1. Is Graphic Design Really for Me?
Before you take the first steps towards becoming a graphic designer – which may require a sound investment of time, money and energy – ask yourself whether graphic design is really the right path for you. While graphic design is a wonderful creative profession, it comes with a price tag: tight deadlines, long hours and sleepless nights. Freelance designers may also experience financial stress and dealing with difficult clients. So graphic design is only worth going for if you really love it!
2. The Right Mindset to Have
Every graphic designer hits a low point at some stage of his/her career. Developing a strong, positive mindset will help you get through these challenging times and will make you more successful in general. When you love and understand the creative process and live in the now, strive to improve all the time and appreciate what you have, your career will happen naturally and criticism won’t bother you. Over thinking may cause frustration, so when you experience doubts about anything career-related, step out of your comfort zone and just do it, even break the rules.
3. The Required Investment to Become a Graphic Designer
Pursuing a career in graphic design has a financial cost. Get ready to start spending as soon as you start your education. You will become a regular client of the printers for posters, brochures, and other print services. Other expenses may include sketchbooks, paper and various other materials. And while you may have access to a computer at your college or university, I recommend investing in your own machine, preferably a Mac, if you can afford it. As a student you may be entitled to discounts on your computer as well as on Adobe’s Creative Suite and on font packages, which you will definitely need, though there are other options such a Canva. Further down your career line, if you start your own business, other costs may arise, such as high quality screens, software license, Wacom tablets, office space and more.
4. Is a Graphic Design Degree Essential?
There are two basic approaches to graphic design education: doing it yourself through online tutorials, articles and books or taking a professional class or obtaining an art school degree. Personally, I’ve invested in an art school degree, and I recommend you do the same. Here’s why: online resources and professional short-term courses focus mainly on software, such as Photoshop and Illustrator. But there’s so much more to graphic design.
Art school studies will expand and enrich your mind and as a result you will develop a unique, creative way of seeing the world with an eye for details, which is a gift for life. While an impressive portfolio and design skills can get you hired, a degree coupled with industry experience could mean higher payment. Specializing in a certain area within graphic design, such as interaction design, Web design or print may increase your hiring chances and earning potential further.
5. How to Gain Industry Experience
The best graphic design vacancies require industry experience. But how do you get that experience if you’re just getting started?
Approaching charities and offering your services to them is one way to go. Another option is to take low-budget projects for friends and family or to create personal projects. Doing internships is a common way of gaining industry experience and sometimes getting a permanent job at an agency. However, in the current climate it might be easier to get your first clients.
6. Why Relationships Matter
While you can definitely succeed as a designer on your own, developing relationships with peers in your industry can help you land your first job or clients, or even elevate your existing career to new heights. You can also collaborate with other creatives, such as writers, illustrators and musicians on exciting projects, or even get into the public eye, helped by bloggers, marketers and PR (public relations) experts. But where do you meet people? Well, online you can search for design forums and ‘in the real world’ you can join design organizations and go to design events.
7. Starting Your Own Business vs Getting a Job
As a designer in the making you will be faced with the famous dilemma – whether to get a job or to develop an independent career as a freelancer or even open your own studio. There is no easy answer here. A common practice is to first get a job as a designer, gain experience and reputation and once you’re confident enough – start your own practice. Working for someone else may be somewhat restrictive when it comes to diversity of projects, clients and income. The upside though is that there is less financial stress and you don’t need to worry about attracting clients. If you’re an entrepreneur at heart you can enjoy much more creative freedom and potentially better income as an independent designer. You will need to acquire business background and deal with all sorts of contracts, with pricing yourself and with naysayers.
8. How to Leverage the Internet for More Opportunities
Developing your online presence is essential today in most industries. In graphic design, however, it is key to your success in finding a job and attracting projects and clients directly, due to the visual nature of this craft.
To begin with, every designer needs to have an online portfolio. With a small investment per year, you can purchase your own domain – ideally including your name or the name of your brand – and hosting. There are countless free portfolio templates for Wordpress, a platform which is pretty easy to install and maintain. SquareSpace, albeit a bit pricier, is a one-stop-shop for setting up your website and putting together a beautiful portfolio. Running a blog can also help attract new clients and employers and the aforementioned services offer powerful blogging tools as well. Many designers prefer to use Behance, a network of online portfolios, popular works get voted up on Behance and can get noticed by some of the top recruiters.
Using major social networks, such as Twitter, Facebook and Flickr to establish your online presence and bring traffic to your website is essential. However, there are social networks for creatives – the bigger of which is deviantART where designers, artists and illustrators can connect, collaborate and sell their art.
There’s a huge demand for graphic services on the Internet. Sebastiano, for example, uses his site, Wegraphics, to sell graphic resources to other designers. ThemeForest sells themes for WordPress blogs and for other platforms. You can also pitch for design projects through blur Group’s very own Design Exchange (which is free to join).
9. How to Form Your Own Style as a Graphic Designer
There is no recipe for developing your own style as a designer. As you create more and more projects, your style will be developed naturally. By going through design publications and websites and exploring some prominent designers and trying to imitate their style – as a learning process only, of course – you can more easily find your own direction.
10. Where to Find Creative Inspiration
Designers can’t create without inspiration because graphic design is a creative craft more than it is technical. But where do you find inspiration? The short answer is: everywhere. Your breakthrough idea can hit you at dinner, in the shower or even when you’re traveling. Inspiration is fickle and you can’t force it but you can stimulate it by going outside and seeing people, nature, art, movies – whatever fuels your mind. Also, make it a habit to always carry a pen and a pad for when inspiration strikes.