Industry Challenges

As a media and design student, I was wondering what are the difficulties a junior designer face when getting the first job? And how to stay updated on the current industry trends?
I’d be glad to hear from professionals on the area.

Actually finding a job is probably the most difficult part. After you get the job, your attention will be focused on those things the job requires. Since you’ll be doing that 40 hours per week, you’re unlikely to get behind on what you need to know.

As for keeping up with larger industry trends, that’s not nearly as important or difficult as you seemingly believe it to be. Design students, for whatever reason, seem to believe that keeping up with the latest hot thing is the path to success. Honestly, it isn’t. Most employers and most clients don’t really care as long as your work fulfills their objectives, which tend to be more about making money than being trendy.

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Agreed; certainly not in the generalized spirit of (this instance of) the question. This misconception seems to happen when “design” is likened to “art”.

There can be important trends in specific areas like magazine design, web design, etc., but even those examples encompass so many sub-genres, each possibly with their own respective trends. It always comes down to a designer carrying out diligent research specific to the given graphic design job at hand. Some of that may involve trend consciousness in the same sense that one studies the client’s competition and market to find opportunities to differentiate.

Supply and demand. There are plenty of designers out there. Couple that with the growing DIY solutions for graphic and website design and clients wanting to do their own work, demand for pro design services is diminishing. I’m not saying it’s not there, but I’ve seen my own clients doing things themselves they would have had me do in the past. Your best chance to stand out is to do outstanding work. Don’t just learn the tools – anybody can do that – learn design. Immerse yourself in it so that you’ll be the very best designer you can be.

There are a bunch of great design blogs out there. Load up your RSS feed and dedicate a set amount of time each day to reading.

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Rather than focusing on trends, focus on process.
As a designer, the main intent is to get your design out there into the consumer world. To do that you need to be able to interface directly with the people/tech/materials that make that happen.

I can only speak to my industry, which is Experiential Design (often called Environmental design.)
It’s a whole world of metalwork, woodwork, glass, paint and every different kind of print imaginable. A good portion of one day a week is dedicated to just keeping up with the materials and processes available out there and developing vendor relationships in order to have an ability to offer those processes to designers who have a vision but maybe not a clear sense of materials. You can’t have that vision though unless you have some idea what’s out there.
Why limit your clients’ vision of their heroic office space to off the shelf pullups and clip on posters. Offer 3D elements, printing on substrates, scenic wallscapes, printed flooring/carpeting options, dye sub fabrics for windows, walls and furniture (furniture in the sense of “set dressing” that includes anything from shelving to footstools,) surface wraps, laminated “furniture” in custom prints or standard finishes, Photo art in a number of different mounting configurations, timeline art which can often allow great artistic license, if you have the material knowledge, and a budget, you can go wild.

Stick to your foundations! No matter how old or new things are, trends are trends. They come and go. The foundations of design have remained the same across most mediums. If you feel you’re behind on the time, take a look at websites that cater to design inspiration.

One industry challenge I faced early was getting a variety of work in my portfolio. It was because I did too many in-house B2B jobs. I later freelanced just to diversify my portfolio. I don’t know if that’s as much of an issue these days with all the hyper-focus on web development.

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