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Landing a job in graphic design

James Davis

Careers Commentator
Graphic design is a highly competitive field, but there are some great ways to improve your qualifications and skills to maximise your chances.

Graphic design allows you to bring the visions of your clients to life. Whether your clients are in the world of marketing, art or other, having these skills can be a versatile way of utilising a creative eye. However, if you’ve ever tried getting work in the field, you’ll know it’s an incredibly competitive discipline. Everyone with access to the internet need only use a free website creation platform and social media pages to join the ever-crowded industry. In this article, we’ll talk about a few simple ways of boosting your profile and pursuing a freelance career or employment at a design firm.

Undergoing postgraduate study

Seeing as we’re PostgradAustralia, it makes sense we’d advocate for postgraduate study! However there’s a reason why we came to be. We really believe in it; for a profession with high competition like graphic design, it can do wonders for your employability in a number of ways. For starters, it can grow your technical skill set. The finer points of design and software like Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop can be explored and focussed on. Units dedicated to essential professional skills taught by industry veterans or seasoned academics work hand in hand. Some exemplary courses include:

  • The Master of Design from Griffith University. This one’s got a variety of options depending on your level of prior experience. If you’ve got an undergraduate degree in the field coupled with some work experience, you’ll be able to do these in as soon as one year. It has units in optimising user experience, storytelling, web technologies and more, making it particularly good for those wanting to get into interface design or compliment a technical qualification like computer science or software engineering. If you’ve not got much in the way of prior qualifications though, no sweat. You can still do this one; it’ll just take you longer (about two years full time or four years part). If you’re fairly confident in your design skills but want a good look at the more technical and professional sides of the business, this is likely the sort of qualification you’re after.
  • The Master of Applied Design and Art from Curtin University. This one’s a broad qualification, but it’s no less valuable in augmenting your professional skills. You’re likely to find plenty of units in the theory of artistic styles and how they can be applied. If you’re not as confident with your artistic and design abilities, you might greatly appreciate courses like these because they help you to think critically about your design work and improve it. These will take you roughly two years to complete if studied full time, or four years part.
  • The Graduate Diploma in Design from UNSW. It’s possible to take all kinds of graduate diplomas or certificates in graphic design, which are short programs (six months to a year full time). This one will take you a year, providing some fundamental communication skills, design insights and processes, critical approaches to design and more. This program’s ideal if you’re looking to break into the industry, as it accepts applicants from any discipline provided they have at least a bachelor’s degree. It’s perfect if you’re strapped for time.

As you can see, postgrad’s a wide-open field for veterans and novices alike. We haven’t even gotten into the research options! If you want to further your career or develop one from scratch, it’s hard to go wrong with the knowledge and theoretical approaches you’ll learn throughout the course of your program, regardless of what that program might be.

Build your portfolio with volunteer work

Nothing shows an employer what you can do quite like… well, examples of what you can do! If you’re stuck in the timeless, paradoxical situation wherein you require work experience to get work experience, fear not. There are countless small businesses and communities that can use an aspiring graphic designer for their websites, promotional materials, user interfaces and more. Go to your local church and ask if they need any work done. Maybe that nearby community centre’s got a website stuck in the mid 90s with a logo that’d confuse Salvador Dali. There’s nothing stopping you from offering your services for free and subsequently putting that up on a cheap Wordpress site or snag a $10 pa domain. People might not be flooding into this site organically for quite some time, but the point is you’ve now got something to link employers to. If you can make the site itself look impressive too, that’ll help you a great deal to get hired. Coupled with the postgraduate education, you shouldn’t have any trouble making this happen.

Hopefully these tips have given you some simple insights into what you can do to get employed or start your own freelance graphic design business. We’ve deliberately left plenty out and furthermore understand how hard it is. This article simply serves as a starting point. Getting into a postgraduate program, even if it’s a low-requirement graduate certificate, combined with a cheap website to call your own with which to put up volunteer projects and coursework, you’ll be well on your way. No matter where you may take your future career however, we wish you luck!