What to Expect in Your First Year as a Graphic Designer
In college, graphic designers learn how to manipulate color, form, type, and layout to create meaningful designs. On the job, designers take those skills and use them to get their client's message across via print or electronic media. This could take the shape of consumer packaging, logos and signage, a website page, or an entire newspaper section. While college assignments prepare designers for this type of work, there is more to learn about being a graphic designer that only job experience can teach.
Graphic designers can be found working for the largest of corporations, or they may work for themselves as a part-time freelancer. As many as a quarter of all designers own their own business as freelancers. Working conditions will depend on the very nature of the job they are assigned to and the business environment in which they work.
A designer who sells advertising to major clients may have a nice, comfortable office, while a layout artist with the local newspaper may work in a noisy and dusty print room. Hours can range from regular 9-5 weekday schedules, while some may work through late-night meetings and toward unscheduled weekend deadlines. Graphic designers who work for larger firms will most likely have every tool they need at their disposal, while freelancers may have to work with limited supplies and computer programs.
Some designers may encounter issues with their creativity, as it is now being paid for instead of merely graded. Their work is now on public display, up for critique, and eventual sale. Despite these challenges, graphic designers can use their first year on the job as a rich learning experience. Many actually use this time to determine what design specialty they would like to focus on for the balance of their career. Most artists need to work with different media in a professional environment before knowing what excites them most.
Learning on the Job
Most jobs are an extension of education for the first year. It takes time to learn how a company operates, how they prefer things done, and how to use the proper tools to get the job done. Most designers have to work up to a position of creating from a position of observing. Designers new to the field spend much of their first year watching and shadowing other designers. They learn new computer programs, network with coworkers and clients, and perform administrative tasks that acquaint them with the office around them. Through the process of shadowing, or following and observing, new designers learn what is expected of them.
For all this experience, graphic designers can start out earning anywhere an estimated $30,000 to $40,000 per year. This will depend on whether one works for a major advertising firm, a bi-monthly magazine, the local newspaper, or a web design startup. Graphic designers may be paid well during their first year, though self-employed designers might have to work harder and longer for the same return. Typically, on the job training takes one to three years, at which time new designers might be considered for advancement. Your talent, ability, knowledge of specialized computer programs, and ability to communicate with clients all make a difference. Prove yourself during your first year as a graphic designer and soon you may be handed more responsibility.
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