetence into artistry? Here’s a quick 101.
Inspiration & Styles
Let’s say that the one thing your blog needs is a personal logo, something that conveys your identity better than Times New Roman ever could. The first step is to put “personal logo” into Google Images or a more specialized website like Dribbble or Behance. Looking at others’ work might sound like an obvious step but there are few better ways to get a bead on what’s popular with professional designers and just how heavily they value simplicity of form.
The go-to style for novice designers is “flat” design. Beautiful and minimalistic, flat design favors single colors and logos based around geometric shapes – add a shadow, and it’s done. Apple recently switched from realism to flat design for its icons after iOS 7, as too did leading TV and movie streaming service Netflix. However, you might be looking at the archetype for flat design right now – Windows 8. There’s not much in the way of shading in its successor either.
Case Study: Online Casinos
Artwork for marketing and computing excels when it’s kept simple. As an industry focusing on a younger audience, the casino industry provides a useful case study for design enthusiasts. For example, Betway, a site that is reviewed as one of the best sites to play at, emphasizes its various properties with single colors – green for in-play betting, red for Vegas-style games, and pink for bingo. Other casino related sites that provide details reviews on the casino brands like this genuine Canadian source, use their own design integrated with the brands style. It’s important to mention the design style of the online casinos is effected dramatically by the software provider of the casino that set the complete style of the casino gameand slots types, a good example is Microgaming software that gives most of the English specking casino sites their style tone.
Similarly, the developers of online casino site Casinoland also seem to favour minimalistic, flat design, with its UI and icons taking a lot of inspiration from the aforementioned iOS. The operator’s use of rounded corners, another popular trend that arguably began with the birth of Web 2.0, on the site’s imagery also adds a touch of flair and informality to its overall aesthetic.
Check out some of the logos on the casino review site Online Casinos Canada for a cross-section of design trends in the industry – also a great sample of how designers within the same industry try to differentiate in design without going so far that the association is lost.
Equipment & Learning
Here’s an unpopular opinion: don’t bother with a graphics tablet. Unless you’re willing to spend upwards of $200 on a budget Wacom, the average gaming mouse is precise enough for most newcomers, especially given that many of them, like SteelSeries devices, have DPI switches to increase (or reduce) sensitivity. There’s no reason why a standard Microsoft mouse should cause problems in software like Adobe Illustrator though.
Software can prove a barrier to entry (the latter app costs between $19 and $29 a month) but, as with just about everything available on the internet, free alternatives do exist. The obvious candidate is the GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) but Inkscape is an attractive, powerful option for people without a budget to use too. Digital art revolves around the SVG format, a type of graphic that can be scaled to any size without a loss of fidelity; put another way, you can draw it once and use it anywhere, from mobile phone to Apple TV.
So, you’ve got your drawing program installed, how do you learn to use it? With the right mindset, it’s possible to learn just about anything online, from art skills to coding. YouTube is the obvious starting point but tutorials and entire courses can be found on Udemy and Lynda. It’s also worth noting that Adobe has made public extensive, free documentation for using its software (including how to create logos, flat design armadillos, and emojis), content that may transfer to other programs.
Finally, it’s impossible to become an artist, designer, programmer, or adopt any new skill without practicing. To quote Bob Ross, “talent is a pursued interest”.