Design graduates need to impress in competitive industry

Design student working with graphics tablet
© Slavenko Vukasovic |

Design graduates take heed: it takes more than great skills to get one of the top jobs in this competitive industry.

‘Basic credentials and skills won’t set graduates apart from the rest of the pack. The industry is looking for true craftsmen who can bring fresh perspective and creativity to an agency,’ says Simon Pemberton, head of CATC Design School.

Students therefore have to do something special to stand out.

‘It’s a tough market for students to get good work at the moment. We are seeing lots of students who are good all-rounders in design multimedia. But it is the graduates who can demonstrate intelligence and great conceptual skills upfront who will have a real advantage in the job market,’ says James De Vries, director of visual communications agency de Luxe.

One person who demonstrated the necessary flair is design graduate Darran Franks. He completed the Advanced Diploma in Graphic Design at CATC and landed a job as creative director at design agency One% after submitting an impressive portfolio.

‘Design is definitely competitive. Basically anyone with half an idea can produce decent work thanks to technology. With this in mind, I think it's really important to develop personal style and attempt to stimulate some kind of emotion in everything you create,’ says Franks.

The best way to demonstrate your skills and creativity is by developing an outstanding portfolio. ‘A portfolio is essential to getting the opportunity and then personality gets you over the line,’ advises Franks.

Jon Christensen, co-founder of digital communications agency Mentally Friendly, agrees, and confirms the competitiveness of the industry.

‘It is always exciting to see all of the portfolios that come through when we advertise for a new position. The last junior position we advertised for received over 100 applications for the one role.’

‘The most important thing to remember is there are over 700 designers graduating each year in NSW alone and many are really good designers, but it is all the extra things you have to do to stand out. Being an amazing designer is a given, but being able to communicate this with confidence when speaking about your designs, presenting a standout portfolio and having passion and excitement for design achieves cut-through in this industry,’ says Christensen.

‘For us a designer who stands out understands how to design conceptually, understands a variety of styles, has an eye for detail, and a clear knowledge of the appropriate software suites. However that’s only half of what we look for... Mentally Friendly is a small studio of around 14 people, so it is important to us that any new employees are a good fit for our office culture,’ says Christensen.

So how do you develop the necessary combination of design skills, technical skills and creativity to win a stellar position? For Darran Franks the key was completing the advanced diploma at CATC. 
‘I had taught myself a broad range of design software but got to a point where I needed to be surrounded by like-minded people and be challenged on levels that were simply not available otherwise. CATC allowed me to really hone my skills and focus on developing my own style in a productive fashion.’
Providing an education that develops high-level skills and artistic talent is a high priority at CATC. ‘We help our students to develop portfolios that demonstrate all the necessary skills demanded by the industry and to showcase individuality and creativity,’ says CATC head Simon Pemberton.

CATC Design School offers a variety of design courses by distance education through SEEK Learning. This study mode gives students ultimate flexibility, allowing them to adjust their workload, study times and environment to study when and where they want. With online learning, classes are led by a dedicated online lecturer, study materials are sent to students, assessments are submitted securely online and students can interact and communicate with the lecturer and each other.

To find out more about studying design by distance, browse our range of design courses.

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