Graphic designers play an important, but often unnoticed role in the world of business. After all, every business from the mightiest corporation to the newest startup needs visual collateral.
What isn’t obvious is how you build a successful graphic design career. Graphic design careers range from in-house corporate designers to full-time freelancers. So, let’s look at things that apply across the board.
Graphic design isn’t something you pick up by accident. It requires training in areas like typography, design principles, and current design software.
You can learn some things from high school classes and through free online courses. If you plan to work for someone else, though, the general expectation is that you’ll have a bachelor’s degree.
You can often save money by starting at a community college that offers a graphic design degree. It lets you clear out some science, math, and humanities courses. You also get some foundational art courses at a lower price point.
Take Advantage of Internship Opportunities
Not every graphic design program offers internships. Internships depend on a certain density of appropriate businesses in the area. If your program does offer internship slots, though, you should try very hard to snag one.
Internships do several important things for you, including:
- giving you something to put on your resume
- experience in a professional environment
- potential letters of recommendation
- a potential job offer
Believe it or not, many companies like hiring interns because you already know the company culture. Teaching the culture is a big part of onboarding new employees. It saves them and you a lot of time if you already know the ropes.
Join Professional Organizations
Professional organizations aren’t just a way to pat yourself on the back for making it. Organizations like the AIGA offer professional development resources, competitions, and annual events.
Going to go the freelance route? Consider joining an organization like The Freelancers Union.
Both the AIGA and The Freelancers Union events offer you a golden, networking opportunities. You can connect with peers, potential employers, and even sources for referral work.
By the time you finish college, your portfolio should include several professional-grade projects. They don’t do you any good sitting in your closet or hidden in a portfolio tote.
Whether you create beautiful wallpapers, design book covers, or focus on illustrations, people must see them. Your portfolio should appear on your website – yes, you need a website – with high-res images available.
Make sure your website address appears on your business cards. Yes, you need business cards. They offer a simple method of enhancing your marketing efforts to prospective clients or employers.
Extra points for designing your own logo.
Parting Thoughts on Building a Successful Graphic Design Career
A successful graphic design career builds on several elements.
You need formal training in graphic design, which means picking up a bachelor’s degree. Internships offer experience and can open the door to job offers.
Professional organizations put you in touch with resources and networking opportunities. Getting your work online makes it easy for potential clients and employers to see your value. After that, it’s all about hard work.
Need help building that website to support your portfolio? Check out our post on website layout.