Graphic design is an over-saturated market, no doubt about it. The lure of what seems (from the outside at least), an attractive lifestyle, along with a misconceived acclaim to fame, means that more students are enrolling in design-related courses than ever. Eventually, a percentage will graduate and seek design-related jobs. Also, don’t forget the uneducated hobbyists who claim to be ‘Graphic Designers’ & then, of course, there’s those already established within the industry. With service providers multiplying at a rapid rate & the current economic climate limiting the number of new start-up businesses, is there enough work to go around?
Unfortunately there isn’t, which results in thousands of graduates struggling to get a job within the industry regardless of the level of their degree or talent.
From my own experience, both studying and lecturing graphic design. 1 in 10 go on to work in a creative field, the rest simply weren’t able to find a job or didn’t feel comfortable in their own abilities to look for one properly. I still keep in touch with those of us that were able to find employed work and I know that each one of us found it extremely difficult, mainly due to the educational institutions spreading false truths about employment opportunities in our industry. They pump out graduates with the promise of a great career. Most of these students are not fully prepared for employment due to unrealistic expectations and misinformation.
So do your homework before choosing a creative career path. If your not going to stick with it for more than 5 year, don’t even bother to start studying. It takes at least that to feel competent.
After graduating it took me around 12 months to build up a solid portfolio before I was even considered for an interview at an established firm in the creative industry.
Freelance vs Agency
Jumping straight in at the deep end with no real world experience can be seen as a massive risk to take, especially if you see freelance as being your only source of income. Due to the current density of competition, it can take time to build up a good reputation and client base. Even for the most talented of designers. A little small business knowledge will go a long way. You need to now how to manage tax, personal superannuation, dept recovery etc.
Experience is Priceless
One thing that used to really bug me when looking for work is that most vacancies required previous experience in the designated field. Which meant of course if you didn’t have any you wouldn’t even be considered, which makes the situation for students even harder. How are you meant to get experience if you need experience in order to get it? One way around this is of course working for free in work experience placements but not everyone can afford to do this. I guess it just depends on how badly you really want it.
The best form of education is working professionally in your field. You can read all of the textbooks under the sun, but until it comes time to put what you know into practice, you won’t truly learn any of the tricks of the trade that matter. This really applies to any industry, not just design. This is where I believe that designers without a formal education can really shine, as they have no predetermined opinions on how things should be done and can absorb real world skills. This is of course depending on the work placement that they do undertake is at a place that knows the profession inside out.
I certainly do not envy any design student who is going to have to go through looking for work this year but I’m confident that at least those with genuine talent will be successful. It’s just a shame that not everyone will be so fortunate. My advice to any students looking to get work would be:
Don’t rely on email to get in touch with companies. Pick up the phone and meet people in person, but at the same time don’t be a nuisance and respect people’s valuable time.
Curate you portfolio. Be critical of your own work and only include your best work. Remember quality over quantity.
Show your personality but don’t always let it influence your work.
A portfolio can be creative too. Think of a unique approach of how you can grab people’s attention. An A4 CV just doesn’t cut it anymore.
Keep Learning. Just because your studies have finished doesn’t mean you know everything there is to know. This is just the beginning.
Good luck.., your going to need it.