Hello, I'm new. I want all the info my little brain can handle

Hi y’all. My name’s Jordan, and I live in Texas. I’m getting back into graphic design after a couple years hiatus. I’ve always had a passion for art, and creating logos, website designs, and even comics has been a fantastic time thus far. I’d love to start a career in graphic design. I’m about a month’s into learning as much as I can and had a couple questions for real-life designers. Hope to get some replies!

  1. Is a career in graphic design a possibility without a bachelor’s degree, but a badass portfolio?

  2. How long (realistically) will it take for me to get good enough if I’m self-taught and take a few in-person classes at a college?

I would love any feedback possible. :slight_smile: thanks y’all, hope to see some answers from you soon!

Yes, but make sure the “badass” assessment is from other people and not just your own opinion.

Impossible to put a number on that. It will depend on you.

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A passion for Art doesn’t always translate into a passion for Design. As many students find out too late, your Art takes a back seat to the client’s specific message needs. That may mean doing something completely outside your preferred style or comfort zone.

That said, it really does help a great deal to have an artistic eye and talent when doing graphic design.

Comic books aren’t graphic design, per se.

Logos aren’t created in a vacuum, there is always branding to be considered there along with technical aspects to logo usage. To make any money at it, you need to be way above the level of Crowdsource logo designers.

Website design is fairly open, but again, you will definitely be constrained by already-existing brand standards and the number of applicants for any one position.

Your questions:

  1. The answer depends on what you want to do, and how well you do it. There’s a problem getting hired without a degree as a graphic designer by any kind of high money studio or agency. They get so many applicants per job opening that they set the cut-off on having that degree as the very first hurdle. The studio system is in a fair state of collapse at the moment, with many studios (at least here in the Northeast) hiring in on a contract basis. Usually they hire the people they’ve laid off who are now freelancers. There is very little opportunity for junior level designers in that environment, and no time to train someone. A designer needs to be instantly plug-and-play.

  2. You won’t ever be good enough being self-taught. You don’t know what to study and you won’t be getting any feedback on whether you are on the mark or not with whatever you do. Even graduates with a college degree that go directly into freelancing are always reinventing the wheel on a daily basis. You would be more better off being “self-taught-on-the-job” where someone has the time to mentor you and show you the intricacies of the field. But still you’d be lacking that degree. There are members on here with decades of on-the-job experience that makes them top-notch designers, they have more knowledge in their pinkie fingernail than a designer with a degree and 2-years experience, but their resumes can’t make it past the corporate degree hurdle. Freelancing is always an option and clients who hire freelancers are more likely to consider a portfolio over a degree, but what those discerning clients are looking for is results, not pretty pictures. Were the designs being shown in the portfolio successful at marketing the clients’ messaging? They want quantifiable answers to that question. Upticks in sales? Upticks in web clicks? Upticks in venue foot traffic?


Im going to be honest, there are two parts to graphic design and one really is more important than the other.

1.) learning the software. This is going to be dictated by what you want to do. I use Illustrator mainly, followed by Photoshop, DreamWeaver, Flash and In design dead last. I do lots of illustrations and animations so those with the exception of Indesign are my core programs.

2.) What type of design are you looking to get into, this will dictate what programs and tools within them you’ll need to use to be successful. There is no one way, everyone has their own vibe.

3.) The most important things in my opinion is my opinion are developing your own style and mastering it. You want your work to be authentic and well done, no matter what your style is, I can’t explain it, or why it works this way but you will draw people to your work.

I hope this helps, there is sure to be a plethora of information provided by the community here. Good luck on your journey friend.

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Software is a tool. It’s always important to select your tools carefully and use the ones appropriate for the job at hand.

The creative part is the brain that can make the tools do what it wants.
Knowing the theory behind why design works and how it works and how it is all interconnected is more important than learning the tools, at first.

Style is great for illustrators and animators. That’s how they get hired. But when it comes to most Graphic design, style is dictated by the needs of the client. If your style is cute anime kittens, but the client is a death-metal band, your style ain’t gonna work. In that situation you have two choices; be able to work in any style necessary, or pass up the work. (Granted a death-metal band isn’t likely to hire based on a portfolio full of anime kittens but someone may send em your way via word of mouth without them ever looking at the portfolio.)

If you work in a studio environment, your AD may cater to your strengths on some things, but if you aren’t versatile you aren’t an asset. The work is the work. You can’t always pick and choose your projects. That’s one of the biggest downfalls of most Graphic design programs. They let the students self-direct their projects. In my VR school, you’d close your eyes and draw the project out of a box.


Hey Jordan! I’m also self-taught designer and keep hearing that BA isn’t necessary, however quite often required by many companies from looking at the job posts. I’d say, you work will tell them more, but degree is a real good bonus. Don’t doubt yourself if you don’t have one! I don’t have a BA in Design, from going to community college in CA I got a vibe of kindergarten - learning shape + form + line, classes were very, very basic to my opinion. Actual design full time job gave me the most experience in a short period of time, but I also try do projects for friends literally hunting them down like - hey, let me make your low res logo in Illustrator, or - let me make your Instagram post more uniformed etc.

If you are happy working at a level doing friends’ logos and instagram pages, not having a degree is fine.
If you want to work at a level where the money is, studio HR or deep pocket client will not look at you. They will never see your work to “let it speak for you.” You won’t even make the interview cut.

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