Branching Out of a Graphic Design Rut

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Are you stuck in a repetitive niche just because you earned a degree in one particular field? Is a certified public accountant stuck adding numbers for the rest of his or her life? Is a civil engineer stuck mapping out infrastructure piping until the concept is coming out of his or her ears?

Graphic design is a case in point, all the more curious because it is a specialized degree that is bound in time and space by technology. That is to say, if you are trained to work with a few types of digital programs, then your job options are necessarily limited to places that use that software.

I used to lay out newspapers, for example. To branch out, I could have worked on brochures or magazines or books. I could have worked in advertising. But it would be hard to take the software program I knew and create a brand new field of work and even moving to some fields would have required learning new, albeit similar programs. In so many words, the software was not designed for operating a submarine, no matter how much I might have wished it to be.

When you join the so-called real world with a graphics design degree under your belt, you should realize very early on that your education is never done. This is true for almost any field. Even doctors keep up with schooling to pass periodic certification exams. Teachers must keep up with their particular field. This is also true of someone working in graphic design.

Not only should you keep up with changes in hardware and software, you should make a concerted effort to take courses in related fields that diversify your skills.

If you feel stuck, go right back to square one and explore what got you into graphic design in the first place. Was it the chance to play with computers or the chance to play with images? Was it the artistic or the business side of the work that appealed to you? Did you want to be close to publishing or did you want to be close to fashion or film? Did you want to work alone or work in a group?

With every question you answer, you can find new ways to shake yourself out of a rut.

There are other places to find options. When a graphic artist goes to a meeting, who is in the meeting with them? This is one way to realize the possibilities for branching out.

Certainly, any top graphics arts colleges can help you find ideas to broaden your prospects. Large colleges have guidance officers, but discussions with graphic artist professors can also yield new ideas.

Among the best known graphics art departments, the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, Auburn University, Kansas City Art Institute and Otis College of Art and Design are places to seek career advise. Specialized schools, like Platt College, can also help you to branch out into multimedia design.

Graphic designers have meeting with a wide variety of clients, who also provide terrific hints on where a graphics design career can go next with their careers. If your clients are a news organization, then new organizations might be a place to look for work. You can then be part of a news team, figuring out how to present information in a clear, objective style. If your clients are publishers, there are avenues to take that head in that direction.

Do you attend conferences? If you don’t, you should Conferences are not only places to find out what is new in the field, they are also places to meet people. Conferencing means networking for many and this is also where doors open for a great number of professionals.

The reason is clear. Conferences are generally non-stressful environments, but they remain places where professionals can impress their peers. Just asking a perceptive question in a seminar can impress a representative from another company.

Joining professional organizations is also helpful. AIGA is an established group. The International Council of Graphic Design Associations (Icograda) could be helpful if you think branching out may include options for working abroad.

Networking is also a standard process for finding ideas. This relies on the idea that you are not alone and that others who have asked the same questions are willing to lend a hand. Meeting with other professionals is seen as a way to find fertilize opportunities in the field. You might give that a try and find new avenues for growth are just a question and an answer away.


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