You would think someone who graduated 8 years ago with a Bachelor’s in Visual Communications (Graphic Design) would be well on their way to being an accomplished graphic designer working for a big agency, in-house designer for a Fortune 500 company or even running a successful freelance business. Well that is not the case for me and many others like me that came out of design school ready to make the world a more attractive place.
Reality quickly set in for me when I discovered how darn competitive and saturated the graphic design industry was. I had no clue coming out of school it would be like this and from talking to my fellow school mates neither did they. To add salt to the wound the globalization and the emergence of crowdsourcing, contest sites and other online sweatshops, things are harder than ever.
Like many graduates I felt overwhelmed with such limited opportunities and because the economy was going through a recession these jobs were really hard to come by. With no success I decided to explore other avenues outside of graphic design. I can’t blame everything on the economy or the job market I also lacked confidence needed to compete with the rest of these job seekers. I always told myself I would jump back on the horse as soon as the right opportunity came by but the only thing that came by was the years and the student loan bills.
I continued to take on a few side projects a month to soothe my creative and artistic itch but the older I got the more uneasy I felt about the fact that I am was not doing what I love and that is what my graphic design mentor Roberto Blake coined “Create Awesome”. Although my dream is to some day run my own design practice the important thing right now is to do what I love. It’s either continue to work towards my dream or possibly live a life of regret. I have children and I always tell them to follow their dreams and I no longer want to feel like a hypocrite so it is important that I lead by example. My advice to anyone pursuing a career in graphic design is only do it if you love it because this is no place for someone who just want’s to make a living doing pretty things.
To be a successful graphic designer in this day in age means being a sales oriented creative and business-minded which are many of the things traditional graphic designers dread and why they decided to pursue a creative career in the first place.
It is important to keep working on your craft and don’t expect a degree to move you towards the front of the line because in this field those hiring graphic designers only care about your ability to produce results but there are many that can produce results as well so you have to differentiate yourself even further.
If you want to stand out from other job seekers you better be dynamic and bring more to the table than just good design. With so many applying for these few graphic design openings it is only natural they’re going to hire the most versatile applicants.
Graphic designers need to learn marketing not just to add this to their resume of skills and impress potential employers but to market themselves. Marketing for graphic designers is no longer just for freelancers and those that run their own practice but a way to stand out from the rest of the applicants. It shows employers that you are knowledgeable, enthusiastic and a go getter along with confidence and leadership.
Resumes and even portfolios only give you a small look into what a person can do and who they are so companies, agencies and clients are looking for that edge and filter the mass amount of applicants. Naturally those that are more active in the field by using platforms like social media, youtube videos, blogs, podcasts, etc. will stand out more than the mysterious applicant on a piece of paper. This is the way the world is moving whether we like it or not, or whether we think it’s right or wrong. In a saturated field like graphic design you better stand out or be left behind.