How To Become A Graphic Designer

Posted October 15, 2012, by Molly Wiltshire-Bridle

With the rise of digital media, we are relentlessly bombarded with visual stimuli: pop-up ads, television commercials, apps, company logos, websites, magazines, album covers … the list is endless.

Very rarely, though, do we stop to consider the rigorous design process that has gone on behind the scenes of every chocolate bar wrapper we tear open, every web page we click through and every business card we swap. Chances are, a stylus-wielding graphic designer has stepped in at some point to impart their creative flair.

If kerning is your calling and stop-motion gets you animated, it might just be time to consider taking the plunge. We explore the multifaceted world of graphic design, as well as how to pursue a career in this dynamic realm of visual communication.

What is graphic design?

In broad terms, graphic design is the creation of design and images through both art and technology to communicate a visual message. It might identify a product or company, or communicate a certain ‘feel’ for a product or website. It might be an attention-grabbing call to action, or organise information in a more user-friendly manner. It might seek to invoke a certain emotion, or just provide pleasing packaging and aesthetics.

Everything from the infamous Coca-Cola logo to your bus route map has been meticulously crafted to achieve maximum impact. Although graphic designers hold a bevy of weapons in their communication artillery, in the end it comes down to image and typography. The former could be drawings, photos, paintings or digitally generated pictures. The latter is about selecting and/or creating the right typeface to match your brand or message. Sometimes designers will use just image, sometimes just text, or both. The skill comes in creating a design that perfectly fits your message and speaks powerfully to your target audience.

The immense volume of visual material produced to support both commercial and cultural ventures means that the scope of potential employment is extremely broad – print and corporate design, publishing and packaging, advertising and marketing, television and digital media. It’s also worth noting that the opportunity to work freelance is becoming a choice option for talented designers, which gives you the freedom to choose your jobs and carve a specific niche in the market.

The path to becoming a graphic designer

Contrary to popular opinion, graphic design involves much more than the ability to put together pretty pictures. It requires attention to technical detail as well as a raft of problem-solving skills, from those that are strictly rational, analytical and objective, to those that are inspired, artistic and subjective. It also requires the ability to follow a brief and meet a deadline – because ultimately, it’s about delivering what clients want, when they want it.

‘Seeing the design process materialise – from concept to finished product – is one of the most rewarding aspects of my job’, says graphic designer, Leo Nguyen.

‘I wanted to pursue a career where I could be creative, but where that same creativity is applicable in the real world, and has the potential to influence people’.

Being gifted with a creative, original eye is essential, but the capacity to turn ideas into something tangible is key. And in a creative sphere where just about anybody can claim to be a ‘designer’, having a formal qualification under your belt is what will really set you apart. In an increasingly competitive industry, employers are looking for that piece of paper that tells them you know your stuff.

Industry recognised qualifications like the Diploma of Graphic Design or Certificate IV in Design offered by Martin College are an excellent starting point.

Not only do they allow you to study your graphic design course online from the convenience of your own home and according to your own schedule, but they can be completed in a relatively short study period (50 weeks of study for the Certificate IV and 60 weeks of study for the Diploma). There are also 10 start dates throughout the year, which is ideal if you need to slot study in and around other things in your life.

What’s even better is that the Diploma of Graphic Design is a VET FEE-HELP course, so Australian citizens are eligible to receive an interest-free study loan. You can get studying now and only start paying once you’ve begun cashing in on your creative capital.

The Diploma of Graphic Design will teach you everything you need to know to become a fully-fledged graphic designer, capable of creating designs for print, online, advertising and television. Whether you’re commissioned to work your magic on web pages, posters, sales material, signs, corporate identity programs, newsletters or consumer packaging, you’ll have your skill set down pat.

Importantly, you’ll be trained in what is considered by many as the most widely used set of graphic designer tools around – the Adobe Creative Suite. This includes Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, Acrobat and Flash. Proficiency in one or more of these is commonly cited as criteria for employment in graphic design, so it’s one of the best things you can do to get ahead.

You’ll also receive extensive support from personal tutors and teachers with substantial design industry experience. Martin College knows that it’s the combination of qualification and experience that will land you a job, so they strive to integrate this experience into the curriculum. Their Starter Program is an exclusive jobs portal which taps into over 250 employers hungry for students and graduates. It’s available to every student to help them kick-start their career after graduation.

‘The design industry can be very competitive’, says Nguyen. ‘My advice to anyone contemplating study would be to take advantage of every opportunity to boost your portfolio or gain hands-on experience. It’s the only thing that will set you apart’.

To find out more about how you can carve yourself a creative career in visual communication, view our full range of design courses.

Molly Wiltshire-Bridle

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