Considering an education in the world of graphic design? Great! This wide open field combines artistic flare and technological savvy in ways which no other field does. In this article we will offer helpful advice for students interested in choosing an education in graphic design.
The term “graphic design” can be used to describe everything from drawing a corporate logo, to creating a magazine layout, to designing a website, to creating a road sign. Because hey, kangaroos need publicity too.
Almost every application of graphic design will require knowledge of computers, and possibly programming. Even if you don’t foresee a life in web design, expect that your layout tools will be computer oriented.
With that in mind, let’s get into our five tips for students interested in pursuing a career in graphic design.
1. Increase Your Computer Fluency
You may have mad skills when it comes to updating your Facebook status and Tweeting what you had for dinner, but how much experience do you have in Photoshop, Illustrator, and Dreamweaver? Can you program CSS or PHP? If you cannot program for the web, we recommend W3Schools.
Any of these software tools or program languages could be necessary depending on the concentration you wish to pursue. If you are interested in web design, you should take the time to learn some basic CSS. If you envision yourself drawing a lot of vectors in your future, get a copy of Illustrator or see if your high school has it on their computers for you to use.
Start now. Don’t wait to head off to college before you learn about these programs and languages. Many students will have familiarity when they arrive at college, and you don’t want to start behind the competition.
2. Consider a Four Year School
Technical colleges offer a shorter path to a career in graphic design. You can often finish up a program in less than two years, and be ready to enter the work force.
The problem with this approach is that it assumes we all know what we want to do with our lives at the age of 18. I changed my major during college and completely shifted my career direction. I have friends who switched majors more than once. Many of them are very happy in their current careers, which are completely different from the careers they envisioned as college freshmen.
The great thing about a Bachelor’s of Arts program at a four year school is if you suddenly realize graphic design isn’t for you, you won’t have wasted a few years of your life. You can switch majors, and still have many important credits under your belt that can be applied toward your new degree.
Keep your options open. You will be surprised by how many changes you will undergo between the ages of 18 and 22.
3. Consider a Community College
For the same reason we recommend a Bachelor’s program instead of going straight to a Technical School, a community college keeps your options open.
Community colleges offer the ability to obtain an Associate’s degree in two years. The Associate’s degree is generally not considered as prestigious as the Bachelor’s degree, but it is much faster to obtain.
You can also take the credits from a community college and transfer many of them to a four year school, if you eventually decide you want to go for the Bachelor’s. This is often a less expensive option too, as community colleges are typically great bargains.
If you decide after two years that you wish to hit the Technical College regardless, you can still accomplish everything in about four years.
4. Mix in Business Courses
This is an often overlooked opportunity. Your future could entail running your own studio. Many of you will do freelance work.
No matter how strong your artistic skill set is, you risk wasting it if you do not have basic business skills. In fact, if you envision yourself running a graphic design firm, I would go as far as to suggest a minor, or dual major, in business.
At the very least you want to pad your knowledge with some business courses which will prepare you for balancing your books, managing finances, and properly promoting your brand.
5. Have a Web Portfolio
Begin creating a portfolio of your best work on your own internet website. Expect prospective employers will require your portfolio to be available online. This allows them to quickly see your work, and get an idea of your capabilities. Plus, it is possible employers will find you before you find them!
As you go through schooling, regularly update your portfolio with your best work. Cull the work which no longer meets your increasing standards. Don’t wait until your senior year of college to put together your portfolio. Start immediately, and update it frequently.
There are a myriad of other tips we could give, such as learning how to network and learning how to write a killer cover letter. But these five tips are the most important to consider immediately, before entering college.
What degree did you pursue for your career in graphic design?