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How Do You Break Into Graphic Design?

 

 

Looking for the best graphic design jobs? You’re not alone. This popular profession has never been more competitive, and you’ll need to stand out from the crowd if you’re going to make it.

There’s no ‘one true path’ towards a successful graphic design career, but rather a variety of routes to pursue, none of which are mutually exclusive. It’s about seizing opportunities, working hard, and attacking every project with vigor, passion and determination.

Whether you’re a recent graduate, seeking your first job as a junior designer, or are more advanced in your career, but still seeking to climb the ladder, this post contains 14 pieces of expert advice to help you progress as a graphic designer.

  1. Pursue formal study

A design degree remains the standard way in to the profession

Yes, some people do become graphic designers without the benefit of a formal education. But a university degree remains the safest and most reliable route into the industry. And it’s not just about getting a job – a thorough grounding in design theory and practice will enable you to do that job well, too.

That said, not everyone can afford to take three years out of the workplace to study. Also it has to be said that some design degrees still leave graduates lacking in many of the basic skills and aptitudes needed in today’s design workplace.

Both of these factors have led to the rise of short, intensive courses, now offered by the likes of Shillington, Hyper Island, Escape Studios and the new Blue Sky graphic design school. These can get you trained and agency-ready in as little as three months, and are well respected within the industry.

  1. Work on your software skills

Formal study is about principles, but you’ll probably want some more practical software training too

Most programmers of formal study don’t focus heavily on specific software skills, and for good reason. Academic courses are more about understanding timeless concepts and principles, and developing the broad ability to solve problems. Software packages, in contrast, can change on a month-to-month basis, and it would be difficult for academic institutions to keep up with them even if they wanted to.

It remains a fact, though, that most design job ads demand that you be skilled in specific design tools, most commonly Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and/or InDesign. The good news is that there are countless ways to get up to speed with these packages, quickly and easily.

To learn Photoshop, for example, might want to take a structured online course; follow some of the many free Photoshop tutorials available online; or just search YouTube to fill the gaps in your knowledge.

Whichever way you educate yourself, the important thing is to put what you’ve learned into practice. Make sure you have fully worked up pieces to put in your portfolio and something concrete to discuss at interview.

  1. Start freelancing now

Even if you’ve only just graduated, it’s not too early to take the plunge and start freelancing

Once you’ve graduated from formal study and got up to speed with the relevant software, you’ll probably want to start looking for a job. But while you’re sitting around waiting for replies to your applications, there’s no reason you can’t get started as a freelancer right away.

Taking on real-world projects will help solidify everything you’ve learned, and start translating your theoretical skills into more meaningful, practical ones. Again, this will give you more to talk about at interviews, and of course, will help feed you while you wait for the chance to earn a proper salary.

You’ll find advice on how to freelance straight out of education in section one of this article.

  1. Work for charity

A rebrand of charity initiative Life Kitchen by hat-trick

Another way to start a network base, add solid work to your portfolio and get noticed is to offer your design skills to charities in your community. Doing good work for a really good cause, close to your heart, will be a reward in itself of course. But such projects could potentially also lead to paid work, in both the non-profit and for-profit sectors. A word of warning though – make sure you’re not being taken advantage of with unpaid work. If working for free becomes the norm it’s damaging for the whole industry; not just your personal bank balance.

For more advice on how to bulk out your book, take a look at this guide to how to build up a design portfolio from scratch.

  1. Get an internship

Pentagram is one of many big design studios that offer internships

A placement with a good design studio or at an in-house department can offer invaluable experience that you will draw on throughout your design career. You’ll become seasoned in how design organizations are run; have a better understanding about client requests and how workload works.

With luck (and bear in mind you need to make most of your own luck), you’ll get to show your skills and commitment to the company and turn your internship into a full-time job, gain some skills and start your own network.

  1. Nurture a network of peers

In the design world, peers should be seen not as rivals, but as a support network

We often perceive our peers as competition instead of supporters or collaborators; but in the design world, it’s the opposite. Here, it really does pay to actively nurture a network of peers. For instance, the project that someone passes on due to a busy schedule or a short budget might be a project that is a good fit for you – and a great piece to add to your portfolio that eventually opens doors to bigger opportunities and new ventures.

Idea generator tools for business growth offer a unique set of ideas for looking at problems, opportunities or problems.

One final piece of advice: keep moving forward. Keep up your task of calling, emailing or whatever you do on a constant basis. Don’t take rejection personally and discard envy. A rejection today could land you a job tomorrow or a new client further on.

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