You have spent your childhood drawing pictures and noodling around with all sorts of design and graphic applications. You know that you are creative, enjoy art and want to get started on the path to becoming a graphic / Web designer. The only problem is you don’t know where to start!
Below are some helpful hints and tips that I give to all budding designers, whether they are nearing the end of their formal education, or just getting their feet wet in the field of design. These tips can help prepare you to become a well-rounded designer that can succeed in the real word and/or the educational setting.
1. Passion – As with any career field, if you don’t enjoy it there is no point in doing it. I have a passion for graphic design. I think about design and its application all throughout the day and I never tire of it. Having a passion and great enjoyment for designing is vital to this field. If you pick up a magazine and notice the layout, font treatment, color usage and photography more than the actual content…you are ripe for the picking as a potential designer.
2. Education – Go to college…period. What did I learn in college about design? Sadly I did not learn much real world application in terms of how to use design programs and such. What I did learn however was design theory and fundamentals. These are your building blocks as a graphic designer. Having a degree can also help show your future employers that you are dedicated to pursuing knowledge and committed to accomplishing a set goal. It’s not the actual degree that matters…it’s the fact that you stuck it out for all four years and obtained one.
3. Self-Teaching – I spent many of my summer days during college researching and learning all the different types of programs involved in layout and graphic design. Granted most of those programs have improved and added features over time (it was 1998-2002), spending a lot of your personal time learning the tools necessary for your career profession is key. Design is not just a career but a hobby too.
4. Real World Advice – Given the advent of Web 2.0 and the ability to interact seamlessly with millions of people online, research a few graphic design professionals and contact them with any questions you have. Having a variety of perspective on the field you are interested in can only help you understand what to expect. This especially holds true in setting up your design files for printing vendors (something that was truly lacking in my formal education in which I had to learn on my own).
5. Freelance – While studying graphic design in College or at a trade school, pursue freelance opportunities during your spare time. How to go about that is an entirely different post, but by getting your name out there into the world as a graphic designer you are setting yourself up for success. Start by doing some charity design at no cost (a logo for your church youth group). It will help you build up your portfolio and give you some practice along the way.
6. Internship – Working part-time for a pre-press layout department was a great starting point for myself. I was able to see how to correctly prepare design files for a professional printing vendor using offset and digital presses. Finding a similar opportunity will only help you understand how things work on the other side of the printing world.
I am always available to give advice or answer any questions other designers may have, so feel free to contact me if you have a question burning inside of you.