Seeking Advice

Hi guys I was just looking for a little advice. I graduated from the school of visual arts in Nyc with a degree in graphic design in 1997! I know, I’m old, LOL. Upon graduation I worked as a graphic designer for approximately four years when I decided to move on to other forms of art. Now, many years later, I am looking to get back into graphic design. I was wondering if you had any advice for someone in my position? What would I do to start up again? Build a portfolio? Recommendations for learning the updated programs? What are employers looking for nowadays? Starting over as a junior designer, what do the salaries look like these days? Hours? Sorry I have so many questions, I’m a single mom and wondering the details bc of the reaponsibility that goes with that. I was also considering retouching since I remember being good at it back in the day, so if anyone has the same advice for that too would be great! Thanks so much!!

Most graphic design jobs these days expect you to know web. Take as many courses as you can to learn about web design. If you are great at branding and print design, you might be able to get by without learning much web coding. But you at least need to know web design and have access to someone who can do the web programing for you. At minimum, you’ll be expected to make graphics for the web here and there.

Knowing web coding can only help. The basics are HTML5 and CSS. Content Management Systems are good to know too. I’m almost in the same boat as you, so I’m taking courses on Responsive Web Design and back-end coding in addition to what I mentioned above. The difference is I’ve been freelancing here and there and keeping track of the major changes in the industry as they’ve risen.

Most graphic design jobs these days expect you to know Adobe Creative Cloud. If you aren’t familiar with the changes, Adobe doesn’t sell software to own anymore. It’s all subscription based for about $20 a month for the first year and $30 a month thereafter. The subscription is to all their software, which will cover anything you need to do.

The most difficult parts you will probably face is age discrimination, competing with younger designers willing to work for less with more time and energy. You will need to tailor your resume to overcome this. You might have an easier time getting work through a temp agency than getting directly hired into a staff position. You will definitely need to rebuild your portfolio. But even after you get some modern experience and a fresh portfolio, you might have an easier time freelancing than maintaining a staff position.

Hi Dee! I’m sure you know that design has changed quite a bit since 97 but the fact you have a degree is ultimately in your favour. Adobe CC is most popular these days so I would start there. Indesign, Illustrator and Photoshop to start.

What kind of graphic design do you want to be doing? Branding? Collateral? Web? Those are just a few options but something to consider before moving forward. Some employers want a Jack of all Trades, but in reality, no designer is good at everything. I think it’s better to focus on your interests and do a few things really well than everything at beginner level. Expand your skills as you go along.

I feel like age discrimination can go both ways. Yes, there will be younger designers out there but having life experience and knowing how to deal with both people and stressful work environments can be your selling point.

Thanks guys, all very helpful!!

Build a portfolio?
You absolutely need a portfolio.

Learning the updated programs?
You could brush up using online tutorials - Lynda, YouTube, Adobe. You could also choose to invest in a continuing ed class at your alma mater. Or an intensive workshop like AdHouse if you are looking to beef up your conceptual skills.

Starting over as a junior designer, what do the salaries look like these days?
You should look at job postings in your area to gauge salary ranges, as well as what skills employers are seeking in a junior designer.

Hours?
Depends on the market in your location, but as a generality, I’d assume long-ish hours with occasional weekend work, no overtime pay.

What are employers looking for nowadays?
As others have said, it depends on what work you are looking for. Some firms will want a jr. to know how to do everything from Office to html to motion graphics. Others will want ‘fresh’ ideas and a willingness to work until whenever o’clock to chase the ‘dream’. Others still will want a pair of hands for as little $ as possible.

Maybe consider production work - print shops/sign shops, catalog houses? What corner of the field did you work in after graduation? Can you leverage the 4 years of experience you acquired in todays market? Does the old employer still exist? Are the clients you worked on recognizable? Is the work too dated to be relevant (eg: defunct companies or technologies)

I believe this is the student/educator pricing structure. The non-student pricing structure is 52.99/mo.

Hope this helps! Oh, and welcome to the forum! :smiley:

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Thanks! Super helpful! Everything I did is so dated and the employer is no long around. Technology has some sooo far!! This gave me a lot of stuff to think about!

Since your portfolio is outdated, I suggest that you brush up on your skills while working on a portfolio.

Plan what you need in a portfolio. For example you might want to start with 2 branding projects with stationery and signage, 2 promotional projects such as flyers and posters, 1 magazine or multipage piece. Once those are done, you might add a few extra pieces to show skill and range. This is just a suggestion of course.

If you need any help writing brief or crit, just hit us up :slight_smile:

Thank you!!

You want to build up your portfolio?
You want to fructify your skills?
You want to gain experience?
You want to make some clients?
You want to launch yourself?

The best way to do that is by working and keep working, not matter if at the beginning you’re not so good. You will become good in time.

But where?

By joining to online contests where you have the possibility to grow as designer, working on different projects at your choice. For example, 99designs, one of the best platform of this kind.

Go and give it a try, you will not regret.

Have a nice day!

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.
Ha.
:roll_eyes:
You want to waste billable time? Go buy a lottery ticket.

Fructify? That’s a word I’ve not heard. I just looked it up and like it. :slight_smile:

My opinion, but this is terrible advice. These contests are a huge waste of time and, in addition, they’re detrimental to the health of the profession and cater to the design ignorance of those clients who post projects there. They also establish and reinforce all kinds of bad habits for for the few legitimate designers foolish enough to sign up for these contests.

Good design is not about tossing ideas out to naive clients in the hopes of getting paid. Good design involves working with clients to study their needs, objectives, and challenges and, then, developing workable, effective, practical, timely and cost-conscious solutions to their problems based upon that research.

Would you crowdsource a medical diagnosis online? Upload symptoms of your disease and what you’re after. A group of supposed physicians (most of whom have no real training) look at what you’ve written, then each tries to come up with a diagnosis they think you’ll buy. You pick and pay only the winner who provides you with the diagnosis and treatment you like the best. Great system, huh?

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Have to agree with what others have said about the contests. I entered a few in my time, and won a few as well, but its more down to luck than anything. I’m sure if even the greatest designers of all time entered those contests, they would lose more than they would win.

It is pretty much a lottery as you (the designer) have very little opportunity to communicate with the contest holder, and usually a very limited brief to go on, where the client tells you their vision for the logo, which more often than not is an awful idea and will not work as a logo at all.

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Re: the point about knowing some coding… yeah, maybe, but it might be better to get familiar with WordPress 5 and the Gutenberg editor and some third-party page builders such as Beaver Builder or Elementor.

Fructify? That’s a word I’ve not heard. I just looked it up and like it.

Hahaha…

Would you crowdsource a medical diagnosis online? Upload symptoms of your disease and what you’re after. A group of supposed physicians (most of whom have no real training) look at what you’ve written, then each tries to come up with a diagnosis they think you’ll buy. You pick and pay only the winner who provides you with the diagnosis and treatment you like the best. Great system, huh?

Although your analogy is a good one, in this case is not available.
Perhaps I did not explain it in details, that’s why some finds it a “terrible advice”.

Well, those kind of contests are not just “contests”. The client provides a very detailed brief about his Company, his Vision, Style Attributes, References / Preferences and other details. Now, a group of verified designers analyze the brief and try to come up with exactly the client is in need. The fact that is a “contest” every and each designer is motivated to come up with the best idea, being original and most successful concept.

In this way you have the possibility to not only grow, but to be inspired from the other designers who are better than you.

I know beginner designers who worked on those platform, especially 99designs, who have grown very well, built up their carrier and launched themselves. Some of them even started an agency.

This kind of practice is very efficient one, because you have the possibility to work for different clients and different project, gaining experience not only in design field, but also in communicating with different clients which have different point of view or visions, trying to understand them all.

After you grow and “fructified” your skill, you are ready to leave this practice behind and start your own business gathering clients through your portfolio.

I’m speaking from my own experience.

Have to agree with what others have said about the contests. I entered a few in my time, and won a few as well, but its more down to luck than anything. I’m sure if even the greatest designers of all time entered those contests, they would lose more than they would win.

My advice was that this is not just for money, but for your own skills, to develop them through this practice.
Working for different projects with different clients, will allow you to grow as a designer.
Of course, after you will become a professional and experienced designer, you will leave contests, and starts with you own private projects.

It is pretty much a lottery as you (the designer) have very little opportunity to communicate with the contest holder, and usually a very limited brief to go on, where the client tells you their vision for the logo, which more often than not is an awful idea and will not work as a logo at all.

Well, that’s why you are a designer, to advice the client that their concept / vision is a terrible idea and will not work.

A designer is more than a person who creates some graphics.

Your advice was terrible.

No, it will allow you to pick up bad habits. Sure, it might improve your skills/knowledge of Illustrator, but that isn’t design.

That is part of being a designer yes, but how are you meant to do that when you have very little, if any, contact with the client?

A young designer would be far better off working on self-initated projects, and improving their personal portfolio IMO.

As am I, which is likely different from your experience.

Right around the year 2000, there was a company called LogoWorks. It was a logo design crowdsourcing company—one of the first, I think. I hadn’t formed an opinion one way or the other on these things, so I signed up and started banging out logos in my spare time.

The whole experience definitely increased my ability to conceptualize new ideas quickly, and I did quite well at winning those things I entered. Even so, despite some of the positives, I soon came to the conclusion, based upon my years of experience doing agency work, that the process had serious flaws of the sorts already mentioned, in my previous post.

I could make many of the same positive arguments you made, but on balance, despite those positives, I saw (and still see) the whole design crowdsourcing thing as antithetical to good design — again, for the reasons already mentioned.

In addition I see it being a bad thing for the profession — at least from a personal standpoint. For example, after a couple of years doing this kind of spare time crowdsourcing work, it become unprofitable for me as designers from developing countries found a new income source. Due to cost-of-living differences, they could spend far more time on a logo than I could afford to do. This was good for them, but bad for me.

The crowdsourcing sites have caused some fundamental shifts in the profession by, in essence, lowering both quality and prices for design work while increasing expectations from clients. I no longer bother, for example, with small businesses and start-ups who, as often as not, compare my rates to the crowdsourcing sites and, for various reasons (cost and/or ignorance, I suppose) believe they’ll get a cheaper and perfectly acceptable solution by crowdsourcing.

As with many things, market forces change and adjustments become necessary — that’s just the way things work. I’ve adjusted by repositioning to those clients who, for various reasons, can’t and won’t use the crowdsourcing route. Not everyone has been that lucky, though. Here in the U.S., the number of small design studio businesses is just a tiny fraction of what it was 20 or 30 years ago. There are several reasons for this, but competition from low-profit crowdsourcing sites is one of them.

With rare exceptions, here in the U.S., it just isn’t possible to make living wages doing crowdsourcing work. Design schools in the U.S. are also graduating several times the number of designers than there are available jobs. Many of these hopeful professionals turn to crowdsourcing to temporarily make ends meet, but the huge majority fail to transition into full-time employment. In other words, they end up assisting in the demise of the very profession they had hoped to enter.

Bottom line: there are good and bad things about crowdsourcing, but on the whole, I think it’s been mostly bad.

The other thing that I’ve noticed recently on crowdsource sites, though anecdotal, often enough to matter…
The lifting of stock “logos” for use as designed logos for crowdsource clients. We had someone on here not too long ago and I’ve done more than a few reverse image searches on random “logos” from iStock for other reasons, where they’ve popped up as someone’s crowdsource design. There’s a whole lot to the crowdsource crowd, whether from intent or ignorance, that leaves their clients open to all kinds of legal mess.
As a designer, I wouldn’t want to be associated with any of that.

…The whole experience definitely increased my ability to conceptualize new ideas quickly…

Exactly this result I had in mind when I suggested to approach this practice: to only polish your skills.
Now that you admitted that you had positive result by joining to those contests and did that kind of work, is a terrible idea? I think not, in fact is a smart idea.

I’m agree with most of your thoughts regarding this aspect, but my whole point was to only grow your skills, not to make a “business” from this.

You are absolutely right that, you can NOT make a living doing crowdsourcing, but this wasn’t my advice, if you look closely of what I said.

Speaking from my own experience, I said that as a beginner designer no one wants to hire you, because you dont have the necessary experience and most badly, you dont have a portfolio. Crowdsourcing is the best way to familiarize with design thinking and psychology of clients, and I think most importantly the demands on the market.

Now I have years of experience in design and most of my income is from private projects, not from crowdsourcing, but I will not forget that I launched myself using crowdsoruce. That was my “training ground”, and I always advice everyone to start there as a beginner.

Once you are ready to be on your own, I strongly advice everyone to leave crowdsorucing and start to be stable, having private projects. This is the goal when you start using crowdsource : train yourself and launch from there.

So in conclusion, if you look from just one point of view (growing, which is most important), croudsourcing is the best way for beginners.

Sure, it might improve your skills/knowledge of Illustrator, but that isn’t design.

This is the main point. I’m not here to explain what the whole design is, there are books for that, I don`t think someone expect me to share the whole story of what design is.

My core quick advice was: how to improve your skills / knowledge, as a beginner when you don`t have any other option.

If crowdsourcing managed to improve you as a designer, why is a terrible idea? Of course, do not look at this from the business perspective, but only from the “training” one, a way to start, just all.

You can say that as a beginner can manage to create a whole complex brand identity? No. You can’t. No one wants to hire you for that, you dont have a portfolio, you dont have experience, you don`t have the necessary knowledge to handle that, you will get stuck.

So, how do you grow if no one wants to hire you? There are solutions?

YES!

Crowdsorucing.

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