Considering a Graphic Design Major

Discussion in 'General Mac Discussion' started by Demon Hunter, Mar 21, 2005.

  1. Demon Hunter macrumors 68020

    Mar 30, 2004
    Hi all. :)

    I'm hoping my fellow MR members can provide some insight about graphics design careers. It's beginning to become important that I know my major. I'm currently a freshman at the University of Minnesota, where I'm "undeclared." If I want to do this, I have to do it now, since Graphics Design is all or nothing for 4 years. So here is what's influencing my decision, at this point:
    • The college with graphic design only admits in the Fall, and the deadline for applying is already over. I've contacted the college to see if I can still apply, but I haven't heard from them yet. My parents would be okay if I had to stay another year.
    • Minneapolis is 2nd in the nation for graphics designers, with a lot of excellent firms and studios, advertising etc. I would have an internship and probably not have much trouble finding a decent job after school.
    • I've always wanted to be a writer, a profession of uncertainty to say the least. I also love English, which is why I was originally considering an English major with a minor in Psychology. I have thought about teaching or business, but nothing in specific. English is a very versatile major. If I chose English, I would still probably be in school for another 4 years, maybe more if I went to grad school.
    • I've always enjoyed and been proficient at both, with my writer goal being more distant and fulfilling, than say a near-future profession such as graphic design. Working with Photoshop on my Mac, making websites and graphics, these have always been "fun" -- but I wouldn't consider them the same type of goal as being a writer, if that makes any sense... it's more of a dream.
    • If I did Graphic Design, I would still probably pursue being a writer. However, I don't know how much time I would have for that, or how much being an English major would help my writing...
    • Another option would be Psychology, as I'm very personally interested in it and would like to conduct research through the university about depression. I've also started a depression-awareness group on campus. With Graphics Design, this would probably be hard to do as a minor. I hear the workload is crazy.
    • I haven't thought much about my professional/financial setting. I'm not very fond of cubicles (who is?) but if I have a Mac and some windows (pun not intended) I would be OK. In contrast, staying on campus seems like it would be fun, and very low paying.
    • Money isn't really a big thing (or else being a writer would suck), but I do tend to have expensive tastes... damn you Apple.

    So, that's my dilemma. I love Macs, I love Photoshop, I've made lots of websites (with huge emphasis on design and graphics, as opposed to code and function like PHP or something), but I also have these other dreams and interests.

    My parents are encouraging either way but they seem to favor the certainty of a design major...

    One question I have is, how much do people usually like their majors? Do I have to be a total design freak for this major? Would it be a mistake if I wasn't?

    Any thoughts, suggestions, experience is greatly appreciated... :)

  2. 7on macrumors 601


    Nov 9, 2003
    Dress Rosa
    As a Graphic Design major (aka Visual Communications) I know fro experience that you have to really like art. Usually you have to really want to know that it's what you want to do. If you want to be a writer/physiologist then that's probably more for you. Just to give you a brief example at what I do, as a Sophomore we get a project to do and by next class (2 days) we have to have 100 thumbnails done of the project (though this current one I have she cut back on the thumbnail requirement because of the project's size and detail). There's a lot to do with fonts and lots of traditional methods (keeping a sketchbook, marker comps, etc) too. I'm just saying don't get into because you like photoshop and web-design. Honestly I've spent more time in Illustrator or Indesign. I say get into graphic design if you can enjoy churning out 100 or so logo designs - because most people I know eventually drop the major. At my university just between freshman - sophomore year, we've had about half the students drop the major and the Professor said it'll likely be cut in half again by the time of graduation. It's grueling, but I know I love it.

    I wouldn't say that knowing how to draw/paint traditionally is required - but it definitely make your working easier.

    But by the sounds of your post you have already made your choice...

    (ps. most viscom majors I know like Windows over Macintosh)
  3. Demon Hunter thread starter macrumors 68020

    Mar 30, 2004
    Wow, interesting...

    I do have some drawing experience, but usually with my projects I spend a lot of time refining a few images... my eyes popped when you said 100 logo designs in a few days. :eek:

    Thanks, that's really helpful!
  4. michaelrjohnson macrumors 68020

    Aug 9, 2000
    Perhaps in the future I'll draft a more thourough response, however...

    I am a Junior in the Design program at UW-Stevens Point (Art Major with Graphic Design Emphasis) and I just thought I'd suggest that you modify your post and not claim that the U of M is "Number two in graphics [sic] designers."

    You've got a lot of balls to make such a claim, since I doubt that you've looked at the Design program at UWSP, much less anywhere else in the nation. I don't usually have many adverse reactions to the things many people post here, but that's just a silly claim. You want us *current* designers to help you, not be pissed because you just discredited our own programs.

    As I said, perhaps later I'll draft another response.
  5. ArcaneDevice macrumors 6502a

    Nov 10, 2003
    outside the crazy house, NC
    from a cube near you ...

    If you have any doubts about taking graphic design then don't. It will suck up all your time both in study and work. It's been awhile since I was at university but as I have worked in the industry for 12 years I speak from experience.

    While you may get to play around with PS on your course expect to do a lot of writing, theory and history etc. Be prepared to learn the excting world of font terminology and know your Helvetica from your Gill Sans, Linotype from Bitstream etc. etc. It sounds boring and it is at the time, but it's useful for when you have to churn out a multiple style sheets when you get in a job.

    Unless you are supplied with equipment expect to spend money on old school tools like markers, paint and pen. Repro costs, artboard etc. etc.

    Final creation is the smallest part of any project. Before that you have to churn out ideas and be prepared to sacrifice the ideas you love at the whim of someone else. Computers may be fun and an essential tool but most design study takes place before you even get to a mouse.

    As the previous poster mentioned most of my work takes place in Illustrator and Indesign but before that I spend a lot of time on paper and looking through endless lists of fonts and stock photo. Real world graphic designers work in all applications and mediums not just Photoshop. If you have the luxury of being an amazing talent then you can stick to a speciality and people will come to you.

    If Photoshop and Web design are the only things you want to specialize in then either go for one of those specific courses or expect a long winding road through general graphic design before you can choose to specialize in one particular area.

    Either way when employed expect long overnight work hours and being the one to pick up the slack to meet a last minute deadline. Graphics guys are always the last link in the chain and as a result if anything is behind schedule you'll be the one who has to fix it.

    Of course, sometimes you get to work on something pretty cool that's seen by thousands and be proud of the result. :rolleyes:

    Good luck.

    Aftethought: depending on where you work you may never even get to work on a final piece. You initial designs could end up being split between illustrators, photographers, web designers and layout artists to produce the finished piece. Makes your life easier but it's not as rewarding. Especially if they don't meet your expectations.
  6. jasonbuss macrumors newbie

    graphics design... heh, i got a chuckle out of that.

    internet etq aside, which really most people shouldnt take too seriously anyways right? hes just asking for help... besides, isnt the school we went to sposed to be the best? heh...

    okay so you wanna be a graphic(s) designer? you know the programs, or well, some of them and your ready to take the long road to get the degree right? couple things you might wanna consider... these are that come to mind as of right now, but im sure more will touch on this...

    be prepared once you leave school with your nicely framed degree and the admiration of your parents for actually completing something in your life, oh wait, we arnt talking about me...

    graphic design at the entry level is a uber saturated market in terms of job prospects. you mentioned internships - investigate, but most are unpaid or less than field average. the entry level market is satuarated with those kids who tolled over late night hours on warezed and cracked out versions of the industry softs learning the program with no real direction on color theory, design and art related taught practices. now dont get me wrong, im not saying thats you, but a majority of those i interview are in the im a designer "mode" because they know the program a little and made a few websites.

    all i can say is learn, but forget learning on a computer. start taking art history NOW. find a few artists of long ago and research them more than any hobby you have ever come across and loved... date a art major :). get to know the staff at the local museum. engulf yourself with the theory, and practices of design and the priciples. behind it. subscribe to printmag and a few other design related pubs, to see what the other people like you in the world are doing.

    internships... dont go the ad agency route just yet, i say internship at a service bureau, or local printer.. learn 4 and 6 color process, learn spots, duotones, different paper types and relationships the inks have with them. the differences between printed screen and press related materials. this will teach you the basic fundamentals and give a great starting ground for learning how your designed pieces turn out the way they do, and this will help you design better pieces.

    a graphic design major will teach you the basic fundamentals (if its a good school) and give you a good starting ground, but be warned, its a constant learning status. you have to keep in the back of your mind, that you will never be able to stop learning, that you never want to stop learning.

    fill out your portfolio with well rounded design pieces based on your projects from school, never fill it with all your school projects.

    learn many mediums and formats for design and visual communication, be strong in some, capable in alot. learn the limitations of the programs to find workarounds to get the job done correctly, this includes using more than one program in the workflow.


    for me, design has been a tough, but severly gratifying choice of profession, and i still consider my distance just starting...

    muck luck, and remember to save often, and spellcheck everything!

  7. Demon Hunter thread starter macrumors 68020

    Mar 30, 2004
    It looks like graphic design is probably not for me. I always thought things like color theory came natural to me, as I enjoy playing with color and finding the right combinations... but I don't know if I could ever study it. I'm also more interested in the digital aspect; I didn't realize how much of it is straight-up layout, art concepts, etc.

    I've never really shyed away from art, and my parents think I'm really good at it, but I suppose parents will do that.

    Even if I do accel at some aspects, it sounds like you need that extra drive, that extra desire to succeed, and I find more of that in myself for English than in Graphic Design.

    Thanks for your thoughtful responses!

    It may not have been clear from my post, but I said Minneapolis, not the University of Minnesota's design program. This is a ranking for job availability or some such statistic, I learned from my career class in high school.
  8. cgratti macrumors 6502a


    Dec 28, 2004
    Central Pennsylvania, USA
    I am a senior majoring in Graphic Design. I rarely use Photoshop, the main programs used is Illustrator, followed by InDesign/Quark. You don't have to be a GREAT artist, but you do need some drawing skills. If you do choose to go the design route, be prepared to spend hours upon hours making word lists, thumbnail sketches, then revising those sketches 3 or 4 times until you get whats wanted. Not to mention you need to be 100% sure your design is not only practicle in the "real world" cost wise and do-ability, but politically correct as not to offend anyone. (I have seen some really bad designs that were missed that have offended people once they hit the market.)

    Then study how printing is done so you know what your output must be to the printers, ect.ect...

    It's not for everyone, but if you like to design stuff, like I do.. Its exactly what I want for a career.
  9. Muskie macrumors 6502


    Dec 1, 2003
    Hey man, I'm from the cities as well, South Minneapolis in fact. I am currently a freshman in UW-Stout's Graphic Design Major.

    What everyone has said previous to me holds true here as well. I don't know if you have ever heard of Stout, but the GD program is very well known. Its lots of work, thumbnailing, brainstorming, working through ideas, 98% of which is not done on a computer. However, I suggest you stop by here before you make a decision, or even after you do. Just take a look at some of the student galleries, talk to some instructors, walk around the campus. Or if you want, I can tell you when the next senior show is, and you can come take a gander at all the fancy things that the seniors have come up with. Seeing the senior projects is really cool, going to the show last semester really helped to solidify my interest and desire to be here.

    If you've got some free time, just drive over here. It's only 60-70 minutes from Minneapolis, and the campus isn't huge so taking a tour shouldn't be a huge problem.

    Anyway, good luck with whatever you choose!
  10. Cursor macrumors 6502


    Jul 17, 2002
    I'm currently an Art Director in an ad agency, and have been working for close to 10 years now. You should be a "total design freak" if you are serious about this. You are going to be doing this or a related job for a long, long time, so you should love it. Psychology and writing would help A LOT in this field, as you will need to sometimes help out with coming up with headlines or concepts, adn you will need to know enough Psych to sell your concepts to corporate-type people who, a lot of the time, won't be totally sold on your work at first sight. Another thing I want to re-iterate from an earlier post is that you should have a general interest in the fundamentals of art, typography, and layout design. All the computer is, is a tool to help you creat good design. A computer is not the magic wand that creates the ads, it is you using your skills and tools. That being said, if you truly love Design, go for it. But whatever you do, make sure you don't have any doubts about the major you go with.
  11. MacHarne macrumors 6502

    Mar 3, 2005
    Virginia, U.S.A.
    I am not a graphics design major, actually mechanical engineering, however, I still have some advice as far as choosing a major goes.

    It's good to hear from a freshman with aspirations, or at least one who asks questions. Many students I've mentored in the past were simply apathetic to the future; the ambitious ones were noticed and got somewhere.

    Clearly, you have divided interests: writing and design. And that's fabulous. The more versatile you are, as far as your education goes, the more valuable of an employee you will become. In engineering, there is a severe lack of "engineers" who can communicate making our own designing processes incredibly difficult. The few who stick out, expand beyond their math & science classes, and get involved in groups across campus are the ones who excel (assuming their grades are good as well :) ).

    If you're interested in both writing and graphic design, then pursue both. If it is possible, try to double major. That may sound intimidating, and if that is too much of a workload, then shoot for one major and a minor. Any and all education counts and will be evaluated when you're being interviewed for employment. Above all else, remember that your classes are not the only learning experiences you can glean from university. Clubs and positions around campus are also teeming with bright minds who want to interact outside of the classroom environment; there are others on your campus with your same interests who would be glad to help you out with classes, share ideas for side projects, and whatnot. I can't emphasize enough the importance of getting involved around campus.

    Good luck with everything!
  12. beatle888 macrumors 68000


    Feb 3, 2002
    you'd better love it. you better try and be the best otherwise you wont make much. designers dont make much...only the creative directors hit six figures. you can always start your own business but that takes more than just an obsession for art/communication.

    go for it but bite hard.
  13. Blue Velvet Moderator emeritus

    Jul 4, 2004
    Apart from all the other valuable advice in this thread, this comment can not be emphasised enough.

    You have to be always able to go the last extra mile to hit that deadline. When the presses are waiting on your job, it's your neck on the line...

    If you are precious about your work, forget it.
    Hours or days of work can be swept aside on a clients' whim.

    Oh, and of course... everybody's a designer. :rolleyes:
    Everybody thinks they have a highly refined aesthetic sense and the ones with the biggest mouths are the ones who want you to lay it out in Arial.
  14. Mav451 macrumors 68000


    Jul 1, 2003
    Yup, I know a friend who had an awesome design for a certain celebrity's website...well guess what?

    He trashed it. Completely. He, instead wanted something bubbly, ugly, and completely against the Internet norms. Because he was the client, my friend had to listen and ended up making an ugly website. When it was done, the client then proceeded to blame my friend.

    Some celebrities...ugh, are TOTAL nutcases. Some are just too cocky too. The "everyone's a designer comment" has so much truth in it.
  15. Balin64 macrumors 6502a


    Jul 23, 2002
    In a Mauve Dream
    I live in Minneapolis and Do graphics...

    Trust me: the posts above are dead–on. Yet, in this town, it is who you know, not how creative you are. There are many opportunities for work in the twin cities... you just have to wait for your turn. Until then, think of the world.

  16. HiRez macrumors 603


    Jan 6, 2004
    Western US
    You might look into something more in the film and video realm, animation or motion graphics. I've found that side of the design world to be a bit less rigid that the "traditional" (print, advertising) one. Core design sensibilities are still required, but I just feel there are more options on that side, and frankly, less tedium. I distinguish that from patience, which animators need in buckets. That's just my perspective, but I've done both magazine layout and 2D and 3D animation, and I find doing animated graphics both more challenging and more interesting.

    I wouldn't write off pursuing that English degree, though (sorry about the bad pun). As you said, it's versatile. Many jobs require an English degree, and no matter what job you're applying for, it never hurts. Graphics are often intimately connected with advertising, writing, and education disciplines, all of which require strong English skills.

    I'm impressed that you are thinking so clearly about it at this stage in your life, I wish I had been taking a closer look at my own future when I was your age. You shouldn't expect to know your exact path in life, but trying to focus your efforts where you can will pay off for you. Good luck.
  17. jasonbuss macrumors newbie

    not to dig up old posts, but this gave me a chuckle on the second monday of my work week. thanks.

  18. jefhatfield Retired


    Jul 9, 2000
    my wife has been in the field for most of the past 25 years and what you say really rings true

    anybody can learn to "drive" the software, but true artists who are graphic designers are rare and truly sought after in the real world...they are artists first and foremost
  19. FrankieTDouglas macrumors 65816

    Mar 10, 2005
    Well, your interests sound a lot like my journey through college. I started out in college considering a degree in graphic design. I enjoyed working with computers, and since I was unsure what I wanted to do, I picked that at orientation. But, when I found out graphic design wasn't just web related stuff but posters and everything else, I passed on it. I was already learning web designing and coding and etc. That had sparked an interest.

    Soo... I fell back on what I have done since I was four. I decided to pursue a degree in English. Thing is, the English degree was for people who enjoyed studying and analyzing literature, but not necessarily actually WRITING, and writing creatively at that. I can only sit back and ponder what that verb or this noun was intended for before I want to just write myself. Not that it motivates me to write. Bored is probably the better description. I like to read, but I don't consider it a group activity.

    Soo... I found my way into psychology. Academically, I love it. Professionally, I don't want to be a psychologist. In May I'll have my BA in it, but I view it as strictly an education to apply in other fields.

    Thing is, art and writing are subjective fields. If you want a degree in it, I can see the positives in regards to learning the technical issues better. I can see the positives in having a critique panel tell their opinion of your work. But don't go to school to learn creativity. You either have it or you don't. 100 years of school is not going to teach you how to approach a short story. It might teach you how to put your sentences together, but the layout, dialogue, and progression of characters has to be inside of you.

    Currently, I'm employed as a freelance web designer. Plus, I freelance in commercials. I have no formal degree in either. On the side, I'm also a writer for my own personal enjoyment, but did have a span of a few years where I wrote weekly short stories that had a readership in the thousands. Educationally, I have one class in web design, one class in Flash, and one class in creative writing. These classes were very good for fine-tuning the technical aspects of each category. Pick and choose electives to compliment your general interests. You don't have to major in them to still be able to do them.

    I'd suggest an objective degree. You'll round out your education best in those fields, then be able to apply all of that towards your creative outlets and create avenues for yourself.
  20. krossfyter macrumors 601


    Jan 13, 2002
    secret city
    its a damn big world in art theory, aesthetics, art history etc.

    i love it.

    classical, modern, post modern, re-romanticism? lol
  21. revenuee macrumors 68020


    Sep 13, 2003
    A place where i am supreme emporer
    You know

    Reading all these responses makes me realize that i would of LOVED being a graphic design major

    right now i'm a Film Studies major (It's a B.A. so it's all history and theory, and social implications of, not production) and i minor in art history

    i'm planning on going for a B.F.A in photography after i'm done here

    but it looks like i would of been REALLY happy in a design major
  22. CrackedButter macrumors 68040


    Jan 15, 2003
    51st State of America
    There are a few things you also have to know aside from the other comments.

    Be prepared to not be creative, it is mundane work. At the end of the day, you do as the client wants. You might think your idea is better but they are the ones paying the money. You give them what you want. It isn't always flashy graphics.

    Once in the industry you wouldn't commission a peice right away anyway. You'd be doing low end touch up stuff. A good company won't let you touch a client, they have to be sure you can use the programs they use. Over a period of time will they trust you and only then.

    A good portfolio gets you through the door nothing more.

    Learn about print making, mess that up and it doesn't matter how good you are. Those are expensive mistakes. Page layout is the most important part because once something is printing thats it. Its printed, its a costly mistake.
  23. krossfyter macrumors 601


    Jan 13, 2002
    secret city
    graphic designers with grounded rendering skills are a rare breed. if you are one then you are at the top of the totem pole in the graphic design world.

    it all starts with drawing.... though it aint the end all be all.
  24. iGav macrumors G3

    Mar 9, 2002
    I'd agree with that... but I'd also add interaction design onto that list as well.

    It's interesting reading some of the posts above. Some of them make design sound reeeaaaallllllllllllllllly banal... christ if I'd heard advice like that before I started Design at College I'd have had second thoughts as well! :eek: :p
  25. 5300cs macrumors 68000


    Nov 24, 2002
    Arial's not that bad. It could be worse: how about being asked to use MS Comic Sans? Being asked to use that typeface or being asked to design something in Word are 2 key warning signs...

    Graphic design is a lot of fun, but in my experience it was VERY stressful, especially when the deadline approaches. Expect to spend a lot of time in the computer lab(s) and in critiques! 'Why did you do that?' 'Why did you choose that color?' 'How about moving this here?' If you can't listen to that for more than 20 minutes without going cRaZy then GD might not be for you.

    Good luck in what you decide! :)

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