Design 101.

August Radjoe
7 min readMay 9, 2018

Creating clean,crisp,loud yet subtle designs from absolute scratch.

I began design as an exercise in productivity during the Summer of 2015.As the vacations in the schools rolled,I was left with but homework,cricket and design.Being the only child of Indian parents-and being a little proactive in the matters of everything digital myself-I was enrolled in a design workshop that would last 3 weeks,where they taught us the basics of Autodesk’s 3DS Max,Adobe Premiere Pro and of course,Adobe Photoshop.However,over the summer,I learnt more of how to operate a tool,rather than solve a problem with it-to state it otherwise:I was a painter with a brush,but no eyes.Summers rolled after that,Photoshop remained a skill I could brag about for about a year or so,and as sophomore year of High School came by,I dropped out of touch with Photoshop and all the nuances of practical,digital world-I would focus more on theoretical concepts in Mathematics and Physical sciences-and don’t get me wrong,I loved them and would deem it essential.Friends and strangers alike ask me nowadays-”Where do I begin design,Abhinav?”-And I’ll be honest,I have no answer!

My entry into this field was gradual,and I am yet on the foundation steps to truly become a good designer,I have no answer catered for them.But as time passed,I realized that more and more people would love to be introduced to this field-primarily for three reasons-Low entry barrier,Visual and pleasing results and the increased demand in the industry for designers-and hence I decided to put together this whole article-where I discuss tools,resources and ideas to use when designing.

Let’s tackle the elephant in the room first-

Adobe Photoshop & Image Processing

Yes,hardly is there anyone unaware of this beast.No competitor,not Gimp,not nothing has been fabricated to combat this giant-and if you’re wondering if Linux-based mobile devices could compete with Photoshop-the answer is no,get off your Androids (or iOS/Windows phone for that matter).

So where do you begin to learn Photoshop?
Before I answer that,I would differentiate between Graphic design and Photo Manipulation.Graphic design is the creation of visuals from absolute scratch,while photo manipulation works on existing images to form visually stunning results.Graphic designs use Vectors,often and Photo Manipulation uses Rasters.
“What is that?”

Rasters are made up of pixels,it is a dot matrix data structure (Technical blu-bla-uah).Vectors are,at its simplest,formed of Mathematical functions (Not much better of an explaination than that of Rasters.)
What this means for you,aspiring designers-is that if you are forming graphic illustrations et al.,you need vectors-because Vectors do not pixelate when you zoom in,and Rasters do.

An example from Wikipedia’s article on Vector Graphics

You might be wondering why did I upload a snapshot of a wikipedia article and not the actual wikimedia image (titled: Vector Graphics).

Simple-The image uploaded was a vector in SVG formats (One of the famous formats for Vector publishing-in union with EPS and PDF),and does not support SVG,so instead of converting it to JPEG (Classic Raster) and risking quality,I took a snap of it as PNG which provides loseless,compressed images-basically,the optimal for web.

Now,all of this wall of text will be used to highlight the difference between two adobe products-Illustrator and Photoshop.

You might have had heard of Illustrator from several places,and in the simplest terms,it is used to form vector graphics from scratch.It can also convert Raster to Vector-but only for certain range of colors,like you cannot convert a picture clicked from a camera to vector in Illustrator,however you can convert a logo you made in Photoshop to vector in Illustrator.While Photshop is mainly raster-based,the text and shapes in Photoshop arerendered in vectors (till you actually Rasterize it).

So which one should you learn first?

It’s ok,if your designs pixelate-to resolve that,choose huge canvas sizes,or vectorize your designs later on,but start with Photoshop.It is more marketable (or recognizable by non-designers),quick,multi-purpose,and not annoying.Then once you’re three months into PS,switch to using both,PS and Illustrator.All that jazz about tools is useless,you need something more than these tools-Vision,and we’ll talk about that later.

Learning Photoshop

Meh,don’t waste too much time over here.
I know,sounds counterproductive-but trust me,once they throw you in shallow waters,you’ll learn to swim,and then build courage to swim in deeper ends.Obviously,you need tutors for the first few months,but yes,if you’re not practicing,you’re losing.

Here are some places you could learn Photoshop from (Note:I have not used any of them,but they are critically acclaimed):

Learning Image Processing

Basically,it doesn’t get better than this:

Learning Color Theory

“Having small touches of color makes it more colorful than having the whole thing in color”
Dieter Rams

Color theory is of ultimate essence,unless you are a hipster Instagram user hellbent on the ways of Greyscale.

Here are some good tools for getting the color right:

(If you have better resources,do tell me so,I’d update the article.)

Learning Design Theory

Ah,the key to differentiate good designers from designers.I shall continually update this section as I remember or come across more ideas.

Links are in order of importance (Note:I have the first one pinned in my room,just so you know,and the rest are decent,but I haven’t tried them out as much) :

And the books:

And inspirations (One of the most effective ways of learning-imitate them,not copy,but imitate)-

And add Pinterest and Canva to the list,and suggest me some more.

Your main motive as a designer is to make it work.
Between Amazon and Myntra (Indian e-commerce with a niche market in Fashion),Amazon has greater reach-despite being poorly designed.Why?
Well the international market and availability of wider range of product helps-but the design works.

It’s horrible-for a company that rolls out Kindle,one of the most beautiful devices to exist,but it works.
So does Reddit-horrible design,but it works.This article by WIRED is a great read,give it a shot.

The only bad design that actually annoys me is Quora,the design is obstrusive,it doesn’t let me do what I want-So I don’t like it,some people may,some people may not-but I personally loath it.

Resources for design

It is safe to use Reddit,trust me.

Also use r/freedesignresources (it’s a subreddit,Google it up) on Reddit.

If you need any stock photos for free,Google “<Insert what you need> Free stock photo” or for vectors/logos/graphics “<insert need> free vectors”
I personally use this:

And also:

For Mockups,once your design is done:

For fonts:

And with that I wrap up.
There is nothing to conclude,no TLDRs-oh wait,I have one.


Don’t waste your time focusing too much on the tools on photoshop,pick up a project-do it.

Also,if you’re doing Product design-make unobstrusive,balanced and invisible design.
As D.Rams once said-”Less,but More”

If you’re making posters or logos,look up how to work on those,or comment below to tell me to write another one dedicated to that.It’s not all that different,but concepts differ by a margin.

Now,pick up a project,sit down,and do it.
Need a project idea?

Make your Portfolio/Resume in Photoshop.

Or a business card or anything.

That is a simple start,and if you have nothing to put on that resume,write what you want to be in the next few years.

Go for it!



August Radjoe

Now: MS CS @ Boston U / Prev: Ignite Tournaments, DeFi Alliance, Persistence, Eth India Co