Any tips on getting into the graphic design field?

I want to pursue graphic design as a career. I have been using Photoshop for a few years, and I think I’ve gotten pretty good at it. However, I know that it takes more than Photoshop, and my opinion on how good I think I am to get a job.

So, I’ve been looking into getting a certification or a degree in the Boston area. I’ve looked into various schools.

But someone mentioned to me that he took an exam for Adobe certification. I looked into it, and it looks like a viable alternative to spending several thousand dollars to going back to school.

I was thinking of trying to achieve certification as an Adobe Creative Suite Master. So my question is, would doing so really be as viable as it seems? Or should I just go ahead and go back to school and try for a certification or degree that way?

Advertising copywriter here.

All of the designers and art directors at my agency studied their craft at a college or trade school. So unless your plan is to schlock together corporate newsletters, I’d WAG that you need proper schooling. Not only will you learn how to use tools like Adobe, but you’ll learn principles of typography, page layout, printing techniques, conceptual thinking, and other critical skills, plus you’ll be able to make contacts in the business along the way.

Good luck!

What Redsland said. A lot of graphic design jobs are acquired via contacts - for every one you see in the paper or online, there will be many more that aren’t advertised, and the non-advertised ones tend to be the better ones. Most schools will also have some sort of placement office that can help with entry-level jobs too.

Do take a look in the paper and at online job sites, though, and see what kinds of software are listed as required knowledge for those jobs. That will give you a good idea of what you need to know to get a job in your area. Also think about what type of job you want - I used to work as a graphic artist for the government, and the software knowledge for that job was very different from what it would have been for a commercial place.

Personally I think certificates are close to worthless, especially in a field like graphics where you need a portfolio to get a job. Having a certificate doesn’t show the employer anything other than you earned a certificate. What will be important will be the actual work you’ve produced using the software they want you to know.

:dubious: Excuse me, Sir, I “schlock together corporate newsletters.” And CDs, fliers, brochures, signage, jackets, logos…Maybe I don’t have the degree your shop insists on, but I do damned good work and enjoy the freedom of a freelance lifestyle that gives me time to do my other gigs (editing and music). So kindly don’t condescend.

When my company looked for a new graphic designer, we mainly focused on prepress experience. Knowing how to communicate to printers and setting your work up for them is a plus.

If you put together a sample art CD, or online portfolio, make sure ANYBODY will be able to look at it, no matter if they use PC or MAC. Your best bet is to save your work as PDFs, and save them as version 4 if you can. We rejected some apps because their pages wouldn’t load.

Like the above posters have said, knowing typography is essential. Don’t just stick with Photoshop. Learn any sort of desktop publishing app, even if it’s just MS Word. You can pick that up in a day at any office temp place. I’d say going for CS certification is the way to go if you don’t have any work experience. That way, you’ll also learn Illustrator, InDesign and Acrobat. Learn how to use both Mac and PC. I think as far as the field is concerned, potential employers care more for what you can do than which school you went to. Diversify as much as possible.

Also, remember that the people looking at your portfolio are professionals. They’re going to be able to notice if you slapped together something with clipart. :slight_smile:

Kindly don’t get so defensive. There’s a place for schlock. But admitting that you chose to work in that space and then trying to explain why seems like a bit of a hijack.

All I said was that if the OP aspired to do more than newsletters, then proper schooling was probably the way to go.

remisser: As others have said, the certification will do little to help you land a job in the field; a solid portfolio of work is essential. Also, as you may know, Boston’s own Arnold Worldwide is one of the world’s most highly decorated advertising agencies. You may want to set up some informational interviews with some of their designers (or creative directors) to learn how they got into the business, have them critique your work, etc. Also, you should find out if that agency has relationships with any particular design schools. If so, then you may want to consider attending those schools, since it may help you obtain an internship or permanent position later.

Best of luck!

What helped me was having an extensive portfolio. Include lots of bells and whistles. If you make some business cards, extend it to mugs, hats, paperweights etc… Talking to my boss a couple years later outside of work, he said it was my portfolio that made him give me a call.

I have worked as a graphic artist for the last 10 years, mostly doing newspaper and direct mail advertising production. I don’t have a design degree, but did take graphics courses while in college and did production work for the school newspaper while enrolled. So you can get work out here without the degree. Having said that, an awful lot of job listings insist on a BFA or better. As was noted above, a lot of these jobs get filled through word of mouth; if you don’t have the degree, that might not be a hindrance if someone who knows your work can put in the good word for the right position.It’s your call on the degree, or any other certifications; just remember, it will take time, and can get expensive.

As for practical knowledge, I suggest learning all the Adobe programs inside out. Really be an expert, not just someone who’s done light photo touch-up work for his own personal projects. Be especially good at Illustrator–people don’t seem to know nearly as much as they should about using AI. I would also recommend getting as much knowledge as you can about QuarkXPress; even with InDesign making a lot of inroads, QXP is still the standard in many design shops. You’ll be lost if you walk into a studio knowing the CS programs in and out but don’t know jack about Quark.

And, if you can swing it, I’d also recommend learning (if you haven’t already) the Macromedia Studio programs, particularly Dreamweaver and Flash. (Don’t worry so much about Freehand–I’ve never liked it and never needed to use it professionally.) Not only will it broaden your knowledge, it will also address the issue Knowed Out raised above: If you can have a web-based porfolio as well as hard copies, so much the better for delivering samples to prospective employers. The Macromedia website has some very good basic tutorials for Dreamweaver (and CSS styling, which is what you really need to know for web production).

And really, portfolio is probably the crucial matter. If you’ve got a killer portfolio with a lot of great projects to display, you’ll get hired somewhere whether you’re certified, degreed, or polka-dotted and striped.

If you don’t already have a great portfolio, you might want to pursue some freelance jobs first, use those to build a good set of projects, then try to find a full-time position.

So that’s my take. Good luck. And if you find someone who’s hiring, let me know–I sure am ready for a new gig!

Sorry. I’ve just spent too much time having to sit quiet while people dismiss my experience and qualifications.

I may work in schlock-prone media, but I don’t actually do schlock. Sometimes the medium ain’t the message. When I do a corporate newsletter, it’s the best damn corporate newsletter I can do for the bucks and the time. Way I figure it, they hire it out, they’ve got a right to a good one.

There are lots of different ways to do “graphic design” – That term encompasses a wide range of actual jobs and job duties. Some are more into creating original artwork. Some are more into designing publications. Some are more into troubleshooting so the files actually print correctly. Some make signs for sign shops or brochures or newsletters or handbags or whatnot. Graphic design for a company that sells kitchen utensils versus a company that does direct mailing versus a company that sells board games versus a company that makes the signs that go over the doors on businesses versus a company that sells T-shirts are often completely different. Certain designers are better at certain aspects than others. The “artistes” like to look down their noses at other people but often they make the files that have to be largely redone by someone who knows what they are doing technically to actually get them to print right, and they often tend to be overcomplicated for the purpose in mind.

If your sole reason for thinking you want to get into graphic design right now is playing around with Photoshop, I’m not sure that’s much to go on to figure out what you need to do to make something work professionally. Can you draw? Are you detail oriented? Are you good at fixing problems? Can you size up what looks good in a photo and why? Do you notice the way letterforms interact with each other on a page? How you answer these questions can tell you which area, if any, in the field you might be good at.