In this new comprehensive guide, you’ll learn:
• Graphic Design Basics
• Best Tools To Go Pro as a Graphic Designer in Nigeria
• How To Come Up With Creative Graphic Design Concepts For Winning Big Jobs in Nigeria
• How To Build An Awesome Graphic Design Portfolio That Wins Clients in Nigeria
• Understanding Production Processes By Keeping The End in Mind As A Graphic Designer in Nigeria
• Advanced Graphic Design Tips and Strategies to Land Big Jobs And Win Juicy Bids in Nigeria
This is a complete guide to graphic design in Nigeria 2023.
If you want to build a high in demand skill, stand out from the crowd as a high earning graphic designer and win more high paying clients in Nigeria, you would love this guide.
Let’s get started.
GRAPHIC DESIGN BASICS
In this chapter I’ll cover the fundamentals of graphic design.
First, you’ll learn exactly what graphic design is (and why it’s an important, high earning skill today).
Secondly, I share how building a graphic design skill helped me land high paying jobs and clients in Nigeria.
What is Graphic design?
Wikipedia defines it:
Graphic design is the process of visual communication and problem solving through the use of typography, photography and illustration.
How about digital graphic design?
Where does digital come into play in graphic design?
Defining digital graphic design:
It is the incorporation of modern techniques to the graphic design process which spans creating graphics when you’re just starting out with your blog; design for print, advertising, multimedia, internet (web), packaging, signage, exhibitions, etc.
At the heart of it all, is the…
He/she plays an important role in harmonizing these factors to produce visuals with the primary intent to inform, educate, re-orientate, entertain and enlighten a specific audience.
Why is graphic design an important, high earning skill today?
Graphic design is extremely important because humans are majorly visual oriented.
A lot of actions (buying) are triggered by sight sensations.
An article gives us an example:
We tend to dismiss the effect of the beautiful people in the ads or those selling to us on our purchase decisions, as noted by psychologist Robert Cialdini who writes,
“In one study, men who saw a new-car ad that included a seductive young woman model rated the car as faster, more appealing, more expensive-looking, and better designed than did men who viewed the same ad without the model.
Yet when asked later, the men refused to believe that the presence of the young woman had influenced their judgments.”
This is what Psychologist term the “halo effect.”
Research holds that a good visual presentation not only fosters comprehension but drives sales.
In Deconstructing the Psychology behind Graphic Design piece by Shyrose Vastani, a Visual Designer, penned that psychology behind graphic design is basically about capturing the minds of potential customers.
She further quipped that designers need to understand the psychological parameters of design because every single color, typeface, shape and structure communicates a subconscious message to the viewers.
Also, the way it has been incorporated in design evokes certain kind of emotions.
As a graphic designer working in Lagos, I have seen awesome results from potential clients putting proposals in graphics rather than in grammar…all the GEES in the house?.
Hope you got that clear?
Today, if you’re looking for skills that are high-paying, graphic design is one of ‘em.
It’s trending right now that corporate firms, religious bodies, educational institutions in Nigeria are increasingly seeing the need to be more visual than texty.
Schools, churches, mosques, banks, insurance companies, oil companies are seeking to employ graphic designers full time to manage their internal visual, Digital and traditional marketing communication needs.
This is huge.
I was getting a bit puzzled up sometime ago when I got an invitation for an interview as a graphic designer in one of the biggest insurance company in the country.
What’s the relationship with graphic design and an insurance company?
Well that’s a topic for another day.
Just get the drift and you’ll be cool.
How Building Graphic Design Skill Impacted My Career Positively
Today, 89% of my earnings come from doing freelance graphic design work.
Landing my first full time job (with a very good pay) ever was because of my prowess in graphic design as an additional skill required.
(Even when post applied for wasn’t for a graphic designer)
You want to know?
Shhhhh…it was for a Pre-press Assistant.
The skill was a sure plus for me.
Thereafter, I have been landing great offers just because I kept improving my graphic design skills.
And not just that…
I have seen companies I worked for grow in leaps (financially) because the graphic design team I headed at the time was consistently churning out awesome work that impacted company’s bottom line positively.
Let’s move to chapter 2.
Best Tools To Go Pro As A Graphic Designer in Nigeria
Now let’s get into graphic design tools.
There are tools, yet there are professional tools.
In this chapter, I will show you tools I started with in building my graphic design skill.
Let’s get started…
Before I go any further, get this clear:
When it’s tools, I don’t really get sticky.
This is what I mean:
When I started my career in graphic design as an intern with a commercial press in Lagos, we used Apple Macintosh computers and professional packages like Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, Aldus Pagemaker and QuarkXpress.
Lucky me huh?
I didn’t start learning how to use the computer with a PC (Personal Computer running on Windows).
This gave me an edge amongst my peers at the time and not just that, a basis of comparison.
Since we’re talking visuals, the Apple Mac is way ahead of PC in rendering colors at a very high definition (in addition to it’s ruggedness).
Then the pixels?
If you want to go pro and do serious graphic design work (and you can afford it) stick with a Mac.
Affordability is key.
When I started as an intern years ago in a Lagos-based commercial press, our work flow was quite hectic (tedious I’d love to add):
1. Do all your vector based tasks on Adobe Illustrator
2. Work on all bitmap elements like backgrounds, photographs in Adobe Photoshop
3. Merge both vectors and bitmap on Aldus Pagemaker or QuarkXpress
4. Get a proof through the Matchprint proofing machine
5. After final approval by client, output final work to film through the Imagesetter.
6. Finally, send outputted films to the Lithographic unit for platemaking.
Quite a demanding workflow I must confess.
It wasn’t until I started exploring what was obtainable out there and some clients bringing jobs on package that I got wind of Coreldraw as a graphic design package.
I further discovered that 99% of graphic designers out there used Coreldraw on a Windows powered PC as their major graphic design software.
I thought to myself: “If I’d be relevant outside my current work space, I’ll need to learn Coreldraw and get acquainted with the PC fast.”
See: Flexibility is key in the industry.
So as I related more with the package, I learnt as much as I could.
But this time, it wasn’t the book route but the practical approach.
Hands-on I mean.
Finally, if you’d like to learn and go pro as a graphic designer, I strongly recommend learning Coreldraw in addition to Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Indesign.
These days having firm grip of graphic design packages and a good computer system is not enough.
Coming up with great concepts is key in landing great jobs and winning design contests or bids.
This is what I will be dealing with in chapter 3.
How To Come Up With Creative Graphic Design Concepts For Winning BIG JOBS
Here in this chapter, I will quickly take you through tips that have helped me churn out awesome visual concepts that have won me full time high paying jobs and juicy contracts as a graphic designer.
Let’s dive right in…
• Look at what others have done: In this aspect, you can’t really go solo.
If you want to come up with creative concepts for that design project that will stand out from the crowd, you need to first take a look at what others have done with regard to the project at hand.
For example, I wanted to come up with a design project for an envelope —simple as it seems.
My first step was to take a look at what was existing before coming up with a new concept.
If you look carefully, it was actually more than the design…It was also about problem solving (placing graphic elements to appeal to user).
Because my design work was a huge success, I have since worked for the client in multiple graphic design projects. Thinking helps in this light.
• Research for Inspiration:
After you may have seen what is existing, your next step is to go all out to research for stuff that would provoke you to do something better.
YES PROVOKE. You got that right.
For example, if you’re looking for ideas to design a church website, you would be amazed at the over 100 awesome inspiration to ignite your creativity to start.
Researching could take you into making use of pen and paper; go Googling; call a fellow graphic designer; visit graphic design blogs, forums, etc.
Resources for creativity, critical thinking and graphic design seems to be truck load. It’s just up to you to discover.
From Pinterest, Dribbble, Google, Freepik, etc…I bet you won’t lack a flow of continuous creative ideas to help you jumpstart that next design project.
• Find your flow:
How much emphasis can I really give this?
You see: every designer have their flow. It’s all up to you to determine your best flow patterns.
And hey not just that…but times when you’re at your peak in creativity and productivity.
Either adopting a night owl or an early bird work approach, determine what has worked for you over the years and stick with it… it’s that simple.
Now…let head over to the next chapter.
How To Build Awesome Graphic Design Portfolio That Wins Clients
In this chapter, I will show you how you can build a great portfolio that prospects love.
You can see how I structured my portfolio in categories to reflect all I do and position my business to attract great clients.
Before we get into the nitty gritty of our discourse…
Take this as point of emphasis:
Graphic design is majorly about visuals.
And as we learnt earlier:
Psychology of your audience is crucial.
Clients would always like to “SEE YOUR WORK.”
In your portfolio, you will need to show your skills in critical thinking and design to solve problems.
Project the best of your work in your portfolio.
A lot of thought and research should have gone into creating that visual communication piece meant to achieve a particular objective.
Charles Dairo, a Senior Designer and CEO, CKDigital, shares his thoughts on setting up a functional portfolio:
“When we started out at CKDigital, it was just a one page website that focused on our portfolio.
Our objective was very clear:
A prospect will land on our web page (from Google majorly) see our work; like it; contact us and ask for a quotation and that seals it.”
This is a clear example of a purpose-built, well thought out functional portfolio that worked great and attracted high paying clients.
Ofcourse, the CKDigital website have been rebuilt ever since, it still takes cognizance of functionality in design.
The point is clear:
Your portfolio must be well thought out and functional.
Now let’s get down to brass tack:
1. You can build a portfolio online or offline.
2. You can do both.
It all depends on the marketing strategy you want to focus on.
For me, I maintain both:
An online portfolio…
…and a brick and mortar type…
Depending on your specific needs, you could also build your portfolio from scratch (customized) or leverage on platforms with a wide variety of options.
It’s all in your kitty, take the ride.
Either way, ensure you show prospects, landing on portfolio page, your dexterity in visual communication and critical thinking.
Information is properly structured for easy communication.
COMMUNICATION IS KEY…
…ensure you keep this at the very tip of your fingers.
From my portfolio you can see how I structured it in categories to attract clients that may have special or specific visual need.
Understanding Production Processes By Keeping The End In Mind As A Graphic Designer
A graphic designer that does not have a production point of view may likely clog the wheels when his designs are reproduced.
In this chapter, I run you through the need to have production at the back of your mind when designing.
Take this illustration:
I talked to two graphic designers at two different occasions on the aspect of knowing about web design.
When I asked the question:
“Do you do web design?”
But answer usually goes with a twist: “I do the User Interface, UI, part of web design.”
Then I thought to myself: Hmmm…UI…
My thought led me to the question:
“Can you be a UI designer without having basic knowledge, skills in web development technologies?”
One of the graphic designers I mentioned earlier had on his complimentary card, when we exchanged contacts: “… begin with the end in mind.”
Having the end in mind in UI web design is basically understanding that, in as much as UI has to do with design aesthetics and having a firm grip on the principles of visual design, you will also need to understand the BIG WORD:
As recommended by Mike Locke, a California-based Senior Designer with ADB, UI/UX design should take a kick from getting a grip and organizing your thoughts through a mind map sketch; coming up with rough user workflow; fine-tuning the workflow; getting up with your wireframe and finally your UI visual designs…these all reflects something…
That you understand the tools; how best (by research) users will interact with them.
You have ensured that the objective of your web design project is met.
Let me take you through a similar scenario:
Quite a lot of people claim they are graphic designers.
Then I ask: “When you begin with your designs, do you keep the end in mind?”
…please keep calm.
I am just bringing in a relationship here.
Hope you get?
The end in mind for a graphic designer may be to produce his work on any substrate: T-Shirt, Ceramics, Paper, Card and lately on Screen Devices etc.
They all involve different production processes.
(Which he or she needs to understand.)
On the flip side, what is the ‘end in mind’ for a web designer?
That his/her final screen-based products: website, web app or mobile app, typically achieves the purpose for which it was created.
Wait a minute…
Let’s get back to our graphic designer —ofcourse our focus.
Being in the print industry for close to two decades, I’ve learnt that there’s nothing as bad as a “beautiful” or “fine” work that means hell for people in production.
(I’ve been caught in the web before)
Again, production processes differ.
Many times, back when I worked in pre-press (unit that handles origination –designs and prepares final work for image carrier –film or plate) we’ve really had a swell time going back and forth the pre-press and press playing the blame game.
If there were any problem on the press…
It was more of a reflex action:
The press guys would match down to the pre-press section pointing the “mess” we made.
Some of these issues could just be something that could be fixed if somebody cared to think.
Sometimes I wondered where initiatives was all these while.
Come to think of it, as I mentioned earlier (now for emphasis) this could be something that, given a little more thought (by the press guys) could have been resolved without any form of hullabaloo.
What’s the point here?
A Graphic Designer can’t really stand as a professional graphic designer without having some basic knowledge about production processes.
A well-versed, respected, experienced Digipreneur and graphic designer, Oluwafemi Jolaolu (popularly known as FJ) of Mastas Digital Solution in Lagos gives a master’s answer.
In his words:
“All artists must understand print process.”
He further said graphic designers need to know what printers go through to achieve what designers have in mind.
The graphic designer according to FJ must give room for everybody involved in the production process.
He sited an example: “In designing and laying out a book, you cannot put images, text at the edge of a page such that after job is printed, it becomes hell for the guy that’s going to trim.”
You will need to also give room for production errors in your design, He said.
This singular ignored aspect can make or mar your final product.
As petit as it may seem, like making your text black and ensuring they are overprinted can cause huge production “wahala” with bitter cost implications.
This is my submission for the graphic designer:
Whatever your production line your work is targeted, it’s just cool to have “the end in mind” of your production.
If you’re designing for print production, say offset, you will need to understand how the press works and how your job will be finished at Post-press stage.
This will help you factor all you will need in your design to ensure a seamless production.
To round this off, you need to be more of a production designer or artist if you like, to be functional and effective with your skill as a creative entity in the production mix.
Design these days has gone beyond: “The design is fine.”
It should be fine, functional and easy to reproduce.
That said, let’s move to chapter 6.
CHAPTER 6 (bonus)
Advanced Graphic Design Tips and Strategies to Land Big Jobs and Win Juicy Bids
Now that you have gotten grip of the basics to be a successful graphic designer, it’s time to share some Advanced stuffs.
In this chapter, I am going to show you some Advanced Tips and Strategies that you can implement right away to get great jobs.
Let’s go there…
• PRO TIP 1 Joint Demand Service:
Find companies, individuals that graphic design is inevitable (or a contingent) for their products and services.
TIP: Use Google and find “companies around me” to start with the ones closest to you.
For example a printing firm would always require a graphic designer.
A manufacturing company that produces packaged goods would require a graphic designer for their packaging needs.
The list is trending high with many organisations embracing digital media.
The need for graphic designers is growing.
I recently popped some related professions in Google Trends and found out that the need for Graphic Designers far outweighs logo and web designers.
Quite revealing and Cool huh?
Mind you that’s just the trend at the time.
• PRO TIP 2 Vacuum Out:
This strategy entails you finding out something lacking in an organisation’s visual communication items and fixing it for them for free.
If you want favour, offer value in return.
Take an example:
Recently, I checked up a school website and saw something I could do better.
Though I have not been contacted for further talk, it’s still cool to display in my portfolio.
Hope you get the drift?
• PRO TIP 3 Joseph’s Strategy:
Do something for the palace to get something from the palace.
If you want favour, add value first (Point of emphasis).
Sincerely show how your graphic design skills can help interprete the dreams, vision and aspiration of a big firm you’d love to work or partner with.
Don’t wait for them to call you, go out of your way and do stuff for them for FREE INITIALLY.
• PRO TIP 4 Customer-Centric:
Yes, there are every possibility that you’re good at what you do.
But it shouldn’t end there.
Learn how to be customer-focused rather than skill-based.
On an online forum, a fellow graphic designer strongly advised:
“Customer relationship is very key, don’t play with this if you do, you are finished I repeat finished , the difference between two awesome designers is how they treat their customers.”
One of the best ways to avoid hassles, conflicts with clients is to have your terms and conditions well spelt out from the onset.
Let your clients know what to expect from you: number of visual options; creative rationale; number of reviews; final deliverables; exclusive rights agreements and other relevant things pertaining to the contract.
• Pro Tip 5: Ten Testimonial Strategy:
Master FJ gives us his winning strategy I termed “Ten Testimonial Strategy (TTS)” that can help graphic designers land big time gigs.
He takes us through a powerful exercise and system that has worked wonders in landing awesome high-paying jobs.
“List 10 Potential Clients and get in touch with them.
Work for the first 3 FREE.
Ask them to give you referral / testimonial to take to the 4th one and charge half your fee.
Go to the fifth with all the 4 testimonials.
They’ll be amazed that you’ve worked for such big clients, brands and very much willing to engage you (especially on pro bono basis or OSHO-FREE levels?).
The 6th prospect would be your big hit that’ll most likely pay for the first 5 sacrifices.
Rinse and repeat this last level ensuring you get testimonials for the next.
By the time you get to the tenth, you’d be no doubt established.
Am so excited to try this out.
NOW, IT’S YOUR TURN!
Wow, what an amazing journey thus far.
NOW, over to you.
I would love to hear from you.
What are you taking away from this piece?
Which one of the tips and strategies do you want to try first?
Is it the “TTS” or “The Customer Centric” approach.
Either way, let me know by dropping your comments below right now.