Graphic designers are everywhere. Whether working as freelancers or as formal employees at agencies like our own, the profession has continually evolved and adapted in tandem with the growth of human communication. Nowadays, it would be fair to say that, in view of technological advancements and increased connection, graphic design has penetrated all aspects of modern life; influencing how we perceive one another and the wider world around us. Josh and Callum are two of our in-house graphic designers. They have a great deal to say regarding what design means for them and, crucially, how they've ended up in such an rewarding profession. This blog is the first of two separate but interwoven explorations of their unique experiences.
As children, our duo showed early signs that they might one day become designers. Josh recalls that, after a day at primary school, he would often pop over to his Nan's and redraw book covers. Callum, on a slightly different trajectory, would habitually build huge set pieces out of toy soldiers before initiating an orderly battle between them. Looking back, its clear that the pair had designers' eyes.
By the time that each of them reached the end of high school, it became time to seriously consider the future. Callum was originally convinced that games design was his jam but, after finding it a complete slog, he tried out graphic design during a two-year college course; where he fell in love with the creative opportunities that the role gave him. Showing an affinity for film posters, tour posters and album covers, Josh was encouraged to become a graphic designer by his art teacher; and he was drawn to the role because it gave him a practical way to get paid for his creative talents. By the time that both them crashed into their twenties, they were well on their way to becoming fully-fledged designers.
When asked individually what advice they would give to a 16-year-old looking to pursue a career in graphic design, each of our pair gave some pretty helpful suggestions. Josh starts by saying that you should experiment with different styles and learn as much as possible. In a similar vein, but with a little more oomph, Callum says that you should just go for it.
In his characteristic zen wisdom, Josh teaches that you're not going to create the image in your head out of thin air. Only by experimenting and refining will you eventually bridge the gap between vision and practice. The key, in his experience, is to drop any fear of doing badly and refrain from judging yourself too harshly. Callum ties off these good words by saying that a career as a graphic designer means flexing your creative muscles every day; giving you lots of avenues for creativity and endless possibilities for learning. He also stresses that having an extra skill up your sleeve, such as animation or illustration, will help you a ton.
Having gone through the trials and tribulations of becoming designers, our dynamic duo also have some greater concerns. Callum is rightly troubled by the monopoly that Adobe holds on the design software that all graphic designers are expected to use.
The steep monthly cost to use the software makes the necessary tools near inaccessible to a large pool of creative young people; especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Josh shares this unease about the way that this class gap is creating a wider technological gap; which isn't helped, in his understanding, by the fact that many schools do not offer graphic design as a course. These barriers aren't inevitable. Breaking them will unlock a huge amount of untapped creative potential.
Despite the barriers outlined above, neither of our two designers want to discourage you from taking the plunge; they even have a few nuggets of wisdom that they wish they had known when they started. Josh, on his part, thinks that great graphic design involves breaking rules.
The caveat, however, is that you should fully understand the rules, and why someone put them there, before disregarding them. This will make every choice to break is an informed and innovative one. His other rules are a little simpler: clear communication in your design, both in looks and in function, is crucial. And whilst simplicity isn't always the best policy, overwhelming your audience is rarely a good move if you're trying to engage them.
Callum's advice, geared to help you survive the role, is that the client is always right -- even when you feel strongly that they're wrong. This may sound obvious, but you won't feel that way when your favourite design is rejected by a client who prefers the option that you hated.
Not every project, in Callum's experience, is worth living and dying on. You should always push, even a little, when you are convinced that the success of the content hangs in the balance; but the truth is that not every job comes with such high stakes. Most of the time, the client wants their vision to be fully realised by someone who knows what they're doing. And its your job, as the person with all the tools and creativity, to bring that vision to life.