Realities vs Expectations
As a student designer, I was surprised by the realities vs the expectations of the graphic design field. To be honest, I had only considered this career path because working in the arts seemed like the simplest and most probable job for me to succeed in. After taking an internship at the design business, Woodchuck Arts, I learned there’s a lot more to design than I originally thought. While researching further, I found that many designers had similar views on how the public and incoming graphic designers view the job. Many designers agree that the most common misconception from the public is that designing is easy and unimportant and can often be an overlooked career path. Some designers also feel like graphic design students are underprepared to the reality of freelance work. Based on the research written by experts in the graphic design world, I’ll be discussing some of the more common misconceptions involving the design career and how these could lead to unnecessary challenges for the designer.
Education and Necessary Skills
Having a graphic design degree may not be required but having one can certainly boost a future designer’s skill set and overall standing in the design community. On the other hand, some individuals are starting to comment on the recommended course requirements and necessary skills needed to be successful for a career in design. Tom May, a freelance writer and editor specializing in design and creativity, says “It might sound weird to say it. But the core graphic design skills you learned at uni will only get you so far”, which I found in my experience to be true. In order to be successful, a designer must be able to not only generate ideas but have communication, writing, and business skills.
May continues “Design is a competitive profession, and ultimately, you need to be more attractive to employers and clients than your rivals if you want to accelerate your career.” So expanding your skillset can only boost your chances of being hired. The best way to achieve those chances is to be open to change and move with the times and trends. Gunnar Swanson’s view on graphic design education is “There is only one thing, however, that we really know with precision about the future-it will be different from today. Therefore, the best thing we can do for design students is to make them adaptable.” If colleges are to have successful turnout of design students, they must expand on the curriculum. Requiring business management, writing, and communication classes would better prepare students for the design career path. Not only are business and communication skills needed to be successful, the ability to generate and create original ideas is also a necessity for a career in design.
Perfection is a valid thing to strive for but remember designs don’t need to be great works like Leonardo da Vinci or Van Gogh, but a designer will need to be able to create original designs. According to May “You need thinking skills and ideas. Anyone can make things look pretty, but genuine ideas add massive value to any design project. It’s getting harder and harder to find designers, creatives, copywriters with great ideas” (qtd in Signal Studios). In order to be more desirable to a potential client, explore and try new ideas. Expand on mistakes made and create something original. A design is never perfect on the first try. Create and be daring when working through the design process.
Not only should a designer be creative but they should be able to draw an emotional reaction out of their targeted audience through design. David Carson, a famous graphic designer who challenges the norm of the design industry, says “The fact that you can create a lot of reaction just based on the way you arranged things shows that design is such a powerful language” (qtd in Gosling). The collective goal of a designer and their client is to draw an audience towards their service or product. Remember, “designers have directly influenced the actions of individuals and communities, changed attitudes and values, and shaped society in surprisingly fundamental ways” (Swanson). Designers must keep the audience in mind when going through the design process, always thinking about what will draw a viewer’s attention and make them want to learn more about the client’s business.
Is it Easy?
When entering the graphic design field it can be hard to put aside the preconceived notion that design is an easy job. Design is all just logos and advertising, right? Design, much like any other job, can be a difficult task. “The process of design is a time-consuming and complex endeavor” (Rooeintan). I know when I joined this career path I was surprised by the intricacies and process of designing. From color schemes, fonts, and shapes, keeping up on trends, and trying to please the client; there is a lot to think about when developing a successful design.
With the notion of design being easy, this can lead to people believing that the design aspect of their business is an unimportant step when it comes to starting their business. Sam Rooeintan says “Design matters more than you think. We are visual creatures. We consume with our eyes, so visual aesthetics affect our judgment.” Rooeintan says this to emphasize that while a business might have the best service or product without a good design team an audience will likely pass it by for a lesser counterpart. Keep this in mind when interacting with and designing for a client.
This could be part of a general opinion that anyone can design. As well as sites like Canva that make design accessible to anyone. While Canva is an easy tool to use for things like business cards, postcards, flyers, and so on, what it does not offer is personalized designs that a graphic artist could provide. It is also worth noting that just because someone can design does not mean they will be a good designer. Carson says “I’m not sure you can teach creativity: you have that eye or sensibility, or you don’t.” Remember that designers have their own value and can provide a service that others cannot. Heather Lipe, owner of Woodchuck Arts and who I am interning with, has started a service to use Canva as a tool in order to improve businesses’ ability to edit their own designs in a simple and easy way. “What they don’t offer are custom designs for your business and that is where we can come in!” Lipe says. This is an excellent example of adapting and working with technology instead of working against it.
Graphic design is a fulfilling career for those creative individuals that enjoy helping others. Design is its own powerful language that can influence others through visual means. A designer is always adapting to times and trends, making business decisions, and accommodating to the needs of their clients. There are many things to consider when preparing for this career. If you’re still feeling lost, consider interning with a veteran designer. Even with a design degree, without experience and guidance, a new designer could find the world of graphic design overwhelming. Remember a veteran designer has likely experienced any struggle you could and will receive. Listen, learn, and adapt as you grow as a designer. As a fellow designer and rookie, make sure to properly prepare yourself to the realities of graphic design when first choosing and entering this career path.
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