A quick list of 10 things every graphic design student should know before graduating.
1. Design Is Everywhere
I spent a lot of my time with a very narrow vision of where I might find a job. But design is everywhere. You can go anywhere and find someone that needs some sort of design work done. Not every job is going to be as glorious as you imagine when you’re in school, but the work is there. Branch out, open your mind. Take advantage of the industry you chose to be in and think outside the box!
2. Invest In Your Portfolio
I’m talking more time than money. You could have a sparkling personality, but if your portfolio doesn’t quite match up, you’ve got nothing. And, remember : Not all of your work belongs in there. Focus on your strongest pieces, put extra time in to making them as impressive as you can. Make sure each piece is in there for a reason, and make sure you know what that reason is. Employers are going to ask you why you chose each piece of work and “I thought it looked cool” isn’t an appropriate answer.
3. Value Yourself!
If you don’t believe in yourself as a designer, you’re setting the standard for everyone else. Have faith in your talent! It’s important that you actually believe in what you’re selling. Don’t fall for the “for that price I can do it myself” mentality. Some people don’t want to spend money on marketing. Don’t let them affect you. You have to know that you’re time and effort is worth it. In a competitive industry like this, if you don’t value yourself and your work, people aren’t going to take you seriously.
4. Learn As Much As You Can
Every bit of experience you can get will be worth it. In the real world, deadlines are shorter, jobs are more valuable, and everyone you meet will know something you don’t. Learn from this. Learn from freelance gigs, agencies, bosses and interviews. Go everywhere, see everything. Learn everything you can. Experience is going to be your best teacher.
5. You Need Ideas – Lots Of ‘Em
Ideas are like currency in the design world. You need a lot of them to get to the top. Never be afraid to bring new ideas to the table, but don’t let any of them get so precious that you become afraid of rejection. What happens if your ideas aren’t used? Nothing. It’s not the end of the world. This industry is built on thinking outside of the box. Keep those ideas flowing!
6. Don’t Take It Personally
You can’t afford to get sensitive about criticism. Remember: A critique is not a personal attack on you. Someone not liking your work doesn’t make you a bad designer. Don’t invest so much of yourself in a design that you become defensive. Give your reasons and explain why you made the design choices you did, but keep your mind open to suggestions. Don’t forget, you’re not designing for yourself. Every design has to be just as effective as it is beautiful and that sometimes means stepping out of your comfort zone.
7. Stick To Your Deadlines
Working at an agency, you’ll have people you report to who will give you due dates and allot time for each job. Regardless, you are responsible for yourself and the tasks you’ve been assigned. You might have to put in those extra hours some nights to get the job done. As for freelancing, you’re often on your own creating a reputation for yourself. Once your name is out there, people will begin to form and share their opinions about you. Learn to track your time and keep up with the demand. Do whatever you have to do to stay focused. Timing is everything.
8. Double Check Everything
Before your client even sees a concept, make sure you’ve given everything a twice-over. Specs, spelling, licensing-leave nothing to chance. A high quantity print job is a nightmare if there’s a typo. Also, make sure you have the right permissions to use any fonts or images that your design includes. Replacing images is a lot harder once the client falls in love with your concept. Create proofs and final print offs, document client sign off and record your actions. This will help you stay organized and can come in handy when a job goes awry.
9. Keep Up With Trends
Don’t let yourself fall behind. Find out what is in demand and learn how you can contribute. If you’re going to market yourself as a jack of all trades, you better know what those trades are. You’ve signed up for a lifetime of learning and you can never be over educated. In this competitive industry, the more skills and knowledge you have, the more valuable you are as a designer.
10. Remember to Destress
This business can get crazy. Stress and anxiety may, unfortunately, become the norm. It might be really easy to lose sight of why you ever chose this path. One of the most important tips I can give you is remember to take time away from the work. Breaks are important! Find out what works for you and run with it. Yoga, running, chocolate cake – whatever helps you destress, make time for it. However, I don’t really recommend finding too much solace in desserts.