John Chivers – Graphic Designer
Posted March 21, 2018, by Jenny Sakr
What is your current role and what does it involve?
I am a graphic designer. I am responsible for creating graphics primarily for published and printed material and advertising, as well as digital assets for the web and web design. I use a combination of tools including Photoshop, Illustrator and Indesign and many others to create brand identities, logotypes, annual reports, magazines, posters, flyers, web banners and much more.
What did you study to get into graphic design?
I studied an Advanced Diploma of Graphic Design at college. This is where I learnt all the tools I use today including Adobe Creative Suite as well as design theory.
What did you want to be when you were younger?
I was always drawing, so I always wanted to do something creative. I thought maybe an architect at first but once I heard about graphic design in Grade 8 and I was pretty much settled on it!
What was your first job and what do you think it taught you?
I worked in a hardware store whilst studying design. It taught me a strong work ethic and if you’re not 10 minutes early, you’re late! I had a tough but fair boss that showed me the ropes.
I quickly learnt to build up my customer service skills. I knew nothing about hardware so I’d have to give customers a roundabout answer whilst waiting to ask someone with more experience.
What’s the most interesting thing that’s happened to you in your career?
I travelled to Hong Kong to proof a 500-page catalogue. We crossed the border into China and went to the printing warehouse. Aside from getting a free trip to China, it was really interesting to visit the printing factory, seeing the huge facility they operate and to be immersed in a different culture.
Name a career highlight
I’d have to say every time I nail a brief and the client is happy with the design outcome. It’s a really rewarding feeling and it never gets old - it’s like the first time you land a kickflip on a skateboard.
Name a career low
When I was doing everything but graphic design, even though I made my mind up young to be a graphic designer I had to overcome a lot of self-doubts and low self-confidence.
I worked in a lot of different jobs including concreting, landscaping, set construction, and labouring, which all, of course, did nothing for my career goals. However, I learnt about having a strong work ethic and there’s a lot I can take from them. But the day I was crawling through a swamp in waders up to my neck on a 40-degree day, dragging a line behind me to poison noxious weeds, well that was probably my least favourite.
Name something you still don't know
So much - and that’s a good thing! I’m moving toward digital design and more web development UX (User Experience) and UI (User Interface). Not knowing is an opportunity to grow and learn.
What's the most important career tip someone has given you?
You can be whatever you want to be. You don’t just wake up one day successful, it’s all the little actions you take along the way, moment by moment, that add up to success. Fail and fail often, that way you learn and grow.
What inspires you as a designer?
If I find designers and business people I look up to and surround myself with them I find I will always be inspired.
What qualities and skills should people have if they want to be a graphic designer?
- Attention to detail. If you’re not born with this OCD skill you can learn it. There are systems you can put in place so you don’t miss things… Try and do learn this early on.
- Get to know printing principles and how to set up files for all kinds of print media. Whether it be packaging, catalogues, car sides and everything in between there is lots of technical information you’ll need to learn.
- If you’re born with creative flair that’s a plus, but everyone is creative in some way, this is something that develops over a lifetime, so have a go.
- Be an ‘all-rounder’. Learn how to write a good headline and some copy, gain an understanding of digital design, try to gage how marketers think and how to reach target audiences.
- Photography skills are great to have. Learn some basic lighting principles and the basics about different lenses.
- Typography is important so don’t neglect it. Keep a keen eye for great typography!
What are the steps people have to take to become a graphic designer and what is the standard salary?
These days there are options; you can head to TAFE, sign up with a private college or study at university. Salarys start as low as $40,000 with potential earnings being as large as $100,000+ if you continue to up-skill, gain experience and are willing to continually learn and grow.
There are lots of avenues in design, for example, digital, web, user experience, product design, print, packaging and branding. There are all types of business’ to work for, from not for profits to the fashion industry and big corporate giants. As a designer you can pretty much provide work for any company or organisation - that’s the real beauty of it.
If it’s possible you can marry design with another interest, say if you’re passionate about sports etc, you could aim for a job with a team like the Sydney Swans. Lots of companies love to hire people who have a keen interest in their business. If you're already interested in something and can blend it with your passion for design I’d say you’re onto something great and will be living the dream!
What's next for you?
I'm more and more interested in pursuing the digital design field. I will be continuing to learn all the time and trying to connect the dots in this area.
Tell us a John fun fact
I'm a twin and so is my wife... so maybe we'll have twins! I play a little guitar and I'm a keen rock climber.
Jenny found her way with words while interning during uni, since, she's produced articles on it all – from hair and beauty to homewares, travel, career advice and study tips. On a weekend you're most likely to find her lining up for a table at the latest cafe or restaurant.