Avoid the clown suit
Seth Godin on how to get better at graphic design:
Simply throwing type or a picture up will definitely put the information in front of people, but it won’t carry with it all of the care, insight and professionalism you want and need.
We don’t tolerate typos in commercial products, and the market has the same feeling about design that’s lazy or out of place.
Graphic design represents an emotional commitment to the work. Long before we read the words or understand the images, we see the layout. Kerning and color and weight and form arrive in our brains before we have decided what the words on the page actually mean. You wouldn’t wear a clown suit to a job interview, and yet people dress up their ideas in clown suits all the time.
Don’t defend your work with the generous critic. The entire point of getting better is to eagerly abandon the approaches you were taking on your way to gaining new skills that are more effective.
If what you’re designing looks right to you, then it’s never going to improve. The leap here is to go shopping. Find ten websites that succeed by whatever measure matters to you. Go to a bookstore and find ten book covers that represent the level of authority and professionalism you seek. […] Find some heroes. Understand the genre you’re working in.
A direct copy is not what you’re going to publish, but at least you’ll understand how to add the level of care and signalling and understanding of genre that’s needed to get the emotional element of your point across.
I really appreciate the approachability of his writing, and how he boils it all down.