Recommendations for someone new to the field?

Hi all,

I’ve been practicing graphic design for about eight years now. I am completely self-taught. While I have good experience with certain applications (I am very comfortable with Photoshop and Illustrator), I feel extremely overwhelmed right now and don’t know what I should be doing to be proficient in the field and prepared to make this a full-time career. I’ve looked at many online articles and resources but it eventually reads like overwhelming, nonsensical jargon after the first few paragraphs.

I am someone who pursues art in general as a hobby and passion; it’s been an interest my entire life, and graphic design is something I believe that I have a skill for. I have done a few on-the-side projects, such as logos, menus, brochures, and community projects. Most of my work is just for fun and practice, but I would like to fine-tune my work and be able to function at a professional level.

I am unsure what my future goal is in this career; I have considered freelancing or evolving into UI design. My favorite area of graphic design is illustration, so I’ve considered practicing in an area rich in it.

I am, at this time, pursuing an associate’s degree in general studies and certificate of graphic design (my school does not provide diplomas in graphic design specifically at this time). I have attempted taking graphic design courses at my school, but very few are available; online courses have either been too expensive or low quality. I have also looked into mentoring from experienced graphic designers, and hope to do this in the future.

All in all, I am very discombobulated as to what I need to do to prepare myself for the future, and have no idea what I can be doing right now to set myself up for success. I know my ideas are pretty messy here, but does anyone have some recommendations on where I need to be at this point?

If you have no plan for formal education, then ^that^ is what you’ll need more than anything else.

Without that formal education, you’ll have an extremely thin chance of getting hired, even for an entry-level, junior designer position. I don’t know where you live/work, but here in the US, without a degree your resume alone will disqualify you, leaving any portfolio pieces you may have to offer unseen.

I too am self taught, but I started over 30 years ago, already in the job that forced me to self-teach, and from there, worked my way to Director level in that same organization. When that organization was downsized out of existence, I was unemployed for the first time in my life, and despite decades of experience and a deep, impressive portfolio, I could barely land a callback for interview. On the two interviews I got, one offered a junior position at a lowball salary due to my lack of formal education, and the other made a slightly better offer, then recinded it on the basis that I was “overqualified, and would find the position unfulfilling”.

As for freelancing, sure, go ahead and try it, but there are some that would consider paid client work at your experience level tantamount to malpractice. Plus, theres a whole self-run business aspect to it that is a sizeable discipline of its own. Finding clients and proving yourself capable of designing effective solutons on which the future of their enterprise may depend is challenging, but those things only amount to about 40% of the obstacles between you and success in freelancing.

Best of luck to you.

Unfortunately, what HotButton said is true. In North America and much of the world, the field of graphic design is oversaturated with designers — most of whom have degrees in the field. It’s also changing as various do-it-yourself and low-cost services are offered online. Add these two things together and it’s not only difficult to find a job, the pay is often low.

It’s still possible to succeed without a degree, but the odds are definitely not in one’s favor. There are still jobs available, but without that degree, you will be competing against those who do. On the other hand, I know of extremely talented people with just the right mixture of personality traits who have broken into the field without a college degree. It’s a long shot, though.

If we haven’t totally discouraged you, how about listing a few of those things you’re finding overwhelming or nonsensical. There are lots of people here who are willing to share knowledge and help clarify things.

I suggest you try and find a good online course. If you have that “piece of paper” it will open up many doors. There is so much competition nowadays.
And as Hotbutton mentioned there are legal ramifications that you my not realise, such as IP and licences when doing your other work.
Good Luck

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