Graphic Design versus Video Editing / Production

Hi - New here, so apologies if this is an already answered topic, or if the topic seems “basic”. I received a BA in visual communications with an emphasis in graphic design 10 years ago. Truthfully, I didn’t go to a school that had a diverse design program: one class on web design, virtually no classes in UX/UI as we see it now, and the graphic design classes were mainly geared toward print design. I was not even provided with a solid understanding of job roles within the Design industry (Creative/Art Director, Graphic Designer, Production Designer, etc).

My point in all this backstory is to garner feedback from the group to potentially help my mindset. I am employed as a Graphic Design and Production Specialist, and I was asked to create a video for my company. I was a little taken aback because in my opinion, video editing / production is a different skill set than graphic design. Am I wrong? I understand that motion graphic design is a part of the “graphic design” umbrella, but I still think that is different than creating, cultivating AND slicing multiple pieces of content into a video? I thought Graphic Designers and Motion Graphic Designers create some of the pieces that a Video Editor would then combine into a video using appropriate video editing software. Right?

On one hand, it is an opportunity to stretch my wings and learn a new skill, but it definitely led me to a bit of a “life” crisis. As it was explained to me by industry friends, most companies can’t afford an in-house video production team so they EXPECT Graphic Designers to do it all. So, my main question is do today’s Graphic Designers know how to design in all facets of Graphic Design: Brand & Visual Identity, Marketing and Advertising, Digital, UX/UI, Publication, Packaging, Motion, and Environmental Design etc. (I’m sure I’m leaving something off the list). I had always thought you sort of specialized in one of these types of design, like I have a job as a web designer versus a job as a motion graphics designer versus a product designer? …but should we / are we expected to know all facets of graphic design in today’s market in order to be employable / keep our jobs?

I apologize for the barrage of questions, but this brought up a lot for me.

My last question is, Does anyone have recommendations on professional development resources to expand my skill set so I remain relevant? LOL. Again, I’m feeling like I have to go back to school to learn about more skill sets that I wouldn’t normally think would be in the traditional wheelhouse of graphic design, and I don’t know that that is in the cards for me. Hoping someone out there can help. Thanks in advance.

You’re not alone in confronting this problem. It’s gotten to the point where graphic designers are expected by many to have a broader and deeper set of skills and knowledge than most doctors, engineers or attorneys have in their fields. And this is all taking place as designers’ wages are falling to levels not a whole lot better than counter help at fast food franchises.

It’s absurd, but the reasons for it are pretty clear.

  1. For whatever reason, way too many young people have decided that being a designer is cool, so way too many design courses in non-accredited, for-profit schools have sprung up to capitalize on the demand. They’re more interested in signing up everyone who applies than they are in bothering with preliminary portfolio admission evaluations or providing good educations.

  2. Our professional organizations, like AIGA and GAG, have completely and utterly failed in their roles as advocates for the profession. Instead, they’ve sat on the sidelines and been more interested in sponsoring self-congratulatory contests, signing-up members, and holding meet-ups and socials than they have been in lobbying legislatures for licensing standards.

  3. The internet has opened the doors to online competition from around the world and also led to the commoditization of our work and a race to the bottom by hobbyists and amateurs on the crowdsourcing sites. I can hardly count the number of times on this forum where total newbies with no education and no experience have decided to magically start billing themselves as logo designers without having even the slightest clue about what they’re doing.

  4. Hobbyist apps have become more superficially sophisticated enabling amateurs to make brochures, edit movies shot on phones, tone photographs also shot on those same phones and build websites with a few clicks of a mouse. Of course, the results aren’t especially good, but most naive, small- to mid-sized clients can’t tell the difference anyway. It’s led to the assumption that this stuff just isn’t difficult.

At many larger and more savvy companies and at most agencies (and some smaller businesses), this race to the bottom has partly been kept at bay. Specialists still specialize. Talent and creativity are still valued and rewarded. Savvy clients still know highly talented specialists aren’t cheap or easy to come by.

I don’t have any figures beyond my own anecdotal observations, but my guess is that, maybe, nine out of ten designers are struggling to keep up and stay afloat, while the remaining ten percent have landed in companies that respect talent, good work, specialization and are willing to pay for it.

This whole this is obviously unsustainable, but how and when it will shake itself out, I don’t know.

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More skills, more experience, more insight… always good. As long as it’s relevant. Graphic designers are a dime a dozen, but people who can solve problems are usually in demand. It’s good that they’re asking you to do these things. It means they trust your judgement. Be frank with them on stuff that is outside of your expertise, and if they insist, take advantage of the opportunity to get paid to learn on the job.

Every word Just-B said is spot on. You won’t get a more apposite overview of the current state of play of our industry, the causes of its erosion and the impact of popularisation and democratisation.

All that said, there is still some amazing work going on at the moment, you just have to wade through acres of dross to find it.

I would suggedt that perhaps it would be prudent for you to point out where what they are asking of you extends beyond the skillset of a graphic designer and requires specialist knowledge.

This then has the net effect of raising the game and helping stem the downward flow of the expectation of quality. It may, in the short term raise a few eyebrows in the current culture of expecting the designer to be a multi-tasking visual polymath. However, over time, you will not only help improve this culture, in my opinion, it will likely benefit your long term career,

Of course learning how to undertake different facets and aspects of the job, in terms of understanding how they are done can only be a good thing. Even if you get a specialist involved, you will at least understand what you need of them without unrealistic expectations. (You use photoshop, can’t you just turn that building around so I can see the other side of it?) However, in the end, you have to decide if you want to be a jack-of-all-trades, or highly skilled in a few.

A few years ago, In addition to teaching myself to be able to write (at the time) competent and effective html and css, I began to learn php. I got to the stage of being able to put together reasonable, if basic, code and plug in more advanced code where I needed. At a certain point I just stopped, as I realised, this is not how I want to be spending my life and you could end up going down a real rabbit hole with it. Why? Because coding is not a side-skill a designer should have. It is and entire career choice that requires its own skills and aptitude. As it happens, design for web at a level beyond wix and squarespace has borne this out. Where once the design and production of a site was expected of the designer, now that has (rightly, to my mind) evolved into two distinct roles. Designers create the aesthetics, structure and functionality and developers code it. Unfortunately, this, in some cases has come full circle and developers often think they can design sites too, Usually with pretty abysmal results – but that’s a whole other soapbox.

I decided this route was not for me and apart from a few smaller, static sites, if I have a client who needs real web design, I’ll farm it out for specialists to work within any brand identity I have designed for my client. I am much happier coming up with ideas to solve problems, brand identity, collateral, book design and typography. With a few exceptions, such as the odd illustration, this is largely what I stick to and it has served me well. If you build a reputation for being good in certain areas, you usually get repeat business in those areas.

I think, as happened with web design, the tide will turn and people will realise that spreading designers’ skill sets too thinly only ends up with watered-down, less effective results.

Others may disagree and advise that you learn everything you can about everything you can, but I would say be part of the solution and help rebuild quality. After all, the more you become passionate about something, naturally, the narrower your scope becomes, because the more you learn about something the more you realise you don’t yet know about it. Work in the direction of that which really drives you. It is the only way, to my mind, to build a long-term, sustainable career and not be swept along in the tide of expendable designers who know a little bit about a lot of things.

Think about the designers you really admire. They are usually known for being exceptional within one or two areas.

Hope this helps. Good luck.

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My experience has been similar to Sprout’s. Editorial design, typography, magazines, books, newspapers and that sort of work is what I love to do — basically print work. Back in the mid '90s, the web came along and I jumped onboard for the simple reason that it was new and wide open. Before long, I was designing and coding newspaper and magazine websites.

Within the past ten years, however, it’s gotten so needlessly complicated with dozens of frameworks, CMSs, and various languages, that I dread diving into any website project. My last project (just finished it) was working with a programmer who insisted on working in a CMS called Hugo and automating it using Ruby and Git through the Mac’s Terminal application. I didn’t enjoy a single moment of it.

I think programmers’ tendencies to solve every problem by inventing new and more complicated ways of doing things has forced the issue of separating designers from developers. I think this has been good, despite it coming about for the wrong reasons. Lots of small businesses need little more than modified templates or themes running out of WordPress or an online WYSIWYG web builder, which many designers specialize in handling. Anything more complicated than that typically requires a programmer with some specialized skills of various sorts.

Recently, I’ve tried to pull back and focus on what I really like, which is what I started with. It’s been hard narrowing down my niche. The most lucrative jobs still involve websites, but I’m actively trying to move away from them — at least as much as my finances will allow.

I’ve never gotten involved working directly with video or motion graphics, even though I think I could enjoy both. The problem is that I can’t do everything well — there’s just not enough time to learn everything and do it all equally well. Even though I used to love it, I’ve largely given up on logos since it often means competing with $50 designs from teenagers and clients who have come to expect endless, awful revisions that push the work toward solutions no better than the $50 crowdsourced junk anyway.

Well, I’ve been rambling, but the subject of niche work vs a generalist approach is one I’ve been thinking a lot about lately.

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Rather fortunately, I have been in a weird niche of this industry most of my career. There isn’t a lot of interaction with the crowdsource end of the spectrum, except for the occasional (very rare) client that needs a sign made out of one of those crap logos they may have gotten online for cheap.

Here’s an out-of-the-box option.
If the job is beyond your skillset, would your boss be amenable to outsourcing the work in a limited way, under your direct supervision. You may have the storyboard concept but just need a pro to implement the hardware/software part of it. It’s a classic, do they pay you for the time it will take to learn it from ground zero, or do they bring in a contractor to assist you for a short amount of time.

I do print, but I don’t do it all. If we need something specialized, we go to the guys that can do it. We don’t tool up to make something we may have 2 orders for a year. Some of these machines go for hundreds of thousands of dollars. It’s all about ROI.

As for staying relevant in the design field, if you think more video production is in your future at your current job, ask about reimbursement for classes, whether online or at a local night program. And ask for a raise. :wink:

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