This will be one of the most important blog post, I will write in this community. I’m going to be sharing about, Graphic designer job description and how to land a job as a graphic designer.
One of the most requested topics that I get in my inbox and in the comments is related to how you actually get hired or get a job as a graphic designer, especially if you don’t have any experience and you’re a student or a new graduate, as many of you probably know it’s very difficult not only here in the United States but worldwide for graduates to find job placement in the career fields that they went to school for.
I will speak specifically using my own experiences here both from the position of trying to get a job as a graphic designer when I was younger and also from the hiring position of actually taking interviews and getting young graphic designers, knowing what I was looking for and what the company needed.
Your ability to present well your portfolios and your personality on the interview are the things that get you hired.
Graphic designer Job description: What do Employers really want in a designer ?
Most people who are in graphic design school art school college in general have this mistaken idea that we as employers or hires or managers or senior designers that we care about your grades or what school you went to or even what degree you have…
Graphic designer job description: The reality I
But the reality is that we really aren’t that interested in it because it doesn’t directly impact our bottom line, it may actually be more that tells us certain things about your personality, your overall capabilities, it’s a shortcut that we use to weed people out…
Graphic designer job description: The reality II
But the reality is that we’re more interested in a few, very simple things.
1. Can we work with you is probably the most important thing and that’ll be communicated in your personality.
2. How you present and how you talk is another.
3. You conduct and comportment throughout the interview, and your overall level of confidence.
4. You know not too little and not too much no one wants to work with somebody who isn’t confident in their work.
5. Can’t speak to it, can’t help pitch it, can’t sell you on that idea, so confidence is important but at the same time the employer doesn’t want to deal with someone who’s arrogant or egotistical or full of themselves so just make sure that you’re balancing it out.
6. And if there are those idiosyncrasies in your personality make sure that you’re addressing them and you’re communicating properly and putting your best face forward in the interview while being as honest as possible.
So if we:
like your personality,
feel like we can work with you
See that you can sell your work,
See that you can sell yourself,
See that you communicate well,
See that you’re creative,
See that you have good ideas,
See that you speak intelligently about your work…
… now it’s going to boil down to the actual body of work itself and what it conveys to us about your skills and capabilities and the biggest problem that we see in portfolios today is that they’re filled with student works.
Self-initiated work is actually better than student work because it shows what your creative style is, what your own visual style is, and what you’ll do left to your own devices.
Eliminate Student work from your Portfolio
Student work is not really that good to present. Sometimes it isn’t, use your own best judgment if it is reflective of your best work then that’s one thing, but if it’s not, eliminate as much student work as you can from your portfolio, and I’ll tell you the reason.
While student work a lot of times, you were given a lot of information that you may not have gotten from a client although I encourage you to try and get as much information as possible, get a client brief but again it’s a project that was from a more controlled environment than is presented in the real world.
Of the time you’re probably given to develop it and come up with concepts is also unrealistic and that’s not saying that you didn’t have to come up with certain things in a crunch, or whatever, but the odds are that you didn’t have to at least have some thumbnails or an ideal within an hour of being handed the brief from your professor.
In the real world working with clients and working in agencies and companies sometimes just presenting an idea or even finishing something you will literally have an hour to two hours to get it done can be overwhelming and daunting for students who have been giving days or weeks to complete an individual assignment, and that’s because you have all these other classes, you have other companion, assignments…
So they want to give you a reasonable amount of time to deal with that.
The workplace is very different despite juggling all these different things, you won’t have the luxury of that kind of time.
Sometimes in the workplace with regard to graphic design if you’re not working as an in-house designer, if you’re working at an agency or you’re working directly for a client the odds are you won’t have a bunch of other rudimentary tasks that you’re juggling.
You won’t have busy work if you’re a graphic designer, the odds are you’re probably not (unless you’re an in-house designer) going to be bombarded with 50 emails that you have to answer first thing in the morning.
You’re not going to have a bunch of these routine tasks that you have to do first thing in the morning, it’s usually going to be you’re focused on producing the assignments or the client and a lot of times it might be one project, it might be three projects, but you’ll have a priority of work that’s established based on your deadlines and based on what the level of the account is.
Works employers and clients want to see in your portfolio
So just kind of keep that in mind it’s not the same thing as juggling your you know classwork and you know you got five different things going on, you’ve got five projects, whatever it’s very different what we really want to see in your portfolio is;
we want to see client work,
we want to see self initiated work,
we want to see work that maybe you did, even if it was volunteer work or even if it was a pitch that the client didn’t use a lot of designers.
Sometimes won’t put in work that wasn’t used or that the client didn’t approve but if it’s reflective of your best work go ahead and include it, and if you need to talk about it just you know bring it up if only you’re asked about it.
Just say that the client went in a different direction and just explained what the circumstances were without being overly involved in getting bogged down in the nuts and bolts of it.
Very briefly and concisely, explain why the direction was different or why it wasn’t finally approved, but what you contribute is the project, what you liked about it and exude its positive qualities.
Also make sure if you don’t have the opportunity to explain every piece in your portfolio that there’s a brief sentence or two in your portfolio explaining the work.
Don’t say oh well the work will explain itself or I’ll stand on the job to do the talking for itself.
You are dealing visual medium even though design is supposed to communicate some very specific things you do need to add some context to it for someone who’s not aware of what you were doing or what the assignment was.
Clients wants to know these things, so go ahead and just have some kind of brief description alongside your pieces of work and be sure to only show your best work, but also show the type of work that you want to do.
If you’re going to a place that specializes in branding, then maybe bringing in all these wonderful photo, retouched pieces and photo manipulation work isn’t what you need to be bringing
You need to be bringing identity kits, you need to be showing them logo designs, you need to be showing them layouts and print works, mock-ups, if this was going to be used in billboards and out of home brochures, Tri-folds those kind of things are what you’re going to need to bring.
If you’re working with somebody who’s more in that b2b sector, if you’re going to be doing something that’s more entertainment industry based then maybe you do need to do more of that type of work.
You need to do things like movie posters or album covers. If you’re waiting to graduate from college with your degree to have really set yourself up and to say that that’s when you need to be looking for jobs and looking for opportunities.
It’s too late by then you need to be getting clients as soon as you can so you can develop a body of work, so that you can experiment, establish your style, have referrals that clients are and employers are going to care about.
if I’m hiring you to do something I don’t want to be that first person that’s just giving you an opportunity or a leg up perse.
If I have to worry about my business and making money and delivering for my clients, I can’t take risk, I want to minimize risk so I can’t be the first person who’s ever hired you to do a legitimate project for money and I don’t want to be that guy that’s going out on lip.
Put yourself in the employers shoes and give them every reason to hire you and part of that is going to be having a referral client, list of freelance clients that you’ve done work for that they can talk to and get a feel for how well you work with people, how much you satisfy your clients and what you actually did and if the work in your portfolio is legit or not.
So that’s what you need to have, you need to have real projects in there, and that’s why you need to have that work and not your classwork and your student work because we’re not going to call your professor and ask them what was their remark of the project you did.
“Oh, it’s a joy to have him class ” oh she’s a wonderful student, straight A’s Dean’s List.” We don’t care because at the end of the day we have to deliver for our clients, so if we have to deliver for clients they’re not interested in that.
What makes a good graphic designer?
They’re interested in the work,
They’re interested in the turnaround time,
They’re interested in the ability to have good communication and interaction.
So these are things that we would be looking for if we’re going to hire you as a graphic designer to do something for our clients.
We need to know that you can meet deadlines,
we need to know that you’re accountable,
we need to know that you’re answerable for something,
we need to know that you can communicate well that you’re just not going to disappear and no one’s going to be able to reach.
We need to know that you’re not temperamental or egotistical, we need to know those things and it’s very hard to gage.
How to get a job as a graphic designer
That is just in the interview, so we need a list of references that we can see you know, who you work for in addition to your body of work as your body of work might be fantastic but you may be too difficult to work with for us, it’s a matter of that personality and we can only go off of so much in the interview and we need to know what other people think and know that you know this isn’t just how you’re dealing with us.
We need to know you’re consistent across the board and we can’t do that if we have no point of reference, so that’s why we need those references.
We don’t want to hear you for your friend or your cousin per se we’re sure they’re wonderful people but we really want to hear from clients, who have worked with you and we want to see the type of work and results that you produced for them.
So when you know there is something at stake, now that being said you can go ahead and take this opportunity, if you are a student, do the one thing that I absolutely tell designers never to really do- which is do free work, but if you’re a student you have no body of work no one’s taking a chance on you, the opportunities are too hard to get, then do your best work, go all out do something for free.
Something so compelling that the person feels tremendously guilty about not being able to pay you and you know just build that relationship so that you can get a glowing recommendation and reference out of them once you know they’re probably not going to bring up that you did the work for free, but even if they did that’s not going to really reflect badly on you it’s going to reflect more on them and the fact that they couldn’t afford to pay you for this amazing work.
And if we can see that for little or no money you produce these results we’ll know that you’re going to deliver on us and you worth every penny that we’re spending on you.
So that’s just something to keep in mind, and again put yourself in an employer’s shoes, that’s the thing that keeps designers from getting hired they can’t see things from a client’s perspective, they can’t see those things from the company or the employers perspective or the hiring managers perspective, so you know that’s part of what it is.
In design, it’s going to be very different than most career job fields you’re ever going to enter into, when you work as a graphic designer unless you’re going to work as an in-house designer at a company that’s not in the visual arts industry.
The creative services industry deal is this, you’re going to be interviewed most likely by someone who’s either a manager of an art department an art director a creative director or the president or CEO of the company, they’re going to be the person making the decision to hire you, they’re gonna be the person conducting your interview, which means that it’s one of the few careers where you’ll be interviewed by someone who actually knows what the hell they’re talking about.
They actually will be able to on some level understand what it is you do, how you do it, why you do it and you won’t be able to talk over their head you won’t have to explain or break things down for them, you won’t have to oversimplify things they actually get one of the things.
I want to caution and prepare all of you graphic designers out there, make sure that you’re doing your research before you go into the interview, understand who the company or the client is, understand who their customer or their clients are understand what the type of work they do is, and how they present so that you can tailor yourself appropriately in terms of your game plan for presenting how you communicate what pieces you carry in your portfolio etc.
You shouldn’t just necessarily have one generic portfolio, you should be able to either swap out or use different portfolios or different pieces that align to the situation.
Always present the type of work that you want to be doing, push the work that you want to get also, don’t forget to let your personality shine through and to be enthusiastic, it definitely goes a long way no matter who is interviewing you.