Help me get into the graphics industry from scratch

Hotlead JunkieHotlead Junkie Registered User
edited November 2009 in Help / Advice Forum
Hey there, firstly, this is copy/pasted from the artists corner help advice thread but I thought I could get a different view on my situation here. Feel free to lock the thread if this is against the rules, but I checked them nd didn't see anything spcifically related to this. Anyway.



I'm ready to start looking into a career in graphic design after years of doing random college and uni courses. I did a 2 year course in mechanical engineering in college which I barley passed, then did a course in Graphic Design at another college for 2 years which I got fairly high grades in, then tried a games design course at a local university. 2 years in I just got completley sick of studying and decided to take a break and start working. Been doing random things/jobs in the last 2 years and am currentley in a 45 hour a week, soul draining telemarketing job.

Long story short, can anyone give me advice or a guide on how to construct an appealing graphic design portfolio that I can show potential employers? I do a lot of drawing in my free time, I have experience in Photoshop, Illustrator, Maya, Opencanvas, gimp and a lot of other random graphics programs. I did a lot of traditional photography (eg, not digicam) and photomanipulation in college about 5 years ago too (and some traditional painting but I wasn't very good at that).

I'll probably include some work from college and uni into a portfolio, but I'm more interested in constructing a brand new range of work to show to an employer. I have a few ideas of where to start/what to start but would like to hear from you guys and gals what I should probably think of producing and including to show what skills I have. I don't really have any specific idea where I want to work, but working in photoshop/illustrator creating flyers, banners, buisness cards, etc, that kind of thing is where I think my best skills lie.

In my free time I draw and illustrate cutsey toony things so I'll probably bring that kind of thing into what I make for my portfolio too.

I'm at work now so I can't really show anything, but I'd appreciate any advice on how I could build a portfolio to specifically show off my skills and what programs I can use, thanks.

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Posts

  • flatlinegraphicsflatlinegraphics Registered User
    edited November 2009
    opencanvas and gimp might be nice things to know, but I wouldn't really bother noting them down. the only thing anyone cares about are pretty much Adobe, maybe quark, office. being able to work on mac and pc (and not throwing a hissy fit about having to work on whichever one you don;t like) is a definite plus. web and print production would probably be useful (know your way around css, webstandards, as well as prepress). a designer than can't do production is pretty useless until your get into at least a senior position.

    but i'd really leave the programs and things off your portfolio and put them on your resume instead. HR will keyword search your resume for the programs and then forward you to the art director. the art director will just look at the work. they really don't care HOW you did something as much as you did it.

    student work is fine, as well as any freelance stuff. i'd hesitate to put in things that you just make. if you reimagined a brand, or fake re designed a corp website or something, that might be good. i'd maybe put in one page of illustration and one of photography, but not pad out the book with multiple pages. you are going for a design position, not an illustration or photo position. they are nice, and show that you have a rounded education and have a good eye and fine art experience. but for the most part, if a studio needs photography they have someone on retainer or use stock.

    the overall design of the portfolio can be huge part of it. so keep that in mind.

    good luck.

    flatlinegraphics on
  • Hotlead JunkieHotlead Junkie Registered User
    edited November 2009
    Thanks a lot for the tips. I'll spend some time looking at those programs you mentioned and I'll keep the rest of your advice in mind :)

    You sound like you have had some sucsess in the graphic design feild. Care to tell me more of what you do and how you got there?

    Hotlead Junkie on
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  • flatlinegraphicsflatlinegraphics Registered User
    edited November 2009
    i am a web dev/designer. had a couple false starts, finally went back to school full time after figuering out that sales jobs sucked (and were slowly killing me). can't make money in fine arts, and liked computers, so graphic design it is! worked as a video production assistant for about a year, moved into a graphic design position at a tiny agency and cut my teeth on real work (and a lot of terrible clients) for a couple of years. they went under (something you should get used to. design shops open and close with terrible frequency. losing one big client can tank a shop). got a front end dev job on short notice (cutting up PSDs and CSS hacking, flash work, etc). They lost a lot of income in the current terrible economy, so back on the hunt. did a bunch of freelance during the spring, finally landing at my current position as a full time graphic designer.

    the main thing i'd say as another person that didn't follow the traditional highschool->4years of college-> job path is to study design, but also get a good grip on production. design positions are tough to get. and there are a lot of people out of work right now. but good solid production people are hard to find. and there is always production work, and you can work along side really great people, learn and network.

    this doesn't mean you shouldn't work towards design positions, but make sure you have something more to offer than 'i can has photochops' when looking, esp for an entry level position.

    flatlinegraphics on
  • Hotlead JunkieHotlead Junkie Registered User
    edited November 2009
    Just to clarify, when you say production, you mean, say if I made a website banner, I knew how to code it in there. If I made a T-shirt Design, I knew how to get said design onto a physical T-shirt. If I create a flyer, I know the best way to print it and on what kinda paper and such, etc.

    Would you consider knowing how to use your illustative work like that the production side of it?

    Hotlead Junkie on
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  • DHS OdiumDHS Odium Registered User regular
    edited November 2009
    Select from what you've already made only the best pieces, and put them on a website. Take your drawn illustrations and give them a section, photography too, illustrator work, 3d renderings, photoshop, sort of group things together. Pick only the best, and ask some friends or family for advice choosing them if you have a lot of work. If things were done for projects, go ahead and list them as such and any other relevant details - how it was made, the time required, what it was for.

    Put all your skills and programs you have experience with in your resume. Go ahead and stick a PDF of your resume on the same website, make sure the website looks nice, and if you built it mention as such. There are a wide variety of graphic design jobs, and some of your work may be applicable, some may not. However someone who could potentially hire you might want to see your other work and it could help build a bigger picture of what you can bring to the company.

    As for my path, I did go to university for 4 years and got a Digital Media degree, so in addition to knowing all the standard graphic design apps, I have experience in video and sound production, as well as some coding like HTML, CSS, PHP with MySQL, and JavaScript. Those skills help in how I interact with developers, because I can speak their language. I'm in a company large enough that we have dedicated developers and designers, and each group doesn't have any knowledge of the other (except me) so it makes me a better asset. I suggest you do the same. Be experienced with all Operating Systems, keep up on trends.

    DHS Odium on
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  • JacksWastedLifeJacksWastedLife Registered User regular
    edited November 2009
    Just to clarify, when you say production, you mean, say if I made a website banner, I knew how to code it in there. If I made a T-shirt Design, I knew how to get said design onto a physical T-shirt. If I create a flyer, I know the best way to print it and on what kinda paper and such, etc.

    Would you consider knowing how to use your illustative work like that the production side of it?

    Yes, turning a design mock-up or final into a working website, widget, print document, is production work.

    JacksWastedLife on
  • flatlinegraphicsflatlinegraphics Registered User
    edited November 2009
    yup. production generally means working with a senior designer or artdirector to get a piece out the door. either by doing image searches (pouring through stock sites looking for that perfect picture of a couple outside in an urban setting with a specific amount of coffee cups), cutting product shots (taking photos and knocking out backgrounds so they can be put into a layout), doing prepress (making sure all the colors are sorted, no rbg images, all stock rights purchased, all fonts are collected, final approvals and edits done and correted). getting a set of photoshop files and slicing optimizing for the web (including making any widgets doo dads, borders, titles, etc).

    generally, anything the more senior designers don't have time for (or don't want to do). i've always started my interns on photo clipping and editing/updating already done websites. its grunt work, but needs to be done, and needs to be done right. they generally complain, but they've always learned a lot about design and process.

    and again, go out for design positions, but as a noob, you may be expected to know this stuff or do this stuff. makes you more employable. and yeah, like DHS Odium said, most bigger shops will have people dedicated to certain things (backend programming, etc). being able to talk their language and have at least passing knowledge will help immensely. anything to make you more valuable in this economy will help.

    this thread has probably passed beyond just portfolio advice. but if you want to see mine, or any direct crits on yours, PM me.

    flatlinegraphics on
  • Hotlead JunkieHotlead Junkie Registered User
    edited November 2009
    Thanks, this all helps a lot. I'm very happy to hear about what I should expect if I want a job at any graphic design place and what I'm expected to know and do. I really had no intentions of just going 'I can draw pictures! Hire me!', I'm quite happy to do all the production work too since I did a lot of printing and preparing my peices at college and Uni, it's good to know what other skills I'll need.

    I assume a good display of my skills would, for example, show the illustrations and designs printed out and actually bring in finished products too, like T-Shirts, posters, flyers, etc. Making sure to go out of the way and print/produce them myself instead of just handing my stuff into printing stores and coming back later.

    I'm sure I could go back to my college from a while ago, a local graphics studio (there are a couple in the next town) or my local printing stores and see if I can pay to use and work with some of their equipment to produce my own work. I can't really commit to doing another course right now as im working 5 days a week but I'm sure I'll be able to find some places to work. Maybe even offer to work for free a day a week at one of the graphic design places just to get used to the production machinery.

    Also, I'll make sure to download trials of these various programs you guys have mentioned and try to produce things with them.

    Just let me know if I'm going about this the wrong way or if you think I'm going in the right direction, thanks. Basically, I want to just get into the industry from scratch and make a nice portfolio to show off my skills to boot.

    Hotlead Junkie on
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  • SzechuanosaurusSzechuanosaurus Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited November 2009
    It's worth noting that production is it's own career path. If you see positions for artworkers don't expect that to be a foot in the door to a promotion to designer, it's just as likely the first step on the ladder to a production manager. A lot of people recruiting artworkers will disqualiy candidates who express an interest in becoming a designer because it implies they will split as soon as they can get a job as a designer somewhere and they won't really be fully invested in learning the technical aspects of design production.

    Szechuanosaurus on
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