Advice needed for a beginner

After failing as an engineering major after 2 years, I’ve decided to switch to an art major focusing in graphic design. I’ve taken this current fall semester off to gather my bearings and decide what I really want to do and I think it’s graphic design. My objective is that once January 2020 hits and the new semester begins, I plan to enroll in classes and pick up a campus job relating to graphic design.

My question to you is if you were in my position and have ~3 months to start from the bottom, what would you do to build up an impressive portfolio to land some kind of small-time campus job and to get yourself started in the world of graphic design as a whole?

So far I’ve been doing a bit of logo design and brand identity work in illustrator and some minor editing in photoshop.

Thanks in advance for any info!

I have three pieces of advice for you. And only two will seem contradictory.

The first is to slow down. You just decided to switch majors, it sounds like you haven’t had any real experience or training, and you say you’re doing logo design and brand identity work. Hopefully, you just mean that you’ve been playing around, experimenting, and learning the software. If so, that’s fine. But don’t put the cart before the horse and rush into paid work or sell yourself as a professional at this point.

The second is that you can make good use of your semester off by diving into self-directed learning. YouTube,, and others are wonderful resources if your properly motivated. If nothing else, you can get a good handle on the basics of the software to give you a leg up when your classes start. Also, study the work of the masters. A lot of wisdom can be gleaned from this. If you don’t know who to study, the AIGA medalists is a good place to start.

The third is to concentrate on learning design. And this is what might seem contradictory to my previous piece of advice. Anyone can learn the software. Knowing Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign, WordPress, etc. does not make you a good designer. There is often a gulf between knowing the software and being able to design. So make sure you concentrate on learning the principles of design and communication. This will help set you apart from others that just know how to operate the software.


Since you are starting at the very beginning, I would suggest just trying to log as many hours as you can on tutorials until the start of school. When school starts, volunteer for as many gigs as you can.

During my BA I volunteered to do graphic design and photography on yearbook and newspaper. I also worked on marketing for student body events… concerts and movies. I drew posters for the theater department. The music department tapped me to create AV presentations at their special events. That was all volunteer work, just to get experience. I spent more time doing those things than I spent on art class work.

If I had to do it again, I’d focus more of my efforts on design for the faculty. Layout of textbooks they are writing, interactive tests and forms, smart learning, advanced features on PDFs, apps, etc. I did a little of this during my MA and after graduation they asked if I would stay on as a lecturer. Specialize and make a niche for yourself.

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I haven’t seen your work, of course, so it just might be fantastic. However, if you’re like most starting out, there’s no real point in trying to create an “impressive portfolio.” That’s what school will teach you to do. Five years down the road, you’ll look back at what you do now and wonder what you were thinking. :grinning:

Both Steve and Mojo gave you some great advice.

Working at the student paper or at a copy shop could give you some practical work experience, but it’s unlikely that a worthwhile design-oriented group will take you on with an internship until your junior or senior year.

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Have you already been accepted into your design course? If not, have a look at the requirements to see if an application portfolio is required. If so, you should be building a body of work to include in your application portfolio.

As the others have already said, you’re jumping the gun a little working on a job portfolio before you’ve even started your course.

A related job that you could look at applying for as a student is an assistant in a print or copy shop. I worked in a photocopy and framing shop (they used to do photo processing too) when I was a design student. There was a small amount of typesetting work to do, though the programmes they had there were super basic. It was super handy having all the printers, laminators, guillotine/trimmers at my disposal as a student. Just check with your manager/boss if it’s OK to use company equipment of course! They may give you a discount. My boss let me run a tab and then forgave my debt as a bonus. Your experience may vary. It doesn’t hurt to learn a bit about digital print while studying either.

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To become Graphics designer is the best option for you but you need to focus in this field & must have to learn about different tactics of the designer.

I agree with this statement. I spent a lot of time on “client work” and getting paid in food and favors when I was in school. When you get out it is hard to get used to pricing your work. If available at your school take a business course and really learn all you can from any instructors that work in the field as well. Theory is one thing but real world experience from professional instructors is priceless.

It seems like you have a strong can-do attitude though. Keep a level-head and soak up what you can while in school. I know money can be a concern for college students, but you would be better off scraping by on ramen noodles and getting the most out of your college experience than trying to do too many things at once.

Use what you’ve learned from your engineering studies and follow your own arrow.

Enjoy the process.

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