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How do I get started in graphic design?

I'm interested in posters and collages but I don't know much about graphic design.

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Ellen’s Answer

Hi Shana

Well, if you've been creating posters, you already know something about graphic design, because that is what graphic design is, using words and images to deliver a message. Graphic design is all around us, and you see it everyday, from the design on your toothpaste tube first thing in the morning, to the words on your cereal box, to the design of webpages and social media platforms you visit, to the labels in your clothing, to the store signs in your local mall, to the magazines, books, ads, and other printed material you look at every day, including school posters. More people view graphic design than any other art form. Some graphic design is very fancy, and some of it is so ordinary that you don't notice it (and that is by design!). Graphic design is all around us, and an important part of our world.

To become a graphic designer, you start by taking general art classes in high school, where you'll learn the basic principles of art and design and you'll gain some art skills. You will also take computer graphics classes, because that is where most graphic design in created today. After high school, you'll look for an art school or college or university where you can major in graphic design. Many programs offer internships that allow you to get real-life graphic design experience to build up your portfolio. Your portfolio is important because is how you demonstrate your creativity and competency in graphic design. Getting a job in graphic design can be competitive, so be prepared to work hard to improve your art and graphic design skills, be open to suggestions from your teachers and supervisors, be willing to learn new skills, and keep a positive attitude.

For now, a great way to start in graphic design is what you are already doing: making posters. Find out what the needs of your school are, for example, after school clubs often use posters for their meetings and events, and there are school dances or community projects that might need some advertising. Talk to you art teacher and your guidance counselor for some ideas of whom to talk to in your school, tell them you want to go into graphic design and you want to gain experience in making posters to help out at school. Think of making posters as a form of community service.

All the while, keep an analytical eye on the graphic design you see everyday. Are there certain ads, posters, or websites that catch your eye and keep you there? Try to figure out how the graphic designer did that, think about the message, and how the designer used the font or typeface style, the colors, the images, the size of the text, and so on to enhance that message (which does not have to be serious, BTW). Google "best print advertisements" and you'll get some really good examples to analyze.

Best wishes!
Hope this helps.
Thank you comment icon Thank you for answering, I truly appreciate the helpful advice and info! Shana
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Valery’s Answer

Hi Shana! Let me ask you this before you start: do you want to make your collages and posters with your hands, on a computer, or both? The lovely thing is that there are so many free or inexpensive programs you can learn to use (right on YouTube, that's how I taught myself a looong time ago) that the sky's the limit in terms of what you can do.

But the real question is: what do you WANT to do? And then, once that's decided and an idea has formed in your mind...? Try to do it, no matter how afraid you may be of starting or things not turning out exactly how you want. Be afraid (that's ok!) but follow your art-heart anyway! Each piece you create will teach you something new that you can implement into the next piece, and so forth, until you get closer and closer to the image in your head.

Also, I find other artists to be incredible resources because they will walk you through the steps of creating their art pieces from start to finish, giving you a rough idea of what you'll need and how long it might take you to finish a project. If you give me some examples of the kind of art you want to make, I can recommend a couple of people and tutorials on social media to look at for inspiration and tips.
Thank you comment icon Thank you for taking time out of your day to respond! I truly appreciate the helpful advice and info! Shana
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Jessica’s Answer

There are a lot of different ways to get started in Graphic Design. I've been a Graphic Designer for 10 years and I really didn't have much experience before going to college for it outside of typical fine arts like drawing and painting, but there are many ways to get started.

- Adobe Creative Cloud software is the industry standard software, but it is costly. They have free trials for their software and student discounts you could take advantage of on their website (https://www.adobe.com/creativecloud/buy/students.html) as well how-tos (https://www.adobe.com/creativecloud/business/teams/resources/how-to.html). You can also practice with YouTube videos to get you started in the software. Some people who are committed can invest their time and money to practice on their own and create graphics for friends, family, and eventually professional clients to make a modest freelance career. Still, it is a more challenging route to go as you need to constantly market yourself to try to bring in a steady flow of work to make a consistent living.
- If this is not the route you want to go and you're interested in getting a degree in Graphic Design, often an associate's degree is enough to get you the base skills needed and a degree for some credibility with any future employers. Your portfolio of work will ultimately provide potential employers a sense of your skills and design style and be able to get you better jobs as you improve, but I'd advise getting at least an associate's degree to teach you the skills you need to be dangerous and have some credibility for future employers.
- A Bachelor's Degree in Graphic Design will be better if you want to work in the corporate world. Many Fortune 500 companies want employees who have at least a Bachelor's Degree, so it will be easier for you to get your foot in the door without jumping through additional hoops or needing additional years of professional experience to qualify for a position.

Hope this helps!
Thank you comment icon Your advice is really helpful! Thank you for taking time out of your day to respond. Shana
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Christopher’s Answer

Location is everything in a lot of professions and that includes design. It appears you are in San Francisco so you are off to a great start. I left graphic design years ago but at that time most of the jobs on the west coast were in San Francisco.

Back then the academy of art university had a bachelors program in graphic design and it might be worthwhile to go down and talk to one of the guidance counselors over there to find out more information.

Christopher recommends the following next steps:

Research programs in your area
Check the job boards to see what graphic designers do
Make an appointment with a guidance counselor at a school you like
Thank you comment icon Your clarification really clears things up! Thank you for taking time out of your day to respond. Shana
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Kim’s Answer

HI Shana! You've gotten some great advice from Vallery and Ellen. I'd just like to add a link for the wonderful online school I went to. It's an accredited university and all of the majors cater to creatives! I earned my Associate degree in Illustration through this school, and took many graphic design courses. Posters were one of my favorites, as well as making photo collages in Photoshop. They've started a BA program now, too! All of the programs are tailored to professions, so that when you leave school, you're ready to pursue your career.

https://www.sessions.edu/admissions/
Thank you comment icon Thank you for answering, I truly appreciate the helpful advice and info! Shana
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