Getting into the Graphic Design Industry

At the age of 14 I decided what I wanted to do ‘when I grew up’. I won a competition for designing a Logo for a local youth group so decided that I wanted to be a Graphic Designer. I took Graphic Design at GCSE level, which revolved around technical drawing and not at all computer based. I enjoyed Graphic Design at GCSE level so decided to persue it at college by taking an A level in it, which gave me a very different perspective on Design as a career. We rarely used computers, as it was very art based, exploring materials & image making techniques. I was sure (at the time!) that I didn’t want to take the University route & that I wanted to work hard & get a job by doing work experience & working through the ranks. However, towards the end of my A levels I didn’t feel I had a good enough knowledge of the industry to begin working in design, so after a lot of consideration I decided to take the University route to learn more about the Graphic Design Industry.

When choosing a University I didn’t go for the ones that had won the most awards & had the best facilities to boast about, I chose purely on the style of course that I felt would best suite me. I selected a College based on the course I wanted to do, a BA (Hons) Graphic Design, and the other criteria was that it should be close enough to my home so I could travel everyday (which saved a great deal of money) and allow me to keep my job to help fund my studies. While doing my degree I worked in a local supermarket, which not only helped me financially throughout my studies for paying for equipment & travel but also, as I didn’t enjoy my supermarket job, it really helped to keep me motivated to do well in my degree so that I could get the career I had been dreaming of for many years.

The first year at university gave me a much clearer idea of what work I would encounter if I were a graphic designer. I learnt about many skills such as printing processes, creating websites, typography, creating fliers, all at basic levels. We also had a great Work experience program that helped us learn about interviews, employment etc. When I started my degree I had decided that I wanted to be a freelance Graphic designer, in control of the work that I did. After doing a week’s work experience placement with a freelance Graphic Designer I changed my view on freelance work completely. It made me realize how much pressure you are under running your own business. There would be no one around to support you, if you were ill you still had to work to make sure you met deadlines. After the week’s work experience I decided that I would rather work in a Graphic Design Studio but somewhere that wasn’t too big. The final two years of my degree went by in a flash, crammed full of coursework & my dissertation. I put in a lot of hard work & it paid off in the end when I received a First in Graphic Design.

I began to apply for jobs straight away at the end of my degree, but despite all of my hard work I kept getting rejected (even for jobs for new graduates!) saying that I didn’t have enough experience. How could I get experience if no one would give me a chance?! At the end of my degree I won an award & received a prize of one week’s work experience at Logo Design. My week at Logo Design really opened my eyes to the world of Graphic Design & quite frankly scared the hell out of me at how unprepared I was & how little I actually knew about the industry despite 3 years at University! Looking back at it now I see that my degree was all about doing coursework to tick the boxes, it taught me very little about what you actually do. I didn’t know how to prepare something for print, which is a standard skill for a Graphic Designer, & my skills in Adobe Illustrator & InDesign were practically non-existent! At the end of my work experience week with Logo, I didn’t have any job leads & didn’t know what I would do as I had so much to learn!! Logo Design kindly allowed me to come back once a week to continue to learn, to shadow people working & learn about the studio environment.

Luckily after a few months of doing work experience with Logo Design they offered me a great job opportunity to learn the in house Content Management System called Wahoo & train clients how to use it. Wahoo is a wonderfully simple CMS that is intuitively user friendly, while still giving clients great freedom in what they can create on their website. Wahoo allows clients to have a well designed & fully editable website without breaking the bank. We create the design of their website, adding their Logo & once they are fully trained they can then use the feature rich site & create sections, pages, select a template for their page from a variety of designs & quickly & easily insert text & upload images to their site. The sites also allow clients to put together slideshows & galleries of images, add in tables, an enquiry form, google map on their contact page & link their site to a Google Analytics account so that they can keep an eye on the traffic that visits their site. Once I got to grips with the CMS I then moved onto learning how to design & build them. Slowly I learnt more & more skills & was asked to design a few logos for charities. After 10 months of doing work experience I was offered a part time contract at Logo Design as a Junior Graphic Designer. I started to learn more about the Web side of things, which was great as Web is such a vastly developing industry. 16 months after I first walked into Logo Design I was offered a full time contract as a Junior Graphic Designer.

My job in the studio is very unique as I do a lot of different types of work with the Graphic Design team & Web development team at Logo Design, which I greatly enjoy as I am learning so much about the Industry in a very broad sense. I get to work on designing Logos, amending artwork, get involved with testing & checking websites before they get handed over to clients & training clients how to use their Expression Engine & Mojomotor sites. But my main job at Logo Design is still my first Job, working with the in-house CMS Wahoo, designing, building & training clients how to use their sites. It has developed a great deal in the 18 months that I have been working with it. New features have been added so people can easily add in their social networking links, & have control over their slideshow speed & an easier way to add in the Google Maps & Analytics information. We also developed an ecommerce system called Wahoo Webshop. It incorporates all of the features of Wahoo but also allows you to sell products. You can simply add your products prices, photos, descriptions, unique SKU’s & can set sales. You also have access to full reports for your site including Customer Information, Orders & Stock Control. I also create Manuals to support clients after their training is complete but of course I am always just at the end of an email should they need any help in the future.

It took a lot of time, patience & a great deal of hard work to get to where I am now, but if you have a job that you really want to do, doing everything you can to get it will be worth it in the end. If I was to do it all again, knowing what I know now though, I wouldn’t go to University. There are many great government funded Apprenticeships options that you can apply for, so you can learn while on the job & earn money for it, rather than getting into a great deal of student debt & not particularly learning much at all about the Industry you want to go into.