A current discussion on Speak Up at the moment is on the top 10 design questions that design students ask. I would love to hear the answers to these questions from Just Creative Design readers.
To read what others have already answered check out the discussion on SpeakUp.
- I can’t draw at all, so will that hurt my chances of succeeding as a designer?
- Why do I have to know the differences between Helvetica, Arial, and Univers?
- Is it true that I have to know Quark?
- What’s wrong with downloading illegal copies of software because I can’t afford to buy them as a student?
- How long should my resume be?
- Should I work for free just to get some experience?
- Will I have to leave (the city where I live) in order to get a job?
- How do I get work as a freelancer right out of school?
- What if a job description asks for print and interactive design experience, but I don’t have interactive experience?
- Can I get a job working in the video game industry by learning about graphic design?
Some other questions that I always hear from students:
- How much does a graphic designer earn?
- Should Designers design their resume?
- What’s the difference between an art director and a creative director? Check out Designer Job Definitions.
- Where can I get design inspiration?
- How do you price a graphic design job?
- What advice would you give to a starting graphic designer?
My favourite reply reply to the first 10 questions above was by Greg Scraper.
1. I can’t draw at all, so will that hurt my chances of succeeding as a designer?
I don’t think it hurts, but it certainly helps. You don’t necessarily need to be able to produce Rembrandts, but being able to draw helps frame an idea, and keeps you from having to flesh out the whole thing on the computer to find out it doesn’t work as well as you hoped. In my experience, being able to visualize what you want and drawing it are two really similar things, so it may turn out that you can draw, and just lack the patience for it.
2. Why do I have to know the differences between Helvetica, Arial, and Univers?
Knowing letterforms is what we do. Especially if you “can’t draw,” you have to be able to at least appreciate differences in letterforms. A designer who can’t draw and doesn’t know type doesn’t have many marketable skills left to fall back on.
3. Is it true that I have to know Quark?
Having at least a rote knowledge of Quark is good; knowing InDesign, however, is key. Your first job isn’t likely to have you drawing in Illustrator all day or only retouching photos. Most likely, you’re going to end up doing prepress or resizing ads or typesetting, all of which requires InDesign (for at least the foreseeable future).
4. What’s wrong with downloading illegal copies of software because I can’t afford to buy them as a student?
That is a moral issue that is up to the individual, however, I feel like charging kids an extra $1000 on top of classes, books, printing and lab fees is patently ridiculous. Adobe ought to figure out something that keeps kids from having to resort to file-sharing software just to make it through school. Maybe some sort of program not unlike a student loan, where the fees aren’t charged until after the student’s out of school.
5. How long should my resume be?
How many places have you worked? What’s the format? I made my first resume 4C, front and back, 5″x5″, diecut, and trifold just to be different. Screw the 8.5″x11″ white paper. But it is nice to have one of those on hand too.
6. Should I work for free just to get some experience?
No. Any place that will take your work for free to make a profit will take it for at least a nominal fee. Don’t get in the habit of devaluing design. Pro-bono is a different matter.
7. Will I have to leave (the city where I live) in order to get a job?
Take a good hard look at the ratio of design graduates per year vs. viable job opportunities. Decide if you have all the necessary skills to compete in whatever market you’re in. If you’re in a town with an average of eight new positions per year with fifty new graduates per semester from three different colleges, them ain’t good odds. Go look elsewhere, or get involved with someplace like Aquent that will help build your skills to make you more competitive.
8. How do I get work as a freelancer right out of school?
Know anyone who needs a good designer? Or get involved with someplace like Aquent, that will help build your… wait, I’ve said this before. Though Aquent does take a fair chunk, so getting your own work is preferred.
9. What if a job description asks for print and interactive design experience, but I don’t have interactive experience?
Don’t lie. Though sometimes, the “Fake it ’til you make it” mantra will work, since generally the place asking for both doesn’t know much about either. For the most part, however, the two have grown apart so much that it’s not really possible to be good at both.
10. Can I get a job working in the video game industry by learning about graphic design?
I don’t know, can you get a job as an airline pilot by learning about cruise ships? I do, however, work down the street from EA and know a little about how they hire, and they have a fairly rigorous training method that involves taking classes in their internal school and being a video game tester (not in the fun way) for a period before you can even think about getting in on the design aspects of the games. And even those jobs are competitive.
Please leave your answers to some or all of the above 15 questions.