1. So you’re ready to launch into the design market…Graphic design is an ever changing medium.
There is no other industry that changes as often as graphic design–trends are very important. Our industry can often be like working on a Tilt-A-Whirl. It’s imperative designers keep abreast of new design trends by watching what color experts such as Pantone showcase as Color of the Year or their Color Report. Design can also be affected by current events. For example, in years we have the Olympics, you will see more vibrant colors, especially red, white and blue.
While it’s not practical to keep racing back to college, taking a shorter design class from time to time helps keep your skills current. Make sure you’re consistency taking the pulse of the design industry.
2. Your portfolio is more than just adding images to your website.
Potential employers want to see more than just the finished product. Today’s designer is all about UX (the User Experience). They want to not only see the poster you designed, but understand the journey. How did you come up with the idea? What was your process with the client? Here’s a great example of a great portfolio site from Alexander Pierce where he not only shows great finished design projects, but explains how and why he designed it. Here is another great example from Sean Halpin. both showcasing his work, and telling the story: http://seanhalpin.io/work.
3. MORE is NOT better!
Even the most seasoned designers make this mistake. Putting everything but the kitchen sink isn’t going to get you the job. ONLY show your best work. More is not better…it’s just more. Too many samples of your work not only increase load times, but gives the visitor too many options, and can be overwhelming. Keep it simple, you only get a short time for people to look at your work.
4. You think you know how to use Photoshop? Maybe…Maybe not.
Everyone THINKS they know Photoshop.
The problem is that most users have “tunnel vision” and use specific parts of Photoshop. Once you work in a collaborative workplace with other designers, if you’re not using Photoshop non-destructively, your team will be out for blood. If you don’t have best practices and good Photoshop workflow techniques, you won’t last long.
Taking a Photoshop class taught by real world users instead of a professor (no offense dear educators!) is a great idea to keep current with the latest changes and workflows in Adobe Photoshop.
5. Real-world projects.
Even if you are still in school, it’s incredibly helpful to have projects for a real client. How do I get real clients you ask? Easy: Find a family friend that owns a business, local restaurant, dry cleaners, charity. Tell them you would be happy to do design something for them for free whether it’s a website, a menu, or business cards.
That said…doing free design work is a great way to get your portfolio going. BUT doing free work CAN’T be an ongoing thing. Graphic design is the only industry that clients want to negotiate the price. If you call a plumber, they give you a quote, do the work, then you pay the bill–because that’s what it costs. Don’t get in the habit of doing too many freebies, because as designers, we’re already at a disadvantage because many don’t understand that your work is valuable and something they need to pay for.
The moral to the “Real World Projects” dilemma is that doing free projects is a great way to get off the ground. Once you rise off the ground, freebies aren’t necessary.
So Now What: How do I keep up with Graphic Design Trends?
Whether you’re formally trained or just talented, the biggest roadblock we face is that design is an ever-changing landscape. It’s easy for our work to become stale with the same techniques that have worked for years.
Designers often feel like a hamster on a wheel, but stopping to brush up on Photoshop or InDesign, or trends in graphic design are imperative to staying current.