Studying design, tips?

So I’m in my first year in University and I’m going to study Visual Communications 1 for the second semester to go into my bachelors hopefully design related next year. I was wondering what tips you guys have for me, like what you wish you knew before going into this field etc. What sort of program do you use the most? I was thinking about saving up for an IPad pro and do designs on procreate, I heard and seen that adobe, even though is industry standard, made a lot of designers give up on their platforms and use alternative applications. Is adobe worth it?

Thank you so much for the help!

Can you define “visual communication?”

Start looking for a job or internship in the field now. Even if it’s just a printshop or signshop.
Don’t wait for your senior year internship.

Hardware and software are only tools. Practice is always required to become proficient. While Adobe is a PITA, it is still industry standard. If you aren’t up on the workarounds to make alternatives work, you might want to stick to what works in the output world until you’ve gained some chops.

Can you do design on an iPad pro? I have trouble handling some designs sent to me with a laptop tower and 2 large monitors (but I do work in large format print world.) Good luck with that.

As @PrintDriver said, Adobe CC is the standard. Stick with it for now. Most companies wouldn’t hire you if you had no Adobe CC experience (assuming you’re not in a part of the world that Adobe is not as standard.)

I would wait until you get into your design classes next year. You will (should) get more advice on what you need for the program. I would not get an iPad and procreate for your education, however, if you personally just want and can afford it, then go for it.

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I’ve seen some really nice illustrations done on tablets using drawing programs like Procreate. Even so, it’s a niche thing that isn’t widely used for visual communication. You’ll find that graphic design is not about drawing, art or personal expression — it’s about solving visual problems related to communication in the business world. As @CraigB mentioned, your school will likely have some specific requirements regarding the tools you’ll need.

This is a good point - and you need a decent computer to run that stuff.

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There are different market niches for design services, and different tools for each niche. I specialize in designing catalogs that have thousands of pieces. I usually have multiple projects going simultaneously, emails coming in and proofs going out constantly. I’ve got a big computer on a 6x4 work table, dual monitors, external back ups. I need to quickly bounce back and forth between Indesign, PS, AI, Acrobat, Word, Excel, Bridge. All these programs are interconnected in the workflow. I can’t imagine designing catalogs on a tablet. It would be a nightmare. Even if it were technically possible, it would be slow, and time is money.

Now, if you wanted to specialize in certain types of illustration or digital painting, then all your work is going to be in one program, and maybe you’re producing work exclusively for stock, so you don’t really need to deal with client communication… a tablet could be ideal. It all depends on what niche you are going to serve as a designer.

General tip for university… if you are going to a real university and not something like Trump University or a place on the second floor of a strip mall that calls itself a university… all of your instructors are required to keep a minimum number of office hours every week, where they are available to their students. Most students don’t take advantage of that until late in the semester when they have a crisis and can’t get work done and need to plead for an extension. Make a habit of meeting with your instructors early and often. Don’t waste their time by asking them to summarize the reading they assigned to you that you didn’t bother to do. Ask them questions about the industry, internships, recommended reading, career advice, supplemental learning activities you could do. Engage them about the state of your portfolio. Ask them to think of you if they hear of any entry-level jobs in the field.

Real universities will also have career centers, where there are counselors, and lots of entry level job postings. I think most students think of that as a place to go during their final year. No. Start using it during freshman year so you have an idea about job prospects in specific industries.

Adobe is worth it… there’s a reason 99% of designers use their tools. Learn Illustrator and Photoshop like the back of your hand… once you have a good footing, move to InDesign to develop you layout skills…

Depending on what type of designer you want to be… employee, freelancer, agency owner. Those 3 are very different paths… if you want to freelance and morph into a design agency position, DM me… that is what I’ve done and I do very well with my small design agency.

As PrintDriver stated - work for design firm, even if it’s for free! You’ll learn 20x’s more than you will in school… soak up the information, ask a lot of questions, ask business questions as well. Learn how to interact with people. Learn the secrets of negotiation… whether if you work for someone or if you’re your own boss, you’ll need to have business sense. I could go on forever!

Hope that helps.
John David

There are

It’s very hard these days for a student to find work at a design firm. Ever since the crash in 2008, design firms have been running very lean. They may have 1 or 2 Principals then hire in experienced designers as the need arises. Not much profit margin anymore for someone who can’t pull their weight for the coin.

There are some larger places that do take on interns, but very few and far between. For someone in college, while aiming for those few slots left, I’d also scout around for other options. You may find work in a sign shop, or a small niche printer, or a marketing busienss or second shift stuff. It’s tough. There are just far far too many design students out there to support training and employing them all.

The other problem with internships is to beware of the “free work” offers. You want to find something where you will learn from a mentor, not something where you will be expected to do work for free while re-inventing the wheel every single day. The idea of working for free is to gain meaningful experience from it. That would be the pay-off.

However, most reputable places will pay their interns at least a stipend. We have to pay ours for insurance purposes just to have them on the property. They have to be employees, and over 18, to operate any of the machinery or to go out on installs.

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