Graphic design career start here

By Todd @ Mitchell Creative Group

When it comes to a career in graphic design you’re very fortunate. There’s a tremendous variety of possibilities and positions available in the graphic design industry. It’s no longer a narrow filed of choices for only “talented” artists. With technology today it’s even more spread out, and with modern software (oh, sorry, I meant cloud apps) there’s even more potential than ever.

Whether you plan on being a simple freelance consultant, or starting your own business, or entering the competitive graphic design work space, there are many options.

The best place to start is thinking about the type of work you want to be doing on a regular basis. Creative, yes… Graphics, well ok… But think about sitting or standing at your place of business on a daily basis. What exactly are you doing? What do you imagine yourself doing that might be considered fun or inspiring?

Is it sketching artwork, or drawing graphics whether on paper or on a computer? Or is it working with a client to develop the next great website or ad campaign? Maybe it’s something simple like drawing graphics for a catalog, or writing content for the next cool ebook. Yes, even writing can be “creative.” In fact, in many graphic projects the content is king… Great content is imagined and created in conjunction with the graphic design part of the project.

Start here: Imagine and write down the kinds of graphic design-related types of projects you can see getting in to. What are you passionate about, what would you love to be doing…

Here are a few ideas to consider:

  • Thinking and planning
  • Concept development
  • Ideas and creative thinking
  • Branding and identity
  • Business development
  • Creative writing
  • Team environment or independent
  • Sole business person, or team business
  • Do you like working with people
  • Do you like helping and recommending better solutions
  • Do you like doing the actual work
  • Creating the actual graphic material
  • Drawing
  • Painting
  • Illustrating
  • Computer graphics
  • Charts and graphic creator
  • Infographic creation
  • Designing and creating brochures
  • Logo and brand development
  • Packaging design
  • Posters or event graphics
  • Making simple edits
  • Computer and online technology
  • Web programmer
  • Web designer, coming up with the website plan
  • App designer or developer
  • Online graphics material


Hardware and Software

Nowadays there’s so much awesome software out there that help you bring out the creative genius. Creating websites, animations and videos, as well as brand, identity, logos, brochures, and infographics are all done with high end graphical software. Usually on a high end computer— typically, but not limited to Apple computers. Many tasks can now also be done on smaller devices as well.

Learning about the right hardware to use (computer, devices) is as important as it is learning the right software to use for the right job— on top of exploring and learning how to use that software. Hardware and software are the tools. And amazing tools at that. But unless you are willing to explore, learn, and use them, they won’t be of much use. They can be used to create unbelievable masterpieces, or just as a source of fun, creative exploration and creativity— or both!

There is a variety of software out there, used for an equal variety of creative and graphical needs. It can be anything as basic as a Word page layout, or a simple infographic, on up through high end and complex animation and video editing software or web site creation tools.

I should also mention though that when it comes to web design, that also adds to the mix the programming technology. An actual computer programming language (many languages actually) that all software and online media is based. Web code. Many websites can be created in a basic text editor if you’re  a skilled programmer. Although many designers prefer the WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) software so you can really play with the design visually, much of the requirements of online sites today warrant a responsive design that shows up well on multiple devices— and best addressed via web programming code, which again can be written directly as text.

Here is a list of some very popular software (tools) and what their common (but not limited to) use is:

  • Word. Basic page layout.
  • Pages. Basic page layout on the Mac.
  • Powerpoint. Presentations.
  • Keynote. Presentation on the Mac. More graphical.
  • Indesign. Page layout and design. High end design. Books, magazine, ebooks, web content.
  • Photoshop. Raster/pixel photo images. Web and print images.
  • Illustrator. Vector based graphics. Shapes, colors, fonts. High end design program. Documents, drawings, illustrations, charts, graphics.
  • Dreamweaver. Web/online design and creation software.
  • After Effects. Animation and video software. High end.
  • Quicktime. Animation and video software.
  • Premiere. Animation and video software. High end.
  • Lightroom. Working on photos and fine tuning images. Much like Photoshop, but more detailed.
  • Final Cut Pro. Animation and video software. High end.

Keeping in mind that any one of these tools above can be maximized and if your are skilled, imaginative, and daring enough can push these into amazing results. They each are focused on their strength best suited to what they are geared for, but all have the underlying nature of allowing you to use your skills in fonts, colors, and design skills. Remember, they are tools. A skilled person with a masterful tool creates skilled, masterful results!

Notes on training

Getting training on any of these tools above really varies. It can be as simple as, and starting with being self taught by challenging your self to find samples you like, or something you want to create— and then find the ideal software and start playing with it. Create it!

It’s like learning how to draw or ride a bike. You just do it. You practice. You explore. In fact, no matter if you are highly trained or not, without the desire, the exploratory mindset, or the willingness to try, practice, and create— it won’t make a difference. I have personally seen and worked with folks that have taken all the classes, degrees in college, and even worked at top agencies, but lacked that passion to want to create or actual experience and haven’t really done much at all.

As opposed to so many I have worked with that have seriously amazing skills and abilities— and mostly all self taught, and worked on tons of projects. Maybe not so great in the beginning, but with practice comes experience. And with exploration comes discovery, and with all of that comes skill. For example, find a picture of something you like. Drag it into a background layer in Illustrator. Create a layer on top of that and then just start copying over it. Tracing it. Learning the tools. Recreating it exactly the same… Then delete the background. By exploring, using, practicing, and engaging your creative will, and just doing it— going at it. Now you’ve learned the tool, created artwork, and will now apply that into creating your own stuff moving forward. You have now attained more experience than someone who went to a class or watched a video. Now you obviously don’t want to steal ideas, sell them, etc… but for practice, it’s golden.

Here’s where you start:

  1. Do it! Get the software and get started. Create projects, volunteer to try any project, work on any edits. In fact, just opening and working on edits is the easiest way to get into a program. But aggressively seek and create constantly. I have gained most of my experience here. Make it a habit to just create stuff— daily, weekly…
  2. Youtube. Millions of videos to explore. Look up any subject. “Basics of Illustrator” for example… try different videos out. You’ll find ones you hate— and ones you love. Then USE THOSE SKILLS and try it yourself! Start at step one, and work through them. Experience begins the second you have experience! I use this all the time— and I also contribute and post training videos my self to help others.
  3. Lynda.com (http://www.lynda.com). With over 600 creative courses online to date— your bound to find online courses that suit you best. Not like experience, but you will definitely learn and pick up some great tips and guidance.
  4. Adobe online training (http://www.adobe.com/training/overview.html). They offer the worlds most powerful software— and some of the finest trying there is. Hey, they know their products! More complex, but definitely something worth trying out if you are a serious contender!
  5. Local universities and continuing education. I personally have done this numerous times. Local colleges and facilities offer classes by professionals and or administrators that are skilled in several creative applications. Graphic design, illustration, online software, and so much more… Look in your local area papers, or online for classes near you. They usually inexpensive, and fit the right time slots for you after work.
  6. Get a degree. I you are serious about a certain field, such as Web design as an example, there’s often a great reason to enroll in a full course getting college credits, and hard core training on that (and many other) field(s). If it becomes a serious career choice, and college is the right fit for you— consider that as an option.
  7. Internships. Volunteer for free or paid internships in most college, and look it up on job search sites, as companies are often looking for volunteers, entry level interns, etc… A great “dig in and get started” opportunity if you really want some experience. I personally hire interns as well.

Final word on graphic design as a skill

Please remember that like any skill‚ be it a doctor, a lawyer, or landscaper… They all require the desire to want to do it, the passion that drives the level of that skill, and the continued commitment to learn, explore and grow… It’s a path, a journey. That changes regularly.

Same here. Graphic design skills are often deeply engrained, genetic traits that many are gifted with. But they are also equally skills that if you have a deep spiritual calling to do it, can easily attain mastery with practice and commitment. Everyone is born with the ability to be creative, imaginative. In fact the power of imagination is the most powerful force on the planet. Everything is once imagined!

Graphic design skills incorporate a wide variety of components as well as the potential to master just a single part of that industry. Fonts, color, layout and design, and just general overall artistic ideas— all vary from person to person. It’s important to learn the basics of all of these (especially basic overall design, fonts and color), but more important to master them in an area that you really feel deeply about. Be it animation, logos, or creative writing… That brings out in you the uniqueness that you then apply passion to and share with the rest of the world. And thus, doing something you love to do! And gee, would’t that be nice!

And finally, don’t let fear, confusion, and patience get in your way. All of these will affect you. You need to be brave, focused, and VERY patient when learning these new skills, or approaching any career path— especially in graphic design.

I can’t wait to see the masterpieces you create— or how you impact the creative world in whatever creative, graphics-related position you end up getting your self into.

Don’t hesitate to contact me if you need any advice, ideas, or guidance. [email protected], 508.494.8182. Visit http://www.mitchellcreativegroup.com

Share This Content!