How to become a graphic designer

Opportunity U: For those unfamiliar with the industry, what is a graphic designer?

Jodie: A graphic designer is a visual communicator and usually has a BA or BFA in graphic design. They are often very conceptual and can turn ideas into well-rounded designs resulting in a call to action or response.

Opportunity U: What Types of Companies Hire Graphic Designers?

Jody: Graphic designers can be found in a range of places, from newspapers to advertising agencies. I work for a university, but really all kinds of companies hire graphic designers. Designers with digital skills can find work at tech companies, and of course, freelancing is an option for many designers.

Opportunity U: What can a day in the life of a graphic designer look like?

Jody: Every day is different. As Art Director of the University of Nevada, Reno, I am expected to work on all projects and create beautiful printed materials that help recruit students. Additionally, a big part of my job involves directing hundreds of on-location photo and video shoots around the university and Lake Tahoe. I help with budgets, create storyboards, and even stage shoots to help tell the story of our university. Design is at the heart of everything I do.

Opportunity U: What are the important talents a graphic designer should have?

Jody: Familiarize yourself with Adobe software. Adobe Max is Adobe’s free online conference showcasing all of its software featured by movie stars, talented artists, designers, photographers and more. I use InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop every day at work.

Also, study all forms of design to help you understand how fonts, illustrations, and photos work together in creating infographics, posters, brochures, billboards, and more.

Another big part of my job is prepress where I check my work for printers. If the files aren’t perfect, the project won’t succeed – that’s very important. Sometimes a stressful part of being a graphic designer is that the end result is 100% your responsibility.

Opportunity U: If someone wants to become a graphic designer, which sector should they choose?

Jody: I have a BFA in Graphic Design from the University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA. and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Nevada, Reno. In order to get the best graphic design jobs, you should consider a BFA, which is more competitive and can help put your name at the top of the list when looking for a job. You can also earn a higher salary with a BFA in graphic design.

Also, another major field to study is web interface design, a popular degree that can help you earn higher salaries. If you can create designs in CSS, which is a computer design language, it can connect you to jobs with tech companies, local businesses, and ad agencies looking for these kinds of talented interface designers.

Opportunity U: What types of courses would a student take as part of the program?

Jody: In my BFA program, I learned all the mediums of fine art and graphic design. Some of the courses I took were Figure Drawing, Color and Design, Instrumental Drawing, 3D Sculpting, Photography, Art History, Watercolour, Screen Printing and Lithography/Engraving .

Part of the graphic design program was to create a logo and all branding for a fictional company. I designed a logo for an aquarium store which I named “Finaroma”. I learned every step necessary to design a cohesive and visually beautiful project which I then presented to teachers and classmates during my senior year.

In addition, I had to do an internship where I was the artistic director of our university radio station – KUOP. I designed all marketing materials such as postcards, posters, billboards and swag, and helped organize fundraising events.

Opportunity U: Apart from the core courses, are there any other courses a student should consider taking? Why?

Jody: All four-year colleges require you to take general education courses where you can mix and match electives to balance your art degree. I took several business courses that helped me understand the world of business, including supply and demand, marketing, microeconomics, and accounting. But it’s up to you which general education courses you want. I think these courses help students become a knowledgeable person.

Opportunity U: Apart from university courses, how can a student prepare or build his CV?

Jody: I review resumes from other designers that come into my office, but if you’re just starting out, you can look on LinkedIn to see what other designers are creating. I think a graphic designer should make their resume super clean and visually appealing.

Opportunity U: Where do you see the graphic design field header?

Jody: Very demanding. Print remains a viable medium and a good graphic designer is well paid. The domain will continue to be strong as all businesses need to visually communicate with customers and ensure that customers interact with their products and brand. I also have dozens of freelance jobs throughout the year and work with clients on weekends to earn extra money. There will always be work for graphic designers!

Opportunity U: What advice would you give to students interested in a career in graphic design?

Jody: Work hard, stay humble, and be ready to work on any project, whether it’s a high-end business card, flyer, or brochure. Put yourself 100% into all your work and always be open to other colleagues or client feedback. You can ALWAYS improve your work.

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