20 Ways to Prepare For a Career in Graphic Design

Many design students have a hard time transitioning from student to employees simply because of a lack of preparation. With the graphic design industry being so competitive, it’s important to make yourself stand out from your competitors. Graphic design is a fast-growing industry that requires a lot of skills from employees. Many students struggle with a real graphic design job because they don’t know what to expect and become overwhelmed. No matter what stage you are at in your career progression, we have complied a list to better help you prepare for your career.

1. Go to School

There are very few young graphic designers that have such a good combination of skills and awareness to be successful right out of the gate. Having a graphic design degree is a great accomplishment and many employers will weigh more heavily on the fact that you have a certificate compared to someone else. You still need a strong portfolio, but having a graphic design degree under your belt will be impressive.

2. Work Hard

Getting your first job out of graphic design school will be hard work. There is plenty of work out there, but you have to be proactive about your future and search for it. If you do the proper research and connect with the right people in the industry, it will be easier for you to chase down people who will be in the position to offer you a graphic design job.

3. Figure Out Your Specialization

There are many faucets to graphic design – logo design, business card design, brochure design, identity and branding, magazine and book design and advertising. Find out which channel you enjoy the most and work best in. Having a specialization will help you stand out when you’re preparing for your career as a graphic designer.

4. Plan Out Your Courses

Plan out your courses for what will best fit your schedule and lifestyle. If you want to start working sooner, work with school counsellors to fast track your graphic design program so you can start working sooner. If you wish to get more classes to expand your design knowledge (which never hurts anyone), you can also work this into your program.

5. Be Nice

Being nice will get you far in the industry. As you prepare for your career as a graphic designer, remember that many employers are extremely busy. When calling, e-mailing and interviewing with possible employers, remember to be courteous because they are taking the time out of their day to talk with you. Treat people with respect and you’re more likely to get the same in return.

6. Network

Networking is one of the most important things you can do as a graphic design student and the sooner you start, the better. #5 and #6 are connected – if you’re nice to people they are more likely to refer you to someone for a job. Keep in touch with your network of contacts and genuinely be friendly.

7. Master Your Software

Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign are tools you should be familiar and comfortable with. Most employers will expect you to know these tools once you graduate.

8. Take Advantage of Resources

Many of these types of services are not taken advantage of at college. The services are there for a reason – to help you. If you are looking for a job, help with a resume, interview skills, etc. they will more than happy to help you.

9. Do Side Projects or Freelance

The best way to get experience when you are young is to create your own personal projects or freelance on the side. This is also a great way for students to make some extra cash while attending graphic design school. Side projects are a good way to add work to your portfolio that is completely yours. Freelancing is a great way to work on real-world design projects with real clients. Use these experiences as a way to refine and sharpen your skills.

10. Look for Criticism

Nobody’s designs are perfect. That’s why seeking out other people to search for your mistakes is a good way to develop your skills. It may be tough receiving feedback at first because it can feel like your work is being personally attacked. Remember to differentiate yourself from your work and to use it to improve.

11. Find Graphic Design Internships/Placements

Experience is one of the best ways to make yourself stand out. Experience is what will put you on top of the resume pile at graphic design agencies. E-mail or call graphic design agencies you’d like to get the best experience from. Many agencies will take interns without advertising for them (and they may even pay you).

12. Read

Reading is one of the best skills you can inherit when preparing for your career as a graphic designing. Many elements of the design industry change so fast that you’re going to need to be able to keep up with the latest standards. Professionally speaking, reading books and internet articles will make you a smarter designer.

13. Learn Business

Being knowledgable in general business terms will prove to be valuable later in your career. If you ever want to go full-time freelance, you’re going to have to know how to run a business. Taking classes such as economics, marketing, advertising and business communication will be beneficial for you.

14. Be Original

You need to have a personal style. Without you, you can get lots within the hundreds of graphic design students that might be applying for the same jobs you are! A good way to differentiate yourself is to brand yourself. Brand your portfolio, your e-mails, your resume and cover letter and your social media presence. Be consistent across all of them.

15. Have a Portfolio

Not having a portfolio won’t get you very far in the graphic design industry. Portfolios are a way to brand yourself and promote your services. If you don’t have many portfolio pieces, create side projects for yourself, work for friends and family or freelance with real clients.

16. Have a Resume & Cover Letter

Even through some say the resume is now dead in the design industry, it’s still good to have one. If a graphic design job exceeds a number of applications, they won’t have time to look at your design portfolio. Rather, they will just look at your resume to see if you have the minimum requirements for the position. In your cover letter remember to include who you are, why you’re contacting so-and-so and why you want to work at that graphic design
agency.

17. Follow People That Inspire You

Following people you admire is important because it can be a constant source of inspiration. Twitter is a great community for graphic designers because you can easily follow all the “leaders” in the graphic designer industry.

18. Make a List of Places/People You Want to Work For

If one of your goals is to work for a specific agency, do your research before you even graduate. Are they looking for designers? How big is their company? How many employees do they have? What type of work do they normally produce and is it your style? Is the company environment somewhere you can see yourself fitting in?

19. Attend Events

Being active online is great, but meeting others and attending events offline is a great way to connect with the community. Although many of these conferences are rather expensive for graphic design students, if you can attend one, take advantage of it.

20. Do Research on Job Requirements

Job requirements for graphic designers will change slightly from one company to the next. This is a good way to prepare for your career because it lets you know what you should expect on the job. If you don’t know what your employers will be demanding of you, it can be a nerve-racking experience transitioning from student to employee.

Graphic Designer Jobs – A Great Career

Graphic designer jobs are done by artists who uses art and media to communicate messages for companies and other organizations. Graphic designers use print, the internet, other digital mediums, film and photographs to get their message across. They understand the subtle things in art that make a design project successful.

The typical functions of graphic designer jobs is developing logos, brochures, websites, business cards, magazine advertisements, newspaper advertisements and the general look and feel of an organizations overall design plan.

Graphic designers find out what their client or organization is trying to say and who their target audience is and they are able to effectively communicate that through graphic arts.

Graphic designer jobs require the designer to know how to discern a company’s product or service and their target audience. This is why these jobs require a certain level of professionalism to be able to interact with clients.

In addition, graphic designers need to know how to ask the right questions to get a sense of what the company does and who their target audience is. Additionally, they will typically do their own research into the target audience, target market and the offerings of the company or organization they are doing design work for.

Graphic Design Jobs Require Both Sides of the Brain

Graphic design jobs require a high level of artistic and creative ability, that can go unsaid. However, what most people looking for graphic design jobs may overlook is the need for them to be professional businesspeople. Graphic design jobs are no longer being filled by just artists. Increasingly, designers also need to be experts in the field of advertising, marketing and communications.

In addition, they will also need to be able to communicate technical information in their work. Graphic designers don’t just do art projects. They also have to create layouts for annual reports, financial reports, market reports, business development reports and the like. They need to know how to understand the data, tables and charts they are trying to graphically put on publications so they know how to effectively convert it into a graphic that communicates to people.

Often times, especially financial and other technical data needs to be simplified so that it shows up as a clear graphic. In order to get this accomplished, a graphic designer will need to know how to interact with technical personnel like the finance department or research and development department to convey the message effectively.

Graphic Design Software

Graphic designer jobs require the artist to know how to use the latest graphic design software packages out there. This would most likely include the Adobe suite of products like Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe InDesign, Adobe Flash, and Adobe Dreamweaver depending on what type of publication they are working on. Graphic designer jobs will often require technical expertise in at least one or more of these graphic design software packages. Classes and degree programs in graphic design of in the use of these graphic design software packages if often offered at local community colleges for a very low cost.

Graphic Design Jobs – Lay of the Land

Graphic design jobs can be found in a variety of different business environments. Some are employed in graphic design departments in large corporations. Some graphic designers work for print companies, publication companies or advertising agencies. Other graphic designers work for small to large design firms that outsource their design services to other companies and organizations.

About 25% of graphic designers are self-employed and have a home based business. Those who are employed very often do side freelance projects they get on their own. Graphic designers who are fully self-employed are business people who have to operate all parts of their business. They have to do their own sales and marketing, their own billing and collections and maintain client relationships. Self-employed graphic designer jobs can be more stressful because of the pressure to produce revenue for themselves and many tend to work longer hours than those who are employed by a larger design firm or by a company.

Those looking for graphic design jobs should have a portfolio of their work, either online or in print, to show when they are applying for these jobs. The application process for these jobs may even require you to audition by doing a small sample project. The great thing about those in graphic design jobs is that they can still do freelance design work on the side in their time off. Sometimes, design firms will require their graphic designers to process all their clients through the firm, but some do not.

Cross Over Careers

Some graphic designers cross over into doing marketing and advertising as a career managing a creative arts team or just get out of design all together. Some become management consultants who specialize in design, marketing and advertising. If you’re especially talented and have good interpersonal skills, they can even start their own consulting firm in design and marketing.

Vehicle Graphics Design For Impact

Here are some of the basic “MUST’S OF VEHICLE GRAPHIC DESIGN”

Focus on ONE Person. Your ideal customer. Don’t try to appeal to the masses as this will dilute your message and appeal to NO one. Your ideal customer must feel like you are the perfect solution to their problem and you are communicating directly to them.

Create EMOTIONAL attachment by using powerful graphics. Different Graphics create different emotion in different individuals. The graphic of a mother cuddling a baby, will have the most impact on a new mother. Not only will you get their attention but you will establish credibility with them. This is extremely powerful since statistics show that most people buy on emotion and justify with logic.

Use a powerful slogan to position yourself in the mind of the customer. If your objective is to create mind share, you need to occupy a position in their minds so they instinctively associate you with a desired product, service of need.

For example, be the computer specialists that caters to the elderly, or the dry cleaner that offers free delivery, or the restaurant that kids eat for free, or the financial planner that specializes in services for young couples.

Being first is powerful, but being perceived as first is even more powerful. Being the only one, or specializing is also good. It creates positioning in the customer’s mind.

You are an expert, a consultant. Think of how you can accomplish this with your vehicle graphics slogan. If should be short and designed to be effective, for repetitive viewing.

The design of your graphics should be consistent with the style and type of vehicle for maximum impact. Remember that there are millions of dollars spent on extremely competent automobile designers by companies like Toyota, Honda, BMW, Nissan, Ford GM, and others to come up with designs that appeal to the masses.

Why not take advantage of their expertise, by enhancing the look rather than contradicting it. It will only stand to confuse your target customer and result in little or no emotional impact. I have seen many vehicles with elaborate graphics that simply do not work with the vehicle. I must confess that some of them have also been produced by us, but only because the customer insisted that this is what they wanted despite our recommendations.

I have also seen vehicles with very simple designs or very little graphic treatment that look extremely powerful and produce outstanding results. They also cost very little for the customer and were easy to create and install. Usually they were customers who had little if any preconceived ideal and simply said, “Here is what I want to accomplish, surprise me”.

LESS is MORE, design for a glance, but create lasting impression. Remember that your target customer is trying to navigate a vehicle, sometimes at high speeds and only two to three seconds to glance at your vehicle. If they are interested, based on the first glance, you may get a second glance and they might even slow down to memorize your URL.

You need to decide what information you would like them to remember most. The graphic, your caption or, your URL. Unfortunately, all of the above is not usually a reality, so at best two out of three is excellent.

Focus on the areas of most impact on the vehicle. The rear window and the sides over the rear wheel are the most powerful viewing areas while driving. Even though graphics look much cooler, and flows better on the sides of the vehicle. It is not very effective design strategy if you are focused on communicating to prospects while driving.

It’s difficult to look at a vehicle beside you for more that a second, without feeling like you are going to slam into it. Try it for yourself. It’s almost impossible to read anything on the sides unless it is over the rear wheels and you are behind the vehicle.

What about parked vehicles you ask? The sides are definitely a great resource as it allows for more and larger information, but graphics focused on the back and rear still work well if parked strategically. We do emphasize the sides more when designing for contractors as they spend a significant amount of time parked in neighborhood driveways, targeting cars and nosy neighbors driving by.

Control the flow of the reader. It is critical to control the three second glance from the reader so that they leave with maximum impact and information. The glance should first create interest or emotional attachment and make them feel like they want to know more. It should result in a second glance and leave with your URL or Phone number in memory.

The eyes will tend to go to a graphic first and then flow from left to right, so don’t put the graphic at the end of the caption and expect the customer to read the caption. This will only confuse them and they tune out.

Your Take-Away is the key to getting results. Remember that you want them to call you or visit your URL so make it easy for them to find it and remember it. The phone number or URL should flow naturally, as the third part of the three second glance.

Remember that you are designing for your ideal customer. What’s most important to them, your phone number or URL? If your current URL is long, then get a second one that is simple and easy to remember and have it linked to your current site.

It’s relatively easy to be successful with Vehicle Graphics… IF you understand Marketing.

The biggest obstacle is effectively communicating with your ideal target customer… The one that’s the best fit for your business and you for theirs.

It all boils down to the design and unfortunately its not always obvious.. even for an experienced designer…

Because the concept of an irregular three dimensional moving billboard is unique to most designers… most are used to working on a flat two dimensional pallet.

Here are some of the basic guidelines for YOU the Business Owner to help you achieve success with Vehicle Graphics Marketing

Here are some of the basic “MUST’S OF VEHICLE WRAP DESIGN”

Focus on ONE Person. Your ideal customer. Don’t try to appeal to the masses as this will dilute your message and appeal to NO one. Your ideal customer must feel like you are the perfect solution to their problem and you are communicating directly to them.

Create EMOTIONAL attachment by using powerful graphics. Different Graphics create different emotion in different individuals. The graphic of a mother cuddling a baby, will have the most impact to a new mother. You will get their attention but you will establish credibility with them. Statistics show that people buy on emotion and justify with logic

Use a powerful slogan to position yourself in the mind of the customer. Your objective is to create mind share so they instinctively associate you with the desired product, service or need.

For example… You must be the computer specialists that caters to the elderly, or the dry-cleaner that provides free delivery, or the restaurant that kids eat for free, or the financial planner that specializes in programs for young couples.

Being first is powerful but being seen as first is even more powerful. Being the only one, or specializing is very powerful. It creates positioning in the customer’s mind.

You are an expert or a consultant. Think of how you can accomplish this with your vehicle wrap slogan. If should be short and designed to be effective, for repetitive viewing.

The design of your graphics should be consistent with the style and type of vehicle for maximum impact. Remember that there are millions of dollars spent on designing vehicles by companies like Toyota, Honda, BMW, Nissan, Ford GM, and others to come up with designs that appeal to the masses.

Why not take advantage of their expertise, by enhancing the look rather than contradicting it. It will confuse your target customer and result little if any emotional impact. I’ve seen many vehicles with elaborate graphics that simply do not work with the vehicle. I must confess that some of them have also been designed by us, but only because the customer insisted that this is what they wanted despite our recommendations.

I have also seen vehicles with very simple designs or very little graphic that are extremely effective and produce outstanding results. They typically cost very little for the customer and were easy to create and install. Usually they were customers who had no preconceived idea and simply said, “Here is what I want to accomplish, surprise me”.

LESS is MORE, design for a glance, but create lasting impression. Remember that your target customer is trying to drive their vehicle, sometimes at high speeds and only two to three seconds to glance at your vehicle. If they are interested, based on the first glance, you may get a second glance and they might even slow down to memorize your URL.

You need to decide what you would like them to focus on. The graphic, your caption or, your URL. Unfortunately, all of the above is not usually a reality, so at best two out of three is excellent.

Focus on the areas of most impact on the vehicle. The rear window and the sides over the rear wheel are the most visible areas while driving. Even though graphics look much cooler, and flows better on the sides of the vehicle. It is not very effective vehicle graphics design strategy if you are focused on areas that are not visible while driving.

It’s very difficult to look at a vehicle that is driving beside you.. for more that a second, without feeling like you are going to crash into it. Try it for yourself. It’s almost impossible to read anything on the sides… unless it is over the rear wheels and you are behind the vehicle.

How about parked vehicles you ask? The sides are definitely a great resource as it allows for more and larger information, but graphics focused on the back and rear still work well if parked strategically. We do emphasize the sides more when designing for contractors, since spend a lot amount of time parked in neighborhood driveways, targeting cars and nosy neighbors driving by.

Control the flow of the information. The driver has less than three seconds to read the information. The glance should first create interest or emotional attachment and make them want to know more. It should result in a second glance and leave them with your URL or Phone number in memory.

The eyes will tend to go to a graphic first and then flow from left to right, so don’t put the graphic at the end of the caption otherwise they will not read it. This will only confuse them and they tune out.

Effective Targeted communication is the key to getting results. Remember that you want them to call you or visit your URL so make it easy for them to find and remember it. The phone number or URL should flow naturally.

Now I must confess that we are not always able to follow all of the guidelines above because of circumstances beyond our control, but we always use the guidelines above to check the final design. So if you are designing for results the above should be an integral part of your design process.

I wish you success with your vehicle graphics… now you are ready to choose a company to Design Your Vehicle Graphics.