Designer careers

Posted May 31, 2012, by Aziza Green

Designers are the cool kids of the workforce. They keep one eye on the intricate details of their creations, while looking out for the next big thing. They strive for excellence and constantly look for ways to stand out from the crowd. If you yearn for creative expression and know how to combine your creativity with precision and technical skill, then a career in design may be perfect for you.

If you’re serious about a career in design you need to understand that being a designer involves a lot of hard work. Competition for the top design jobs is fierce, which means that you need much more than competence to get to the top. The most acclaimed designers demonstrate absolute dedication to their craft, they are ambitious and willing to take risks, and tremendously skilled and knowledgeable.

There are almost endless opportunities in design – you just have to pick your medium. Here are a few design areas that could satisfy your craving for creativity.

Fashion design

The fashion industry is shrouded in glamour, celebrity and prestige. But while models and celebrities may be the face of fashion, they would be nothing without the designers who clothe and ‘brand’ them.

Your dream may be to work for one of the luxury brands or start your own label, but be prepared to work hard and start from the bottom. There’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears behind the flawless facades and effortless chic.

You will need to develop strong drawing skills and other relevant skills such as pattern-making, cutting and sewing. Keep honing your skills and focus on getting your foot in the door with work experience and entry-level positions.

Fashion can be one of the hardest and most competitive industries to get into. You will have to work hard and demonstrate significant talent and taste in order to land even an entry-level opportunity. Contacts also make a huge difference, so get out there and start networking! Immerse yourself in fashion and volunteer at industry events such as Australian Fashion Week.

To make it in fashion, you’ll need exposure. The more exposure your work gets and the more contacts you make, the greater your chances of getting noticed amongst the thousands of other fashionistas vying for that dream gig. Go online and start a blog to showcase your work, or sell your clothes at online marketplaces. You can also set up a stall at the local markets – many well-known designers started out this way.

While you study your fashion course, get a job in fashion retail to get a feel for the business. You can use this experience to understand what customers want and what looks good on different body shapes. Take the time to understand the full gamut of the fashion business, from production to consumers, and you’ll increase your chances of success.

Interior design

The popularity of reality TV shows focused on renovations and home design highlights the growing public interest in interior design. Interior designers are dynamic, creative professionals who create beautiful and functional spaces within businesses, homes and other building interiors.

Interior design professionals work with all components of a space, from the lighting to the paint on the walls, from the choice of furniture to the fittings and fixtures. For this reason interior designers are required to possess a strong understanding of building construction and the technical and functional features of a building.

You could find yourself working for an architecture or design agency, designing interiors for homeowners or businesses. You could work with the real estate industry, helping property sellers to best display their homes for viewings by potential buyers or designing spaces for show homes in new development areas. Or you could help to design hotel and restaurant interiors, creating inviting spaces for patrons and diners.

Graphic design

Graphic design is an excellent profession for artists with visual flair combined with technical skill. Graphic designers are employed to create images for advertising or branding agencies, website development companies and publishers, and can be found working on anything from logos for businesses to product catalogues, or designing whole websites.

Christina Siu is a freelance graphic designer who loves the creative aspect of her work. ‘I enjoy the creative side of things, as well as doing something that is commercially viable. I also enjoy the variety as it covers everything from web design, publishing and packaging design to fabric print design’, says Siu.

Many graphic designers choose to work as freelancers, working on different projects and with different clients, and enjoying great variety in their work. And in this digital age, you don’t even have to live on the same continent as your clients – you could be doing design work for clients anywhere in the world.

Siu enjoys the flexibility of freelance work: ‘Once I had gained some work experience and my network grew, I decided to try freelancing as the flexibility and freedom to work my own hours appealed to me’. The key to being a successful freelancer, according to Siu, is word of mouth.

For those who prefer a more stable gig, in-house graphic designers are also needed in businesses of every description – from boutique media and advertising agencies to banks, law firms, publishers, other large corporations and website development companies.

How to get your design career started

Getting started in a design career is the hardest part. At the beginning, be prepared to start at the bottom and work your way up. Start with an entry-level or part-time job, do work experience, volunteer your services to family and friends to get experience and build your portfolio, and find a mentor or other industry professional who can give you valuable advice. Do whatever you can to keep developing your skills and experience.

Show a little initiative by creating a website or blog to display your work, and get some professional, beautifully designed business cards. Most importantly, network – sign up to relevant organisation newsletters and attend industry events where you can both learn and make valuable contacts.

Get trained

As with anything, you will need the right training and qualifications to act as a foundation on which to build your career. That means taking a course in the design field of your choice. A design course will give you the technical skills that, combined with your vision and creative ideas, will see you forge ahead of your competitors.

Build a portfolio

In the design industry, it all comes down to your professional portfolio. You need to start developing this while you’re studying, and keep adding to it with every experience until you’ve built up an impressive body of work.

This is where your studies in interior design, fashion design or graphic design can give you a clear advantage when you start looking for work. You can use your projects and placements to demonstrate what you can do, and use this as the basis for your portfolio.

This is exactly how Christina Siu started out. ‘We had to work in a design studio for a semester in the final year of study so that’s when I started building up my portfolio. In addition, I had started to work for friends and family in that final year, so I put some of those pieces into the portfolio as well’. The rest, as they say, is history!

Browse our range of design courses to find the right course for you.

Aziza Green

Academy Xi
ACBI (Australian College of Business Intelligence)
AIBI Higher Education
AIM Business School
ALC Training
Australasian College of Health and Wellness
Australian College of Physical Education
Australian Institute of Business
Australian Institute of Management Education and Training
Australian Institute of Personal Trainers
Billy Blue College of Design
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College for Adult Learning
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Ella Bache College
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GROW Training Group
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Outsource Institute
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UTS Online
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Torrens University Australia
Torrens University Australia
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Southern Cross University