Tips on Getting Your Graphic Design Career Started

Graphic design is a prosperous career field. Businesses rely on graphic designers for creating a prolific Internet presence, which is more in demand than ever thanks to the increase in Web-based marketing initiatives like social media. Businesses need graphic designers for Facebook pages, websites, Twitter backgrounds, print collateral, and advertisements. Getting started in the graphic design field takes a lot of work and dedication as you build your portfolio. Here are a few tips for getting your graphic design career off the ground.

Familiarize Yourself with Design Platforms

You can teach a classically-trained graphic designer new tricks

 Image via Flickr by juhansonin

Graphic designers don’t just rely on Photoshop for getting the job done any longer. These days, there are dozens of graphic design software applications for creating impressive graphics and visual representations. From mockup tools to presentation tools and hard-core design platforms, you never know what software program your future employer prefers. Familiarize yourself with as many design programs as possible so you’re well-equipped for your next gig.

Find Your Inspirational Mojo

If there’s one thing that every graphic designer must have, it’s inspiration. Find your source of inspiration, whether it’s experiencing a new city, meeting new people, or simply browsing the streets and seeking out unique architecture that gives you your next big idea. Great graphic designers always come up with new and innovative approaches to ordinary situations, and it’s the stuff that creates powerful images.

Educate Yourself

handouts and catalogs

 Image via Flickr by karen horton

An advanced degree isn’t necessary for landing a great job as a graphic designer – talent is. But more education provides you with more skill sets, and helps you refine your existing talent. If your design skills could use a little refreshing, enroll in a design course at a local college, learn a new software program, or get better acquainted with the complexities of the graphic design field. If you can’t afford a college course, try an online tutorial or buy some textbooks.

Practice Your Skill Every Chance You Get

40+86 Tablet

Image via Flickr by bark

Great designers get inspiration everywhere, and they thrive on implementing their new ideas as quickly as possible. Consider investing in an affordable convertible laptop that functions as both a tablet PC and a laptop, giving you the versatility you need for putting your great ideas into action. Also be sure to check out apps like Evernote and Fontly to capture inspiration wherever you find it.

Study Professional Designers

Graphic designers always seek out ways for improving their skills and getting inspired. Often, young designers have favorite industry veterans they follow for years, studying their work, and learning from it. Find a few expert graphic designers and follow their work. Pick out what you like and don’t like, and try to replicate some advanced tricks and techniques. Reach out and build a relationship – your role model might mentor you or at least offer some feedback on your work.

Find Your Niche

Is there a particular industry you’re passionate about, like healthcare or technology? Generalists are often just as successful as specialists, but finding a niche may help you carve out a brand reputation more quickly for your work. It’s also never hurts to network with industry professionals specializing in your preferred field.

Seek Out Freelance Work

 PDF Portfolio

Image via Flickr by Hung Le Q.

Building a solid portfolio is a goal of any newbie graphic designer. But, getting sample designs is difficult when you only have personal and educational projects built-up. With the number of startups launching every day, there are always businesses on shoestring budgets willing to give up-and-coming talent a chance in exchange for some affordable design work. Freelance sites are a great place for seeking out potential freelance clients. Maximize your social media presence on LinkedIn and even Facebook for networking opportunities.

Work for Free

Yes, work for free. Do some pro-bono work for a local charity, and ask for referrals and recommendations. Pro-bono work is an excellent method for giving back to the community even if you don’t have a lot of cash resources, and it’s a great tactic for getting your work noticed by business owners. If there’s a major charity event in your area, offer to create some advertising graphics as a donation. Events like charity auctions and dinner dances are typically well-attended by decision makers, and you never know who’s on the lookout for a great designer.

Working in the graphic design field is great fun for the creative-minded. Many designers say working doesn’t really feel like work, because they thrive on letting their creative juices flow all day for creating visually appealing graphics for a variety of projects. Whether you don’t have a single piece of work in your portfolio or you’re a recent graduate looking for some real-world experience, these tips will help you launch your graphic design career.  

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