Monday, May 4, 2009

5 Helpful Tips for Design Students

Myself being a graphic design student and freelancer, I am constantly being pushed to my limits, balancing school work and client work that actually puts money in my pocket. It's a tough challenge, but something that many of us tackle each and every day. But, what if you are a student and don't seem to be gaining that many clients for freelance projects, leaving your portfolio full of projects that 50 other students have in theirs?

(Illustration by Frank Chimero)

Here are 5 extremely simple, yet helpful tips to get you going in the right direction to further your career as a student.

1. Don't be afraid of the web.

As a student, there are many projects that you create digitally for print, 3D, or even traditional style art, but where's the love for web? The reality is that the web is taking over a lot of graphic design houses and only the students who are skilled in either coding, web design, or both appeal to these companies. Make an effort to make a personal project for yourself solely based around web design. Buy a book or two or three to learn about it and see where that takes you.

You never know, this could lead to something great that you never knew was possible! Get your personal portfolio up and running, create a blog, or make a website for you aunt's doll clothes business. Do something that gets you familiar with the web because the students who get hired are the ones that know their way around it!

2. Experiment.

Design within the design principles and then break them! As students, we have the most freedom when it comes to projects because we are our own clients. It's not every day a designer in the professional world can say that he or she purposely broke their design grid because they though it looked cool!

So go nuts, if you aren't already nuts. Experiment with different styles. The majority of students and even professionals early in their career still have not found their style of design and until you do find it, you've got to try on different pants (figuratively speaking). This can help us all grow as designers and allows us to avoid suffering the consequences of an angry and frustrated client who isn't getting their way.

3. Make yourself some business cards!

I've lived by this rule as long as I knew just how cheap it was to make custom business cards for myself. I'm already on my second batch and design of business cards, which was a major step up from my old ones. There are so many online printing stores out there where you can literally get 100-250 business cards for as little as $20. In this case, money really is no option.

Just by simply handing out one business card to the right person could land you a $1,000 job! You never really know and that is why you have to be prepared. So, after you have them printed, make sure to carry some in your wallet just in case. Also, once you have made your own business cards, others may even hire you to make theirs; granted they like your design. This happened to me and they turned out great! True story.

4. Take your class projects one step further.

Were you assigned to create a logo for your class? If so, take it a step further by creating some print ads for it. Or, if you're really daring, make a website (or how the website would look) based around the visual identity of your logo. This could be somewhat time consuming, but in the end will pay off more than you could imagine. It could also help you with tip #1 above. Who said killing two birds with one stone was hard?!

5. Be able to talk about your work.

You need to make a habit about talking about the beautiful work that you create! It may seem amazing to you and other designers, but the HR department at a non-graphic design based company may not understand. In that case, you need to explain the reason you chose red and not blue for a "danger" poster. The easiest way to do this is to participate in your critiques during class or attend portfolio reviews that your local SIGGRAPH chapter hosts (hint hint).

Thanks to Niki's DesignO'Blog for the inspiration!

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  1. Student myself....Great advice!

  2. truly awesome! Thanks for sharing your advice.

  3. Thanks guys! I'm glad to hear this was a helpful article for you. :)

  4. hi! Thank you for this template easy to download

  5. dude, somebody holds a copyright for the image you used. at least give him a credit

  6. Thanks for the reminder. Credit has been given! :]

  7. "As students, we have the most freedom when it comes to projects because we are our own clients. It's not every day a designer in the professional world can say that he or she purposely broke their design grid because they though it looked cool!"

    Really liked your this point. Thanks.
    Just graduated this year, but my final year project was a website for my own institue using DRUPAL CMS. After that a website for an architect. That really gave me the confidence.

    And here Im now. Have started a new Freelance Website Designing service. Hope I get better by updating, upgrading & experimenting with my skills.

    Thanx. Really nice post.

  8. Nice article help a lot...
    me student always got big question regarding project.
    And now started my self service as freelance web designer