I will be studying Graphic Design soon

Hi everyone!

I’m in my late 20s and I will soon start an online bachelor’s degree on Graphic Design.
I’ve been designing for many, many years, and I’ve already built some skills.

I want to look for Graphic Design (or relevant disciplines) jobs in my hometown. My goal is to have some relevant professional experience in my resume by the time I graduate.

Here’s my question: What kind of companies can offer me relevant and useful experience?

I’m asking this because my hometown is not very big, I doubt I will find any postings online. As such, I will be going door to door. But which doors should I knock on? Printing shops? Marketing agencies?

Thank you in advance!

What sort of graphic design are you doing? What is the course studying? What do you want to do with your career?

I’ve been experimenting with all sorts of things, posters, collages, typography, branding, brochures, illustration, video editing, animation… So the course I will do online will be as diverse. I’m not sure what I want to focus on yet because I love all things visual. But for now, I would love to get a relevant job, any relevant job. Besides, I cannot be too picky at the moment as I don’t have a degree yet. I’m just not sure which companies in my hometown I should look into.

Look into them all. You can only get a job at the one that is hiring.

When I started out 25 years ago there was internet, hand wrote 50 envelopes, printed 50 cvs and 50 cover letters (signed by hand) and posted by postman to 50 companies I found in the yellow pages (old style telephone book for businesses).

I got plenty of replies and ended up doing 2 or 3 places for a couple of places and eventually settled in one.

If I could go back, I’d pick a different industry altogether.

First of all, kudos for your determination!

What kind of companies did you sent them to? I mean, did you go straight to those that specialise in Graphic Design/printing, or did you send them to random companies too with in-house departments?

Also why would you pick a different industry if you could go back?

I got out of generic graphic design 25 years ago and went into production. Never looked back.

If you can get a job at a printer, even if it’s running a machine or just doing the production work (fielding client files and doing pre-flight) you will never regret the experience you will gain doing that. If your town is small, you aren’t likely to find any of the odd places to work. And most of the smaller studios all went toes up about 10 years ago now. The small ones that are left are usually just a couple of principals that hire freelance contract workers for larger projects. You probably aren’t at that level and they usually go with known quantities (usually former employees.)

Museums are another option.
Grocery stores sometimes have in-house stuff, but that is more and more corporate-run these days.
TV studios are an option. But your animation skills have to be FAST. Deadline is News @ 7, and its 6pm now. And oh wait, this story, just in…

Generic Graphic design is dying as slow painful death. I’d get into any other area of the field that isn’t overrun by the Crowdsource sites. If they do it, look elsewhere.

Thank you for the lengthy response and the advice.

Working at a printer is most likely doable, there are plenty of those around here.
I’m still trying to figure out how the industry works, and I’m still not sure what I want to do after graduation.

All I know is that I can work really hard and passionately on any visual project. Does this fall under generic Graphic Design? And if so, what can I focus on that still has some element of creativity and isn’t likely to die down in the near future? Could working at a printer while studying help me jump into more creative areas after I graduate?

Thank you in advance for any insight you might be able to provide.

I work in a very weird corner of this industry. Mostly show biz, but some high end museum exhibit installations. I’ve seen a lot of change in this industry the past 25+ years.

The make-a-logo, business card, brochure designer is small peanuts these days. Most people do that stuff on their own, even with logos, which they shouldn’t. Larger studios like the one Just B used to work for do full brand packages and marketing campaigns that integrate a lot of different departments of design from print to web to AV, but for every job opening he would get over 200 applicants.

We used to do a lot of large format printed scenery, 40’wx16’h was not uncommon. That’s all mostly gone to light shows, projection and hi-rez LED screens. We just put up specialty fabric now, LOL. There’s still quite a bit of that large print around. You’d be surprised where it’s used. Anyway, motion graphics, animation, the big wow things, very cut-throat. You have to be good and you have to be fast. There are 100 more waiting for you to make a mistake so they can take your job.

Be very aware of AI.
It is getting way too good, way too fast. If I were still a designer, or had any interest left in film design, I’d be digging into how that can be used creatively and with novelty.

But right now I just hope to retire before this industry implodes. And it’s looking like I gotta wait 3 more years. :disappointed_relieved:

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Sorry, that’s kind of a downer. Seriously though, if you are more interested in design for Art’s sake, do Art as a hobby and get a job that will pay the rent. Otherwise, be in it for the passion. Cuz it’s very hard to make a living at it.

If you don’t already have a goal in mind, it’s very hard to steer your school career in the right direction. A little bit of everything doesn’t really go very far.

Way back when I was in college, I worked one summer in a screen printing shop. I worked part-time for a couple of years as a paid intern in an in-house creative team. I also spent several months as an unpaid intern at a design studio. I even held down a part-time job at a grocery store chain, designing weekly special signs for their windows.

The variety of all these jobs gave me a broad base of practical experience that helped balance the academic stuff I was learning in school.

I have no first-hand experience with online courses. Even so, I think it would be very difficult to replicate the in-person experience of working directly with other students and instructors and getting instant feedback from everyone — especially in the group critiques.

That lack of personal interaction, I think, makes it doubly important to get lots of real work experience at various places as part of your education.

Printing companies can be great places to get experience — especially those companies that do some design work for their customers. You’ll not only get some design experience but also be exposed to the nuts and bolts part of the print industry and gain extremely valuable production expertise, which so many design school graduates lack.

Part-time work or as an intern at an agency (in-house or otherwise) would be equally beneficial since you’ll learn the realities of the business world from those with more experience. Depending on the agency, you’ll be exposed to everything from marketing, interface design, and public relations to whatever else they take on. These internships are sometimes hard to get because so many students want them. From my experience, the best way to get them is to call up, request an appointment with the art director (or whichever person makes the decisions), then make a pitch for them to take you on for a few months.

Honestly, if you can find any work that provides practical experience in some area of design or a closely related field, it will be an enormously beneficial complement to your education.

As for what others have said, yes, becoming a successful, professional graphic designer is difficult. There are far more people wanting to be graphic designers than there are positions. In addition, the future of the profession looks a little uncertain. It won’t disappear, but inexpensive competition from overseas, do-it-yourself software, and online services are changing how things work and gutting entire segments of the profession. Then again, the field has always been in a state of flux caused by technological changes. Artificial intelligence will undoubtedly affect design in many ways, but that’s probably true of any profession.

I commend you for wanting to gain some professional experience while pursuing your education and for coming here to seek answers.

But I have several concerns for you. It sounds like you live in a smaller market, possibly not willing to relocate, and you’re not quite sure where you should be looking for employment opportunities. Again, good for you for asking, but I would say this is the type of question you should be asking before committing to a bachelor’s degree. Maybe you have not fully committed; I don’t know.

In most markets, design is a saturated field. There are far more aspiring graphic designers who are passionate about design working food service or retail while doing occasional side jobs than there are open positions. As others have mentioned there are many downward forces on the field.

Bottom line, make sure you have a viable path forward before spending the time and money on a bachelor’s degree.

I live in a mid-size city and print shop jobs seem fairly common. I also live in wine country so in-house design and marketing jobs are also common. I would recommend finding whatever industry is prominent in your area and catering your skillset and portfolio to their needs.

Thank you for providing some perspective.

I am more my willing to relocate, in fact I’m willing to go wherever opportunity is, even outside my own country.

It is true however that I still don’t know what I want to focus on, but this is something I hope to resolve through my studies. As I mentioned in another comment, I’m very passionate about all things visual, and have been since my early teens. It’s the one thing I can spend endless hours on, constantly soaking up new information. It is not a whim of the moment decision, it’s been part of my life for as long as I’ve had access to a computer.

I appreciate the honest advice.

Even If my career never ends up being what I dream of, I want it to at least be relevant to my passion, up to SOME extent. Even if it is a seemingly boring or repetitive type of work. As long as it pays the bills, I’ll take it. And I can always work on personal projects on the side.

I cannot bear the thought of going into a completely different field. I’m 28, I’ve already tried some stuff, and there has been nothing else I can do with as much determination, passion and hard work.

Thank you so much for the thoughtful response.

The online course was created very recently and they’ve done everything in their power to replicate its physical equivalent as much as possible. But I will definitely look into the things you mentioned to try and get some real work experience.

I’m aware of how saturated the field is, and I appreciate everyone giving me realistic and honest advice. I’m just wondering who is going to be left in the field in the future if everyone is discouraged from pursuing it.

Those who are not easily discouraged. :slight_smile:

We mentioned printers, but there are also smaller sign shops and vehicle wrap shops out there that are looking for hands. You’re more likely to design in an small shop like that. They run lean though, so you’d have to do more than just sit at a desk and design.

Push your skills in a way that shows how you would enhance any employer’s bottom line. That’s what it’s all about.

Quite right. In this career (mind you, I’ve had two other careers before I got lured to graphic design) I do not remember a day that I did not look forward to going to work.

Having said that, I hasten to add it happened in the 80s, when jobs were plentiful and opportunities to learn and upgrade abounded. @PrintDriver said he could not wait to retire. I am one better – I am already a retiree, and am fortunate enough not having to face problems new or aspiring designers have to face.

If that’s the case, go for it. Like @Eriskay, I started out in the '80s when the field was wide open and poised to grow, so I timed it right. Today, it’s more difficult to navigate the challenges, but it’s doable with a smart approach, dedication, and some basic talent.

Maybe you’ll be one of those who are left. I wouldn’t discourage everyone — only those who are wishy-washy and not fully committed to seeing it through. Good luck!

At the moment ui and ux design are hot and pay a lot more than standard print design.

But that wasn’t an option back then.

I should have picked a trade in building like carpentry or electrician.

Depends on your goals though. The design industry is flooded with amateurs and there are no barriers to entry.
Prices and wages are diluted.

I completely understand everyone’s guarded attitude. I get it and of course, am concerned by what is to come. We all see, every day, the legions of uneducated wannabes with no experience, knowledge or talent scratching around in the dirt for crumbs on competition sites. It serves nothing than to bring the whole industry and expectation down.

I know AI is going to have a huge impact and you’d be naive not to be concerned about its impact, but recently I read an article that said something like, ‘… your job will not be replaced by AI, but rather, by someone using AI.’ Step back 35 tears and swap the word AI for the word, computer.

These days, any talk of, type galleys, casting off, chromalins and transparencies is a thing of the (not too distant) past, but designers still exist. Who knows what the future holds, but I’d say your best chance is to embrace it. In reality, you won’t have much choice, it will become embedded in the tools you use every day.

I do think it will see the end of the alacritous ignorants scratching around in the dirt. Conversely, I think it will aid the higher echelons of the industry. There will always be the need for good non-linear thinking (for now). The best designers have always been those who can interpret emotion, understand the subtleties of the human psyche and interpret and communicate these things visually.

One day AI may do this effectively, but I think we are a little way off that just yet and even when we do get there, the job of the designer will have evolved in ways we can’t yet envisage. You have to get on the ride to experience the thrill.

At your age, I think there are exciting times ahead, if you embrace them. As I hinted at, although I think the field will narrow and it will return to being a more specialist career, with fewer protagonists, it will overall, become higher quality – which, to me, is not a bad thing. I’d happily see things return to a point where experts and people who really know what they are doing are producing the work and the dirt is no longer scratched around in, by hopeful kids with no idea what they are doing, but who think it’s cool, Thevworld will be less saturated with current levels of ugly visual noise.

Design has been a good career for me. I have worked (and thankfully still do) on some really fun projects. Whether you get to the top (and that’s a very movable and subjective feast), is anyone’s guess, but you have to aim for it.

Of course, you have to have the requisite talent and ability, plus a good education. I’m with Just-B, in that, I feel that a real-world, face-to-face education is the gold standard, but times change and as long as it is a reputable degree from a serious university with a time-honoured syllabus and not some fly-by-night private establishment, then, who knows, they may be able to accommodate the shortcomings of remote learning. The one thing you will definitely miss out on, though, is the student lifestyle, which is not to be underestimated, on many levels.

Of all the designers I know or knew, the ones who started out settling for the easy, close-to-home options when we left university, have almost all migrated to different careers. The ones who were prepared to make the sacrifices and move to the cities where the best work is, have all stayed in the industry and though we’ve all gone in different directions, most have had very interesting careers in all sorts of fields. Often they tend to specialise. Not with early intent, but as they grow they simply find areas that fit, as happened with me

I’d say, go for it, have fun, be prepared to evolve in ways you can’t even begin to imagine now and ALWAYS aim for the top, or you’ll very quickly find yourself scratching in the dirt.

I may be proved wrong and have to eat my words and that AI will take over, but at which point the savvy designers will have evolved their careers with it anyway. I do think you’ll likely have to move to one of the cultural capitals, but you don’t need to stay forever. I am now pretty much double your age and for the last 20 years of my career have lived in the exact opposite of big cities, in a few different places, but I did my first ten years after university in London to earn my stripes. Most of my clients and work still come from there.

Even now, when it is far easier to work remotely than it was when I first bailed on the rat race, I think for many reasons, it’s important to be in a major city after uni. I never regret my 10 years in London. Would I want to do it now? Probably not, unless I had pots and pots of money, but even then… in my 20s and early 30s, though, it was a real blast. Exhausting and expensive, but fantastic.

I’d be interested to see your portfolio. In fact, as you won’t have the face-to-face critique option doing a remote, places like this will be invaluable to you in order to get honest (if often, brutally so), unbiased feedback.

Anyway, that’s my 2-penneths worth – for what it’s worth.

Good luck.