Life of a Graphic Designer…

Hello, this is an overview of my 20+ years’ experience that I would like to share with you. In regards to how hard it is to get a job as a Graphic Designer I wouldn’t know, compared to other careers as this is all I have done since leaving Batley School of Art & Design with an HND in Graphic Design & Communications. I worked hard at college and then persisted on getting on the career ladder in what I studied for. It took a few months from college until I got my first job.

When I left college, I thought I would do a lot of amazing things like run my own Design Agency. I started work life at a printing company as a ‘Mac Operator’ nowadays labelled ‘Artworker’ I learnt a lot in my first job at Leach Colour Group it felt like being at school still and I enjoyed it very much. Starting out in a print company taught me how to technically set up design projects for print properly throughout my career. I had access to digital and litho print and the machinery was amazing to see in action and learn about. 

Now, all these years later I have spent half my career in boutique Design Agencies and half In-House within Marketing Teams. Both have their pro’s and con’s this is my view on it: 

Working as a Freelancer as its pro’s and con’s. Whilst it can be challenging gaining clients it is also rewarding. You have more control and freedom of creativity and you get to work on varied projects. It’s also handy to do work when it’s convenient to you. Keeping up with a persistent level of quality of output can be challenging when you’re up against deadlines and especially when you’re working in isolation. The downside is you can be spending a lot of time on administration, sorting out invoices, chasing emails and of course the dreaded tax. There has been few occasions when freelance as really meant ‘FREE’ work but when that happens there has to be an alternative incentive. Depending on the size of the project I would always recommend a 20% deposit before proceeding on any work.

Design and Advertising Agency Overview

Design Agency Overview
My first agency role was also like being at school. I learnt lots and loved it. The Studio Manager (Matt) taught me to look at my work in a much more structured and grid like way. Making sure everything was aligned to the exact millimetre, Matt certainly made me take more care and pride in my work. Working with other Designers in a studio made me a little more competitive, I wanted to be as good, if not better than my counterparts. Like most we all had our own strengths and therefore made a good team. Moving from one design agency to another taught me different skills and perspectives and I do believe I improved technically and creatively. Working agency side is fast paced when meeting deadlines and can be challenging. Working with other Graphic Designers helps too, by learning from one another and bouncing ideas and fresh views. Meeting various clients and learning about different industries makes the job of a graphic designer both interesting and exciting.

Advertising Agency Overview
I’ve only worked in 1 advertising agency, I can certainly say that this was quite different experience to working in a design agencies. I found that because I was creating more adverts and having to think of themes and headlines regularly, I became more creative, doing this often is better than once in a while. My thinking and the way I did things changed slightly. We were a team of 4, we would obtain the brief from our Account Manager and pull out key points, mind map ideas and then get together and brainstorm. Then came the execution, maybe 1 or 2 of us would have a go at doing the advert for the client to choose from. Doing more mind mapping and brainstorming than I had ever done strengthened creativity. You can spend has much time thinking of a great headline and strap line or pay off line, as you can actually executing the artwork for the advert.

Working in-house for 2 printing and 2 manufacturing companies have all presented various learning opportunities, all being very different cultures and sizes. Whilst working in-house gives you more insight and therefore some better choices in the products to market there are some constraints. For example, working in an agency you can do something for one client that works very well and learn from that and try help another with similar solutions. In-house you are entirely focused on the organisations way of doing things and sometimes that doesn’t open up new ideas. Depending on the size of the Marketing Department, workflows are varied. Having worked in 2 manufacturing firms their markets are so very different, they have completely different methods. Even though I’m only working for only 1 client, my employer, myself and I’m sure other designers worry about having too much similar work displayed in a portfolio. Luckily I work somewhere, where the branding is quite different dependent on which part of the business I am designing for. The company as thousands of products so my portfolio can stay varied and fresh. Doing a little freelance outside of office hours to keep creative juices flowing also helps.

Final Thoughts…

Graphic design is about finding the best way to bring ideas to life and seeing results for businesses to flourish. There’s a lot to be said for mixing strategy and having fun colouring in for a living. Be creative and enjoy…

Problem solving through visual thinking!

To learn more about me see my About page

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