Need advice from professional designers

Discussion in 'Design and Graphics' started by shannonw6290, Jan 7, 2016.

  1. shannonw6290, Jan 7, 2016
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2016

    shannonw6290 macrumors newbie

    Apr 10, 2011
    Not sure if this is a good place to post this, but doing so anyway as there seems to be more people here knowledgeable about graphic design than on job forums. I am looking to finally enter college this year. Graphic design interests me although I haven't ever designed anything myself, even as a hobby. However I've read some discouraging information about how GD is a very competitive field. I am trying to find something where I can make a decent amount of money with only an associates degree as I am 25 and don't want to be 30 by the time I get out of school and start my career. My local community college offers an AS in GD, however I'm not sure if this will be enough, as it seems even new GD grads with bachelors degrees may have trouble finding work right out of school. I read that web design may be a better route to find more jobs, so was wondering if getting a certificate in web design some time after getting my AS in GD would make me more marketable to clients or employers, even without a bachelors? I don't really know what path to take and need to be steered in the right direction. Every career choice I research that I am at least vaguely interested in seems to lead me to a dead end. :( Professional GD's, if you could do it all over again, would you still choose to become a GD?
  2. superscape macrumors 6502a


    Feb 12, 2008
    East Riding of Yorkshire, UK

    Firstly, all fields worth being in are very competitive. That in itself should never be a reason dismiss a career choice. A lot of people have trouble finding work straight out of school - employers want people with experience, but you can't get experience without employment. It's a catch 22 situation that can be hard to break out of. That's not unique to graphic design, that's true for many fields. If you have talent and enough persistence then you'll get there eventually - you could try asking for work experience, internships, apprenticeships etc...

    It always helps to have good training, exams etc. At the very least, by the end of your course you should have the beginnings of a portfolio to show prospective employers. If you have the opportunity to take a decent course in graphic design then go for it. You'll also make contacts, get people you can bounce ideas off, people to critique your work etc... Of course, there's nothing wrong with doing a few freelance jobs while you're at college and you can add that to your portfolio too.

    However, don't be fooled into thinking that you *have* to have a list of qualifications as long as your arm to make any progress. Sure, they're a massive help but they're not 100% essential. Personally, I bluffed my way into my first job (over 20 years ago - yikes) and learned like fury before anyone could find me out! Admittedly, I already knew the basics of the software involved, had parents who worked in illustration and a girlfriend who was a graphic designer so I had folks I could go to for advice and quick crash courses on things. I started out doing *very* basic stuff for a very low wage - 2 colour business cards for the local plumber etc - but gained experience and kept switching jobs every few years for something that got me closer to where I wanted to be. I ended up designing packaging for a living (if you have any of the merchandising for any of the Star Wars prequels then there's a chance you have some of my work) and making a pretty decent living from it. It's not the easiest way to get into the industry, but I'm living proof that it *can* be done without having any qualifications in graphic design.

    What I learned from my experience is to be persistent, always be learning and always be looking for your next move.

    Personally, I find print way more interesting that web design, but that's just me. Each to their own.

    Would I do it all over again? Some of it, yes. Some of it no.;-)
  3. dazzer21-2 macrumors regular

    Dec 3, 2005
    Experience is the key. You say you've never designed anything before and that means that, currently, you're at a full stop. So, you either go back to school and learn, to come out when you're 30, hopefully ready to succeed. Or you start at the bottom and work your way up, which means you probably won't see any decent money until you're 30 anyway. Supers cape is correct in saying that any business is competitive, but at your age, you're going to be up against designers who have been doing it since their teens. After all, you own a Mac, you're a designer, right? Except that's not true. However, if I've had a Mac for longer than you have, I get a head start. My advice would be to say that if you are thinking of STARTING OUT in the field of graphic design at this stage of your life, by all means go for it but have a backup plan - especially if you're thinking it will make you rich quickly. I'm 45. I'm a Graphic Designer. I'm *finally* making good money from it. I started 25 years ago...
  4. 960design macrumors 68030

    Apr 17, 2012
    Destin, FL
    As brilliantly mentioned, do not let competition dictate career path. I also reiterate, college will only open more doors, your skillZ will get you the job. A good designer can get a job immediately, with just a portfolio. Remember, the high paying jobs will always be competitive, but not necessarily filled with competent applicants. We always have HUGE job turn outs for an open position. 98% of the applicants have 0% skill and only a college degree. 1% will have the talent, 1% will have the talent and fulfill our degree level recommendation. We bring the 2% back for another job interview, where we ask them to perform a task that will be expected on a daily basis. That way we can see which tools they require, how comfortable they are asking for assistance getting set up, and finally the job workflow. That makes it very clear to us which applicant gets the job.

    PS: Check out for some of your competition and a place to get started tomorrow creating a portfolio. Hint: You don't have to win to include it in your portfolio. Another Hint: There are more companies like, it just came to mind first.
  5. Possumgal macrumors member


    Aug 13, 2015
    N. Central Arkansas
    There is a lot of competition in this field, and this has led to some hiring policy changes. It used to be possible to enter the field with no degree, but now design agencies and businesses with in-house designers routinely toss applications without bachelors degrees. The usual route these days seems to be getting unpaid internships while still in school to gain experience.

    A degree will at least get you an interview in places, but not without one. has a lot of info on this subject; you might try looking there.
  6. citizenzen macrumors 65816

    Mar 22, 2010
    As an art school drop out with no degree, I'm testament that it can be done ... though I wouldn't recommend that as the wisest career path.

    Your portfolio is the key to getting you in the door. After that, your performance keeps you there.
  7. DesignerOnMac macrumors 6502a


    Jul 23, 2007
    Back in 1970, ouch, I looked for 3 months for a GD job. No one would hire me due to a lack of experience. I had a good portfolio of ideas etc. I graduated from an art school. Finally at one interview, an art director, advised me to go to this financial printing company. (I didn't want to work for a printer.) I called the art director, and he hired me. He was in his 60s. I learned a lot there, both GD and printing. I moved on to the ad agency, etc.

    I eventually started my own design studio and ran it for 35 years.

    I hope is helps you. You need a portfolio that shows what your capable are. The rest will follow.

    Yes, GD is very competitive. You need to be thick skinned and be able to handle rejection.

    A lot of advise from others here is a good start too.
  8. superscape, Jan 13, 2016
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2016

    superscape macrumors 6502a


    Feb 12, 2008
    East Riding of Yorkshire, UK
    That's probably true in some places, but not everywhere.

    In my day job I work for the UK branch of a large, multinational packaging design business. A lot of our entry level graphic designers are poached from local colleges. Many of them are working towards level 3 level qualifications - that's below degree level. We have contacts who work at the colleges who let us know who's any good. Sometimes ex-students that we employ will have good things to say about fellow students. Sometimes people fail to even pass their course and are still employed - if your portfolio is good enough and you show the right kind of attitude then that may be enough. So, aside from getting a qualification, college is useful in getting yourself noticed and building a certain level of reputation.

    As has been mentioned, college will also help you build a portfolio. I'd suggest that's one of the most important things in getting a job. Qualifications are a piece of paper that says you can do a, b and c. A good portfolio shows that you did a, b and c.

    There are also people who work here who joined in non-graphic design roles, showed an interest and aptitude for graphic design and switched career. It's trickier to do, but it's possible and you may have to take some training whilst working before making the switch.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm all for college and it'll give you a big advantage. But even these days a college degree is not a 100% guarantee of employment, and lack of a degree is not a 100% guarantee of unemployment.
  9. MacGizmo macrumors 65816


    Apr 27, 2003
    It's an extremely competitive field... if you're competing for the lowest paying clients. Freelancers often make the mistake of teaching themselves Photoshop (which is to say, they pirated a copy of it and watched a few YouTube tutorials) and going after clients who aren't willing to pay more than the cost of a slice of pizza for a logo, or expect everything by the end of the day, etc.

    Good designers generally have no problem finding enough work to make a living. If working at an ad agency interests you, you may find that you will have your choice of where to work (in some cities) because they simply can't find enough qualified candidates.

    As already stated by others, though, a portfolio will win you the job at most places.
  10. bent christian Suspended

    bent christian

    Nov 5, 2015
    First off, as a general rule, people can either design or they can't. Be honest with yourself first. Design aesthetics can be learned, but often people who go this route will never be as good as a person with great natural ability. In the industry, there are very technical, production-minded people (me), and there are the artists. I design as fun and I am OK in this relm, but I chose a career in production, because I think it's really where me brain excels. You can also maybe do both. Don't put your eggs all in one basket, as they say.

    Design is a very competitive field, as you know. The availability of cheap software and an abundance of people making themselves available for this work has driven wages down. WAY down. Most people who are designers are not good at what they do. They are will to work for less and that is fine for most clients. Concern with quality in many areas has declined over the last ten years. Also, be aware there is very little money in this field. You have to be very, very talented and/or have other useful production skills. The honest truth is, for most people, design is a dead-end job with little security. My designer (experienced, has been doing it for years) makes less than $15 per hour.

    My advice is to learn production as well. Coding if you like to work in Web, prepress if you prefer print. To maximize your usefulness, it will be helpful to know both these days. Production skills can make you stand out. In my experience, designers tend to have a disturbing lack of production knowledge. Like...many, many have no knowledge of what color separation are, what the specific uses for various file formats are, etc. What BLEEDS are! How to place crop marks! It's really pretty sad.

    You should be working in some capacity in the industry while you are in school. Outside of natural ability, experience will be your next greatest asset. Work part-time if you can. Avoid internships and do not undersell your abilities. You should be paid for what you do. Learn where you fit, what areas you excel in, and what you most enjoy doing. Being a graphic artist is not an easy life, but the way I look at it, we do get to play ALL DAY.
  11. MechaSpanky macrumors 6502


    Sep 11, 2007
    I have worked in many different places, a few pre-press shops, a printer, several big ad agencies, an in-house design department, and a publishing company and I noticed that often times it doesn't matter if you are good at design or not. In my experience it boils down to two things. One, who you know. So many people in design get the job because of who they know, not what they know or how good they are. Secondly, and this one is really sad in my opinion but I have seen so many cases where cute/hot girls are hired before other more capable and skilled designers simply because they looked good in a short skirt or aren't afraid to show some cleavage. Of course having a good portfolio will help as well as having a good basic understanding of design and printing but in the end there are some factors that are out of your control.

    Just my two cents
  12. MisterK macrumors 6502

    Jan 9, 2006
    Ottawa, Canada
    Your portfolio is everything. It is a tough market right now. I wouldn't recommend going freelance. It works out great for some, but particularly at the beginning you want to surround yourself with the best designers you can. They will raise your game. Work hard, be humble and willing to learn and put in some hours. It's worth it. If you have a speciality, then try and play into that. You'll have a better time competing with others in your speciality than every designer in the world. Ad agencies are a lot of work but your portfolio will get a lot better quickly. Especially if you work at an agency with high profile clients. I would absolutely do it all over again. The most important traits are built over time: expertise and confidence. It all comes down to if you're good or not. I know this is relative, but you hire a junior designer if their work is "good for a junior designer" and you pay someone a lot of money if they're going to win your agency awards.

    General good office job traits are important if you're going to go the non-freelance route: be a grown up. No one wants to babysit. Act as though the buck stops with you. Take a risk by taking responsibility. You might screw up but people will appreciate it. Be kind. I've worked with some of the best people in the industry and being stuck up is not correlated with skill.

    There is a lot of money in this industry for people who become very good. I've found my trick is to both specialise and generalise. Specialise in one part of the industry (UI, a particular market segment like designing for kids) and then generalise by learning everything about that segment (like writing or 3D or marketing). That's the kind of stuff that turns you to an art director or creative director.
  13. dazzer21-2 macrumors regular

    Dec 3, 2005
    Nothing to add - that's all the advice you need right there. It's how I did it, and I'm glad I did. I've been freelance/self employed 18 years. I was employed and working with agencies for 7 years before that. Some of the clients I have today are ones I started working with way back then.
  14. ezekielrage_99 macrumors 68040


    Oct 12, 2005
    I'm a Digital Art Director (UX/UI), from what other people have said before is very good advice. I'd thought I'd compress some of the ideas for you.

    - A qualification is generally the cost of entry to the industry, it says I've completed the basics.

    - A good portfolio communicates what you can do. From experience a talent individual with a good folio will never find it hard to get work.

    - Network, network, network. Design is social, you need a good digital presences and social presences. Set up a Linkedin, Behance, etc.. profile and attend industry events. Half the getting the foot in the door is knowing where the action is and having visibility from an industry perspective. People are willing to help the newbies, you just need to get involved.

    - Have good general skills, had good soft skills and specialise in one thing. Having a person in the team who can slot into any role being UX, interface design, cutting up assets AND doing one thing better than anyone else in the team is indispensable.

    - Learn the rational and process of design not just the software. Learning photoshop makes you a tooler, knowing design makes you a hipster. Understanding both tools of the trade and the philosophy makes you a good designer.

    - Did I mention a folio is a MUST.
  15. longchelsea macrumors newbie


    Jan 17, 2016
    competitive field at the same time passionate diligence . You should think carefully

Share This Page