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How Do I Start A Career in Graphic Design?

How Do I Start A Career in Graphic Design? There are a variety of routes to consider pursuing to get you where you want to be in a successful graphic design career, with no ‘one true path to follow. It’s about seizing opportunities, working hard, and attacking every project with vigor, passion, and determination.

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01. Pursue formal study

Yes, some people do become graphic designers without the benefit of 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. 

02.   Work on your software skills

Most programs 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.

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.

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 the interview.

03.   Start freelancing now

Once you’ve graduated or certified 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. 


04.   Get an internship

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 to design organizations are run; have a better understanding of client requests and how workload works. 

05.   Nurture a network of peers

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.

06.   Create an online presence

An online platform to express yourself – and maintain a constant dialogue with other people interested in your work – is a must. And we’re not just talking about a Twitter account or Facebook page. Prospective employers will expect you to have either your own website or, at a minimum, to use an online portfolio service like Behance

07.   Start a side project

If no doors are yet opening, then make your own projects. These could be ebooks, postcards, a great pack of free icons, CMS themes, anything you can think of to get you started. 

Doing things on your own is risky but worthwhile. There is certainly merit in creating your own opportunities. The tools to connect with friends, colleagues, and like-minded people are available; use them to freely explore your creativity and skills. Today’s online culture is changing how the industry operates, so get on board and make it work for you.

08.   Join design organisations

Take advantage of the discounts you get while still a student to join design organizations The benefits of interacting with like-minded people and networking are extremely valuable. 

Participating in design organizations will provide a rich understanding of the field, help you figure out who’s who in our industry, and give you the chance to speak to inspiring people. Soak up all the possible knowledge and advice on offer to get noticed and respected by colleagues.

09.   Be nice, be bold, be humble

In the graphic design world, human connections are vital to growth. So being genuinely friendly and interested will absolutely help push forward your career. Quite simply, building relationships and communication is at the core of our profession, so you can’t shy away from it.

10.   Keep going!

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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