by Bill Long
Graphic design could be a great career opportunity for you. It’s a growing, rapidly changing field that takes both talent and technical expertise, and those who are good at it are in great demand. If you are considering college or thinking about making a career change, you might consider getting a degree in graphic design.
It is true that there are a lot of talented graphic designers who pretty much learned everything they know on the job or “by the seat of their pants.” Because the profession has matured, however, that’s rarely possible anymore. It doesn’t matter how much talent or expertise you have, you’ll probably need a degree to break into the field.
To be honest, that’s okay because earning a degree has lots of benefits. For one thing, there’s the whole college experience. Whether you’re a traditional (as in just out of high school) student or not, there’s a lot to be gained from the experience of going to college. You make friends and contacts and connections within your future profession that you’ll be able to count on for the rest of your life.
You learn the discipline necessary to start and finish a program. You learn about professional resources, literature and research. Most importantly, you learn how to learn. These are skills that you will need when you start to work as a graphic designer.
Another advantage of going to graphic design school and getting a degree is that it gives you an opportunity to build your professional portfolio and develop your resume. By the time you graduate, you will have worked on many projects, and you can add each of those to your portfolio. You will have worked with teachers who are respected designers and with professional designers who are working in a variety of industries.
Every experience you have, and every positive evaluation by someone within the profession will become part of your resume or your portfolio. When you graduate, you will have the knowledge and degree you need to get a job, and you’ll also have the tools, recommendations and experience that will open doors for you.
Obviously, you’ll learn about graphic design, but that’s only the beginning. (Actually, it’s the end, because you tend to take your professional classes toward the end of your academic career.) You’ll take both general education and graphics design classes, and you’ll develop important professional skills.
A lot of people think general education requirements are a waste of time, but don’t blow them off and don’t underestimate how valuable they will be to you professionally. People who earn a degree in anything are generally assumed to be educated, and there are basic things educated people should know. Part of being educated is knowing how to communicate orally and in writing, having basic math skills and knowing a bit about science, literature and art.
It’s important to be an educated person; it helps you to communicate with other educated persons. And graphic design is used in every one of those fields. Knowing a bit about them will help you when it comes to design an ad campaign or corporate brand package for them.
You’ll probably enjoy your graphics design classes the most. You will learn about art and about computer technology. You’ll learn about various kinds of media and how to use them. Composition, design principles, photography, animation and CGI are all examples of the kinds of things you will learn.
Graphics design is a rapidly changing field, and, even though it’s necessary to learn the fundamentals, much of what you learn in school will be outdated within a few years of graduation. You’ll be exposed to people, technologies and information that are on the cutting edge, but one of the most important things you will learn in art school is how to keep up with the changes in your profession.
In school, you’ll have opportunities to work on projects with other student designers and with professionals. These projects will help you learn professional skills that you can only acquire by doing the work. You’ll learn how to work with other people, how to be a team member and a team leader, how to work with clients, and how to work under pressure. You’ll learn about budgets and timelines and business practices. These “hands-on” skills will make you ready to enter the job market as a professional graphics designer.
We are a media culture, and graphics design is used in nearly every industry, corporation, job and school and home in the world. As a professional graphics designer you can work in the publishing, music or television industries. You could work for the government or a private corporation. You could work for a design firm, or start your own firm. You could become a freelance designer.
You could do anything from producing corporate reports to designing magazine layouts to creating corporate brands. You might create logos or signage or graphics. You may work with audio-video media or print media. You could help design computer games or animated movies.
The employment future for graphics designers is good. There are plenty of job opportunities and lots of variety in the type of work you could do. Graphics design is a great profession, and getting a degree in it could be the beginning of a rewarding career for you.