career advice - Assistant art director

Discussion in 'Design and Graphics' started by Sam/B, Jan 1, 2006.

  1. macrumors member


    Hiya people and happy new year. I'm hoping for some career advice in regard to starting out and getting my foot in the door in my chosen profession. I'm aiming to work my way towards an 'assosciate art director' role within a magazine publication and upwards or outwards from their. It's taking me a heck of a lot of time to figure out that's the sort of position I could see myself enjoying when i'm old and falling apart (even more-so than I am now). It's also something I can see myself doing overseas as I plan one day to go live in america with my degree once I feel I can get a job offer utilising my degree (all you need is a degree and a job offer to emigrate, easier said than done heh!).

    First of all has anyone worked or started out in a pre-press printing firm? Did it involve manipulating pdf's/layout images ready for print? I'm a little naive to how exactly it all works. What I have in mind is overseeing everything a magazine would send you to be printed and adjusting where necessary. Does such a position exist?

    I finish my degree this year in around 4/5 months time but i'm looking to start off in anything remotely related to what I want to eventually do. It would be lovely simply to begin working full time join the real world pay off some debts so anything is on the tables for now. Ideally I want to find something that I can add to my resume as 'experience' that's pretty much what this post is all about really. I would love to just walk into a magazine company with an 'associate art director' position all lined up for me and spend my days creating/editing magazine or newspaper layouts in quark but without real commercial experience (I only have non-payed freelance experience) I don't think it happens like that? If I could get a job in a pre-press printing firm utilising my layout/editing skills for a year or two that's bound to be a decent start with no real experience. I would get to see bottom end how the magazines are printed which will help me when designing layouts in future higher up positions.

    Has anyone done a degree with creating layouts (quark/indesign etc) in mind? How did you begin in your chosen field after finishing university? For the life of me I can't find out what the correct title would be for overlooking and adjusting publications for print in a pre-press environment. If I could find out the title of that position I should hopefully be able to register with an agency to get me some relating work?

    It's a bit difficult without any contacts within the magazine publication field to find out all these things. :( The small amount I know about this subject is from many many man hours researching through the internet.

    Where else could you suggest I start out when I finish my degree? I've had suggestions of working for a printing firm like mentioned overseeing documents sent by magazines (or newspapers) for print. Does anyone know the job title of such a position? It'll help me research what's required for the job. I'd like to start getting things organised in my head now ready for applying to such positions when I finally finish my degree in a few months time.

    much appreciated

    p.s. This is the kind of role i'm 'everntually' aiming for then upwards from that (that's the plan atleast):

    sorry if the screen captures are too big I'll turn them into URL's if they are.

    edit: ignore the locations of those job roles, I will be looking for positions in the UK then eventually when I stand a chance i'll be looking for jobs in america.
  2. Moderator emeritus

    Please. It's almost impossible to easily read your post and doesn't speak volumes about your layout skills. :D
  3. macrumors member


    :cool:, all done I thought to myself before uploading them can I be bothered to make those screen captures smaller, reads ok on my screen :eek:
  4. Moderator emeritus

    OK, I'll have a go at briefly clearing some of your assumptions up but first, what kind of degree are you doing?

    Being an art director is a creative role and is not the kind of thing you're going to get a lot of practice with in a printing firm. In my experience, most printing firms will touch the creative innards of artwork only as a last resort and are more concerned about the printing process itself and other finishing processes.

    That's not to say that experience within the printing industry is not valuable as all print designers should have a good understanding of repro to do their job but there's no mandatory requirement to have worked in a postion where you get ink on your hands (metaphorically speaking).

    Forget about long-term goals about being an art director and get your foot in the door at a basic level of Mac operator or junior designer. The design industry in the UK is much like the old system of apprenticeships where you work your up, proving yourself along the way and where your portfolio and experience is far more important than qualifications.

    It's a fiercely competitive environment where there are about 20-30 people or more for every position. The current postion I'm in now had over 200 applicants... I never went to University, I went to a design school and have a diploma — not a degree. But no-one asks for that anymore — they want to see your work.

    As a student, what I would encourage you to do is to get yourself involved in layout at a community level i.e. small design firms, student newsletters, local newspaper (classified or display ads), local community organisations' publications and promo material etc. Do what it takes to get yourself a placement whether voluntary or not — have as much printed work in your portfolio as possible, not work run out on an inkjet at home.

    Magazines are a slightly specialist field and the people you work with have a different set of skills and deadlines than maybe working within say, an advertising or marketing environment. So making some enquiries by collecting similar printed material you see distributed locally — find out where it's put together and get on the phone or write some letters.

    Your portfolio is key. Contacts are key. You must simply put yourself about to build up real-world experience whether paid or unpaid. Cold-call magazine's HR depts, leave them your CV, be enthusiastic... you've got to try and get your foot in the door if there's even a whiff of a chance of a placement of some sort.

    Pay scrupulous attention to the content, spelling and layout of any written material that you send to anyone... even more than your average office job, your CV and covering letter says a lot more about you when applying for a design position.

    I wish you the best of luck. :)

    Edit: Oh, and build a site to promote your work — not your bike, nice at is.
    Here's a portfolio site to inspire you and it belongs to another design student who posts here on these forums.
  5. macrumors member


    Thanks for that some good advice, I hadn't realised how competitive it was, I figured that theirs so many magazines out their and newspapers the market would be wide open for proficient reliable pixel pushers / mac monkeys to speed things along to meet deadlines. I've noticed some magazines have an art director and sometimes 5/6 "ass' art directors" even the smaller magazines (just to add that's not always the case with every magazine). A role demanding a lot of creative input I would imagine is probably out of my reach without experience. I've not seen any (advertised) positions in magazines as junior designers? Do these roles usually go in-house or through agencies? All I've gone by is what is on the inside of magazine covers and what I can find advertised on the websites like in the above screenshots. I've had a few online portfolios i've taken up and put down and changed around that i've never really been happy with but the website in my profile isn't technically my portfolio that's just a project attached to my website. I've been working on a new portfolio which will show my layouts and technical abilities through tutorials and personal interests. I'm hoping by doing that it'll give employers a chance to see my personality and interests (the one's that I believe benefit me as a designer) and hopefully an edge. I don't think it can harm me in any way. Volunteer design work as you say is a good idea, something not printed out by myself.

    out of interest is the site you posted a finished portfolio site? Just looking through it and i'm having a bit of a hard time navigating it, are their supposed to be headings for the staples at the bottom of the page? The only way to tell what they link to when you click them is by hovering over the image/link for 2/3 seconds first. Is it supposed to be like that?

    The portfolio websites on here are something else might be of interest to you or someone else, some of them are very technical always good to get inspiration from either way even if they are too technical to emulate for most:
  6. ATD
    macrumors 6502a


    If I could offer one piece of advice, try looking into the type of work you want to do as a starting point. What I mean by that is look for work at the firms that best reflect your long term goals, if you want to do annual reports then look at places that do that. Right now you are at the best point to define your career, after a number of years of working it gets harder to switch to another type of design. If magazines or pre press are not long term goals then skip them and go to what you like at any level you can get a job at.
  7. macrumors 6502a

    Nice work - thanks for the link. I particularly like the illustration work.
  8. ATD
    macrumors 6502a


    Blue Velvet, what is a CV? I have never heard that term before. :confused:
  9. macrumors G5


    Curriculum Vitae

    Which in latin, means eat your curry, it has lots of vitamins.
  10. ATD
    macrumors 6502a


    lol, I like your definition better!

    Sam/B, in the States we call it a Resumé. I also should add that the design field is very competitive here as well.

    When I first started in the field one of my roommates was a Brit. He got a degree in London but found the design field was depressing there at the time. I not even sure if he had a job lined up when he came here, I think he just got up and throw his fate to the wind. I know his first years here were hard but he did well and has had his own business for many years. I do wish you luck.
  11. macrumors member


    cheers for all the advice very helpful, mucho appreciato. :) everything I do i'm hoping ultimately will bring me closer to having a chance of emigrating, even deciding to do this degree course was with emigrating in mind. As I understand it the best chance you stand of being accepted is through a job offer that involves the use of a degree, if you have family living their you can go work on that visa but can often take up to 9 years to get the thing :( Did your roommate ATD have family that lived in the states when he went over? If I could get a 3 month work visa I would be over their straight away sending off cv's/resumes and lining up interviews.

    I've heard a few times from people that have been out their that americans are alot more forgiving if that's the right word to use than us brits? They are supposed to be more inclined to see people with enthusiasm and motivation to do well maybe more so than the majority of UK employers are. How much truth their is in that I don't know.

    I've found that I really enjoy laying out articles for magazines even if the subject isn't of interest to me, I seem to have a good eye for it (I hope I do atleast). But if it's an over-crowded field maybe I should look at other similar fields? Suggest some professions to me that utilise some of the below softwares.

    Are their any other industries similar to this type of work that is in more demand? Anything using quark/in-design, web work, image editing software etc

    The trouble is I'm not sure any junior positions exist like suggested in the magazine field? That makes it difficult getting your foot in the door I don't know how people start out after finishing their degree's. I know most if not all positions are advertised and given in-house/through agencies. The bottom design level I can see appears to be assistant art director. Is their anything lower than this? It's difficult as it seems to change quite dramatically from magazine to magazine, some of them will have one person to do everything from a layout and graphics aspect and some have lots of different departments.

    One thing I do want to avoid doing if I can is spend two years working in some office or call centre to pay the mortgage not gaining any experience sending off resumes and being turned down constantly so i'm back at square one. That's why pre-press seemed an appealing option for a year straight out of uni. Teachers and people in university don't seem to have a clue where to start out the only answer I get from them is I need contacts to get anywhere. I'm thinking if I have some experience in a similar field to this involving graphics and layouts I stand a chance against in-house people who have 3 years+ experience over me if all that makes sense. :(
  12. macrumors 68020


    Just go where the wind blows. Your talents will take you where you are most suited. Also it adds allot of adventure and variety in your career. I went to school for Industrial Design back in the late 80's when computers were not the norm. I had rock solid traditional design and art skills like drawing, painting, sculpting etc... Studied ID because I hoped it would give me more of a cereer than "painter".

    When I left school I took a job as a muralist because it paid more than the starting ID jobs and it sounded fun. It also allowed me to travel all over the world and get paid for it. From that point I just went where the money was and where the fun was. Got hired at MTV after 5 years of mural painting as a Properties designer and Illustrator. Honed my computer skills and was promoted to Production designer after 2 years. Got bored of that and learned 3D animation and Im where I am today. LOVE IT!!

    The point of my story is that I have sooo many friends who try to give direction to their careers and are constantly running into roadblocks and turning down jobs they would like but they dont fit into their "career plan". I never even thought I would be doing what Im doing today when I was in school. Just start where you think you might be interested and then go out into the world with an open mind and see where it takes you. Dont worry so much about "am I making the right career start??"
  13. ATD
    macrumors 6502a


    No he had no family out here and I think started in the East (NY) and worked his way West (LA).

    Enthusiasm and motivation will get you far here, getting started here (or any new place) will take a lot of motivation. If you add talent to that mix...

    Keep in mind that you can always compete with people with a little more experience (to an extent) if you are willing to work for less money.

    Don't go to pre press as stepping stone, if you want to be Art Director build your talent/experience around that. I don't know of any design firms that hire designers based on their pre press experience, if they want design, that's what they are looking for. Sure, you should have a good command of the software.

    I have to agree with freeny, there is always a amount of risk/chance to this. Make some goals but leave yourself open to to the world around you. You can rarely go wrong following something you love. I know people who do things because they are the "right thing" to do, even if they hate it. I don't know anyone who was ever been successful doing something they hate.

    Interesting background! I read in a post a while back you were playing with that beast known as Maya, how is that going?

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