The design industry has perhaps become more competitive than ever, but certainly not impossible to get into. In fact, more jobs are available in the industry than ever and more jobs are being added in this field worldwide every year. But, with so many design sectors, styles, and types of design jobs to choose from today, where does it begin?
Unlike many other professions, design is both an art and a science. It involves knowing a little bit of everything – from history and visual arts to technology, math, current market data and pop culture. With more jobs opening in this industry worldwide every year, it seems like design should be a fairly easy gig to get into, but the fact is that it’s also becoming a more competitive market every year.
The industry has grown into a plethora of sectors and each of those is developing at light speed. Just choosing a direction has become a nightmare all its own and the years of learning, training, and skill development make that a long nightmare to bear indeed. But the very reason that most designers decide to go into the field is, like any artist, an inexplicable passion for it. The passion and interest alone won’t be enough to land anyone a full-time, well-paid gig in this bold new world though.
First things first – developing skills and know-how is an imperative in any industry, but it holds particularly true for an industry such as this, which is developing at a mind-bending speed. Education, both formal and informal, is probably the toughest and most important part – because this is where direction, style and the design sector of one’s career are decided.
Before getting a foot in the door, it’s great if you have someone who already happens to be in the design industry to talk to. That isn’t always an opportunity most people have, so online research is the next best thing and this is where it can get really confusing – and expensive. The seemingly best options and accredited degrees available today offer so much that they initially only confound wannabe designers. Web design, UX design, animation, video game design, multimedia design – they’re almost as equally attractive to a young, spiring designer and it’s tough to tell where one begins and the other ends.
However, despite the confusion and tough choices, a choice does need to be made, simply because four or six years of design school and finding a specialty and style can replace decades of learning through working odd jobs as a freelancer.
Free courses and freelancing are a great place to start and highly recommended even parallel to formal studies. Making sure that a university course also offers, aside from a formal degree, all of the basic knowledge and background in the field is also important. Fast tracking learning is great, but hands-on experience is also a must on this art-meets-science-meets-life field.
Design is truly a living, breathing thing that is growing and changing with the introduction of new technological advances and human habits. This is why meeting with and learning from other designers is so important. People and communication are always the first stepping stone to a career in any field, but in design this is even more true.
Using every opportunity to mingle, learn, and exchange tips is essential. Thankfully, this new age of connectedness offers endless opportunities for that sort of thing, both online and IRL. From forums, groups, and professional and social networks to specialized websites that follow the industry, like Dribble, and live conferences and trade shows, there’s always somewhere to be, people to meet and and endless pool of knowledge to dive into. This is also where the best jobs are offered and accepted. Being always present and available to your peers and potential employers is the right way to not only start building a career, but work up the ladder.
Find your groove
The best reference for a great job in a primarily visual field is a great portfolio. Design quite literally proves that hard work eventually pays off. Most successful designers already brought hefty portfolios of freelance or even free work with them when they officially stepped through the design industry gates. The best way to be heard of in this somewhat peculiar field is to be seen.
Any practical and relevant project that presents your interest, skills, and the aforementioned passion for design is always a great asset and a recommendation for the next opportunity to improve skills, meet new challenges or land a new gig. A designer’s portfolio should be as unique and chock full of personality as the designer who owns it is.
While there are master designers out there, there’s no such thing as an all-in-one or one-stop-shop designer. If you happen to run into one who claims to be just that, run in the other direction. This is such a wide and varied field that there’s absolutely no way for one human being to be good at all of the aspects and specialties that the field entails. But most professional designers are really good at one or just a couple of things.
While there will always be room to grow and learn, picking a specialty or a niche is paramount to building a solid career in design. An artist’s style is what makes them recognizable and, ultimately, what gets them hired. But here’s the rub – to choose a niche, a designer must learn about several niches first. Which brings us right back to education and learning. And this is the endless circle of career in design. Circles upon circles upon multiple layers in an industry that has stepped into our everyday lives and gotten under our skin.