View Full Version : Reality of a designer?

11-19-2005, 11:23 PM
I'm currently attending school for graphic design. The more I delve into it, the more it turns me off. My instructors keep making me think that working in this field is basically like working any other job (ie. working in a cubicle, "designing" business cards and letterheads with Quark). I got into this field because I thought it would offer me some creative freedom(satisfaction) that will afford me a comfortable living.
Are there any actual designers on here that can help me out? I need to know what this field is like for the people currently experiencing it. I've read all the statistics online but I would appreciate talking to a real person. A few ?'s:
How much can I expect to make? (east or west coast)
What is your work environment like & do you enjoy it?
What does your job consist of?
How much creative freedom do you have?

I'm considering going into architecture but before I make that transition I need to understand the reality of this field.

Any help is greatly appreciated.

12-11-2005, 04:45 PM
Hello, your instructor is right. I got into the graphic design field myself for the same reason that you gave (ie creative job that is practical). Right now I am working at a software company as their graphic designer....and it's tolerable but not something I want to do for the rest of my life. My salary is decent for starting out (I just graduated last year but not in graphic design thank goodness). Mid 30K. West Coast. I hear you can make more back East. My work environment is pretty low key laid back. I make software packaging along with CD disk labels, displays for trade shows, web graphics. Granted, my co-workers are great, but I hate toiling under an art director who tells you basically how to design it. There is SOME creative freedom, but not enough to warrant doing it other than for money. But this is just my story. I'm sure there are some graphic designers out there who have a better job doing something cool like movie poster design, CD cover art or magazine layout. But I hear those cool jobs are harder to get unless you know someone or are really really lucky. So the less ideal jobs are left. My job is the kind of job that any joe smoe can do after learning the ropes. It's really disatisfying to me and I hate it. I am planning on going back to school to do fine arts. I hope this helps!

01-01-2006, 10:08 PM
Hi Exzebache
I totally agree with JolieArtiste. I have been a designer for about ten years and I am really disappointed (with myself) that I didn't go with 'the dream' and do fine art. Design is good if you just want a job, but I have found it to be very unsatisfying from a creative point of view.

I have meet a lot of people in the same situation. Design is about solving other people's problems and graphic design has so many commercial constraints on it.

It is possible to earn a good living as a designer in Australia. it depends on how or what you are willing to do. The best design job i ever had was working for a small consultancy of two people. you have more creative freedom but more accountability. most jobs i have had were working in cubicles in Government departments and ad agencies and unfortunately the reality is, that you are there to make your boss money.

I have worked in different places: small design consultancy, ad agencies, internet start-up, government and had my own business for a few years, and basically they are all the same. The only time that i have had creative freedom was working for myself, designing concepts to present to the client. Then you have to convince the client to go with your design. If you are wrong, that client won't come back, so sometimes it is a lot easier to go with a safer option.

I think that the problem is, if you have the personality (for want of a better word) of an artist, you will probably be unsatisfied with design. but, having said that, you can use design to earn money and pay the bills, if later on you want to study fine art.

I am currently waiting to see if I have been accepted into a Bachelor of visual arts degree in fine art. (fingers crossed) Graphic design will get me through by helping to pay the bills while making the transition to full-time fine artist.

hope this helps :-)

01-02-2006, 01:06 AM
Let me give you a perspective from a non graphic designer, but from someone who uses graphic firms for my business.

First, if you become the art director, you will certainly have more artistic freedom. However, you do need to pay your dues before you can become an art director or go into any art management position.

Second, graphic design is more than just business cards and disc covers. You have book covers, advertising posters, web site design, interactive media, and much more. I am sure that all the major TV networks use graphic deisgners too.
If you don't like what you are doing, find a different place to work that does the work that you want.

01-23-2006, 09:04 AM
Thanks for the helpful input everyone.

I've decided to pursue a degree in fine arts...possibly secondary education. I didn't feel graphic design was for me while attentending the classes; for some reason I felt it was my only option if I wanted to pursue a career in the arts (clouded by the assumption I would earn decent money).
Sometimes I feel like trapped by college, like whatever I go for is going to determine what kind of person I am to become and the exact job I'll be working until death. I love going to school (always have) but I'm still having problems coming to grips with reality in that this is only a small part of my life.
Did/does anyone else feel like this while they were in school? Where are you now and did your college experience play a huge role in your adult life?

01-23-2006, 09:58 AM

My doubts and insecurities about what i was doing and how it was going to effect the rest of my life were one of the reasons I dropped out last year.

I still want to go back tos school and get a degree in something. But I have yet to figure out what that will be. Right now I'm just seeing what i can do with what i have, and try and get my life on track with my art as is, without the degree. hmm.

01-23-2006, 10:30 PM
I worked for a new media company for many years and the designers were paid well and generally enjoyed their work. Many had side projects to express their creative side as there wasn't much room for creative expression. Usually junior designers were making changes to PhotoShop templates, tinting stock photos etc. Nothing too thrilling. If you are willing to put in the years to become a senior designer or art director, I believe it is more rewarding. You have to learn to deal with client rejection, scope creep and last minute changes and tight deadlines as well. HTH :-)

01-25-2006, 09:17 PM
I am going through a hard time deciding between design school and fine arts too.
I have heard many stories of artists who once have full-time jobs as designers but later on became full time artists.
Personally, I feel it is important for me to make the right choice. Compromise or passion? If I see myself in 10 years painting full time, I would be spending the next years developing my talent and not wasting energy and time to jobs which I will not enjoy doing.
Of course, there are those who really have luck and connections "up" there, making it bigtime in the graphic design world. Many of us have the passion and talent. But only a few are geniuses. :(


01-31-2006, 09:42 PM
Thanks for some of the insightful replies. I've decided to pursue fine arts. Reguardless if it pays well (or at all) there is comfort in knowing that fine arts have been around for centuries and will continue to be...like a secure place in history.
It's hard deciding something like this mainly because of the pressure from modern society to pursue greed over love. When I listen to the radio or anything related to "success" I feel bombarded with people telling me that in order to survive I MUST take on the position as a modern renaissance man. It's frightening to feel as insignificant as an ant with who's only life purpose is to work > reproduce > die.

Maybe I should change the title of this thread to "reality of reality?"

02-13-2006, 02:16 PM
I went to Pratt for Communications Design. I did some graphic design but my emphasis was illustration, which I enjoyed immensely.

Interestingly enough, there is design work available in places you might not expect. The typical graphic design job is a cubical desk job, and can be anything from magazine and CD covers to grocery store weekly circulars. Anything in print has been touched by a graphic designer.

I ended up in corporate training. I design internal training programs for a wall street brokerage firm. It wasnt where I thought I would end up, but hey, here I am, I make a good salary and I enjoy my job. And I have time and creative energy to paint in my personal life. Weirdly enough, one of my qualifications for this position was my graphic design background. In the course of my working here, I have even gotten to add my own hand-drawn illustrations in as enhancements to programs, and sometimes I have been allowed a surprising amount of creativity.

So don't limit yourself. you never know where you will end up. But I would say to enjoy what you do- chances are if you don't like it in school, you'll like it even less in the working world.

02-14-2006, 07:13 PM
Any major that has design in its name will provide a job in the real world that consists of designing products for a customer. When people want something specifically done a certain way, you are not going to get a product that has creativity pumping in it. You are basically a tool for a customer because they suck at graphic design.

You can always work freelance. Graphic Design seems boring to me. I want to get messy and dirty and do art. You can always be an art teacher for money.

02-16-2006, 01:22 AM
I took a different path, I got my BFA first, couldn't make enough $ to live and try to set up a studio in my chosen media of clay, then got an A.S. in graphic design to compliment it, still can not make enough $. I just can't find a design job around here that will pay a living wage. I like graphic design, I interned with a company designing layouts and graphics for a sports margeting firm and worked on everything from fishing magazines to sports clothes catalogs, they liked me and kept me on part-time after the internship but then had a major downsizing due to some unforseen events and let me go(along with 1/3 of the office staff). I liked the work, not as creative as creating artwork but better than flipping burgers. I have found I enjoy digital illustration too and have been working on that lately. Frankly, moneywise I think I should of went to school for IT or computer repair first and then used that income to go to art school, lots of IT positions for banks and such around here willing to pay ok cash.

02-19-2006, 02:28 AM
I am going for a graphic design major, just because that i had read to get into scientific illustration, you need the graphic design background. So far i enjoy what we are doing, but fine art is still my real favorite- according to my professors, illustrators have options to freelance, which is the direction i want to go... this is interesting to read what the 'real' scoop is


02-22-2006, 01:35 AM
I am going for a graphic design major, just because that i had read to get into scientific illustration, you need the graphic design background. So far i enjoy what we are doing, but fine art is still my real favorite- according to my professors, illustrators have options to freelance, which is the direction i want to go... this is interesting to read what the 'real' scoop is


Hi Robin; I'm in a scientific illustration program, and my classmates have very diverse backgrounds, from biology, geology, and chemistry, to graphic design, fine arts, and self-taught artists. So I think you can come at it from all kinds of directions. Good luck to you whatever you end up doing!