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Thread: Going in to Graphic Design. Any ideas on that to expect?

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    Unhappy Going in to Graphic Design. Any ideas on that to expect?

    Hey everyone. This is my first post here, and hopefully not my last. The situation is that I will be entering college once the semester of my senior year ends. I expect of majoring in Graphic Design, and will hopefully go for a scholarship or two at the Art University of Houston. (lolmoney)

    First thing's first, I've been working with Photoshop, and some other Adobe products since my Freshman year, however I was never formally taught anything. The way our classes worked was we were told to work on certain tutorials, then present what we finished at the due date. This doesn't quite seem to be a good introductory way to teach, in my opinion, but it's what I've to expect in college, so best to start somewhere.

    What is to come in college with graphic design classes? What are the basic skills I will need when I enter, and what should I learn beforehand? I don't want to enter a course with my current knowledge, only to discover I'm below what is expected upon entry, and fall behind.

    Also, I'd post some work, but unfortunately anything I can find is from when I first started, so it's... yeah. I haven't had any graphic design classes in high school for a while, so I haven't had many opportunities to practice outside of class.

    Thanks in advance!
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    I started a degree doing Graphic Design in September, and what I have found is that you need little knowledge in anything.

    Basically, it's the ability to solve problems through ideas that is most sought after, with actual technical ability not being expected/needed at the start of the course.

    In the first month, courses for basic photoshop/illustrator/indesign were given, to give everyone a basic knowledge of them so they could begin to develop their skills from there.


    I do not think you should worry too much about being technically good at photoshop, it's more about idea-generation and enthusiasm
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    Alright, thank you for the reply. That really eases my worries quite a bit. Hopefully I'll pick up some skills on these forums that I didn't know before.

    Thanks!
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    I can't tell you too much about a graphic design degree, because I don't have one. That said, I've been a professional graphic designer for about 5 years now. My degree is in marketing, which has really helped me in my job. And I never actually had a formal Photoshop class either. I took classes in Dreamweaver, Illustrator, Flash and Quark, but somehow I missed Photoshop. When I was still going to school my company at the time bought me a copy of Photoshop 6 and I learned a lot by experimenting.

    A few years later when I got my first design job, I learned a TON on the job. Just being around designers who were doing their thing every day did miracles for my design skills. And it'll be the same for you. I learned more in 1 month at my first design job than I did in the year I was at art school. Don't get me wrong, I loved art school, but I loved it for the drawing classes.

    So I guess my post has two points:
    1) You don't NEED a design degree to be a good and respected designer.
    2) A lot of what you learn will most likely be thrown out, or at the very least, will become obsolete after you get to your first job.

    So don't sweat it! Just enjoy school, and study the things that you want to study.
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    I was a bit like you. I was 15 when I entered a proper Graphic Design course (obviously not university, lol at that) and I had been playing around with photoshop since I was 12. That will be a considerably important skill, I think, at least at first (then it's likely that your classmates will catch up to you, but will surely save you a lot of stress in the beginning). Being able to work with an adobe program is going to help you a lot, because the menus and the way their work (illustrator, indesign etc) are very very similar. You'll be able to understand things quickly and explore a lot more that people whose first contact with the programs are going to be when properly entering college, simply because you won't be AS limited by your technical skills.
    If you have doubts about the area, I recommend you search for some design books and websites. That will give you a bit of a general idea about the subject you're going to study, and hopefully make you decide you love it :p If you want some good resources, send me a message and I'll be happy to give some tips on that
    Last edited by yaravel; June 22nd, 2011 at 08:02 PM.
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    Don't be worried about the program too much. They are usually designed to take you from the absolute basics to the harder stuff. I will be finishing my BFA in Graphic Design from Utah State University next semester and here is what I wish I knew from the beginning:

    1. Treat everything like it's a portfolio piece, so later on so it can become one.
    2. Open your mind to everything. Read books from genres you haven't read before, watch movies you never thought you would, and try spending more time out and about then on a computer. You will have plenty of time to use the computer as is.
    3. Concept trumps technique every time. You can have the most beautiful work in the world, but if it doesn't solve the problem or communicate effectively, then it is weak.

    Good luck with school and I hope it helps!
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    Oh ha, another Houstonian. Though I went to Sam Houston State.

    I wouldn't worry too much, they give all art students the same basic introductory classes. You may find you are ahead of the group or right there with the rest of them. But you are there to learn - so don't worry about what you don't know or be afraid to ask questions.

    And now odds and ends for graphic design you'll probably discover yourself but passing them on anyway.

    DaFont is your friend. Or at least was mine - when looking for fonts for specific projects. Just keep in mind the usage limitations - if they are okay for personal use or commercial or what have you.

    Also when you get further along in classes and have to start worrying about color schemes - The Color Index Book might be helpful to you.

    Also - general word of college advice - do not piss off your professors. This may seem like common sense, but some folks don't think about it.


    No sure what else to suggest - so good luck.
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    One suggestion: Common Sense.

    This is what i tell everyone who asks me, have loads of it along will skill to boot. I have been in the design field for like over 10 years and started as a classicaly trained artist, computers and programs came later.

    Best thing would be keep and open mind to everything good and bad as you will meet both on a daily basis. Learn the programs and never ever... ever fear to hit the F1 button for help as that has helped me a ton because i never had peers to guide me only myself and that button.
    My Imagination is killing me!
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    I think it is VERY important to teach yourself some very technical aspects that graphic designers need to know to ensure designs look right at the end of projects. You have to teach yourself a lot of this or learn it at entry level jobs because I have been told that Uni's and Colleges tend not to delve too much into detail. Even if that is not true, its still very advisable to look into it.

    Things that you can arm yourself with to help you do your job correctly is to intimately know the printing process and learn how so set up spot colours correctly. Also, try to really peel the layers of programs like Illustrator and Photoshop, crack Vectors and know how to work them and then try to get to know Dreamweaver, Indesign and the smaller programs like Fireworks and Flash Catalyst.

    You will need to spear head your learning with a lot of practice and invest a lot of time trying to scoop up as much techy stuff as you can. There really is a monumental amount of info out there in books and online and I am slowly working through all this stuff myself so I can be a better designer. You will NEVER, stop learning.

    Yes, you don't have to know programs down to every function to be a good designer but, as the design programs are SO powerful, the more you know about them and what they can do... added to having a general interest in everything, sketching a lot, always generating new ideas and letting design invade 100% of your life, you can become a very strong designer.

    I don't know what your course will entail but, you should extend your learning to outside the college walls. The more time spent practicing and learning the better. Plus, the better you are, the better the rest of us have to get to ensure we don't get complacent.

    My 2 cents... hope that helps.
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    Don't worry or panic about not "knowing" Photoshop like the pros. You could spend several lifetimes learning it and still find things that you didn't know or think of. Software like Photoshop and Illustrator are simply tools that you use to achieve your design goals. That being said, the better you know your tools the better your work can become. When it comes to learning software there is no better way to learn than practice, practice, practice. Learn how to create brushes in Photoshop and use them to create desired effects. While it may seem like it is unrelated to graphic design it's not. It gets you to understand the power behind the program, to look at solving problems in a new and creative way. This is integral to successful design. After all that's all graphic design is, finding a unique and creative solution to express a given idea through graphics.

    A good way to practice in Photoshop/Illustrator is to find ads or logos or layouts that you find visually appealing and try to replicate them. The more you do this the more you will come to see patterns in good design. You'll see that your eyes always seem to fall on the most important information first because contrast or focal point creates a hierarchy of information telling you that it is the most important. You'll start to notice that great logos have a balance of positive and negative space, that they are symmetrical or asymmetrical and you will start to ask yourself why. This is when you will know that you are getting to understand design. Not a day goes by that I don't see something and think to myself "Ugh, that menu is hideous I hope they didn't pay someone for that." or "Wow, that type treatment is fantastic!".

    The important thing about successful design is to master the fundamentals. Always keep in mind your hierarchy of information. Understand positive and negative spaces. Understanding typography is essential. Learning and understanding typography and how to create your own fonts will give you a huge advantage. First you will always have the exact, high quality font that you are looking for, which you can use and charge for however you choose, and second it will teach you very important lessons in design theory. Creating a good font is a very intensive process, one that requires a very well developed sense of spacial relationships. A key factor in design.

    For logo design always keep the KISS principle in mind. Keep It Simple Stupid. Always start your designs in black and white. If it looks good in black and white, it will look good in color. However just because it looks great in color it doesn't mean that it will look great or even be recognizable in black and white. Make sure that your design scales, you don't want to shrink your logo down to fit on a pen and realize that it looks like a disaster.

    Understand color theory. There is a reason McDonalds' colors are yellow and red, they were not just chosen at random. This can be a long and daunting task for some people and you can really spend a long time learning about it. I would recommend attaining at least a cursory understanding of it. Doing so will make a world of difference in your design and design process.

    Get a solid understanding of all things print related. Understand the intended use of the design and make sure you choose appropriate colors. Never use full black, your print shop will hate you and an unhappy print shop is a miserable designer. Sweet beans and gravy do not upset your print shop.

    Don't expect to come out of college and walk into an entry level Coca-Cola job making 100k something a year. There are a TON of graphic designers out there now and there are a ton that have many, many more years of experience and are way more talented than you and there always will be. It's a fact of life. But if you master the fundamentals and develop a solid framework and understanding of the design process, given a little time and a lot of hard work you can make a solid living doing what you love.

    Learn typography, I said it before and I can't stress it enough. Being able to create your own custom font gives you a huge edge over other designers who never bother to learn such things. This single skill can give you a huge advantage and thus a much better chance at landing a job in such a saturated market.

    There is so much more but honestly with a solid understanding of these basic elements you should have no problem breezing through your courses. There is a big difference between a designer and a great design, both in how much they enjoy the job and how much they get paid to enjoy the job and that difference 9 times out of ten is their understanding of the fundamentals.

    Best of luck and best wishes!

    P.S. See what i did there with the bold tags? That is utilizing design! I've used contrast and repetition to create a hierarchy of information. You don't have to read the entire lengthy post to get the point and it reinforces the fundamentals! Yay design!
    Last edited by Brand2.0; August 11th, 2011 at 10:40 PM.
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    focus on the stiff that is valuable and important. the knowledge of the software will come in time and you're probably already way ahead of the curve. great designers/artist ask "why" not "how". knowing how to work the design principals and theories will take you further than being a "production monkey"

    some great advice in this thread already, good posts guys
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    I would not even start a career in this field right now. Its too hard to break in? Do you know anybody in the industry? If no then that should be your answer in going into this field. Take up science as your career and do art 2nd - trust me it will be better for your mind.
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    Theres tonnes of work out there, but most of it isnt designing fancy logos, its marketing materials, adverts, websites for estate agents and chemical companies, cups, tradeshow pop ups, stuff like that.

    The stuff they dont teach you is printing tech, networking, getting new business in, doing your own taxes, spec work, knowing when to do exactly what a client wants and when to push back, stuff like that.
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