Career In Art & Design

I can’t call myself professional designer as I never worked consistently with any design firm or any such position. Though I did certificate programs & continued working as freelance designer. So I don’t want to judge careers in design field, but I am not very positive about the “importance” of design work and pay scale . I am concerned because my daughter is leaning towards digital art and I am not excited about it when I compare other professions and it’s relative importance.
I don’t want to discourage her potential and talent but at the same time can’t respect
Please suggest.

I can’t hardly believe I’m suggesting this having worked in the field for dozens of years, but…

The whole field it totally oversaturated with recent graduates who can’t find work. It’s driven wages down to the point where employers expect a huge skillset with pay more typical of what a fast food assistant manager might make.

Stick with it long enough (most people don’t) and it is possible to work one’s way up the ladder, but it’s very challenging.

At this point, the only students to whom I would recommend pursuing graphic design are those who absolutely refuse to consider anything else and who display an enormous amount of talent and ambition. There are a few specialty areas in graphic design where there’s pretty good money, like UI/UX development or 3D modeling, but they’re difficult and require a special kind of technical aptitude.

For anyone else, there are dozens of more financially promising and secure fields to study. On the surface they might not seem as cool and attractive to a young person, but from a realist’s viewpoint, they’re more rational choices.


I graduated from a 4-year college, in a class of about 30 students. Going through the alumni list, I found only 2 of us are still in the design field and both of us do print work. Quite a number of the rest, oddly enough, were in some sort of banking teller/customer service position.

Do some research comparing the number of design graduates being pushed out every year to the number of “graphic design” jobs open. The disparity is huge.

The other really significant point I really have to stress…
Graphic Design is NOT about Art. Too many design students find out way too late that Graphic Design is a commodity, not a means to express one’s artistic flare. Kids get through school doing self-directed projects where they can be as creative and unrealistic as they want, then suddenly find themselves in the real world, constrained by brand standards, corporate politics, and the reality of budgets and production schedules, all while trying to communicate their client’s/company’s message to a demographic audience they may not even relate to. There’s quite a bit of analytical research involved, and often high presure due dates. In the real world, if you miss “the final exam” you are fired. Graphic Design is about Communication first, Budget Reality second and Artistic Ability third. Artistic Expression doesn’t even enter the equation.

Or, as I like to put more bluntly, if you love drawing pink anime kittens but your client’s target demographic audience focus is on death metal, you better know how to love death metal. The kittens ain’t gonna cut it.


Where this is your kid though, and you want them to be happy in life and with what they do, maybe start exploring what other things interest her. Maybe keep the digital art (whatever that actually means in this instance) as a college minor rather than major. Don’t look at schools that offer “art.” Look at companies where she thinks she might like to work and see what’s required to get there. Try to get her focused on the big picture, an end goal, rather than “I want to do Art.”

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First post here, though I’ve been lurking for a little while. I’d like to counter some of these comments with my own experience, which is oddly similar.

Some 25ish years ago, I was in your daughters’ position - I was loving art in school and wanted to head down that career path. However, this was the mid-90’s and the tech revolution was gaining pace. My parents really pushed me down the software development route as it was ‘the future’. They bought me everything I’d need to teach myself to programme, and encouraged me at every step.

That was the career path I went down - and it would be true to say I’d always earned a very good living from it. But, aside from the odd time, I hated it. In the end, the stress of the job and the fact I didn’t really enjoy what I was doing, took it’s toll. So, I returned to design.

Despite having had a ‘prosperous’ career financially, I look back at those years now as being wasted. I’d sooner have earned less but enjoyed my time.

I have a daughter of my own now, and my own experience has led me to advise her to simply follow a path she enjoys - everything else will (eventually) fall into place if you’re passionate enough about something.

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I noticed that everything published recently is copy and paste.

I was going to post how cut and paste this planet is were nothing original is regarded as sufficient in our our everyday mobile phone lives brain-dead lives, but walked out grabbed the local paper and saw this

just the dog’s looks on its face waiting to help the next person is i think is priceless and needed to be shared.

As long as kids know what they are getting into with design, and understand the competition for work, that’s fine. I just see far too many design students feeling totally discouraged the minute they realize they have to do art for someone else’s communication project.

Whether its working in a company under an art director, working for an agency under a creative director, working in broadcast under producer, or working freelance directly with clients, the Graphic Designer is constrained in ways they never were allowed to experience in school.

Even way back in the 90s the professors would let due dates slide if enough people didn’t have their stuff done for critique. In PD’s school of design, those not done on the deadline would earn a Zero for the project.

All projects would be directed, no working on things you “like.” Might be, pull three things out of 3 hats, one describing the communication problem, one with the branding standards of the client and their product and one describing the demographic market. No “chair” projects based on your favorite artist (some of you might know what I mean, LOL!)

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I’m sorta going against what others are saying here, but “art school” was great for me. My teachers were all also in the design industry, teaching subjects they were best at, and every project after the first year was extremely strict and had hard deadlines, strict brand guidelines, and hard truth critiques.

That being said, we did not have to deal with the production of any materials other than 1 or 2 printed pieces per project. Some were magazines and such that did require some more intense printing, but obviously nothing of commercial size.

It definitely requires some personal drive. Out of my class of 60 or so, by graduation became a class of 15, and including myself only 3 of us are in the industry right now. So to reiterate what @Just-B said, you have to make sure you’re something special and you have the passion and drive and skill for it before diving in, because it is so saturated there are dozens if not hundreds applying to the same positions.

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i had to learn off-set printing, graphic design and art history before I was allowed to draw comics in school.
i think I can still set up a ABDick 350 while having a multilith 1250 printing a brochure on the second color path run!

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The only option you have is educating your daughter on the risks and sacrifices she may have to make if she moves forward in this career. Instead of just being fearful, find data that you can present and discuss to give her a realistic view of what may happen if she takes this path. A scary decision isn’t so scary if you’re knowledgable of the potential risks.


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