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hello :)

i've just joined these forums and thought i'd say a big hello! :icon_biggrin:

after getting a bit distracted career wise, i'm looking to get into the graphic/web design industry. I have GCSE's in Art + Design and Graphics, and gained a BTEC National Dioploma in Art + Design in 2007. it was after school and college that i took a different path and started working for money in an office, because at that point in time my priorities were; buy a car, buy a house, get married to my highschool sweetheart, and gain work experience.. all of which i've now done, so it's time for me to get back on the career path i should have started on. BUT now having a mortgage and bills to pay, full time study just isn't an option :icon_thumbdown:

i have always been a creative, outside the box thinking kinda person. at school i won a competition to design a memorial garden which was then built on the school premesis, which i think lead me to become an administrator for a garden design practise. gardens are a love of mine, but after lots of umming and ahhing i just don't think it's the right career path for me. firstly, the percentage of actual design work is minimal.. mostly taken up by costings, project management etc, and secondly the garden design industry is TOUGH! the company i work for is currently booming with work, with a major show garden at RHS Chelsea Flower Show coming up this May and lots of major projects on the side, but lots of other garden designers simply aren't getting the work. anywho after designing lots of posters, leaflets and advertisements and email newsletters for the company, graphic communication (and hopefully web design) is the way forward for me.

so.. as i haven't been to uni to study, i figured i would do as much research as i can in my spare time, i've already got adobe photoshop cs5, lightroom 3 and have on order indesign, illustrator and dreamweaver. i plan to stay where i am job wise to gain more experience which i get my portfolio together.. and once it's looking smart then i'll send it to all the companies i have my eye on in the local area. is there anything else you think i should get/do/research? any advice for someone just starting out in this industry, who dreams of one day becoming a freelance designer? also, does anyone know where i can look to find some design brief examples so i can get started with my portfolio?

thanks for reading. :icon_thumbup:


Well-Known Member
Hi there Trudy, welcome to the forum.

Coincidentally, I do a bit of garden design too. I always loved designing gardens when I was in school. but never found any garden design courses to pursue, so went for graphic design instead. Recently redesigned and landscaped my back garden as well!

Firstly, I wouldn't worry about not doing anything design related at university. Whilst I was at university I did a work placement with an agency in Bristol. The guy who started it and still runs it didn't do an art or design related course at college, let alone university. He just liked to draw and now earns 100k a year. He actually did a college course in mechanics.

Going to university doesn't automatically mean you're ensured or even entitled to a job in the design industry anyway. I know many people who have completed a graphic design degree, and have been unable to find a design related job, and instead settled for jobs in Asda. The design industry is a pretty tricky one to get into, successfully anyway. There is so much competition out there, some good but most bad, that you really do have to work hard, whether you have a degree in it or not.

I gave this advice in another thread, but it's all about experience, communication and showing what you can do and why people should hire you. Yes, some people may well have a degree in the subject, but if their work is shit, lacks imagination, or creativity, they're not going anywhere.

Re: your portfolio just make up some briefs and do them yourself. That's what I did. I designed logos to briefs I came up with sat on the toilet. They may not have been real, but they showed I could design a logo based on a set of instructions / guidelines. I then had some work I could show people.

Alternatively, if you find that uninspiring, try finding unpaid work. Unless you're super lucky, no-one will pay you hundreds of pounds right away. If you know people who run a business, just ask them if they'd like a logo done, or some posters, flyers, whatever, just offer your services.

If you don't know anyone, walk down your high street, pop into some shops and offer your services. Chances are, most will say no, but even if 2 or 3 say yes, it's a start.

Eventually you'll find people willing to pay small amounts for work. Some payment is better than none, to begin with anyway.

So firstly, build up a decent portfolio. You don't need to jam it full of logos. Pick a selection of your best bits, maybe 6 or 7 to show what you can do. Try and use a selection of work, logos, print based stuff, illustrations, web design, whatever.

Once you have a nice portfolio, you need to get out and talk to people. Hit them with an email sandwich, (email, phone call, email). If that doesn't work, walk in their doors and speak to them. Tell them you're a designer and want to work with them.

Why not try finding a design based work placement. Email or ring some local design agencies, and ask if they'd take a junior designer on for a week. You will get experience and knowledge and learn a bloody huge amount. If they like you and what you do, they may even offer you a job. Who knows.

Good luck!
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yeah, what the hell, fancy posting a decent post in a forum, making the rest of look bad!

I gues you are working fulltime. i also am making the move to more creative web dev work as apposed to server side programming. Just find paid work, no matter how small and if you do each job properly it will grow. each new client is an opportunity.

i did an 80 buck for ever which lead to a 600 buck job for the same guy immediately
ARRIVALS: wow thanks very much for all your amazing advice!! :icon_notworthy: i now feel much more positive and confident going into the industry without a graphic design diploma.

the best universities i know of for garden design courses are writtle college (alan titchmarsh is patron of this college, it's where I gained my btec nat diploma in art & design, great college!) or capel manor. they do lots of evening/part time courses for people looking to either enter the industry or design their own garden, but you've already done that so.. so feel free to ignore!! :icon_lol:

as soon as i get my adobe software and learn how to use them, as i've never used illustrator, indesign, firework etc so i think i'll be spending my time on youtube watching tutorials, and if i get stuck i'll probably be on these boards a lot in the adobe section asking for advice! as you suggested, i'm going to make up some fake design briefs to get me started.

then, once i think it's good enough (so knowing me this will probably take aaages as i'm an obsessive perfectionist!!) i'll email my cv/portfolio out to some local companies.. and i hope to set up my own website as well using adobe dreamweaver.. and again, not knowing much about HTML codings i'll probably be on here a lot if i get stuck! that way people can approach me and i can send the link to anyone interested in my work, perhaps have some smart business cards and leaflets made with the website url on to distribute and to get my name out a bit! as if i do achieve my goal by working for a graphic design firm, i would still like to do stuff on the side to keep my name out there as i'd love to work from home as a freelancer one day.

thanks again for the super long and informative post!! :icon_thumbup:

byronc - yes full time worker here.. but i'm not going to let it stop me! thanks for the great advice, and good luck with your move to creative web work!


Well-Known Member
Hi Trudy

A good idea might be to take a look at other garden designers/other companies logos and redesign them. If you feel bold you could then approach them and suggest a redesign.

You do need to get up to speed in Indesign and Illustrator for graphic design. I would also recommend working at a printers (if you can find one!) as you will get to know about the practical side of design. Being creative is all well and good but you need to be able to recommend processes, stock, finishing processes and keep them within budgets!

Tony Hardy

Well-Known Member
Hi Trudy,

Welcome to the forum :)

I hate gardening and suffer massively with hayfever, but I have a massive garden and this summer, I'm going to have to brave it and get the bugger turned into something usable. (I think a few ton of tarmac should do it).

One thing I'd advise after reading through your posts, once you've got that all important first job in; get yourself a nice sketchpad and pen, get out in your (I assume) lovely garden and think and draw outside away from a computer and the dark indoors. My studio is dark with little windows and it sharp blocks your creative thoughts.