Graphic designers that are creative and skillful are in high demand. Graphic designers are visual communicators that create compelling designs that transmit ideas, information, and emotions across numerous media platforms. They play an important role in establishing company identities, advertising campaigns, website designs, and more, because to their particular skill for putting concepts into visual form.
If you love art, design, and technology and want to break into the ever-changing world of graphic design, this thorough book is for you. We’ll lead you through the steps you need to take to obtain your dream job as a graphic designer, from understanding the role and its criteria to creating an eye-catching portfolio and acing the interview.
Each creative agency employs team members in roles specifically qualified for the service the agency provides. Some of the most common roles in a creative agency are:
- Designers: Part of a creative department, they produce creative output, such as advertisements, websites and mobile apps.
- Creative directors: As the leaders of the creative department, they oversee the work of designers to ensure they meet client standards, and they approve finished projects to deliver to clients.
- Accounts representatives: These representatives work with clients to understand their business and goals, then share clients’ needs and visions with the creative department.
- Researchers: These specialists investigate market trends and demand to help clients make informed decisions.
- Copywriters: Responsible for creating written content for various mediums such as websites, social media, advertisements, and more. They ensure that the content aligns with the client’s goals and brand voice while also being engaging and effective in driving conversions.
- Content creators: They’re responsible for creating a variety of content, including visual content, such as videos, infographics, and images. They work closely with designers to create cohesive and effective content strategies that align with the client’s goals.
A creative agency could be a standard version that focuses on one element or a full-service agency that delivers several related services. For example, standard advertising agencies often specialize in simple advertising campaigns in a single medium, but a full-service advertising agency may create an integrated promotional campaign with social media, traditional print and offline event components.
Becoming a graphic designer can lead to an extremely rewarding, fruitful and challenging career that allows you to work on a wide range of creative projects. You often find graphic designers in roles like:
- Art director: Art directors are creative executives that work in industries like television, advertising and fashion. They oversee the design artwork for a project and guide the team’s vision from conception. Though they often work as a full-time employee, they are sometimes hired as a freelancer.
- Production artist: Production artists are tasked with completing design work that satisfies the desired specifications. Though they have little influence on the creative direction, they play an important role in the design process.
- User experience (UX) designer: The primary responsibility of a UX designer is to create websites, services and products that are both accessible and enjoyable for users. These professionals often work in web design, but they can also be found designing and testing a wide range of products, like automobiles, computers, gaming systems or software.
If you’re hoping to start your career as a graphic designer, you should follow these simple steps:
1. Pursue formal study
Yes, some people do become graphic designers without the benefit of formal education. But a university degree remains the most safest and most reliable route into the industry. And it’s not just about getting a job – a thorough grounding in design theory and practice will enable you to do that job well, too.
That said, not everyone can afford to take three years out of the workplace to study. Also, it has to be said that some design degrees still leave graduates lacking in many of the basic skills and aptitudes needed in today’s design workplace.
Both of these factors have led to the rise of short, intensive courses, now offered by the likes of Shillington, Hyper Island, Escape Studios and the new Strohacker Design School. These can get you trained and agency-ready in as little as three months, and are well-respected within the industry.
2. Work on your software skills
Most programmes of formal study don’t focus heavily on specific software skills and for good reason. Academic courses are more about understanding timeless concepts and principles and developing the broad ability to solve problems. Software packages, in contrast, can change on a month-to-month basis, and it would be difficult for academic institutions to keep up with them even if they wanted to.
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It remains a fact, though, that most design job ads demand that you be skilled in specific design tools, most commonly Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and/or InDesign. The good news is that there are countless ways to get up to speed with these packages, quickly and easily.
To learn Photoshop, for example, you might want to take a structured online course; follow some of the many free Photoshop tutorials available; or just search YouTube to fill the gaps in your knowledge.
Whichever way you educate yourself, the important thing is to put what you’ve learned into practice. Make sure you have fully worked up pieces to put in your portfolio and something concrete to discuss at the interview.
3. Start freelancing now
Once you’ve graduated from formal study and got up to speed with the relevant software, you’ll probably want to start looking for a job. But while you’re sitting around waiting for replies to your applications, there’s no reason you can’t get started as a freelancer right away.
Taking on real-world projects will help solidify everything you’ve learned, and start translating your theoretical skills into more meaningful, practical ones. Again, this will give you more to talk about at interviews, and of course, will help feed you while you wait for the chance to earn a proper salary.
4. Work for charity
Another way to start a network base, add solid work to your portfolio and get noticed is to offer your design skills to charities in your community. Doing good work for a really good cause, close to your heart, will be a reward in itself of course. But such projects could potentially also lead to paid work, in both the non-profit and for-profit sectors. A word of warning though – make sure you’re not being taken advantage of with unpaid work. If working for free becomes the norm it’s damaging for the whole industry; not just your personal bank balance.
5. Get an internship
A placement with a good design studio or at an in-house department can offer invaluable experience that you will draw on throughout your design career. You’ll become seasoned in how design organizations are run; have a better understanding of client requests and how workload works.
With luck (and bear in mind you need to make the most of your own luck), you’ll get to show your skills and commitment to the company and turn your internship into a full-time job, gain some skills and start your own network.
6. Nurture a network of peers
We often perceive our peers as competition instead of supporters or collaborators; but in the design world, it’s the opposite. Here, it really does pay to actively nurture a network of peers. For instance, the project that someone passes on due to a busy schedule or a short budget might be a project that is a good fit for you – and a great piece to add to your portfolio that eventually opens doors to bigger opportunities and new ventures. Note: we aren’t recommending shaking hands until social distancing limits have been lifted, of course.
7. Contact your heroes
We all like getting notes from admirers: it lifts the spirits and strengths us as an industry. So why not let your design heroes know that you respect them and their work?
Making contact with people who you admire can lead to many opportunities. You may even be just what they are looking for at that time. Of course, that won’t always happen, so don’t get discouraged if the phone doesn’t ring immediately. It’s always good to send a follow-up material showing your newest work; this keeps recipients interested and reminded of your availability.
8. Create an online presence
An online platform to express yourself – and maintain a constant dialogue with other people interested in you work – is a must. And we’re not just talking about a Twitter account or Facebook page. Prospective employers will expect you to have either your own website or, at a minimum, to use an online portfolio service like Behance.
9. Submit work to awards schemes
Having some accolades under your belt will certainly help you build a reputation and get under the radar of art directors and editors. You might not be D&AD Pencil-level yet, but there are plenty of other awards schemes to try your luck at. It’s the kind of thing that might swing the balance in your favour when applying for a job or pitching for work.
10. Start a side project
If no doors are yet opening, then make your own projects. These could be ebooks, postcards, great pack of free icons, CMS themes, anything you can think off to get you started.
Doing things on your own is risky but worthwhile. There is certainly merit in creating your own opportunities. The tools to connect with friends, colleagues and like-minded people are available; use them to freely explore your creativity and skills. Today’s online culture is changing how the industry operates, so get on board and make it work for you.
11. Join design organizations
Take advantage of the discounts you get while still a student to join design organizations such as AIGA. The benefits of interacting with like-minded people and networking are extremely valuable.
Participating in design organizations will provide a rich understanding of the field, help you figure out who’s who in our industry, and give you the chance to speak to inspiring people. Soak up all the possible knowledge and advice on offer to get noticed and respected by colleagues.
12. Be nice, be bold, be humble
In the graphic design world, human connections are vital to growth. So being genuinely friendly and interested will absolutely help push forward your career. Quite simply, building relationships and communication is at the core of our profession, so you can’t shy away from it.
One final piece of advice: keep moving forward. Keep up your task of calling, emailing or whatever you do on a constant basis. Don’t take rejection personally and discard envy. A rejection today could land you a job tomorrow or a new client further on.
What Are Some Tips For Interviewing For a Graphic Design Position?
Here are some tips to help you stand out as an ideal candidate during your next graphic design interview:
- Prepare your materials
Before interviewing for a role in graphic design, you should print several copies of your resume so that you can supply them to your interviewers. It can also be helpful to print a few examples of your work, if possible.
If you’re hoping to showcase your portfolio, consider putting files of your work on a flash drive and bringing either a laptop or a tablet so that you can display it during your interview.
- Study the organization
Find out about the company’s values, goals, accomplishments and challenges by conducting some research before your interview. It can be helpful to look into things like their:
- Social media profiles
- Mentions in the news
You can then use this information to address interview questions
more effectively and develop thoughtful questions of your own to ask during the interview.
- Dress appropriately
Traditionally, graphic designers rarely adhere to a traditional professional dress code, such as a suit and tie. Even so, make sure that your outfit communicates that you are taking the opportunity seriously.
You can often determine the dress code expectations at the organization you’re interviewing at by studying their website and social media profiles to gauge the type of atmosphere and company culture that the organization has. Regardless of the dress code, choose an outfit that is professional, well-fitted, ironed and well-kept.