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What to learn (becoming a designer)

Discussion in 'Graphic Design Forum:' started by NeedHelp, Sep 18, 2016.

  1. NeedHelp

    NeedHelp New Member

    Hi Guys. I'm new here....

    I have some questions, which are mainly focused on what I need to know about Graphic Design to have a career in the industry. This is in terms of being a Freelancer, or becoming a Junior Designer for a company.

    Adobe Creative Suite:

    Photoshop, Illustrator, Indesign, Acrobat.

    - I assume you can get by just fine knowing these as a Freelance Designer (you just keep away from the interactive stuff)?

    - As a Junior Designer would you be expected to know much interactive design software related to Websites / animations?

    General design knowledge:

    Colour, Layout, Typesetting etc etc....

    Other Stuff:

    Printing processes, file types, formats, etc.

    1. Am I missing anything?

    2. How long do you think it would take to learn the above to a standard in which a company would be happy to employ me as a Junior Designer? I get that you will likely need a degree and a good portfolio.

    I am thinking of spending 3-4 hours a day, 5 days a week learning this stuff and I already have a basic knowledge of Indesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator, as well as design principles/rules etc.

    What I feel I need to do is to know the general picture of what I need to learn, what is important, understand how much there is to know about design software, and how much knowledge of it is satisfactory to an employer. As well as the general day to day jobs of your average Graphic Designer.
  2. Paul Murray

    Paul Murray Moderator Staff Member

    It's a mixed bag really. Best bet is to try and get placements with studios as it's unlikely you'll be able to walk into a job with no real-world experience or industry contacts. A lot of the fundamentals such as typography carry over into all fields. and much of what you'll eventually know as a designer will come from actual experience. Nobody learns everything overnight.

    As a junior designer the more you know, the more appealing you are to a studio. It really depends on the size and type of studio you're aiming for though. A knowledge of After Effects and animation can be useful to a small digital studio for example, as is some basic HTML/CSS. On the flip-side they may want someone with less digital experience who can handle artworking small print jobs that may come in

    As a freelancer working for a studio you'll tend to specialise in a field and charge simply to do this. You'll likely need a decent amount of experience and some contacts first, though some studios may take you on on a whim, especially if they just need an extra pair of hands. 100% of my freelance studio work comes from people I know in the industry already.

    As a freelancer working for yourself, you'll likely focus on one main field, but experience in other areas is necessary. For example I tend to focus on digital design and branding, but my clients often come to me with print jobs or site development work, which I can either handle myself or pass off to a developer. I wouldn't try and do everything since you'll end up with a wishy-washy portfolio.

    With all 3 options you will absolutely need real experience, a solid portfolio of work and a list of contacts. This is stuff you can't get sitting at home 5 days a week so get out there and meet people.
    Stumpy and Stationery Direct like this.
  3. NeedHelp

    NeedHelp New Member

    Not sure I'll be comfortable going straight in to do Studio work. I totally get your point that much of what you learn will come from experience....

    I actually have a Graphic Design degree. I got it 7 or 8 years ago. I could not get work after coming out of Uni, mainly because I barely knew the design software and I was honest about that. Nobody was willing to take me on and train me up. I gave up and found other work in another industry not related to design. A couple of years ago my brother started his own e-magazine and asked me if I could do it for him. I gave it a go - not knowing anything about Indesign and I have (As you stated) learnt from this experience, more than I did on a degree.

    The format of a degree simply sucks. I hope it's changed since then. It was simply "here is a brief, go and do it", then the lecturers would criticise our designs, get us to improve them and get us to come back and be criticised again. It was that process for 3 years. It's ridiculous that maybe 7 hours in total were spent on teaching us various types of design software. I had little Graphic Design education before doing the degree, I did a 1 year diploma in it and again was taught nothing about design software. The briefs we were given on my degree didn't help aid learning of software. You don't have long enough to learn the software and come up with an interesting design at the same time, and then you'll be whisked off to do another brief a week later which would be in a completely different piece of software. The course should have been 40% software, 35% design briefs, 25% design rules. Instead it was 1% software, 1% design rules, 98% design briefs. Anyway.

    I feel I need to mainly learn the software and whilst doing so take on some briefs that I find on the interwebs.

    Not particularly keen on learning interactive design just yet. Just the Adobe Creative Suite for now.

    I am not trying to aim high and end up at some high end design firm. Just your average Graphic Design office will be great.

    Am I wrong in saying that your average design firm will mainly be using Adobe Creative Suite, getting briefs with a text file + photos and you simply lay it out in an attractive fashion to suit the brief/client. Maybe creating the odd logo. If you need extra photos/fonts/vectors you can just use a stock site. So most of the stuff is there for you. It's mainly about colour, layout and type?
  4. Paul Murray

    Paul Murray Moderator Staff Member

    Perhaps you're more of a creative than a designer, i.e. thinking up ideas as opposed to producing visual outcomes.

    That's how it is on most courses, typically because the software is just a tool to the design-thinking. I know a lot of people who felt the same way you did, feeling they don't know much about how to use the software and should have had more teaching in that area, though most courses are 150+ people, it's often not feasible for staff to teach that many (plus I suspect many of the teaching staff also lack the required sills and knowledge). I've worked with art directors who are not exactly top of their game when it comes to using the software but they get by just ok.

    Most professional agencies will be using Adobe Suite since it's the industry standard. There's alternatives out there that you may enjoy using more but you really need that standard under your belt to be viable to any employer.

    A brief tends to be written by the agency themselves, typically a client won't know what is required and so it falls to the project manager or someone at the studio to provide this. I write my own briefs after meeting with a client and talking through costs and budget. Often they can't afford or don't actually need something that they think they do. Saying that though, 9 times out of 10 there won't be an actual written brief you'll be given (someone is always too busy to write one) and often instead you'll get an email form an account handler or project manager detailing what they need, and maybe with some images or guidelines attached.

    It all depends entirely on who the studio is and how they operate though. I find larger agencies are often more of a mess in terms of internal organisation because the buck gets passed around so much, nobody really knows who's responsible for something anymore.
  5. Andy Beckett

    Andy Beckett New Member

    I had exactly the same experience at university. We were actually encouraged not to use computers, and instead focus of the creative & conceptual elements of a brief. Then in the real world, people just wanted their own ideas made to look nice, and printers wanted properly supplied files, none of which I was capable of until I took a year off to teach myself the software.

    Contact local small businesses and offer to redo their logos, menus, brochures etc for free. As they're not paying, they'll be less inclined to ruin your final designs as paying customers always insist on doing, and you'll begin to get a bit of a portfolio together.

    I went the Junior Designer route, & wouldn't again as it's easy to get stuck in a rut. Just my opinion.

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