3 answers

What are the best steps to become a successful graphic designer and photographer during and after college? (Success being in terms of happiness and income)

Asked New York, New York

I am a 16 year old senior who is currently also working as a graphic designer and photographer. #art #graphic-design #graphics #creativity #digital-photography

3 answers

Antonio’s Answer

Updated Whittier, California

Hi Khristen,

I've found that creating a good network of trusted and talented peers and professor during college, and nurturing those relationships afterwards allows you to explore more possibilities than going it alone. Some designers in college can be territorial, competitive and in some cases cut-throat. But when you free yourself of the ego-centric competition with others, and challenge yourself to be the best for you, while embracing others, you create a more powerful creative engine that transcends myopic competitiveness, and generates deeper creative ideas and opportunities. During my college years, I surrounded myself with many of the top designers in the school. This also has the effect of elevating your own skills through ad hoc critiques of your work with the trusted group. Many of my post graduation jobs and contracts actually came from my professors and peers.

Also, take advantage of as much pro bono work as your free time allows (but, try to creatively workout other forms of compensation, E.g., I'll design your logo pro bono, if you contract me to design 'X'), since; 1) It's a great learning opportunity, and 2) These types of jobs lead to future work and recommendations after graduation. But, all of the above is irrelevant if you don't put in the work! Work harder and smarter (key being smarter) than your peers. Become a sponge for information. Explore the latest design models and technologies. In a nutshell, never stop asking yourself what can you do better – and do it!

In terms of happiness and income – find what you're truly passionate about and love in the world of design. That makes all the hard work you have to put in feel effortless (or less hard:-). When you love what you do, epiphanies come more often, and the work doesn't feel arduous, but almost effortless. Be passionate about what you do and an advocate for yourself and your skills, and nurture professional and private relationships. This type of strategy has a compounding effect that will reap benefits long into your career.

Good luck!

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Jorge’s Answer

Updated Riverbank, California

Mr. Martinez makes some really great points. In fact, relationships are important in any career. Success in graphic design also comes down to producing great work and that requires developing a solid base of knowledge and skill, as well as taking measures to stay creative and inspired. Technical ability and creativity are different things and you need to have both. Luckily, they are both things that can be developed with practice.

Finally, a huge part of being successful and having repeat clients is empathy. As a designer your job boils down to solving a problem for your client. Empathy allows you to put yourself in your client's shoes so as to better understand them and the problem they are trying to solve. Remember it's not about you, it's not about what's trendy, it's about the client and what the client needs to express. If you get good at empathy you'll have an edge over a lot of the designers out there.

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Michelle’s Answer

Updated Baltimore, Maryland

I hire graphic designers to help with a variety of projects, like designing an app or a brand experience for a logo. What I look for is a diversity of ideas and the willingness to go the extra mile. The best designers will, for instance, present 3 very different ideas for a logo and define what that logo and font is meant to make me feel. I'll hire people in college or straight out of college who can present their ideas clearly and are driven, doing more than just what I ask for and showing me the understand the greater context for the problem I'm trying to solve.

Tactically - do your research. Understand trends in design, what's happening next so my design isn't out dated in two years. Survey the landscape and know what the most popular apps or marketing ads have in common and what differentiates them from the pack. Get really good at multiple platforms - Photoshop can create huge files, so maybe the vector-based Illustrator is a better option.

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