The Realities of Graphic Design

Over the years I have seen graphic design students make the leap from classroom to full-time employment. In fact, it was ten years ago that I experienced the same transition. Graduated from college, I bravely landed my first graphic design job with a web design company. Back then I was lucky to land a job in the field, particularly in the area. The odds were against us with 8 out of 40 students from my class working in the field one year after college.

It was in college that we were taught about design theory, history, software, and how to push our design work. We were there to impress our teachers, peers, and build a portfolio for ourselves. The bulk of the projects were about experimentation and not necessarily realistic to what we would experience in the real world.

It is now looking back there are realities about graphic design that would be valuable to any graphic designer starting out:

Graphic Design Is Hard Work

You will have to work hard to do the type of graphic design that you studied about. This means you may have to endure menial, repetitive design tasks. You may have to put in extra time to get jobs finished to perfection. By doing an exceptional job at handling these tasks, the doors will open for you.  You will gain knowledge that you can apply to the more difficult design jobs that will be coming your way. Own all your projects and you will get to doing the design jobs that you have dreamed about. Go the extra mile with typography, color, layout and you will become a great graphic designer.

The Studying Does Not End In School

Learning will never end in the area of graphic design. You need to stay on top of the trends and technologies in the field to keep your work relevant and efficient. Unfortunately with a full time job there may not be time during normal hours to do this. You will have to spend some of your own time reading magazines and books, subscribing to blogs, and going through websites. Upgrading your software will force you to make the leap to expanding your software skills. I received my training using Photoshop 8, Illustrator 9, QuarkXpress 4, and used Syquest disks to save my files. You can imagine how behind the times I would be if I did not adapt with the changing technology over the last 10 years!

You Are Designing For The Client, Not Yourself

That grunge, handmade look that is your signature style is great to represent your personal portfolio but your client may not appreciate it. This is why a design brief is so important when defining design projects. You need to understand your client's market, goals, and the messaging they are trying to get across. The look and feel that they are after may not be how you typically design. But any good designer will be able to adjust to a style that will work for their customer.

People Think That Everyone Is A Graphic Designer

Along the way you will run into clients that think that everyone is a graphic designer. This could include your client's spouse, child, or anyone with a computer. Although it is tough not to be offended, this is your queue to educate your client. Take them through your process and provide examples. What sets you apart from anyone else who has a computer with design software?

You Will Not Always Produce Portfolio Quality Work

Your client may have a hideous logo that was designed by themselves and they may not have the budget for a full redesign. Or there may be projects where there is an extremely short timeline, like a newspaper advertisement, that needed to be submitted yesterday. There are times where you will be restricted in your designs. You can definitely make suggestions to change directions but there will be a point where you have to compromise with your client. They are, after all, paying your bills.

Seek Criticism, Not Praise

It is always nice to hear all the good things about your design work. But there are times when you will get blinded by your own designs. The things that other designers notice in your designs for improvement will ultimately give you a better design. To become a great designer you need to tap into the criticism.


  © 2010 Design by Stephanie Janke -

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