Looking for tips on where to go now with my degree


Im a new designer seeking opinions from others on whats the best options to take my career. I just graduated with my bachelors in art and design from Frostburg State University , where I focused in Printmaking and Graphic Design. Not a very known school for design but has set me on a beginning path and was affordable for me. I also live in the small town of Frostburg where it feels as though there arent many options here. Im kinda stuck here for at least three or so more years till my partner finishes college. I did not have the chance to do a internship while I was in college. I worked at a local print shop for a short amount of time and it was not a ideal place to be for me.It was very outdated and the use of bad design skills just to get the job done didnt make me feel like I was improving just learning how to fudge things. Also feel like when in college I was taught the beginning of things but never really anything in depth as far as the topic of graphic design. So Im just little lost right now but I dont want to give up. Here is a list of things I have been wondering about below if anyone could answer or suggest options. It would be greatly appreciate.

1.What are ways to improve design skills and or knowledge? Would you suggest online classes or find workshops to travel to? Possibly focusing in typography or color theory? Are there any possible internships for graduates.

  1. Would a marketing and sales certifications be worth it for the experience? Since my background is strictly in art and design I thought maybe some kind of marketing would be great. I was told not to try to get another minor in marketing and as for a Masters in business I dont feel I have enough business background to succeed in the program.

  2. Are there any tips you can give me on freelancing, in person and or online. I have some small jobs im doing for firends but it wont really pay. I have signed up for upwork account but haven’t really messed with it much.

  3. Where do you keep up with design trends or keeping things fresh?

I have many more questions but I’ll just start here. Its a hard adjustment going from school to the work feild not really knowing were to go with the knowledge I’ve gained but I love design and dont want to give it up.

Thanks ,
A fellow designer Alec

Best way to improve your design skills is to design. You can do online classes, sure. Given that you just finished a degree, I think you’d be better off putting that degree into practice with some real world design challenges. Side note, I’m not trying to be a jerk, but I’d question the value of the degree if you just graduated and feel the need to sign up for online classes to improve your skills. I kind of get it, everybody can grow and learn no matter what stage they’re in. But I’ll stick with my original advice; I get the sense that some real world work would better suit you than more schooling.

Marketing and business helps tremendously. After all, someone is going to hire you because they have a something to sell. Again, real world experience is where it’s at. Unfortunately, you’re in that awkward beginning phase of “How do I get experience when I don’t have any experience?”

That’s a pretty open-ended question, so I’ll just say treat freelancing like a business. Define your goals, and then chart a path for achieving those goals.

There are a ton of great design-related blogs. Try searching this forum via the search box. The topic of design blogs has come up before.

So let’s see, between Frostburg and Cumberland, you’ve got what, a metro area of about 150,000 people. I just looked it up and Cumberland has several ad, marketing and publishing companies. Every last one of them, I’m sure, have a designer or two on staff. I’m sure there are other companies in the area, besides an “outdated” print shop that have a designer or two working for them. Have you called these places? Have you dropped by to visit with them? Have you made a pitch to any of them to hire you?

Honestly, you should have done this before you graduated. Not having an internship and practical experience puts you at a disadvantage. Even so, the printshop experience likely did you more good than you think since it introduced you to some of the realities of the business that aren’t learned in school.

I would not suggest online classes or workshops. You already have your degree, so is there really anything an online class will teach you at this point. Workshops typically last a few days and, really, they’re mostly social things where not a whole lot is learned. It’s often more about networking, which is important, but if you’re stuck in Frostburg, will that networking really do you all that much good. At this point, you need to learn how design works in the business world, and that means getting a job.

Does Frostburg University offer a master’s degree in marketing or, perhaps, an MBA? That might do you some good if the alternative is just killing time waiting for your partner to graduate. A marketing degree is a perfect complement to a design degree since, when it comes right down to it, design is usually in the service of marketing efforts.

Then again, will two degrees from an obscure university in rural western Maryland be your best use of time and money (two years of graduate school can be expensive)? Maybe it will be a great use of your time, I don’t know.

What about after your partner graduates? Will that mean moving to a bigger city? Have you thought that through? Or are you just playing it by ear hoping things work out. If the latter is true, you might want to start seriously thinking about and planning what happens during the next five years.

If you do move to a bigger metro area with more opportunities in three or four years, you’d better have a history of either working in the field in Frostburg under your belt or that graduate degree. Two or three years of working at McDonald’s waiting for your significant other to graduate won’t look especially good on your resume, and it won’t improve your skills either.

I appreciate your honesty it is refreshing and very helpful. I guess I feel since graphic design was my secondary focus that I maybe behind. That is probably something I need to work on myself but finding design jobs if most definitely my best option right now anything to grow my experience.

Dually noted on the marketing and business point.

Yes I have found some articles on here since just joining today.

Thank you for taking your time to reply to my questions.

Yes I have looked some up but have not visited or came up with a pitch. I am finding out more and more this problem of not having done this before graduating and sadly the idea was never really pushed or offered in during my education.

I see your point about the online courses. Guess I just felt since graphic design was a secondary focus I maybe behind in design but that is something I can work on myself. That is a good point about workshops as well.

Yes FSU does have a very good MBA program and I have put it as a option yet I have left college debt free and would like to keep it that way.

It is the plan to move to a bigger city possibly. That is a great point you brought up about work in the field in frostburg vs. McDonald’s. Since I have been pondering the idea of a part time job out of my field.

Right now I have a part time job at a local art shop where I do some design work and I also work at a local Art Gallery where I assist and hope I gain design work there as well. So what I have taken from all this is just keep picking up more jobs to build my career in the area and reaching out to local designers. It all seems pretty obvious (duh to me) but sometimes it’s better hearing it from someone else to really get things to sink in.

Thank you so much for taking the time and replying to my questions.Its so very helpful and definitely a eye opener. I very much appreciate your research and honesty.

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