Hello there. I’m a sophomore in university and currently studying graphic design. As I’m getting more into the field, I realized how competitive it is and that one should always change and be aware of things that are trendy. I always wonder how do you make yourself stand out from a crowd and how to be different. It’s almost my third year in university and I still struggle to know who I am and what I’m capable of, I pretty much feel lost all the time. I’m looking for any tips or advice on how to improve myself or anything you would want an inexperienced person like me to know about the field before getting further into it. Thank you so much in advance.
Quality work. Quality work always stands out.
It is very competitive. There are more people who want to be designers than there are jobs for them. With a degree, a good portfolio and some practical experience (see below), you’ll be in a good place.
I disagree with your concern over trendiness. For some unknown and misguided reason, design programs stress keeping up with trends way too much. Employers and clients rarely care about the latest trends. Instead, they care a whole lot more about getting projects finished on time and under budget. I’ve never yet had a client say something isn’t trendy enough or, for that matter, even mention it. Most clients are ten or twenty years behind in their tastes anyway. There are clients whose businesses depend trendiness, but honestly, they’re few and far between. As long as your work doesn’t look noticeably dated, you’re good.
Of course you’re still struggling to know those things — you’re still in school. If you had it all figured out, there would be no need for school.
As for tips, as important as your university design program is, school isn’t like the real world. You’re doing work for instructors who are, for the most part, grading on good design and recognize it when they see it.
Once you’re out of school and working in a real setting, you’ll find there are other, often more immediate concerns and problems, like time limitations, unimaginative boilerplate projects, unrealistic expectations, budget constraints, clients and bosses with really bad ideas, and other clients and bosses who seemly go out of their way tossing debris in your way to ensure the work turns out poorer than it might have been.
As important as your design skills might be, equally important will be your ability to navigate these kinds of always-present obstacles. You will soon find that success is more about business than it is dependent upon artistic or aesthetic merit.
So my tip is to get exposed to the real world as soon as possible. This will help minimize the shock that comes once you graduate. The usual way to do this is getting part-time jobs and/or internships in the field while you’re still in school.
Way back when I was in school, I had four separate design-related jobs (not all at the same time): 1) a 15-hour a week job painting signs, 2) an extended year-long job working part-time in an in-house design group, 3) working for a silk-screening company and 4) an internship at a really good design studio.
I think these jobs, from the crappy sign-painting gig in a grocery store’s basement to the internship at one of the top design studio in town, actually taught me more than I learned in school. School taught me about design. Those four jobs taught me the rest.
Once I graduated from school, it was a combination of the degree and my experience that got me my first real full-time design jobs. That was a long time ago, but getting real-world experience while in design school has only become more important during the intervening years.
Thank you so much for the insight! I really appreciate it. Have a good day.