Graphic designers create visual communications seen every day, every minute, across the globe. Designers develop entertainment, advertising, news and features in all forms, including print publications (magazines, newspapers and brochures) and digital and broadcast media such as game machines, television, web browsers, social platforms and portable devices. As technology continually develops in complexity, so too grow the duties and skills of graphic designers.
STEPS TO BECOMING A GRAPHIC DESIGNER
1.START BUILDING YOUR SKILLS IN HIGH SCHOOL
It never hurts to start early in any field, but it is particularly important when it comes to graphic design. While in high school, students should take classes in art history, drawing, graphic arts and website design. They can put their emerging skills to use designing and producing the school newspaper or yearbook. Graphic design requires a good eye and a creative mind, but also tantamount are the development of solid practical skills and software fluency. The sooner the student begins preparations, the better.
2.EARN A DEGREE IN GRAPHIC DESIGN
There was a time when a graphic designer could get hired strictly on their creative portfolio. Today, however, most employers are looking for designers with a more complete and well-rounded education – the kind only a college degree can provide. A certificate in the field, or an associate’s degree, may be sufficient in some cases, but the U.S. Department of Labor reports that fledgling designers are much more likely to land a quality job only after earning a bachelor’s degree.
There are currently approximately 300 post-secondary institutions in the U.S. that offer degree programs accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. School options run the gamut from large public universities, to small private colleges, to prestigious art institutes. There are also a growing number of online programs available. Coursework covers a wide range of subjects, such as studio art, principles of design, commercial graphics, web design, advertising and graphics-related computer technology. Classes in marketing and business may be part of the curriculum as well, since designers must be able to compile and submit professional job proposals, and effectively sell themselves to potential clients.
Regardless of the specific degree they choose, graphic design students should look for an accredited program from a reputable school.
Not all college programs in graphic design require internships, but those that do offer students an exceptional opportunity to gain practical experience, to form professional relationships in the design community, and complete work suitable for presentation in their portfolio or design “book”.
4.CREATE A COMPELLING PORTFOLIO
While a solid resume is an important aspect of any job search, the biggest asset to someone looking for a job in graphic design is an impressive portfolio. Though graphic designers will need a resume, the only way for a prospective employer to understand an applicant’s abilities is through a portfolio demonstrating a range of work and growth as a designer.
There was a time when a graphic design portfolio was a simple collection of a designer’s best newspaper and magazine advertisements. Professional portfolios today are much more sophisticated, consisting not only of print ads, but also including online advertisements, website graphics, and even a television commercial reel and animation demo. It is not uncommon for job seekers today to carry fully digital versions of their portfolio on CD or DVD with them to interviews – along with the more traditional paper version – and many designers also maintain their own up-to-date design portfolio websites.
For students just starting out, presenting a large and varied portfolio is difficult given the limited amount of completed work they’ll have done. In that case, they should focus on quality instead of quantity, presenting only their best design samples, and a portfolio arranged to meet a prospective employer’s specific needs.
Graphic design is a constantly changing and developing field. Designers must keep up with the commercial and artistic trends in the industry – or they may find themselves quickly left behind. They must also remain current on new and updated computer graphics and design software programs, which are in a near constant state of evolution. This is particularly true for designers working as freelancers, and for those interested in advancing to higher positions within their companies. Organizations such as the American Institute of Graphic Arts or the Graphic Artists Guild provide members with educational updates on new technology, software or methodology. Completing certification programs in vendor-specific design software can also help build credentials.
6.RETURN TO SCHOOL
Graphic designers may choose to advance their skills, creativity and deep knowledge of the field by adding a graduate degree or post-secondary certificate. There are master’s degree programs created specifically for designers wishing to advance in theoretical studies (MA) or concentrate their work on a studio degree (MFA).