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How to be a Successful Graphic Designer

Updated on March 13, 2013

With art schools and universities focusing on digital art, along with the talented self-taught geniuses, graphic designers are a dime a dozen. For example, there are dedicated digital art universities in China and Japan, so in East Asia alone, every year there are hundreds of talented fresh graduate graphic designers all eager to make their digital mark in the internet and digital world. With the abundance of graphic designers everywhere, businesses are starting to nit-pick. With stiff competition amongst your fellow designer, how do you stand out and be a successful one?

Firstly, you need to go to a design school that is accredited and well-known within the industry. While schools like MIT and Carnegie Mellon are considered the top in the industry, admission into these schools do not come easily. Most importantly, look out for schools with a broad design education system that allows your creative juices to flow and look out for famous alumni that has graduated from the school. Though it is possible for design applications to be self-taught, design school students are usually headhunted by companies if they perform exceptionally well in their studies and schools also prepare you with the pressures and commitments that you will have to persevere through as a graphic designer.

Adobe Master Collection CS5

Adobe Creative Suite 5 - Adobe CS5
Adobe Creative Suite 5 - Adobe CS5

Best Graphic Designer Softwares

You need passion. The non-believers may go, “Passion can only get you somewhere, not everywhere.” That is the key to the graphic industry, you have to start somewhere. You will only get to the top when your work has been noticed by people. With the always increasing pace of technology, you have to keep up with the applications being used by the industry and not lose touch of them. Always update yourself with the latest software and keep in touch with the industry. Spend at least five to ten hours a week refreshing and refamiliarising yourself with the applications you know. Whether it’s Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, Autodesk 3dsMax, and Autodesk Maya, design-based applications are easy to lose touch with if spent too much time away from them. Now that the latest offering from Adobe, the Adobe Creative Suite 5 (CS5) is out, try to keep yourself updated with all the softwares.

You need a portfolio that will blow people away. The problem with most graphic designers is while they are creative at work; they lack skills to sell themselves. Do not be satisfied with a simpleton resume with some of your work printed at the back. Being graphic designers, clients and employers will be looking for someone who can think outside the box. If possible, fork out some money to come up with a visual presentation of your previous work. Make use of your iPhone to show off a Flash game you have made or invest in a mini projector to provide a unique interview. It is also important for you to have an online portfolio with your own domain name. While some graphic designers make use of free hosting sites like Blogspot, Livejournal or Wordpress to put up their online portfolio, using your own domain will make you look a lot more professional and presentable to your clients or employer.

Find a niche, but be versatile. With digital art becoming a lot more exposed to the society, you might need to specialize to be successful. Graphic designers are presented with a wide array of job opportunities, ranging from the more conventional website designer to a more exciting sounding game artist or character modeler. It is important to find where your strength lies and work on them to be one of the leading names in that specialization. However, as a graphic designer, you may be called upon to complete ad-hoc design jobs so always be flexible and versatile.

Learn to draw, even if you are terrible at it. Often times, your client or employer will ask you to design something quickly whilst in a meeting. It could be a logo or a character model or a character costume design. Whatever it is, you should not be working on the design only after the meeting. To be a successful graphic designer, you have to be quick on your toes and offer plenty of choices for your employer or clients, so they are allowed to make a choice out of a possible three or four. It is vital for you to immediately start visualizing and mapping out your design on a piece of paper with a pencil. Furthermore, if the design is selected, you can immediately scan the design into your computer and work on the minor details like color and tone, since the bulk of the design is already completed.

Even though there are still other factors like soft skills and likeability factor that can affect your success as a graphic designer, by following the above-mentioned skills and factors, I am certain you will be well on your way to becoming a famous name in the digital design industry, good luck!


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