Hey all! I’ve started a new Reader Q&A series because I’ve had people ask me questions and I’m all about answering them 🙂
Up this week: I want to be a graphic designer—now what?
“How did you get started?”
By chance, actually. I was in my last semester as a PR major (I wanted to go into fashion PR) taking an advanced editing class. This was the first time I really got a chance at designing anything and I was hooked instantly.
Of course, being in the last semester of school meant not changing my major, so after graduation, I decided to get my master’s but obtain a second bachelor’s first since I’d have to go back and take all design classes anyway. Long story short, I got an interdisciplinary studies degree in art and worked on building my portfolio for the post-grad world.
Between gigs, I was learning more skills on Illustrator and designing things for dirt cheap ($50) to build up my portfolio. I got lucky that my mom’s coworker knew someone that was looking for a contractor and I got the position, so I was able to build up my skills on the job (I highly recommend this if you can).
“What classes do I need to be a good designer?”
– InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator basics are always good to know.
– Color theory to understand the importance of color and how it impacts mood, buying behavior, etc.
– Basic/Intro to design classes also help with the introduction of graphic design basics.
– Web design/coding basics. You can’t go wrong learning CSS and HTML, even if you don’t plan on getting into development.
“Should I go to an art school?”
Humble opinion: no. There’s nothing wrong with art schools, but if you’re going to be drowning in debt or you can’t afford it, find a local college with a good design program. They’re out there. Your work will speak for itself, so don’t get hung up on the name. It’s just fluff.
“What degree should I get?”
It depends on the school and the program. If I were a bit smarter, since I already had a degree, I would have done a continuing education certificate in graphic design. I do think having a business degree (especially marketing), is good to have to understand basic business principles, even if it’s a minor. Knowing how to set up and price yourself as a business is something you don’t want to learn on your own, though it is good growing pains. Also, learning about self-employment taxes, LLC’s, etc…HALP.
“What’s the most important thing you learned as a graphic designer?”
A few things:
– Don’t take critiques personally—use them as an improvement for your skill. I’m a sensitive person (gasp) and think my work is a reflection of me. If it wasn’t an automatic, “YAAAAS!” I used to be so angry. “I worked HARD!” Of course, I did, but someone saw something more in me and my talent. That’s a good thing.
– You’re not going to stop learning. I’ve worked in a lot of the Adobe programs more than once, and as the industry changed, I had to keep up which meant I had to keep learning. With updates changing how functions work, you’re always learning more to be better.
I started design right as digital grew. I knew nothing about the web and was solely a print-focused designer. However, I, for a lot of reasons, taught myself, HTML and CSS (also, a shout out to Xanga and Myspace for getting me through), and how to take my print skills and apply them to a digital and social format.
– The comparison game will kill you. There are a lot of talented designers out there, and you’re one of many. That’s a great thing! I love striving to be the best, but I have to be careful not to feel envious of admiring their work.
– Find a style that’s you. I’m such a stickler for clean lines, but I want to be unique with them too. Black and white are my favorite colors, and I’m not too big on super “fancy” fonts. It’s really cool when people see a design and say, “Hey C, this is so you.” That means my aesthetic makes a strong impact and speaks for itself.
– Speaking of style, your style isn’t for everyone. This is why you don’t play the comparison game. When you approach clients, they may go in another direction because they have a different vision in mind. That’s cool.
Got questions? Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org