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Pros: Share one piece of advice for people starting out

Discussion in 'Design and Graphics' started by Blue Velvet, Aug 5, 2006.

  1. Moderator emeritus

    For those of us lucky enough to earn a pay-cheque or salary from being a designer, what one piece of advice would you give to those wanting to enter this profession?

    Whether you're in print, web, animation, illustration etc.; any of the fields that have visual communication at their core are relevant to this discussion.

    As a print designer, for me it's a tough choice between stressing the importance of repro knowledge and learning about type but my one piece of advice would be this:

    Learn about repro

    Learn about how printing works and the process of how your file gets turned into a piece of printed work, trimmed, folded, bound and packed.

    Learn about different presses and repro methods, learn about stock (paper) and inks, learn about trapping, learn about the different finishes that your printer can apply to the items... spend some time investigating the technical details of what's involved and this knowledge will repay you many times throughout your intended career.

    All this and more will help you communicate with your printer and help to avoid costly mistakes. You can then learn to work 'backwards', taking a budget as a starting point with your brief and then produce work to a certain spec, working creatively within the limits of the project.

    When you get to a certain level of responsibility, print-buying for yourself or an organisation becomes an important part of the job so to progress in the field, it's best to round out your skills by paying attention to this important, but often under-looked, aspect of being a print designer.
  2. macrumors 68000


    I think you covered the essentials. :cool:

    Developing a pleasing, enthusiastic and sunny personality is also important in any job setting. It just makes working in a team environment so much more pleasant! Anybody see The Office? Just think opposite! :)
  3. macrumors 65816


    Realize that it's a job

    as a designer, you're not making "art," per se, you're making product. Many times you'll find yourself doing something you don't really like. And many times, you'll find yourself at the mercy of the client, who has his/her own ideas about what the finished item should look like. No matter how much you might disagree with your benefactor's concept, your job is to do the best you can and give the client what he/she wants. Be flexible, be willing to accept criticism, and be willing to make whatever changes you've been asked to make.

    and having said that, be decisive. To paraphrase Dave Chappelle, name your price: decide up front how much you're willing to give to a project, and if the amount of work exceeds the expected return, walk...
  4. macrumors member

    -Know your Keyboard shortcuts-as many as you can and use them!
    -Keep learning
    -Accepting criticism is a HUGE one, get use to it.
    -Be prepared to spend long hours starring in front of a screen.
  5. macrumors 68040


    Expand Your Skillset

    Increasingly, job listings are requesting designers with knowledge that goes beyond traditional print work. It seems that more often than not, employers are looking for designers with both fully accomplished print portfolios and intermediate to advanced interactive and web knowledge. This is in some cases because small companies require people to manage multiple roles, but it's also a result of a saturated design field. If you don't have all the skills and more, somebody else does, and will probably work for less. This leads us to:

    Being a Photoshop Whiz Doesn't Mean Squat

    If you think being a good designer means knowing all your programs inside and out and knowing a hundred key commands, you are wrong. Your computer is just a tool, and in a field where there are 500 hungry designers fresh out of school aiming to replace you, program mastery is taken for granted. It is your true creative talent that separates you from the production artists.
  6. macrumors member

    Being very creative ain't gonna get you very far if you don't know how to create it correctly in the first place. of course you need super creativity, that's a given. But you better know your stuff in Illustrator, Photoshop indesign etc. you better know it like the back of your hand.

    I f you expect to be a good designer...Being a "Super Whiz" at the Software, gives you plenty more time to do a great design because you're not wasting time going...hmmm how do i do this... hmm no that's not right...hmm okay we'll this isn't working out gee... let me try this, can i even do this... blah blah blah

    You have to be just as good with the "technical" side as well as the "design" side of graphic design to be succesfull nowadays, or you'll be out o' luck, brother.
  7. macrumors 65816


    all too true. Another helpful thing: be your own tech guy. Know how your machine works, know what it can do and what it can't, and know how to fix it if it goes bing. Tech support for the Mac is practically non-existent (at most companies anyway), so the more you know, the better off you're going to be.
  8. macrumors 68040


    You missed the point. Being technically good at the software is the 'given'. Of course you should know the software, but it doesn't make you a good designer. It's just a tool.
  9. macrumors member

    Believe me I'm not arguing with you about "the Computer /Software is just a tool, sure it is! that's the first thing they teach at school...but i think that's the problem.

    Kids come out of design school filled with all these great design skills/ theory.
    but haven't learn, enough of the technical stuff how to save this file, why shouldn't save it like this...what's bleed? why do I need bleed? how do i set that up...That's all I'm saying...My advice is after your out of school learn the software, and the shortcuts...it will save you pain and land you that first job...

    Great design comes with time and experience...Most people who come out of design school aren't going to be great designer off the bat... anywho that's my advice. That's all..

    I guess it depends if your school had more an emphasis on design theory or the "tech. real world" stuff. anywho.
  10. macrumors 65816


    my experience has been that the "art school" kids usually know squat about the software. They know enough to get by, which is what they had to know during their studies, and that's it.

    not that I am in any way denigrating art school graduates...I'm just saying. Their curriculum appears to have been geared more towards traditional art studies, which is ok though I tend to question the value of some of what they've been taught.

    Pottery class is nice, but really, who gives a sh*t?
  11. Moderator emeritus

    Yes and no. An understanding and appreciation of art history and the various movements is invaluable for all designers.
  12. macrumors 68040


    It's funny because from what I've seen there is a lot of the opposite going on. Schools popping up all over the place offering 2 year design degrees and other such crap, that are basically teaching uncreative people how to use design software. Then these people get out of school thinking they are designers because they know how to use Quark.
  13. macrumors member

    This is why you need to be objective and be able or at lease try to critique yourself and your designs, all the time. No one is perfect at everything. Don't fall for that trap of "oh i'm so great...I Know everything...ther'e nothing left for me to learn..."

    See where your weaknesses, and your strenghts are and improve on your weaknessess. I agree with whoever said good typography is key.
    If there's one thing that will scream "amature" it's bad typography skills.

    If you want to be a great designer you have to be obsessed with design, and live it..breath it, baby.
  14. macrumors 65816


    exactly, so finding someone who knows how to use the software and can also make something decent with it is getting to be rather tricky...
  15. Moderator emeritus


    And spelling too. ;)

    Yeah, I was going to mention it but thought someone else could have a go; it's something I've mentioned in the past in this forum.

    Type knowledge is absolutely crucial. Very few pieces of 2D design work go out without type in some form on them.

    My entire first year of typography classes was spent hand-drawing letterforms and designing glyphs. Not a computer in sight.

    Apart from that, there's been some excellent pieces of advice given in this thread. Please let's not turn it into a squabble about divergent approaches... ;)
  16. macrumors member

    haha ha yes good spelling always helps!:D
  17. macrumors 6502a

    Above all, please, those of you starting out, as well as those of you who have been doing this for a while, head this:

    If you can't use your brain and your eyes, no one cares how well you use the software. Design comes from ideas and visual sensibilities.

    Know what you want to design and why, how comes after.
  18. macrumors 6502a


    Ditto this
  19. macrumors member

    Learn how to talk about your work.

    Like it or not you are going to be explaining your vision to a lot of marketing busniessy types.

    You should be able to talk about the visual ideas you plan to execute and why they will work so well that presenting the completed work becomes a secondary formality.

    I have seen more great design rejected in board meetings just becuase the Art Director didn't have a clue how to explain why what he has done is relevant.
  20. macrumors 68000


    Learn Typography
    Study (REALLY study) type and its purpose and power.

    Learn Grid Systems
    Learn and understand the grid and its purpose.
  21. ATD
    macrumors 6502a

    Go above and beyond the call of duty. If that means working late, do it. If that means unbilled hours, do it. If that means exploring ideas outside the given parameters of the job, do it. If that means getting a little over your head once in a while, do it. Don't wait for the world around you to challenge you, challenge yourself.

    I can't think of a faster way to advance in design than that (or any other field for that matter). The design field is oversaturated, you have to be willing to give more than what is excepted.

  22. ATD
    macrumors 6502a

    One more thought along the lines of going above and beyond the call of duty. Never stop learning about design (software + design skills), treat it like a lifelong learning process. I knew I wanted to be a graphic designer at the age of 13, that was 37 years ago :eek:. Design has been my sole profession for 30 years, 26 years doing movie/TV design. Yep, I have been doing this for while ;). Over the years I have seen many award winning designers who got to a good level of success in the field and decided they could coast through the rest of it. Many of these same people watched their careers slowly fade away. I have always pushed myself to keep learning new things, I actually push myself as hard or harder now than when I was younger. I can't visualize myself retiring from design because the list of things I want to still learn is very long. It almost a fact that the day someone decides they know everything they need to know, is the day they will get passed by.

  23. macrumors 65816


    true that...and I know people like that, too. They won't learn new software. Not can't, won't.

    "Why should I learn Illustrator? Freehand 7 has everything I need."
  24. ATD
    macrumors 6502a


    I remember the days when designers were tying to decide if they needed to learn how to use a computer at all. It may seem like a no brainer today but 20 years ago it was not clear where this was leading to. Computers back then were really really slow and very underpowered, it was still faster to do a lot of stuff by hand. Some designers decided not pick up computer skills. I still know a few that have managed to hang on to a career that way but not many.

  25. macrumors 65832

    I could not agree with this more!

    The biggest hurdle I've seen people starting out have to over come is trying to put their design "style" onto a client's project. In the graphic design arena it tends to be an "artistic style" of the designer. And in the web design arena it is either (again) "artistic style" of the designer or (worse) building sites by templates.

    A client deserves (to the best of your abilities) a product that reflects them... not you. Getting to know them and what they need is very important. And do your best to stay away from a one size fits all mind set. Clients (like people) are unique... the finished product should reflect their uniqueness (and not necessarily yours).

    The one thing I've always been proud of is the fact that the sites I've designed don't all look the same. Each site is different.

    Also, in web design you may often be the last person added to a design team. If the client has already settled on a style or brand for themselves, don't fight it or try to reinvent it... rather use what you can from what the print designers have already done and work it into something that works on the web. Make sure that everything is consistent for the client across all media types.

    If you can make a print designers branding work on the web, you'll have a lot of work.

    I still have problems with this even after doing this for 5 years. :D

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