So you want to become a graphic designer? Working as a professional graphic designer sounds like a dream for a lot of people. Spending your days being creative and working on beautiful, useful projects can prove to be a very fulfilling career path. But like any career, design is not for everyone.
So how do you know whether a graphic design career is for you?
There are a few questions you should ask yourself before you embark as a designer. Be honest with yourself in answering them, and decide whether any of them are deal-breakers. It’s better to figure out whether a design career is right for you before you spend months (or years) learning the skills you need to start rather than five years down the road.
- Are you a team player?
- Do you have an eye for design?
- How do you handle criticism?
- Do you struggle with creative blocks?
- Are you comfortable working at a desk all day?
- Do you want to continue learning & improving throughout your career?
- Are you ok with boring work?
1. Are you a team player?
While some graphic designers work solo, many work as part of a team. If you’re not comfortable working with other designers and stakeholders, then a design career might not be the best fit for you.
That said, some freelance designers work primarily alone, so just because you’d prefer to work solo doesn’t mean a design career is out for you. It just means you’ll need to be particular about the path of your career.
At the same time, you’ll also need to be able to work independently at times. On smaller design projects you may work on the entire thing, from start to finish, solo. On larger projects, you may be completing your portion of the work alone, with little input from other team members until you’re nearly finished with the work. In either case, you’ll need to be capable of working as part of a team.
2. Do you have an eye for design?
Do you have an innate sense of what “works” in a design and what doesn’t? Can you immediately tell if something looks good or not? These are important skills for a designer to have.
An eye for design can be developed and improved with time and practice, but it’s helpful if you have at least some inner sense of what makes a good design.
3. How do you handle criticism?
Working as a professional graphic designer, feedback on your work is inevitable. And not all feedback will be positive. You have to consider how you handle criticism of your work.
Professional designers don’t view negative feedback as a condemnation of their skills or their work. It’s simply that the design solution they came up with doesn’t fit what the client wants or needs. Instead, they take that criticism and use negative feedback to improve their designs and come up with a solution that works.
4. Do you struggle with creative blocks?
Every creative person struggles with an occasional creative block. But professionals know how to quickly overcome those creative blocks and get back to work.
Do you have methods you use when you’re feeling blocked to get back on track? Do you know what causes your blocks in the first place? And are you able to overcome them quickly so you can still meet deadlines?
These are important considerations if you’re thinking about pursuing a professional graphic design career.
5. Are you comfortable working at a desk all day?
If you dream of spending your days doing something active at work, graphic design might not be the right career for you. Design is inherently a desk-based job. If you enjoy spending your days in front of a computer being creative and collaborating with others, then design is a great fit.
That said, make sure you take regular breaks from your desk while working to ensure better productivity and a healthier lifestyle.
6. Do you want to continue learning and improving throughout your career?
The design industry is constantly changing and evolving. New design systems, new technologies, new trends, and the like mean that designers need to constantly be learning and improving their craft.
There is no “perfect” designer out there. Even the best graphic designers in the world are still improving their skills whenever they can, diving deeper into the principles and philosophies that govern great design.
If you’re not an avid lifelong learner, you’ll find that your design career stalls early on and you won’t get ahead. In fact, you may find that your skills become obsolete in just a few short years.
If it genuinely excites you to learn graphic design and continue building your skills for the rest of your career, then you’ll find this field extremely rewarding.
7. Are you okay with boring work?
Here’s the honest truth: not every design project you take on will be exciting. Some of them you may find are downright boring. And yet you’ll still need to deliver the same level of quality in the end result as you do for the projects you’re excited about.
If you can’t handle the occasional boring project, then a graphic design career may not be for you. When you’re starting out, especially, you may need to take whatever work comes along, whether that’s as a full-time employee or a freelancer.
Some graphic designers eventually reach a level where they can be very particular about the work they take on, but not all designers reach that level.
Now ask yourself: Is graphic design for me?
Consider carefully your answers to these questions to decide whether a graphic design career is the right path for you. If any of them give you pause, know that there can be creative solutions to get around many of these situations, but you may have to temporarily do things you’re not crazy about in order to advance your career.
For those who are passionate about design, the temporary sacrifices can be well worth it! Start your design career today by browsing graphic design jobs on Dribbble. ■
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About the Author — Cameron Chapman: Editor. Blogger. Author. Designer. Copywriter. Marketer. Entrepreneur. Speaker. Consultant. Coach. I wear a lot of hats. What most of them have in common, though, is storytelling.