Advice. Everyone has advice for you. Be sure you have a great portfolio; remember, Less Is More; floss daily. I, too, have some advice for you aspiring graphic designers but my advice is not the fluffy stuff, it’s the real world stuff that may surprise you or may be difficult for you to hear. But if you follow these tips you’re in for an exciting and rewarding career.
1. It’s Not All Roses At The Top. Graphic design may sound like a fun and glamorous profession — sitting around all day drawing and picking color swatches — but it requires a lot of dedication and a love for design in all its forms. All great designers I’ve ever known share a love for the art and the craft of design; they love the process as much as the results. No matter how successful you become, you will always be called upon to design something you have no interest in. Picture yourself designing an auto parts catalog, a brochure for pet cremation services, a logo for a basement waterproofing company, or a hospital employee newsletter. Sound boring? Depends on whom you ask. I’ve designed all these things. Now picture yourself designing Christmas cards sold at retail stores nationwide, perfume advertising appearing in Vogue magazine, or package designs for products sold worldwide and featured on a top NBC sitcom. I’ve designed all these things too. My point is that if you love the design process and not just the results, every job can be a rewarding experience.
2. Education Counts: Many colleges offer vocational certificate programs in design; with more time and money you can get an Associates degree; even more time and money gets you a Bachelor’s degree. When it comes to a formal design education, my feeling is more is more. More education gives you more to offer a future employer. Plus it gives you more time to develop your talents and skills before you will be expected to produce good design for money. So get as much education as your time and wallet will allow. And whatever you do, NEVER take out private student loans.
3. Fill In The Gaps. This means that we don’t know it all. Being a well-rounded designer and not a one trick pony means you need to know a lot about a lot of things you may not have learned in school. Be curious about things you don’t know about that other designers seem to know. Then learn about those things. Architecture, photography, art history, music, film — every artistic discipline is interconnected. For example, if you hear someone talking about Milton Glaser, Frank Lloyd Wright, Richard Avedon, the Bauhaus, Bossa Nova or Michael Apted, and you don’t know what they’re talking about…LOOK IT UP.
4. Design Is More Than Knowing Adobe Creative Suite. The old saying that knowing how to type doesn’t make you a writer applies to designers as well. Knowing Photoshop and Illustrator doesn’t make you a designer. Computer software is simply a tool to create great designs you first thought up on paper. It will never design your next great idea. You’ve heard the joke, “Socks first, then shoes.” Pencil first, then computer.
5. Learn How To Be Creative On-Demand. You’re entering a profession that will require you to be creative all the time, not just when the mood strikes, so learning how to do that is essential. Read my article, How To Be Creative On Demand.
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