Going to school for Graphic Design vs Illustrator?

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    Going to school for Graphic Design vs Illustrator?

    I'm was thinking of trying to College for Creative Studies, for their Illustrator program, but now I'm looking at just going to Wayne State University and taking Graphic Design.

    What's the big difference? I thought Graphic Design was mostly doing layouts, and Illustrators were more artsy. I've already been to CCS and talked to a counselor, but I haven't look any of the art stuff at Wayne State.

    I just want to know in general, what's the difference between the two jobs. I like drawing anyway, but I just want to go back to school and get started on a career, so the main focus my choice is which one is more viable and pays more.

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    Your initial impression is basically correct. GD involves far less drawing.

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    depends what you want to do, graphic design is not a viable career for me because I hate doing menu layouts. Drawing Spaceships and monsters is way more fun. Both careers take dedication and a ton of effort and lots of time to learn the skills, heh and then your illustration clients bug you for logos and you do graphic design anyway. If you do illustration and take a few graphic design courses, you can double team em.

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    If you are getting into Illustration or Graphic Design just for the money you are doing it wrong, you need to love these careers in order to be able to become better and better

    If just do the job for the money, I guess you are not the kind of people who after work still willing to read related books or magazines, even blogs or forums, and work on your own stuff just because you want

    That said, I think inside the creative industry the highest salaries are inside Web design (good luck going for that if you don't enjoy coding too, you'll end trying to kill yourself with a tea spoon)

    Anyway, the differences between Illustration and Graphic Design... well I think If you become an Illustrator it would be nice to know a little about graphic design, so if for example, you do a poster you don't messy it with the worst type ever. And certainly if you become a Graphic Designer it doesn't hurt to draw (even if you don't do posters your clients will want the idea sketch).

    A lot of the subjects in these two careers are somehow related, the mainly and most important difference is What do you want to do?, I mean do you enjoy making logos, magazine layouts, creating new typefaces? (That’s mainly pure design), or in the other hand you would like to work for comic, books, as a concept artist,... (Then Illustration should be more your thing)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Johnny Kane View Post
    I like drawing anyway, but I just want to go back to school and get started on a career, so the main focus my choice is which one is more viable and pays more.
    It's much easier to make a living as a designer than as an illustrator, so if that's your main consideration, do that. There's not much drawing involved in most design jobs these days, though.


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    i heard that Graphic Design was horribly overcrowded.. actually read it on a few college related sites, you should defiantly do more research on both of those because if wait until after you spend thousands of dollars on learning the trade then you find out its a bad market.. well, thats too bad.

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    In graphics design you will learn basic drawing, and extensively work around graphic design.
    In illustration you will be drawing allot, and get a basis in graphic design.

    I love both really...
    What I'm typing here is MY experience at MY school...
    Graphics design courses are less subjective, and the teachings often make more sense, plus they haven't been "dumbed down" by modernism etc so much.
    I think it would be much easier finding a design job like Elwell said.

    Illustration is a really subjective thing I found out, different teachers might say completely different things about your work. Keep in mind that it's YOUR work, not theirs. Make sure to explain YOUR point of views to them aswell, communication is critical here. You'll also be getting "faulty" color theory, only really basic perspective, virtually no composition knowledge, no anatomy, no business-side things...

    Despite all of this, I really love illustration and would pick it over graphic design any day, even tough I really like graphic design. They're two completely different worlds even tough they share allot in common.

    Again, just my school.
    When I look at student work from schools in the US I'm often amazed at all the practical theory they seem to get. I get the feeling here everything is much more theoretical and conceptual.

    Just "follow your heart" and work at it everyday I'dd say

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    @ Krato- GD is horribly overcrowded with people who are mediocre. If you're good and don't give up, you can find work. Same for illustration.


    Statistically, most art students don't do art for a living after they graduate. It's possible to be part of the smaller percentage that does. Talk to people who are doing what you want and find out how they got where they are, schools are only interested in your tuition a lot of the time It's possible to do either of those careers without a degree. For instance, taking a year off of work and buying all of the CA downloads and practicing your ass off would be cheaper than a year of tuition at some schools.

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    Well, I have a degree in digital media illustration.

    I think of design + fine arts mixed together = illustration.

    That said, I actually have a day job doing graphic/web design.

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    during my graphic design education we drew maybe 10% of the time.

    //

    graphic design helps drawing (composition, colors, etc.) and drawing
    helps graphic design. so it basically depends on what do you want to
    do most of the time.

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    Unless you like eating paint, I'd suggest being graphic designer, lol - cerulean tastes like blueberries!


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    Quote Originally Posted by PieterV View Post
    anatomy, no business-side things...
    Just going to say that this is very dependant on the school, so I wouldn't want the OP to think that all schools are like this. At mine we are taught everything there is to know about the illustration business, from writing/editing/reading contracts to how/where/when to market ourselves. Also we get a lot of anatomy.

    Graphic design is a lot of design, as the name implies. You might USE illustrations in the designs, but chances are if you're a full-time graphic designer and happen to be able to illustrate you'll be too busy with all the GD stuff to do the illustration that'll be in one of them.

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    Thanks for the help everyone. I'm still not sure, but I think I want to go with graphic design, because I want a desk job, and to just do personal stuff on the side.

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    I studied graphic design and can't regret enough the decision. (there wasn't no illustration major at my college, so I was doomed eitherway). I mean, there are types of graphic design which are way too cool and creative, but most of it is just corporate BS. Personally, I should've gone with pure art. I suggest if you really want to do illustration, then go for it, don't half-ass/maim your future by going GD. Most GD jobs are boring and way too repetitive (Copy, paste, retouch photos, etc), and your possible bosses (creative directors, art directors, marketing guys at ad agencies or big companies) will value your creative input as much as Jason Manley values people torrenting CA.org vids, so take note of that.

    Choose WISELY man.

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    I wouldn't look at GD in such a negative light.

    GD is NOT mostly corporate BS. If you get into corporate identity--then yes that's what you'll be dealing with.

    Successful GD's know how to develop and use multiple different styles of illustration in their work. At my school, illustration is under graphic design and while you will not be taking atelier styled fine arts classes (though we all must take basic foundations and are allowed to supplement whatever studios we want, such as : figure drawing, etcetc), you are expected to explore different principles of art (balance, contrast, line quality, composition...etc) and use them to develop multiple styles.


    GD is used in many different mediums: print work, interactive work, film, corporate identity, invention (think creative packaging design, sometimes even toy design), layouts, illustration, and typography just to name a few.






    "Most GD jobs are boring and way too repetitive (Copy, paste, retouch photos, etc), and your possible bosses (creative directors, art directors, marketing guys at ad agencies or big companies) will value your creative input as much as Jason Manley values people torrenting CA.org vids, so take note of that."


    this couldn't be more incorrect and narrow minded.

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  19. #17
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    Only the most creative graphic designers and people who really love it are going to get the FUN GD jobs. People who just go into it to get a 'good career' are going to end up with the crappy corporate BS. And that's the same with any industry.

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  21. #18
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    I once was in the very same situation, looking at what I wanted to do and deciding between studying Illustration or Graphic Design. In fact, it's a pretty wierd thing to wonder, because they are very, very different. In essence, a graphic designer is a jack-of-all-trades and the illustrator is the master-of-one.

    While an illustrator visualizes, a graphic designer organizes.

    As an illustrator you're most often able to specialize, in fact, a signature style is the best way to be a successful illustrator. As a graphic designer, while you should know your way around a pencil, it is not your main focus. As a freelance graphic designer you need to have a toolbox with a bit of everything. The more diverse you are, the more work are you able to get and the more you know, the better equipped you are to provide the client with the best possible result for what he wants done. To be able to cope with the variety of briefs you'll be given, you need a solid, working knowledge of things such as typography and typesetting, web and digital media (design, coding, flash, scripts, publication, social media), print (digital, off-set lithography, screen-printing), copywriting, video editing, animation (digital and traditional), photography, legal (for example when designing information for public spaces, on packaging for food etc.), sustainability, technology etc.. Then you need to be able to create the information, by way of text, photo, video etc., and organize it in a way that maximizes the benefit for you client.

    With that range of expression, obviously anyone who puts their mind to it can have a blast doing graphic design, I know I have. However, if your main goal is to become a better artist, then you should definitely study illustration. While I got interested in graphic design because I love to draw, for my first two years of graphic design studies, I used my own (traditional) illustrations once. While it was fun, that was the only time the brief fit with my illustrative style, and as a designer, you have to let your own passions take a back seat to what your client is looking for. Otherwise, he'll choose someone else and there goes your pay-check. =)

    EDIT: BTW, the big joy I find in Graphic Design work is the possibility to work with other people of various fields. Most design-work is team-based, people with different skills working to solve problems and create a final result way beyond what the individual people could create. I've worked with everything from pharmaceutical companies to security guards and major archive-institutions, and if you have the right mindset, it's the most seemingly dull jobs that end up being the most pleasant surprises.

    And it really depends on your school, for the first two years I studied at a place where every other project we did was for clients and often working along with students from photography, illustration, animation and advertising. So even when still in school we developed a lot of experience working in teams across fields and with demanding clients. =)

    Last edited by kab; October 31st, 2009 at 09:20 PM.
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    I'll add more since I asked this question in the first place...

    I'll probably always be drawing. But what I'm trying to decide now, is what to study in order to start a career and always get a steady paycheck.

    People always say do what you love to do, and I do love art. But there comes a time when you have to look at the rest of your life and find out what you want to do so you can make a living.

    It's not like I just said "Hmm. Yeah art, that sounds like an easy profession. I should go study that." I've been drawing since I was little, stopped, and started up again, drawing every day, taking it more serious and looking at anatomy books. I've noticed a definite improvement in my artwork.

    I got into art because of comic books, but I don't care if I'm drawing people or exciting stuff every day. I'm just not worried about whether or not I'll be challenged or drawing things that I'm interested in every day that I go to work. I've worked jobs where I'm bored until I'm just about crazy, and done them fine. I'm just trying to see what would be the best for the lifestyle I want(nice neighborhood, car in the driveway, buy any food that I want, air conditioning, etc)

    I'll probably just end up talking to a counselor at CCS. Thanks to every body tho.

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    I always seem to come in late to these discussions but maybe I can add something. I have done both illustration and graphic design professionally, and I have taught both at university level. When I graduated I worked as a graphic designer because I was good at it and there were jobs. I knew that it would take years to develop my illustration skills to a level where I could make a living. I was lucky enough to be able to do some illustration in conjunction with my design and art director jobs. The greater percentage of graduating students will have to do something as they build their skills and client list I chose graphic design because I liked it. I still do, but my passion lies with illustration and painting. I advise a lot of my students to not do graphic design while they work on illustration after school because they have no love for it. It is very difficult to work at a creatively charged job and then come home at night and be creatively charged. As you start and go through school you will get a sense of who you are and whether TYPE and layout, notice I emphasized type, can feed you and whether you will ever have what it takes to be an illustrator professionally. One more thing. Graphic design can be a terribly exciting and creative field. Ask guys like Milton Glaser, Seymour Chwast, Paula Scher, and Chip Kidd if it's just boring corporate stuff.

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    Don't do graphic design if you prefer drawing.

    If you are really, really good, there's a potential that you get to do really cool things. I have classmates who are doing ad installations in major arenas, make marketing material for hip, large companies, or do web design for major social websites. If you are mediocre, you'll be doing layouts for stuff that the majority of the people take 2 seconds to glance at. Either way, you will not get to draw much - stick figures will suffice for most of your design needs, especially if you work for an actual company that will hire illustrators separately. Many of my more illustration-inclined classmates had more trouble finding jobs, and strangely tend to enjoy the graphic design aspects less than others.

    People are also right about the passion thing. It might seem smart to go the realistic, practical, financially stable way, but if you work in the art fields without the passion you'll be constantly reminded of it by people who have it. You'll see other people enjoying their work and you'll be wondering why you are there. You'll advance slower because you'll be competing with crazy people who live and breath their craft. If you really just want something that makes money, go business or something... you'll be making more money and having more stable jobs, and may even get to retire early to pursue your actual interests.

    I used to be in the same boat as you, and I tried to be smart and practical and all that, but I wasn't happy. I have to say that there are merits in people saying you've got to try and take risks when you are young - I eventually did and I'm a much happier person. I wish I could have gone back in time and take that risk earlier.

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    Graphic design is extremely relevant to illustration. Unfortunately it doesn't necessarily work the other way around (anymore). I was into graphic design until I found out the trade typically frowns upon creativity. I'm just being real.

    I'd recommend you go to a school that teaches both, if you you love doing both. Unless you'd be happy with a boring job. Personally I'd rather be a bar tender, than produce heartless graphic design.

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    I think all the graphic designers I know are "ex-graphic designers" - they hated it and got out. Where as all the illustrators I know are very poor and still trying to find jobs of any kind.

    But that's just a tiny unscientific sampling. Go with whatever the most best thing for you is - it won't be perfect, but if you can make something good of it and enjoy it, it'll be worth it.

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    I guess I'm not understanding all of the graphic design hate. It may not be for everyone but to say it "frowns upon creativity". You just haven't been looking at the right work or talking to the right designers. Look at some of the people I listed above. Check out Hatch Show Print, concert posters now and earlier in the century, Communication Arts Magazine, Graphis Magazine, etc.. Raoul Duke, you have some interesting type treatments on your own blog. That falls under the graphic design umbrella. I would say that any discipline, including illustration, will have its boring niches according to taste, but to say that graphic design frowns upon creativity is erroneous. I didn't love doing it, that's why I don't do it to any extent anymore, but I sure love looking at and experiencing good graphic design just as I love looking at any good visual art. Sorry for the diatribe but good graphic design has been at the center of cultural development from ancient Egyptian times through illuminated manuscripts and continues still.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bcarman View Post
    I guess I'm not understanding all of the graphic design hate. It may not be for everyone but to say it "frowns upon creativity". You just haven't been looking at the right work or talking to the right designers. Look at some of the people I listed above. Check out Hatch Show Print, concert posters now and earlier in the century, Communication Arts Magazine, Graphis Magazine, etc.. Raoul Duke, you have some interesting type treatments on your own blog. That falls under the graphic design umbrella. I would say that any discipline, including illustration, will have its boring niches according to taste, but to say that graphic design frowns upon creativity is erroneous. I didn't love doing it, that's why I don't do it to any extent anymore, but I sure love looking at and experiencing good graphic design just as I love looking at any good visual art. Sorry for the diatribe but good graphic design has been at the center of cultural development from ancient Egyptian times through illuminated manuscripts and continues still.
    Don't get me wrong graphic design is a beautiful medium. I'm just saying that the stuff you see in communication art magazine is a very small and extremely competitive niche of the graphic design world. I'm talking about my experiences. The only paying gigs I've had were nothing I'd brag about. Some clients think professional looking means average or mediocre. The pay can be terrible and some clients flake out. But maybe it's because I searched for on craigslist.

    If you land a job as an illustrator, you'll probably do what you love, if you land a job as a graphic designer you may not get what you want.

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    I understand what you're saying. But one of my early illustration jobs was doing stationery supply drawings for catalogs. Oh I got to do an occasional person sitting at a desk but I think I would rather have been doing something else. We have to pay our dues with anything we do unless we're an uber talent. The stuff you see in CA magazine is a small and competitive niche but so is Spectrum. I've experienced clients in the graphic design world who think professional means average or mediocre but I've experienced them in the illustration world too. So I understand your experience but you may not get what you want as an illustrator either. Yeah I guess Craigs list is probably not the high end of the graphic design job world. I guess the thing is to find a way to pay the bills and work until your passion pulls you in a direction.

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    If you choose the Graphic Design route, take Illustration classes.

    If you choose the Illustration route, take Design classes.

    The two fields are not mutually exclusive, and knowledge from one will help you grow as artist in the other.

    Designers have to work with Illustrators, and vise versa, and having knowledge of how that other side works is important. (Also networking with artists in these other fields helps too)

    You should be aware of art/design trends in all markets, not just video-game concept art (for example). You should browse thru design mags (just take 2 steps to the left after you check out ImagineFX) Knowing what design trends are becoming established in NY, or Europe, or Japan, or Anywhere, will help you illustrate whatever idea your client may want from you. Those designers will inspire too. Don't limit yourself.

    Here's my own personal experience: I went to school for illustration. We took foundation level courses in Design, but I never really clicked with and stayed focus on Illo. The knowledge of computer layout programs helped, though, because 3 weeks after graduating college, I landed a job as a graphic designer at a newspaper. While there, I applied my illustration knowledge to design...and learned a lot about layout, composition, ballance, typography and COLOR.

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    On the point of networking, any "creative professional" should do his best to build a strong network of people from all areas of the creative industry.

    Referrals are a great way of getting work, and if you get a client approaching you for something that is a bit out of your normal area of expertise, call someone up and cooperate on the job, it's fun, challenging and you'll get paid, a lot better than saying "sorry, but I think you need someone else" =)

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    I am currently in the same situation really. I have heard that Graphic Design is a lot more open while illustration is more specialist. I think that I am stronger at drawing and even if my degree is in Illustration an employer is going to look through my portfolio before they hirer me. Right?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Raoul Duke View Post
    Graphic design is extremely relevant to illustration. Unfortunately it doesn't necessarily work the other way around (anymore). I was into graphic design until I found out the trade typically frowns upon creativity. I'm just being real.

    I'd recommend you go to a school that teaches both, if you you love doing both. Unless you'd be happy with a boring job. Personally I'd rather be a bar tender, than produce heartless graphic design.
    I've done both, I'll take producing 'heartless' graphic design any day of the week. I dont have to watch likeable old guys piss their life away, I dont have to listen to slurred stories about absolutely nothing, I dont have to confront over intoxicated assholes and I dont have some prick accusing me of thievery whenever the register is a few bucks out.

    I dont agree that the trade frowns upon creativity, it really does depend on the need for creativity, the client and the specific project. I've used my own drawings in designs, I've created my own vectors, collages, webgraphics and animations, and conversely I've employed the work of others within my designs. I find the work a thousand times more enjoyable than some of the other careers I've pursued (welding for instance) and one of the few jobs that doesnt suck my creative energy away and leave me physically or mentally exhausted at the end of the day.

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