Advice for an Aspiring Graphic Designer? [Mostly Web Focused]

Discussion in 'Design and Graphics' started by SR20DETDOG, Mar 16, 2011.

  1. SR20DETDOG macrumors regular

    Jan 25, 2011
    Queensland Australia
    Hi Everyone,
    I'm still a fairly new member to MacRumours so here's a (very) quick intro. I'm still only 17, finished school only a few months ago and am trying, most times unsuccessfully, to get a foot into the graphic design industry. Oh, and I reside in sunny Queensland Australia.

    As I mentioned since leaving school I'm trying to get into graphic design, more web based than print, but am honestly quite lost. The university in my city doesn't offer any suitable courses for GD so I've been teaching myself. I did land a job, which I love!, but it consists of cutting out low res images of cars and putting them on a website along with very small bits of wysiywg work on a website. Problem is I only get maybe 6hrs a week, and once this particular job is finished, that's it, no more work.

    So I'd like to know if there's anything specific that would be good to do or learn while I'm not working. I'm currently creating a website for some friends who are making a web comic which is keeping me busy and teaching me a lot of new things. Otherwise I'm essentially mucking around in photoshop/illustrator/indesign doing my own thing and when I can't do something I search the net until I can. While I'm still learning new things by doing this it's a slow way to learn, if someone could direct me some quality online 'lecture' type videos that would be great.

    I guess essentially what I'm asking is what work should I be doing, while I'm not doing any work?

    GD is seeming to be an incredible difficult career to get into, I love though and I like to think that I'm reasonably good at it.

    Thanks for reading, i think rambled on a bit, my mind's a bit fried atm
  2. designguy79 macrumors 6502

    Sep 24, 2009
    My recommendation would be to find a niche or parallel industry you can work on, too. It seems to me that only the really, really good graphic designers stay busy full-time with high paying work.

    For example, have you thought about studying web development / programming?

    Also, another idea would be to grow your portfolio by volunteering for non-profits.
  3. Zoreke macrumors member

    Jul 26, 2010

    You are still very young, be patient. Try to find a school that teaches design it is important to know the rules since you can never ignore them even if you break them.

    Invest part of what you make in books and online training for software related learning. Carry a skechbook with you all the time and think graphically, draw faster than you can write down and idea and translate an abstract concept into graphic communication, you'll get better if you continue to do this always.

    Work a lot and never work for free, even if you are stating up and you get small paying jobs, $$ will continue to motivate you to get better and to get more $$ (those MBP, wacom tablets and software, don't come cheap).

    Finally remember you are a designer and you sell your work, you are an artist but a commercial artist so don't get to attached to your work (even if it's great looking) once is finished sell it, get paid and move to the next project.

    Good luck and post your work! :D

  4. babyt macrumors regular


    Jul 28, 2009
    I have a similar question.
    I'm finishing my first year of my graphic design studies and would love to get my foot in the market. I currently have low paying pt job but have enough time to do free lance work.
    I'm just not sure what to do at this point. I have no portfolio as I've never done real work (outside of class). And honestly how do I get clients at first?
    Thanks :)
  5. THX1139 macrumors 68000


    Mar 4, 2006
    Finish school, then come back and ask the question.

    For the OP: When you get old enough, apply to a design school and move there once you get accepted.
  6. steveash macrumors 6502


    Aug 7, 2008
    Nobody will take you on without a portfolio but it doesn't have to be only commercial work. Just make sure you have work which is relevant and has a commercial style. When I started out I did lots of little projects like the OP and kept on developing my work. I also made up projects that were relevant to the kind of jobs I wanted to get. You will struggle with freelance work unless you have some commercial studio experience so I would aim to get a junior designer role first, get up to speed then reassess your options.
  7. ezekielrage_99 macrumors 68040


    Oct 12, 2005
    1) Read this and this
    2) Get educated
    3) Build a CV
    4) ???
    5) Make money

    In my experience talented designers will always find work, one without talent wont.
  8. rafflesiao macrumors newbie

    Apr 22, 2010
    Build a strong portfolio

    hi i think it's great you have started working and building up your experience in this field. The key to become successful and really successful is to first build up your portfolio, it helps not just to showcase to your future employers, customers and even the schools you are about to enroll.

    Try different aspects of Graphic Design and over time you will know where your strength lies, and then you can proceed to look for courses that will hone the specific area further. It's much easier when you compete based on your talent. All the best!
  9. SR20DETDOG thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 25, 2011
    Queensland Australia
    I'd just like to say that I have read every post, even though I have not replied since I've been quite busy, so thanks for all the input everyone:)
  10. Arganos0 macrumors member

    Sep 24, 2008
    I agree with designguy79. While I am not a graphics designer myself, if you find something you should try to become really, really good at it. You have to find something that there's not much of and that can differentiate you from the rest. Better to learn one or two things well than to learn 10 things at a superficial level.
  11. Skika macrumors 68030

    Mar 11, 2009
    Just don't let anyone fool u that u need anything. I would suggest to you that you drop the issue and focus on something else for the moment. Do not try to fix to problem!
  12. crackbookpro macrumors 65816


    Feb 25, 2009
    Om nom nom nom
    Learn some basic html code to start - Make sure you have CS3,CS5, etc... you will need some programs to help you start your basics(it helps, but not necessary).

    Get some core training if you want at graphics institutes (, full sail (, or you can get some extensive training through AGI training ( in seminar settings.

    A lot of this can be self taught... or will be... get some basics down, and move on whether it be design school, tutorials, books, applications, writing code, etc... Basics of html is a good foundation... I'd start there.

    Good luck
  13. ecflagcorp macrumors newbie

    Jan 22, 2010
    I don't know how many of the posts are from experienced graphic designers. But I"ll tell you from a designer's prospective. I went to school and got a 4-year degree as a graphic designer and have been in the field for 5 years since then.

    You're still green and young at it. Give it time. I promise learning it and finding your groove does not happen overnight.

    Web-based/interactive, I think you're making a smart move into focusing towards that. Learn all you can on programing languages and software for web-design. There is definitely a high demand for those type of designers. (keep in mind of all the mobile devices going around...they all have internet! Which calls for a different kind of web interaction).

    Although, I would definitely make sure I knew some print design. While the money and demand is in web/interactive design, there are countless occasions where I have come across employers that want a designer to know at least some print too for a web position.

    If you don't have any 'work' per-say to do. Just build webpages for fun. Google new ideas and try to execute them yourself or put a new spin on it. Or find a crummy website and rebuild it for fun to grease up your skills. Look at source-codes from other websites and see how they've developed their site. Use the sites you like the brainstorm for you're own ideas and run with them! If it comes out really cool, use it your portfolio to get your first real job. But just make sure you let the interview know it wasn't a real client.

    I would highly recommend a degree though. A 2-year if nothing else, a 4-year is better in my opinion. Look into the online colleges if you're wanting to stay where you are and aren't content with what is available at you're local university. Make sure they're accredited if you get an online one!

    Hope this helps!
  14. SR20DETDOG thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 25, 2011
    Queensland Australia
    Thanks ecflagcorp, it was helpful :)

    It's also quite helpful simply knowing that I'm heading in the right direction.
    I think, in regards to a degree, my best bet might be to move somewhere when I'm a bit older and more accustomed to the 'real world'
  15. ecflagcorp macrumors newbie

    Jan 22, 2010
    No problem. :)

    If no degree, then definitely expose yourself to veteran designers and pick their brains of the design world. Ask them questions, get their opinions on your designs and stuff. Larger cities have designer organization meetings that let you meet and mingle with designers and hear speeches. AIGA is one of them. They're expensive to be a member of, but you don't have to be a member to attend some of the meetings. It's a small fee to attend a meeting if you're not a member...but it's worth it.

    There are a whole bunch of free webinars you can subscribe to online that show you various techniques and up and coming methods. All I can say is Google for them, there are a bunch of them and you can find the right ones for you. OH! And also subscribe to podcasts. They'll be very helpful too.

    I'm a low budget kinda gal, so my advice is from the penny pincher side. :D

    Good luck with everything!
  16. designs216 macrumors 65816


    Oct 26, 2009
    Down the rabbit hole
    I'd agree with those that recommend you get the degree. Communication Arts programs will make you prove you truly want it. Get involved with design and marketing organizations like AIGA and AMA. You will need to learn the business aspect of graphic design and how to promote yourself. These will also provide a good networking base which will lead to more real opportunities than resources like Monster.

    Learn all the tools and disciplines you can. Employers would rather pay one person a little more if that person knows print and web design than pay two resources. Many employers will not give much value to your formal design training but will instead look at the tools you know as a way to quantify you. I know other designers that have weathered the recession by virtue of their programming skills.

    Bottom line is, be curious and never stop growing your skillset -- even if it's on your own time.
  17. ezekielrage_99 macrumors 68040


    Oct 12, 2005
    To the OP I would try looking at since you're in Australia, apparently the new course have been released and there should be a fair amount around art and web.

    But Open University should allow you to study online where ever.

    Just notice you're another Aussie...
  18. SR20DETDOG thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 25, 2011
    Queensland Australia
    Thanks for link, there's some pretty nice looking courses available there.

    I'm not sure, however, if I can trust myself to actually knuckle down and not just procrastinate if I do an online course. It took me a week to complete my RSA which should have been a one day job. $750 would be a lot of money to spend on failing.

    I'm thinking of moving to Brisbane in the next few years, I'm sure there'd be courses there that I could take in an actual classroom. That why I know I'll work hard at it.

    On a completely different note, would having an operating website as part of a portfolio be more desirable than one that was built just for the sake of building one? I assume it would, since a functioning site involves both upkeep and updates, but to what degree?
  19. ezekielrage_99 macrumors 68040


    Oct 12, 2005
    I did my Masters via Open University, it is a very good way of studying if you can stick to it and have discipline to finish it.

    Personally I would create a web site as a portfolio or an operating site as a part of a portfolio rather than the sake of having one a web site needs purpose. Still you don't need a portfolio to get into a TAFE of under-grad course just to get a job but anything that can better secure a placement in the course you want can't be bad.

    I would also check out The Loop it's an excellent resource for testing the industry and it's Australia specific.
  20. SwiftLives macrumors 65816


    Dec 7, 2001
    Charleston, SC
    A quick note about computer programs - while Adobe Creative Suite is the industry standard, at the end of the day it's just a tool. And there are numerous open-souce / less expensive alternatives if you're just starting out and don't have the budget. It's sort of like using different brands of tools to build a house. You have to know how to build before you start using tools.

    For that matter, Adobe does offer an educational-priced version of their just are going to need to make sure you can prove you're a student or employee of a school or university. (That's something new to CS5 and it's kind of a pain to deal with). Plus there's the new rent-a-dobe program where you pay something like $40/month for full access to creative suite.

    I think what I'm trying to say is this - don't fall into the trap of feeling obliged to spend a lot of money on expensive software right off the bat. There are numerous less expensive entry-level tools out there.
  21. ezekielrage_99 macrumors 68040


    Oct 12, 2005
    That is very good advice, I try to give the same advice to my student lectures whenever I do them. Many make the mistake of buying a whole heap of software then not knowing either how to use it for a while or being able to do the same thing on software 1/4 of the price.

    I'm not saying Adobe stuff is not needed just there are freebies that are a very good starting block.
  22. SR20DETDOG thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 25, 2011
    Queensland Australia
    Very true, I've seen people make some absolutely incredible creations using GIMP.

    I'm actually very lucky though, while I don't own any adobe software myself, I do have access to the complete CS5 suite. In saying that, I still use a lot of open source software. I always have the urge to try new programs, and then click every button just to see what they do :p
  23. mahes111 macrumors newbie

    Jun 12, 2011
  24. Hankster macrumors 68020


    Jan 30, 2008
    Washington DC
    Hours, days, weeks, months and years of practice. That's what it takes.

    After college I was hired as a COOP at a very large insurance company (top five in the USA) as a web designer/developer back in 2000. The first six months I worked close to six days a week if not seven. On the weekends I would just come in and mess around with coding and PhotoShop. Four years later at the age of 25 I was the front end development team lead, I was in charge of six people. All six were older than me. But, I had the technical skills and understanding of usability.

    I cannot express to you how important all those hours of practice was for me. You really learn how to do certain things, especially shortcuts and troubleshooting, when you simply practice. There's a lot to designing for the web, it's not just knowing the software. There's usability, understanding different technologies, target markets, etc. After I resigned to pursue something else I had over a dozen people who started their own companies contact me to developer their sites. When you work hard and know what you're doing people find you. That's when you know you're good.

    Practice, practice and practice some more :cool:

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