Have you ever wondered how to get a career in Graphic Design? You are definitely not alone. With many creatives rethinking their career options after a difficult time, there is a lot of competition out there currently, but also a lot of opportunities.
There are a variety of routes to consider taking to get to where you want to be in a successful Graphic Design career, and there is no true path to follow. It is about seizing opportunities, working hard and taking on every project with vigour, passion and determination.
A design degree remains the standard way into the profession. Some people do become graphic designers without the benefit of formal education. But a degree remains the safest and most reliable route into the industry. And it is not just about getting the job, a well-grounded knowledge in design theory and practice will enable you to do the job well.
With that said, not everyone can afford to take a full course out of the workplace to study. And it happens 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 online as well as agencies.
Most formal studies don’t focus on specific software skills, and for good reason. 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.
It remains a fact that most design jobs demand that you are skilled in specific design tools, most commonly the Adobe Suite. There are countless ways to get up to speed with these packages.
Whichever way you educate yourself, the important thing is to put what you have learned into practice. Make sure you have worked up pieces to put in your portfolio and something concrete to discuss in an interview.
Once you have graduated from your studies and got up to speed with the relevant software, you will most likely want to look for a job. But while you are sitting around waiting for replies on your applications, there is no reason why you cannot get started as a freelancer right away.
Taking on real-world projects will help solidify everything you have learned, and start translating your theoretical skills into more meaningful, practical ones. This will also give you more to talk about in an interview and will help feed you while you wait for a chance to earn a proper salary.
Another way to start a network base and add solid work to your portfolio and get noticed is to offer your design skills to charities and your community. Doing work for a good cause that is close to your heart, will be a reward in itself. Such projects could potentially lead to paid work, in both the non-profit and for-profit sectors. Make sure that you are not being taken advantage of with unpaid work. If working for free becomes the norm, it is damaging to the industry, not just your personal bank.
A placement with a good design studio or at an in-house department can offer invaluable experience that will draw on through your design career. You will learn how design organizations are run, have a better understanding of client requests and how workloads work. With luck, you will get to show your skills and commitment to the company and turn your internship into a full-time job.
We often see our peers as competition instead of supporters or collaborators, but in the design world, it is the opposite. 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 can eventually open doors to bigger opportunities and new ventures.
An online platform to express yourself and maintain a constant dialogue with other people interested in your work is a must. Prospective employers will expect you to have either your own website or at minimum, to use an online portfolio like Behance.
If no doors are opening for you then make your own projects. These could be ebooks, postcards, a great pack of free icons, CMS themes, anything you can think of to get you started.
Doing things on your own is risky but worthwhile, there is merit in creating your own opportunities. The tools to connect with friends, colleagues, and like-minded people are available so use them freely to explore your creativity and skills.
In the design world, human connections are vital to growth. So being friendly and interested will help push forward your career. Quite simply, building relationships and communication are at the core of our profession.
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.