Where’d you start?

How did you get your start in graphic design?

Hello! I’m a self taught guy in photoshop and illistrator, and I’m putting myself out there as a graphic designer. I’ve taken some awesome online tutorials to hone my skills with software and have read some informative and inspiring books on design and the industry. I’m slowly building my clientele word of mouth amungst friends. I’m 31, and don’t have a degree. I also tour with a band 3-5 months out of the year.
I would love to hear how you found design, and any tips you vets might have for a hungry young designer.

PS: this forum is awesome, and I’m excited to be part of the community!

I started in high school on the yearbook layout staff… (or maybe in elementary school, making newsletters and brochures about made-up places using Microsoft Word). Got a degree in graphic design, worked at an ad agency, left to freelance, got my master’s degree, still freelancing a decade later.

My advice is to read about design history (so you can use styles effectively), running a small business (so you don’t get screwed by taxes or clients), and ethics in design (so you don’t accidentally screw yourself).

Watch tons of software tutorials, follow artists on Instagram and Behance for inspiration (but not copying, of course), and pay attention to WHY and HOW good design works.

Welcome and good luck!

I started in grade school with an interest in illustration and fine art. After high school I joined the military because I didn’t apply myself enough to get a scholarship. After the military, I used my college money saved to attend a commercial art college. If I had to do it all over again, I would have chosen a different career.

Oh? What path do you wish you would have chosen, DZ?

I got interested in graphic design a few years ago when working with a couple of graphic designers on a project. Last year I decided to go back to school to study it. Wrapping up my first year, and still loving it :slight_smile:

Computer science

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I’ve got a friend who used to run four-color presses, and switched to IT. In his fifties.

He started out taking some classes and volunteering, went to school and went to work at Microsoft before even finishing school.

Just sayin’, never too late…

Thanks for the encouragement.

I’m still on the fence about making any career changes right now. Career changes are much easier to make before starting a family than after. I might have to wait until the nest is empty. And even then, I can see it jeopardizing my marriage. Technology makes me less sensitive to emotional needs. Art at least keeps me interested in emotions.

I was a science major during my first two years of college. I had always wanted to be an astronomer, but on a whim I took a design class as an elective, and thought it was interesting. Next semester I signed up for a painting and pottery class and loved them because, instead of memorizing a bunch of stuff in physics and calculus classes (math is the dullest subject on the planet), I actually got to make things up.

I switched my major, started over and headed to a state university intending to be a sculptor. After a year of that I realized that sculptors aren’t exactly in high demand, so I switched to the only semi-lucrative program in the fine arts college, which was graphic design.

No regrets at all on any of this. It was all good and I would do it all over again.

I worked on our mimeographed school newspaper during grade school in the 70s. Did photos and layout for newspaper and yearbook throughout high school and college, and worked for my dad, who produced slide shows that were synced to audio tapes. That led to work with public relations people who needed photos of their events, and eventually to graphic design for them.

As a kid I’ve always colored, drawn, doodles, sketched, etc. When I was considering what to major in for college I wanted to find something that I could still be creative, but also make a living. I didn’t want to be a “starving artist”. So, I settled on graphic design. Which I don’t regret. It was a lot of work, a challenging design program at a 4 year university with a (mainly) great group of professors and instructors. And, voila … here I am (well, 20 years later.)

I was in my second year of college and was working IT at the time. I ended up meeting a person who was having trouble with their flash drive, so I helped them out with it. I told them I was majoring in graphic design, and they knew someone who was looking for a graphic designer. I ended working at a printing company as a designer until I got my degree.

After I got my degree, I started doing freelance programming and web development. I had a lot of connections from my first design job and one of them was the company I work at now. The owner hired me to program the customer management system- but wanted me to work onsite.

A few days in, the graphic designer went on a vacation and I was asked if I could take over his tasks while he was gone. He came back for a few days and then he quit. He was upset that I changed the workflow so much- but we were processing dozens of new orders a day and I was able to cut the time down by about 1/4th.

My boss asked me if I wanted a permanent position doing the design work and managing the online work and after some negotiation I accepted.

If I had to do it all over again I would have changed degrees to computer science. I’ve gotten both of my design jobs without needing my design degree- and I ended up getting a degree in computer science anyway a few years ago.

My husband has an art degree, and he works in front end programming. There’s a definite art to that… how are you at coding? :slight_smile:

Do you have a portfolio? Student or not, you need a portfolio. If you do, share it with the group.

I’ve been dabbling in code for about 30 years. I just don’t like it. It’s way too tedious for me. I wouldn’t mind it so much if I could just flowchart it and let the computer deal with all the syntax errors and warn me of the logical errors.

Coding is much more engineering than artistic. The most artistic decisions I’ve had to make when coding is deciding whether or not a complex solution is worth the attempt. And I’ve been wrong over half the time. There’s also some communication art to making the code clean enough for another person or oneself to read. My code has always been on the messy side.

I was pretty bummed when graphic designers were being pushed to learn code in the late 1990’s. I’ve been avoiding it ever since. The only time I’ve been interested in code has been for database development and game development. Even then, I would rather have someone else code my ideas. The clunkiness of code hinders my creativity. It’s easy to lose sight of the big picture. When it comes to page layout, I’ve always gravitated towards WYSIWYG editors despite the warnings of them generating bad code. But I don’t think I would hate code as much had I gone to school for computer science.

I don’t have a portfolio put together yet, but I’m slowly building one. When I do, I will definitely share it!

That’s a good, strong insight.

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The earliest I remember designing stuff was when I was prenatal.

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As a prenataler … I clearly remember struggling with how dark it was. Like months on end! So, I came up with a design for a clear acrylic stomach insert.

I really wanted a … womb with a view.

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