Is there a set list of rules to follow on how to be successful when beginning your design career? Before you read on, the answer, unfortunately, is NO… But, even though I haven’t been a designer for long (I’ve only been out of college for a year), in that short amount of time, I’ve come up with a few personal tips that have worked for me – and maybe they will work for you, too!
1. Make Personal Connections with Your Classmates
It’s easy to forget that your peers/classmates are not your enemies or your competition: they’re your collaborators! Being in this industry is not something you can do alone; I love having second opinions on my work, and I truly believe that having someone to critique your work and bounce ideas off of makes you a better designer.
2. Watch Tutorial Videos
There are many resources out there when it comes to tutorials on software and techniques. YouTube is one of the more obvious choices, but if you have Adobe Creative Cloud, you can generally find tutorials on their website, as well. If you’re trying to learn how to properly build websites and learn CSS and HTML, my favorite resource is Tree House – I could spend hours on this site!
3. Utilize Other Creative Skills
Primarily, my job is centered on web design, but I do have an underlying love for fine art and illustration. I don’t get many opportunities to utilize my drawing abilities, but that never stops me from trying! If you have a unique ability that you can incorporate into your work, USE IT – you’ll shine when you do!
4. Join Design Organizations
Design organizations are an excellent way to meet other designers and make connections for potential job opportunities. Larger organizations, such as AIGA, often have smaller chapters in your local area that you can join – Youngstown State University, for example, has an AIGA student organization for its design program.
5. Submit Work to Competitions
There are major design competitions you should compete in (each and every time they’re offered). I participated in one during my last semester of school: the Adobe Design Achievement Awards of 2015. This competition was world-wide, and a fellow classmate and I ended up with semi-finalist awards – inevitably earning us bragging rights *wink, wink*…
Submitting as much work as you can to competitions gives you experience that can be added to your resume – and equally as important, the feedback you receive on your work helps to better your projects and skills as a designer. It may take a little time out of your day (and away from that masterpiece project you’re currently working on), but trust me, it’s worth it!
6. Create an Online Portfolio
Having a portfolio website gives potential employers the opportunity to “meet you” before calling you in for an interview. But, you may ask, where do you buy hosting from? My advice – buy through bluehost or GoDaddy. These providers are the most popular, and their plans are the most cost-effective. And, as far as building websites is concerned, always, always, ALWAYS build in WordPress!
7. Get Internships
Internships are an excellent way of getting your foot in the door of the design industry. If your school offers an internship course, it’s in your best interest to sign up for it, regardless of your class schedule (if I was able to work an internship, two retail jobs, and attend school full-time, you can handle an internship while attending school, too). An internship with a good design studio will provide indispensable experience that you will make use of as you progress in your design career.
8. CMD + S and Back Up Your Work
If you haven’t found out already, you will soon discover that it’s incredibly easy to get completely absorbed in a project – and at some point, you will forget to save your work. SAVE YOUR WORK every few minutes, and then back it up – either onto an external hard drive or to Google Drive.
These are just a few of the many tips you can reference when beginning your design career. Hopefully they will help you like they did me! Good Luck!