Thursday, November 14, 2013

How to Build a Design Career When You're Fresh Out of School

This is a continuation of a series of articles on how to prepare for a graphic design career. In the last article I introduced the dilemma of having to have experience to get a job that requires having experience. And we looked at what a current graphic design student can do to prepare for a design career.

Now let's look at what those of you just out of design school. Here's a few items to build to get yourself ready.

1. Build your portfolio. Review all your design work and organize it in a logical order. If all you have is school projects, be sure to include samples and statements about your process. Employers want to understand how you arrive at solutions. Be realistic.

2. Build your website. Be deliberate about this. Make sure you have the portfolio work you need. Make sure you have no less than 5 good pieces to start. And carefully consider the navigation and design carefully. Visit sites like Smashing Magazine for good advice and sites like Awwwards or HTML5 Mania for inspiration.

3. Build your experience. Find a local charity or organization where you can donate your time. If you have the opportunity, use your design skills while you are there. It's experience you can legitimately put in your resume. I'm generally not in favor of doing pro-bono work because it can create the perception that design is about the creation of products. In contrast, the real value of design is not in the production, but rather in creative problem-solving.

Now, I'm not totally against pro-bono work. So the best way to avoid the commodity perception is to clearly describe what is being donated, demonstrate it's value, and ask for compensation for at-cost-expenses.

4. Build your resume. Along with volunteering your time, try joining a design organization. Being a part of a design organization looks great on your resume. Here are few good U.S. organizations to consider: AIGA, UDCA (if you are interested in doing design for higher education), and Graphic Artist Guild. Be sure to check their different membership levels, so you can find one that fits your budget.

Next article: How to Build a Design Career When You Aren't Trained in Graphic Design

Photo courtesy David Castillo Dominici of

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