Become a Graphic Designer: What You Need to Know
In many cities, it seems graphic designers are a dime a dozen. Perhaps it’s because of the perception of graphic design as a cushy, fun, well-paying office job that is generally free of stress. Or, perhaps it’s because of the prestige factor in graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Art from a distinguished art school. In this article, we’ll sort fact from fiction and take a look at how you can become a graphic designer.
1. Graphic Design: The Real Deal. Graphic design is universally perceived as being a fun, artsy, stress-free job where you sit and draw pretty pictures all day. The truth of the matter is, graphic design isn’t always so glamorous, and it certainly isn’t a ride in the park. Like any job, the days can be long and the workload piled up to the ceiling. Computer programs can get buggy and crash quite often; clients can become overbearingly demanding and cause you grief throughout the day; and priorities can switch around at a moment’s notice. Talk about stress!
2. Are You a Right-Brained Creative Artistic Type? The very first thing one must consider before entering into a graphic design degree program is whether you are a creative, artistic person. If you aren’t, you will not survive in the graphic design arena. Likewise, you won’t survive as a graphic designer if you dislike working with computers. At least with print designers, all the work is now done via software programs such as Adobe Creative Suite.
3. Education. Graphic designers generally have a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from a public university or distinguished art school.
4. Your Design Portfolio. To the graphic designer, the portfolio is like headgear on a football star: you can’t play without it. A quick jaunt to your local art supply store will inform you as to the sizes, styles, and presentations available for your design portfolio. Typically, a portfolio contains roughly between 12 and 15 of your best pieces of graphic design artwork. This is what you will sprospective employers. Though many graphic designers are creating websites and uploading their artwork to the Web, you still need a physical portfolio to display your artwork during job interviews. If you are unsure of the whole portfolio thing, don’t worry; most graphic design schools will educate you on put it all together.
5. Online/Web Graphic Design Opportunities. After you’ve completed the requirements for your graphic design degree, keep in mind that more options exist other than print design alone. In recent years, more companies are blurring the line between traditional print graphic designers and web designers. So if you see a job opening for a graphic designer and they require HTML, CSS, and Flash, chances are that job will be majority web design as opposed to traditional print media. If you’re particularly tech-savvy and you feel comfortable dividing your time between design and web development work, this may be a great opportunity to make a higher salary than traditional print design.
6. Personality Type Profile for the Successful Graphic Designer. Becoming a graphic designer takes a certain personality type. First and foremost, you must have thick skin. People are going to critique your artwork on a daily basis, and sometimes it can be very harsh (especially true in ad agencies). You need to be able to go with the flow and accept changes. Also, you must take on the role of a perfectionist and not let any mistakes pass you by. Remember, you’re dealing with clients whose entire image depends on your ability to create eye-catching logos, graphics, and branding in order to bring in more business.
7. Competitive Nature of Graphic Design. Perhaps the biggest lesson one needs to learn about the field of graphic design is that it is highly competitive, and you always have to be at the top of your game. The highest paying graphic designer positions are based in large advertising/marketing firms with top clients; but you’ll sacrifice virtually all of your free time and then some trying to please marketing managers and making sure your artwork is more cutting-edge than any other out there. You must be a problem solver, constantly learning new skills, and have a positive, out of the box-thinking attitude.