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Top 10 Design Questions: Student Edition

I regularly have students ask me about design issues ranging from work to computer software to dress & attire. I omitted my own answers so we can learn from your comments. Answer them all or merely reply to a couple.

  1. I can’t draw at all, so will that hurt my chances of succeeding as a designer?
  2. Why do I have to know the differences between Helvetica, Arial, and Univers?
  3. Is it true that I have to know Quark?
  4. What’s wrong with downloading illegal copies of software because I can’t afford to buy them as a student?
  5. How long should my resume be?
  6. Should I work for free just to get some experience?
  7. Will I have to leave (the city where I live) in order to get a job?
  8. How do I get work as a freelancer right out of school?
  9. What if a job description asks for print and interactive design experience, but I don’t have interactive experience?
  10. Can I get a job working in the video game industry by learning about graphic design?
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ENTRY DETAILS
ARCHIVE ID 4449 FILED UNDER Show and Tell
PUBLISHED ON Feb.19.2008 BY Jason A. Tselentis
WITH COMMENTS
Comments
Michael Tyznik’s comment is:

5. I think a resume should never be longer than a page. If you can't fit all your information onto one page, you're including too much or you've failed at designing your resume well.

On Feb.19.2008 at 01:41 PM
Stephen James’s comment is:

What if a job description asks for print and interactive design experience, but I don't have interactive experience?
There's a difference between making something work in a browser via Dreamweaver and being able to write inherited CSS rules or AS3 classes for a Flash CMS. So you'd have to ask the employer what they want. I find that CDs and ADs usually don't have much development experience, they just want smooth transitions and a cool interface.


Will I have to leave (the city where I live) in order to get a job?
Probably depends on how large your city is. I had to move one state over.


How long should my resume be?
If you are a student, one page.


Should I work for free just to get some experience?
Yes, unless you can get experience not for free. Follow the expertise and not your wallet--if you can.

On Feb.19.2008 at 01:48 PM
drew kora’s comment is:

1. Perhaps. Being able to draw will help you when it comes to creating concepts and communicating with illustrators, photographers, etc. I'm a "designer" and I regularly draw and illustrate for many of my projects. So I don't think it hurts your ability to succeed, but some career paths may be tougher to follow and your value may be limited in the eyes of some potential employers.

2. I don't know. I've never found this to be a necessary part of the job...but it is a necessary part of design geekdom.

3. Software programs are just tools. Your imagination is what really counts. However, learnign the basics of Quark or InDesign will give you a jump start. What you don't master in college you'll pick up along the way.

4. In this profession, we talk a lot about getting fair pay for out work and no-spec. We'd be hypocrites if we stole the software that helps us make a living. ...bottom line, it's still stealing.

5. one page. a coverletter can be an additional single page. in any case, keep it simple, unpretentious, and easy to xerox/fax.

6. Depends. I might give freebies for family or friends who need a cool design or something. But when I do work for a business, friend of not, I always charge SOMETHING. Otherwise you're de-valuing the role design plays in business. It's a tough choice for a young designer, but resist the urge. Have faith in yoruself. Charge them something. (the above work doesn't include pro-bono assignments...that's a slightly different animal)

7. That depends on where you live. In a small town you'll likely need to leave to find the cool design jobs. In big cities jobs will be more plentiful. A lot depends on what you want from your career. In my experience smaller cities/markets might get you a better design job right out of college. In a big market you're likely to start lower on the totem pole.

8. Create a kick-butt sample packet and send it to all the agencies you can. Solicit family, friends, whoever with your services. Make yourself a nice portfolio web site. Use one of those online freelancer sites.

9. If you have interactive know-how, just not experience, submit your resume anyway and give them some compelling reason to hire you. If you don't have any know-how in addition to lacking experience, just pass on it. You'll get in over your head.

10. I don't know. Stranger things have happened.

On Feb.19.2008 at 02:02 PM
Dave Werner’s comment is:

10. Can I get a job working in the video game industry by learning about graphic design?

Yes. There are several graphic and UI design positions open at resources like Gamasutra.

On Feb.19.2008 at 02:07 PM
Ricky Irvine’s comment is:

There are so many variables that would need to be considered to properly answer these questions, but here is what I've learned in a few years:

1. Drawing incapability won't kill your shot at a 'successful' career, but inherent in drawing well is stretching your ability to perceive things beyond their surfaces. This is something I need to work on. Milton Glaser said "For me, drawing has been the most fundamental way of engaging the world. I’m convinced that it is only through drawing that I actually look at things carefully, and the act of drawing makes me conscious of what I’m looking at. If I wasn’t drawing, I sense that I would not be seeing."

2. You can get by, but it's difficult to understand new dialects of your native language before coming familiar with it (try growing up in southern California and moving to Kentucky). Knowing the differences between Helvetica, Arial, and Univers is something like knowing the difference between fancy dinnerware and paper plates.

3. I've only had to use Quark twice, and both times we were able to port the original document into InDesign. It's been years since I've met anyone who uses Quark. All printers I've worked with are using Adobe software.

4. Everything is wrong with pirating software. It's illegal and against the law. Software companies have student pricing for the very purpose. Do what you can to work toward owning your own software (even if it takes a few years).

5. One sheet of paper, one side. Anything longer is really boring and probably nonsense if you're just starting out.

6. Working pro bono is a quicker way to gain experience and build up a portfolio, but don't commit to anything that will break you or keep you from paying bills.

7. Leaving your hometown will depend on a lot of things: what kind of work you want to do; what is available locally; how much you equate success with the big city; how resourceful you are in the small city; how desperate you are for work; etc.

8. Bug your parents, their friends and neighbors, your friends who are getting married, etc. I'm not sure I recommend freelancing right out of school though.

9. If an employer or project requires experience and skills you don't have, don't bother. However, if it appeals to you that greatly, seek out experience and skill through self determination and go after it with all you have.

10. I doubt someone could 'get a job working in the video game industry by [merely] learning about graphic design'. I don't play or care about video games, but it seems there's a lot more to designing and making video games than just learning about graphic design. It seems like it'd be a good foundation to build on, though.

On Feb.19.2008 at 02:08 PM
Armin’s comment is:

I can’t draw at all, so will that hurt my chances of succeeding as a designer?

No. I have no idea how to draw, and I've done fine without that skill. I make up for it with crazy software skills though. I "draw" with Illustrator. I can sketch rough ideas to get me out of a bind, but I've never drawn anything.

Is it true that I have to know Quark?

Yes, if this were 2001. But since we are in 2008, no, you don't. In fact, in my experience lately I have found that clients, printers, publishers and designers who are using Quark instead of InDesign feel the need to honestly apologize for it, and they realize they are the minority now. Unless you are looking for a job in a publishing firm (whether it's magazines, newspapers or books) that has not changed their software infrastructure since the dawn of man, you should not concern yourself with Quark. It's slowly dying the death it deserves.

What’s wrong with downloading illegal copies of software because I can’t afford to buy them as a student?

As a student, there is nothing wrong with it. We've all done it. It's prohibitive to afford a license to Adobe's CS, so just ride out the college years. As soon as you start making money off your use of the software IT IS your obligation to pay for it. This is a gray, ethical line, but whatever. Adobe benefits from hooking you early, and I've found that as you become accountable for your own finances you are more willing to pay for the software. In the meantime, don't sweat it.

How long should my resume be?

One page.

Should I work for free just to get some experience?

Sure. If someone's asking you to work for free you are likely not taking away any jobs that would pay another designer, so take the opportunity to get some experience interacting with a client and vendors.

Will I have to leave (the city where I live) in order to get a job?

Depends where you live and what your ambitions are.

What if a job description asks for print and interactive design experience, but I don't have interactive experience?

Then the job is not for you. If an employer can't decide whether they want a print designer or an interactive designer they haven't figured things out. The two disciplines continue to separate and each requires unique abilities and personalities to perform. Also, someone is looking to get two designers for the price of one, this is not fair to either the two designers or the one designer.

Can I get a job working in the video game industry by learning about graphic design?

Who are these graphic designers that want to do video games?

On Feb.19.2008 at 02:24 PM
Guy tamam’s comment is:

1.the first thing my drawing teacher told when i start my degree was "...it so obvious you cant draw
but if youll stick to it we will belive you"

2.you dont, all you need to know is the diffrent
between hand sewing metal construction and armed robbery.

3.no

4.nothing

5.this much.

6.yes

7.possible

8.just tell everyone that you're out and you need money

9.you have, you just need to remember what is all about

10.i assume this question came as a "..what do i need to take this course(theoretic course?),it will help me get a job in the game industry?..."
it will help you not to be stupid enough to think you invent something.

On Feb.19.2008 at 02:33 PM
Jason Duerr’s comment is:

I've been thinking and talking about some of these topics lately as an inordinate amount of people working at my coffee shop are in design school. :)

1. You need to develop at least some basic drawing skill. You don't need to be an illustrator to be a designer, but some fundamentals are important. Being able to sketch concepts quickly for others is a requirement. Being able to sketch them well is even better. Anyone–I mean anyone–can learn the basics of drawing. It just takes some practice.

2. Understanding why type can be as emotionally evocative as color and layout isn't easy. If you know type, you'll know the personality of specific letterforms as well as why and when they're most effective. I've found that most young designers experience a point where they move from feeling overwhelmed by typography to becoming slightly obsessed. The transition is hard to work through, but well worth the homework. If you don't have at least some affinity for typography, you might want to examine what you really love within the field of design.

3. I used to say yes. Now I say that you need to know InDesign. :) If you've developed skill in Photoshop and Illustrator, there's a lot of crossover with interface and function so the learning curve might not be as steep. Having a true page layout program in your bag of tricks is a great asset even if you don't intend to do print design.

4. That's more of a discussion than I want to include in my already long comments. Short answer: academic discount. Invest in tools, they'll serve you well.

5. As a student or young designer, more than a page makes it obvious that you're padding things. There's nothing wrong with having limited experience. In many cases it's an advantage as an interviewee. You should have an online portfolio as a companion to your resume. If you want to include more information there it's the perfect place. I've always done that and it's served me well.

6. Yes. If a project will be something that you can and will include in your portfolio, it can be worth some of your time. Think of it as a little more tuition. Don't sell yourself short, though. There's a lot of work suited to a young designer. Watch for it and you'll get experience *and* be able to pay the bills.

7. Perhaps. This is true of many professions. It's not a requirement, but always consider moving for your first few jobs. Amazing opportunities aren't always in your back yard.

8. The same way most freelancers do. You'll just have to sell yourself a little more. Offer to do some work for people and businesses you know. Get your work out there and you'll eventually get referral business. Also, keep in mind that some of your first work may seem trivial or be boring. It's still valuable experience.

9. If that's the area you want to work in, get some experience. You don't have to be employed doing interactive design to learn fundamentals. In interactive design it's necessary to learn new things constantly. Practice and read as much as you can. You'll get that experience faster than you might imagine.

10. Sure. If that's what you love and want to do, go after it. Keep in mind that–generally speaking–it's not a big industry. Also, If you want to do design work for video games, you're almost assured you'll need to move to one of a handful of cities if you don't already live there. Your first jobs probably won't be in the game industry, but look for internships, create projects for yourself, study the medium. Again...learn as much as you can and you'll be a good candidate when the time comes.

On Feb.19.2008 at 02:48 PM
Jordan Day’s comment is:

4. Absolutely nothing. You should steal everything, software, images, fonts, WHILE YOU ARE LEARNING OR PLAYING AT HOME.

The moment you make money from it, pay for it.


On Feb.19.2008 at 02:49 PM
Prescott Perez-Fox’s comment is:

most of these are subjective, of course, but I would advise students (6) never to work for free! If you are working on-site, as if it were a job, you should at least be paid minimum wage. And if you're working for a client, they should pay you for your time as well. Self-initiated projects and volunteer work don't pay, but it's a very different professional frame of reference. There is a fine line between an educational experience and being exploited so tread carefully. Once you've earned that Bachelor's, don't do any unpaid internships, period. (I'm intensely no-spec, in case you can't tell)

(3) And I would say don't bother learning Quark. It's a dinosaur of a tool and you're lucky you don't have to suffer with it.

On Feb.19.2008 at 03:59 PM
Kevin M. Scarbrough’s comment is:

1. I can’t draw at all, so will that hurt my chances of succeeding as a designer?
No. In some instances it'll help because it will give you a new outlook on illustration. Stopping to try to draw in a realistic fashion (which I couldn't and/or wasn't fully vested in learning to do) was insanely difficult for me. It is one of the reasons I started drawing monsters, robots, ect. Being as they aren't real (okay monsters are real, but the kind I draw don't exist) was to force myself out of this habit. I wouldn't worry about drawing so long as you can effectively put your idea out there.


6. Should I work for free just to get some experience?
No. Work for something besides experience. Trade services, trade contacts, breakfast, participation in a cause you are passionate about. Time. Something. You are giving something of yourself, it isn't right for the client not to do the same. The experience you are gaining is of the same value the experience client is getting in working with a designer.


8. How do I get work as a freelancer right out of school?
I'd love to say "don't", because finding a job in a firm will teach you more design, more technique, more this and that and the other.

On Feb.19.2008 at 04:17 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

1. Maybe. But some practice should overcome that.

2. 'cuz if you don't, then you probably don't really have that much interest in Graphic Design to warrant it as a career.

3. No, but you should know the difference between Quark, the company, and QuarkXPress, the product.

4. Eh...that's a different debate. ;o)

5. One page.

6. You should avoid it, but, at the very least, just be fully aware of what you're giving away.

7. Impossible to know.

8. Start networking.

9. Depends on how badly you want the gig.

10. I suppose, but it's not likely going to help you moreso than any other degree.

On Feb.19.2008 at 05:19 PM
ray’s comment is:

1. I can’t draw at all, so will that hurt my chances of succeeding as a designer?
I don't think so. Basic sketching skills are important to have, but anything beyond that is a bonus, in my opinion.

2. Why do I have to know the differences between Helvetica, Arial, and Univers?
Because if you don't, it shows that you don't pay attention to details and perhaps not qualified to be a graphic designer.

3. Is it true that I have to know Quark?
Noone uses Quark anymore.

4. What’s wrong with downloading illegal copies of software because I can’t afford to buy them as a student?
If you're not making $$, nothing.

5. How long should my resume be?
One page. If you just graduated and your resume is longer than one page, it looks fake.

6. Should I work for free just to get some experience?
If you're still in school, unpaid internships might be ok. Once you're out of school, though, I'd highly discourage it... especially if you lived in a big city. There will be plenty of other opportunities for paid work.

7. Will I have to leave (the city where I live) in order to get a job?
Depends... if you lived in a small place where there aren't many design-related opportunities, then it might be a good idea to move somewhere else. But having said that, you don't necessarily have to move to NY to get a good design job.

8. How do I get work as a freelancer right out of school?
Craigslist, friends, job boards.

9. What if a job description asks for print and interactive design experience, but I don't have interactive experience?
Then the job is not suitable for you. I'd suggest looking for other jobs that match your skills better.

10. Can I get a job working in the video game industry by learning about graphic design?
Not sure...

On Feb.19.2008 at 05:32 PM
Jason A. Tselentis’s comment is:

I'm fairly surprised by some of the responses to the software issue, and wonder if those people saying illegal software is okay can sleep at night.

On Feb.19.2008 at 09:15 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Jason, as a legal owner of Adobe CS2 and CS3, from which I have made money and notoriety, I can assure you I sleep like a baby after using some random copies of QuarkXPress 3.0 and 4.0 to get some college homework done at home. My dad owned all of the Adobe software I needed so I was lucky. Not everyone is.

On Feb.19.2008 at 09:46 PM
Jason A. Tselentis’s comment is:

Well then, sweet dreams.

On Feb.19.2008 at 09:59 PM
Greg Scraper’s comment is:

Methinks that Mr. Tselentis is going for the "single-post" record in length. All of these questions, on their own, deserve a whole entry, but I'll do my level best.

1. I can’t draw at all, so will that hurt my chances of succeeding as a designer?
I don't think it hurts, but it certainly helps. You don't necessarily need to be able to produce Rembrandts, but being able to draw helps frame an idea, and keeps you from having to flesh out the whole thing on the computer to find out it doesn't work as well as you hoped. In my experience, being able to visualize what you want and drawing it are two really similar things, so it may turn out that you can draw, and just lack the patience for it.

2. Why do I have to know the differences between Helvetica, Arial, and Univers?
Knowing letterforms is what we do. Especially if you "can't draw," you have to be able to at least appreciate differences in letterforms. A designer who can't draw and doesn't know type doesn't have many marketable skills left to fall back on.

3. Is it true that I have to know Quark?
Having at least a rote knowledge of Quark is good; knowing InDesign, however, is key. Your first job isn't likely to have you drawing in Illustrator all day or only retouching photos. Most likely, you're going to end up doing prepress or resizing ads or typesetting, all of which requires InDesign (for at least the foreseeable future).

4. What’s wrong with downloading illegal copies of software because I can’t afford to buy them as a student?
That is a moral issue that is up to the individual, however, I feel like charging kids an extra $1000 on top of classes, books, printing and lab fees is patently ridiculous. Adobe ought to figure out something that keeps kids from having to resort to file-sharing software just to make it through school. Maybe some sort of program not unlike a student loan, where the fees aren't charged until after the student's out of school.

5. How long should my resume be?
How many places have you worked? What's the format? I made my first resume 4C, front and back, 5"x5", diecut, and trifold just to be different. Screw the 8.5"x11" white paper. But it is nice to have one of those on hand too.

6. Should I work for free just to get some experience?
NO. Anyplace that will take your work for free to make a profit will take it for at least a nominal fee. Don't get in the habit of devaluing design. Pro-bono is a different matter.

7. Will I have to leave (the city where I live) in order to get a job?
Take a good hard look at the ratio of design graduates per year vs. viable job opportunities. Decide if you have all the necessary skills to compete in whatever market you're in. If you're in a town with an average of eight new positions per year with fifty new graduates per semester from three different colleges, them ain't good odds. Go look elsewhere, or get involved with someplace like Aquent that will help build your skills to make you more competitive.

8. How do I get work as a freelancer right out of school?
Know anyone who needs a good designer? Or get involved with someplace like Aquent, that will help build your... wait, I've said this before. Though Aquent does take a fair chunk, so getting your own work is preferred.

9. What if a job description asks for print and interactive design experience, but I don't have interactive experience?
Don't lie. Though sometimes, the "Fake it 'til you make it" mantra will work, since generally the place asking for both doesn't know much about either. For the most part, however, the two have grown apart so much that it's not really possible to be good at both.

10. Can I get a job working in the video game industry by learning about graphic design?
I don't know, can you get a job as an airline pilot by learning about cruise ships? I do, however, work down the street from EA and know a little about how they hire, and they have a fairly rigorous training method that involves taking classes in their internal school and being a video game tester (not in the fun way) for a period before you can even think about getting in on the design aspects of the games. And even those jobs are competitive.

Phew. That's the most I've typed in months here at SU. Good post, Jason.

On Feb.19.2008 at 11:02 PM
Jose Nieto’s comment is:

1) I can’t draw at all, so will that hurt my chances of succeeding as a designer?
It's a good way to express yourself, and it's a good way to distinguish yourself from your competitors. Luckily, not knowing how to draw is a treatable condition.

2) Why do I have to know the differences between Helvetica, Arial, and Univers?
Short answer: because I won't hire you if you don't. And I'm not the only one who wouldn't. Slightly longer answer: good typographers sweat the details. Being a good typographer will set you apart from other recent graduates.

3) Is it true that I have to know Quark?
I have only one client that requires Quark files, but it happens to be Penguin Books. Still, your time is limited; it's better to learn an application with a future.

4) What’s wrong with downloading illegal copies of software because I can’t afford to buy them as a student?
I won't be as melodramatic as Jason about it, but if you plan to make a living by producing creative work, you should probably pay for creative work. The fact is, you can buy a student version of CS3 Premium for less than $600 -- kind of steep, but reasonable when compared with class credits or textbooks.

5) How long should my resume be?
One page. Exquisitely typeset.

6) Should I work for free just to get some experience?
Yes, but makes sure that you're in a 1) well supervised internship, or 2) working for someone who really can't afford to pay you (like your musician buddy)

7) Will I have to leave (the city where I live) in order to get a job?
Probably, but you can always come back, and with a wider perspective -- a great competitive advantage.

8) How do I get work as a freelancer right out of school?
Frankly, the kind of freelance work you can get right out of school is usually not worth your time. It's better to find a junior designer position in a small studio, where you can work on developing your portfolio.

A final note: graphic design is very competitive field. Anything that you can do to set yourself apart from other recent graduates can only help your career.

On Feb.19.2008 at 11:15 PM
Randy J. Hunt’s comment is:

I can’t draw at all, so will that hurt my chances of succeeding as a designer?
Expressing ideas in really crappy sketches has seemed to work okay for me. The act of drawing (in tune with Milton's quote above) is helpful for me, but I'm terrible at making "drawings" if that makes sense.

Why do I have to know the differences between Helvetica, Arial, and Univers?
Know to use Arial on your website and avoid the other two ;)

What’s wrong with downloading illegal copies of software because I can’t afford to buy them as a student?
Buy them as soon as you can afford it. Even more so, buy typefaces when you can afford them, even if that's before software. Adobe's not hurting for money nearly as much as the small quality type shops. In the end, you should own and be proud of it.

How long should my resume be?
+1 for one page. And it shouldn't be clever.

How do I get work as a freelancer right out of school?
Politely email people you think would benefit from your help. Be sincere. Show them your work.

What if a job description asks for print and interactive design experience, but I don't have interactive experience?
Convince them that you're a "design is a way of thinking" designer and that tools and experience don't automatically equal good design. Your ability to learn quickly and work hard is more valuable than having a couple of examples under your belt.

On Feb.20.2008 at 12:01 AM
Gary R Boodhoo’s comment is:

>> Can I get a job working in the video game industry by learning about graphic design?

definitely! However the field is constantly changing and there is a strong expectation for some form of scripting/coding experience. if you don't have it when you start, you will when you ship your first title. ActionScript, Javascript or Lua are all solid choices.

As a UI designer, let me also mention that UI design, and particularly UI design for games is fundamentally behavioral, not visual. Of course graphic design is important, always will be, but the idea of designing interactions based on how they LOOK rather than how they WORK is the #1 timekiller in this narrow domain.

Let me also suggest that for a graphic designer, UI design isn't the only option. Production may be an equally valid choice, with the added benefit that your design skills will tend to communicate ideas far more effectively than yet another document.

On Feb.20.2008 at 12:04 AM
Jon Dascola’s comment is:

I can’t draw at all, so will that hurt my chances of succeeding as a designer?
- Not as long as you can think


Why do I have to know the differences between Helvetica, Arial, and Univers?
- There are none
(thats a joke)


Is it true that I have to know Quark?
- If you have to use Quark, you dont want the job


Should I work for free just to get some experience?
- yes. for both the pros and cons


Will I have to leave (the city where I live) in order to get a job?
- it depents on how good you are and how good you want to be


How do I get work as a freelancer right out of school?
- know the right people


What if a job description asks for print and interactive design experience, but I don't have interactive experience?
- a good designer can design anything. it just requires some slightly different thinking.


Also, great post Jason.

On Feb.20.2008 at 12:06 AM
David Muro II’s comment is:

1. I can’t draw at all, so will that hurt my chances of succeeding as a designer?

Hello my name is Simon, I like to do drawrings … While your ability to draw might not be a road block to your successful design career, it does inform your thinking and ability to communicate ideas.

At its basic level, loosely sketching ideas allows you to focus on the essence of an idea without being bogged down by the details (specking the perfect typeface, kerning, finding that perfect image, etc.). It allows you to establish the idea so every detail you sweat over will (should) reinforce the idea.

More elaborate drawings focus your critical eye by forcing you to really look at what you're doing, how your doing it and how it will be perceived. It heightens your awareness of composition, contrast, gestalt, detail and juxtoposition, which informs design thinking. And because it's so painfully slow, drawing forces you to really think about what you're going to put down before you do it, which is in stark contrast to the shoot from the hip shotgun approach that computers lend themselves to.

I also heard that the top creative lead at BMW has the car designers draw letterforms because it informs how they see lines and curves when they're designing cars.

2. Why do I have to know the differences between Helvetica, Arial, and Univers?

If you can't draw for shit, learn about typefaces. You can hire an illustrator, but no one's going to lay your type out for you.

3. Is it true that I have to know Quark?

You should probably have a basic understanding of Quark and all design related programs since those are the tools of the trade. I honestly haven't touched Quark since college and use InDesign every couple of months.

4. What’s wrong with downloading illegal copies of software because I can’t afford to buy them as a student?

I take the drug dealer's approach … the kids should get the software for free to learn on. Once they leave the college playground, hooked on the power of these apps, they have to pay the man. It's like an extended demo.

5. How long should my resume be?

Remember, designers have ADD, are bored easily and are usually strapped for time, so keep it concise, but informative. More importantly you should focus on how it looks. And quadruple check it for errors. Nothing gets your resume in the Roundfile quicker than spelling errors.

6. Should I work for free just to get some experience?

Yes. Work as much as you can, it's an opportunity to learn and grow.

7. Will I have to leave (the city where I live) in order to get a job?

I have no idea, there are too many factors to consider (skill, market, size of the city/town/village, etc.) You should know when/if you have to get outta Dodge.

8. How do I get work as a freelancer right out of school?

Get to know people. I went to school 4 hours from the nearest city and was disconnected with the design scene, so I signed with the local AIGA chapter, joined the Events Committee and met a ton of great people. I loathe the term networking, but I recommend meeting people in the field who are either in your shoes (support) or people you look admire (mentors). Behind the façade of the Designer's Uniform (wire frame glasses, messegner bag, perfectly unkept hair, designer jeans, t-shirt and blazer) they're sincerely good people who are willing to help. And you splash a little alcohol into the situation and they'll tell you everything you want to know.

9. What if a job description asks for print and interactive design experience, but I don't have interactive experience?

Try to wrap your head around the type of thinking that interactive or pirnt design requires and be prepared to talk about it, while emphasizing the overused, but true adage "design as a methodology can be applied across a multitude of disciplines …" or something to that effect. And throw in the kicker that you can add a fresh perspective since you're coming to that field of design with fresh eyes. Like a good joke, there's a level of bullshit as well as truth to it.

10. Can I get a job working in the video game industry by learning about graphic design?

No idea. If I was trying to get a job in the video game industry, I'd figure out what i wanted to do (packaging, motion graphics, storytelling, etc.), find out what the industry standard requirements are, research which companies I wanted to work for, see if any of my friends knew anyone who could set me up with an interview or recommend me, research the hell out of the company, write a custom cover letter that shows your passion and determination to work with them, and then tailor my presentation materials to reflect their perceived wants and needs as best I could. Oh, and I'd probably say some prayers and pick up some OCD-like rituals for safe measure.

But if you get rejected, don't give up. Swallow your pride and have them critique your presentation and your work. Turn it into a learning lesson. Then take that feedback home, fix your broken presentation and get back out there.

On Feb.20.2008 at 03:27 AM
Jw’s comment is:

1. Depends on what sort of design you want to do. It will hurt your chances of being an illustrator, perhaps.

2. So you don't look stupid when someone asks you the difference.

3. Nope. But it's nice to know as many programs as possible.

4. Nothing.

5. A page, and no more. Easy reference, easy to file.

6. Yes, but no more than a single summer. After that, you have a something on your resume.

7. You should WANT to leave the city you live in... this is the best time to find new places and people.

8. Friends, professors, neighbors, the local coffee shop owner... ONE of those people has to know someone that needs something you do.

9. Get some. Make your own interactive projects for fun. Or, convince them that you're ready to gain that experience. I suppose it depends on how good an interviewer you are.

10. Unsure. Can you?

On Feb.20.2008 at 10:05 AM
John Mindiola III’s comment is:

1. I can’t draw at all, so will that hurt my chances of succeeding as a designer?
A. If you can't draw, why did you get into art and design?

2. Why do I have to know the differences between Helvetica, Arial, and Univers?
A. If you have to ask this question, you might not be a designer. If I had it my way, only font-nazis would be hired.

3. Is it true that I have to know Quark?
A. Yes. Just like you have to know Word and Excel.

4. What’s wrong with downloading illegal copies of software because I can’t afford to buy them as a student?
A. Probably everything, though Adobe benefits big time from you using it for a few years and eventually paying the full-price for the rest of your life.

5. How long should my resume be?
A. One page (this is a good opportunity to explore question 2).

6. Should I work for free just to get some experience?
A. Try to do everything you can to not work for free. Barter, whatever. But, invariably, it'll happen.

7. Will I have to leave (the city where I live) in order to get a job?

A. To get a job? No. To get a job you actually want? Probably.

8. How do I get work as a freelancer right out of school?
A. Why would you want to freelance right out of school? More work experience early will let you have a better chance at freelancing later.

9. What if a job description asks for print and interactive design experience, but I don't have interactive experience?
A. It doesn't hurt to apply, but ask specifically what the employer requires (if you interview), and determine there if it will work or not.

10. Can I get a job working in the video game industry by learning about graphic design?
A. I think you went to the wrong school.

On Feb.20.2008 at 10:21 AM
Pagan’s comment is:

I can’t draw at all, so will that hurt my chances
of succeeding as a designer?

No. Not being an illustrator will not diminish the possibility of succeeding as a designer. But, drawing can facilitate the work of a designer. Daniel Eatock shares his story of frustration with drawing in a lecture at The Walker Art Center. His is one of my favorites. See the lecture here (the story is about a quarter of the way into the video).

Why do I have to know the differences between Helvetica, Arial, and Univers?

It’s not about being able to identify a type face, it’s about being familiar with typography. It’s more important to be able to resource typography when a project calls for it than it is to have the entire FontFont library at your disposal.

Is it true that I have to know Quark?

No. But, it’s good to be familiar with industry standard tools even if it’s not your primary choice in applications.

What’s wrong with downloading illegal copies of software because I can’t afford to buy them as a student?

Nothing. However, I draw the line at profiting - financially - from the use of illegal software (and type fonts).

How long should my resume be?

A single page.

Should I work for free just to get some experience?

Yes. But, you should get more from the experience than print samples of the work. Knowing the cost of doing business is important for both the designer and client. Take the opportunity to understand the value and cost of the work you do. As an exercise, know your billable rate, build a schedule, track your time, draw up a contract and build in a number of revisions (even if you don’t use it).

Will I have to leave (the city where I live) in order to get a job?

This depends on where you live and what kind of work you’re interested in.

What if a job description asks for print and interactive design experience, but I don't have interactive experience?

It’s best not to take the position. Others would disagree with the argument that it’s an opportunity to learn an area of lesser knowledge. I don’t agree with the Jack-of-all-trades approach.

On Feb.20.2008 at 11:00 AM
Dayne Wessel’s comment is:

I find some of these questions troubling. For Armin, John and the other educators who frequent the site, I imagine some of them are like hearing students ask the question, "Is this going to be on the test?"

The attitude of arming one's self with the bare minimum isn't going to accomplish much in the design industry, let alone in the personal development department.

A passionate designer will explore any and all means necessary to achieve his or her artistic vision. Even if it means learning Quark.

With that said, I'll offer my humble replies:

1. I can’t draw at all, so will that hurt my chances of succeeding as a designer?
My instinct is to answer this with an absolute YES! But Armin himself admitted he's no draughtsman. So I will compromise: NO, but giving up on learning to draw will.

Maybe I say that because I can draw, and that led me to graphic design. In school, the students who couldn't draw struggled the most.

Designers who can draw well can (and do) find work in illustration. The same could be said about photography. There's nothing wrong with having an expanded skillset.

However, there are quite possibly a bazillion succussful designers who can't draw diddly squat. I just can't imagine working that way.

2. Why do I have to know the differences between Helvetica, Arial, and Univers?
Because the gods demand it. And if you have to ask, then you just may not possess a graphic designer's soul.

3. Is it true that I have to know Quark?
It won't make you a better designer, but believe it or not, there are still a few jobs out there you won't get if you don't know Quark. We use it every day. And really, what harm could it do to learn it?

4. What’s wrong with downloading illegal copies of software because I can’t afford to buy them as a student?
Drew Kora (above, comment #3) said it best. Ditto.

5. How long should my resume be?
One page. Next...

6. Should I work for free just to get some experience?
Never.* Unless your design firm is called "Undercutters Design Studio." It devalues your work, along with every other working designer's. *Exception granted if you are involved in some charitable pro-bono work. (Guilty)

Even in High School, I demanded at least some form of payment for my then unpolished illustration and design work. It resulted in a lot of trades, but I still valued my work enough as to not do it for free.

7. Will I have to leave (the city where I live) in order to get a job?
Good question. In my case, I had to come back (to the city where I grew up) to get a job. It depends on your personal goals. If you want a job, then the answer is probably not. If you want the job, then the answer is probably yes. Ask yourself: are you searching for happiness? Or are you searching for nirvana?

8. How do I get work as a freelancer right out of school?
Start small. Really small. But keep your eyes on the prize. Make sure you're doing your best (portfolio bolstering) work. If you're lucky like I was, freelance work will find you, not the other way around.

9. What if a job description asks for print and interactive design experience, but I don't have interactive experience?
Like any other profession, it's best not to begin by weaving a web of lies. If you can baffle them with enough BS, then best of luck to you. If not, keep looking elsewhere.

10. Can I get a job working in the video game industry by learning about graphic design?
A rep from a video game company told me once that a solid foundation in graphic design is a valuable asset to their company. But once hired, that's when an entirely different kind of education begins. So be prepared to learn.

On Feb.20.2008 at 12:35 PM
Tselentis’s comment is:

One thing I left out was the fact that these are beginning students asking such questions, many of whom are eager to get work.

On Feb.20.2008 at 01:37 PM
Will’s comment is:

1. I can’t draw at all, so will that hurt my chances of succeeding as a designer?
- - - - -
no, but having an extra skill to bring to the table helps. if you can't draw, find something else you can do that makes you an asset to a team. and even if you 'can't draw at all' it never hurts to try.

7. Will I have to leave (the city where I live) in order to get a job?
- - - - -
jobs are every where. good jobs aren't. if you think your area is too small to find something right, than it most likely is. it can be rough, but if growing as a designer is important than moving on is a necessary step.

On Feb.20.2008 at 02:14 PM
Matthew Hunsberger’s comment is:

I can’t draw at all, so will that hurt my chances of succeeding as a designer?

Depends on what you mean by drawing. A designer needs to be able to compose a space, but you really don't have to know how to render anything.


Why do I have to know the differences between Helvetica, Arial, and Univers?

It's helpful to be able to identify a typeface. It also teaches you to look at small details.


Is it true that I have to know Quark?

No. I have never used it outside of school.


What’s wrong with downloading illegal copies of software because I can’t afford to buy them as a student?

Well it is illegal... Your school should have a computer lab with the latest software anyway.


How long should my resume be?

One page.


Should I work for free just to get some experience?

Mostly no. If you want to do some pro-bono work for non-profits that's fine, but only if you are able to support yourself with other paying clients. If you have graduated from college with a degree in design there is no reason why you should be doing work for free. Don't let people take advantage of you.

Even if you are an intern, I really believe you shouldn't work for "experience" alone. You are providing some sort of service to a company. They should provide you with some compensation, even if it's only $7-8 an hour.


Will I have to leave (the city where I live) in order to get a job?

Don't live at home.


How do I get work as a freelancer right out of school?

It's actually not too hard. A lot of design firms will hire someone on a freelance basis to kind of try them out before deciding on hiring them full-time.


What if a job description asks for print and interactive design experience, but I don't have interactive experience?

Better get some. Interactive design is huge.


Can I get a job working in the video game industry by learning about graphic design?
Probably. A lot of places will want a good foundation in design skills more than anything else.

On Feb.20.2008 at 02:47 PM
Jason Duerr’s comment is:

> I'm fairly surprised by some of the responses to the software issue,
>and wonder if those people saying illegal software is okay can sleep
>at night.

@Jason
I dodged this one in my initial response because I had a feeling it would come down to the two responses we've seen. It has. :)

Even if you intend to pay for it later, you're still stealing it now. I think a lot of people find it easier to put it out of their mind because software is so easy to pinch. The slim chance of being caught and getting into any real trouble makes it seem like an okay thing to do.

Being a student isn't a reasonable argument as the academic discount on software like Creative Suite is huge. I understand it's still hundreds of dollars so it's not *cheap*, but you have to pay for school even if you don't choose to go down the that career path.

If you can justify it in your head, you're going to steal the software anyway. If you ask the question, you already know the answer and are looking for someone to say it's okay. Most people will tell you it's not.

On Feb.20.2008 at 03:01 PM
Whaleroot’s comment is:

I'm new(er) to the game too. This is what I think.

1. I can’t draw at all, so will that hurt my chances of succeeding as a designer?

No. Just don't get in the habit of faking it with filters, swooshes, gradients, effects, etc, etc.

2. Why do I have to know the differences between Helvetica, Arial, and Univers?

Because it's design.

3. Is it true that I have to know Quark?

Yes. Just enough to open the Quark file and/or import into InDesign.

4. What’s wrong with downloading illegal copies of software because I can’t afford to buy them as a student?

If it's for professional work definitely not. If it's for personal work that's a morality call.

5. How long should my resume be?

One page... with good margins, nice typography, and no spelling errors.

6. Should I work for free just to get some experience?

You're gonna have to. Just be careful to not get taken advantage of.

7. Will I have to leave (the city where I live) in order to get a job?

It depends on where you want to work and what you want to do within design. I find cities the most beneficial in my case.

8. How do I get work as a freelancer right out of school?

Meet people (and by that I mean people who already have jobs and/or connections), Apply to every job you find remotely interesting, and do personal work.

9. What if a job description asks for print and interactive design experience, but I don't have interactive experience?

Step 1) Apply for the job; Step 2) Open up Flash/After Effects/etc. to learn interactive design.

10. Can I get a job working in the video game industry by learning about graphic design?

Yes, if you get your degree in animation design.

On Feb.20.2008 at 03:49 PM
Guy tamam’s comment is:

its all the same, like a baby crying when he first get out to the world, you just need shout that your out,which mean to be a little bit cheeky (you say?)
and a lot of ground working.

On Feb.20.2008 at 05:06 PM
Topher McCulloch’s comment is:

As a recent ex-student, I'm sad to see one question I think even more crucial than resume length omitted.

What should my portfolio look like (and is glitter a plus)?

On Feb.20.2008 at 06:57 PM
Jason Tselentis’s comment is:

Topher, you have a good point. And it's odd that they don't ask me that because even though these questions are from beginning students that take introduction to design (100-level), they fail to think about the book. Why? Because they are putting the cart before the horse.

On Feb.20.2008 at 08:09 PM
Michael’s comment is:

1. Yes, it will limit you ... but you can learn to draw! Drawing is thinking visually. You would never hear this question: "I can't think at all, so will it hurt my chances of succeeding as a designer?" but really that's the same question. I can teach you to think visually if you're willing to take the time. Lack of this skill doesn't have to stand in your way. And for those of you who said things like "I draw with Illustrator", then you don't know what you're missing. Using a computer to draw is like using a microscope to drive a car. Give me a pencil and paper, and the entire world, with its uncounted possibilities, is mine!

On Feb.20.2008 at 08:09 PM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

I can’t draw at all, so will that hurt my chances of succeeding as a designer?

Yes. But you'd do better if you learn to draw (for several reasons.)

Why do I have to know the differences between Helvetica, Arial, and Univers?

You don't, but if you don't care, remember that you will be competing with a bunch of people who do.

Is it true that I have to know Quark?

No. But you might have more opportunities if you did. I wouldn't make it a priority.

What’s wrong with downloading illegal copies of software because I can’t afford to buy them as a student?

Does that mean that it would be more wrong if you could afford to buy them? Why?

How long should my resume be?

I'm not sure why someone asked Abraham Lincoln how long a man's legs should be. His answer was "Long enough to reach the ground." I doubt you have more than a page full that someone would find worth reading.

Should I work for free just to get some experience?

No, you shouldn't. But you might have to and you probably will.

Will I have to leave (the city where I live) in order to get a job?

It depends on where you live and how good of a job want.

How do I get work as a freelancer right out of school?

Call a bunch of design firms and ask "Who do I contact about freelance work?"

What if a job description asks for print and interactive design experience, but I don't have interactive experience?

1) Apply anyway. The worst they can do is not hire you and if you don't apply they won't hire you anyway.

2) Learn interactive software and do some interactive work.

Can I get a job working in the video game industry by learning about graphic design?

Perhaps. But probably not.

On Feb.20.2008 at 08:41 PM
Kit Grose’s comment is:

I can’t draw at all, so will that hurt my chances of succeeding as a designer?

Possibly. If you work as part of a team or larger workgroup, the ability to visualise your concepts early on provides a massive advantage. But that level of drawing isn't beyond anyone I know in the industry.

Illustration is a field unto itself, so if you know of that as a shortcoming in your abilities, be sure not to try to "leg it" at the client's expense.

Why do I have to know the differences between Helvetica, Arial, and Univers?

There are two reasons I can think of:
1. Graphic design is not a new industry, especially print design and typography. Years of experience of what works and what doesn't (for any given particular purpose) has been slowly condensed into some typefaces over time and you want your work to benefit from the mistakes others have learnt from.
2. As a professional, it's your responsibility to know and understand the work you do. If you're working with type, you should be able to easily narrow your search for a specific typeface based on the tone, character and weight of the job. Knowing the subtle differences that make one font different from another will help you define the outcome of any given job.

Is it true that I have to know Quark?

You don't have to, but as with all professional-grade software, it's damned useful. Again, there are two main reasons:
1. You have one more skill, so you're more versatile if you go looking for a new job and the house is a Quark studio.
2. Each application favours a different type of workflow. If you can become fluent with a number of similar applications, you'll increase your chance of finding new capabilities in each that you didn't know were possible. That'll expand your repertoire and allow you to be more creative.

What’s wrong with downloading illegal copies of software because I can’t afford to buy them as a student?

If you truly can't afford them, you should assess your interest in the industry. If you unequivocally can tell you're going to become a designer, you have to make a choice; either you're going to go straight from study to full-time employment (in which case you needn't ever buy a license for CS3) or you plan to go into freelance. If you decide on freelance, go get a personal loan and plan to repay it through the work you produce. It shouldn't take long if you take yourself seriously.

How long should my resume be?

I'd prefer two pages, but two nicely designed pages.

Should I work for free just to get some experience?

Hell yes.

Will I have to leave (the city where I live) in order to get a job?

Not necessarily, but quite likely.

How do I get work as a freelancer right out of school?

Not out of school; while AT school. That's how you work up a series of industry contacts. Do a great portfolio and keep it great.

What if a job description asks for print and interactive design experience, but I don't have interactive experience?

Don't apply; you're wasting both their time and your own.

Can I get a job working in the video game industry by learning about graphic design?

Yes.

On Feb.20.2008 at 10:00 PM
Elizabeth’s comment is:

2. Why do I have to know the differences between Helvetica, Arial, and Univers?

Dude, it's not that hard. If you find it a chore, just remember how many math classes you didn't have to take in art school.

And I agree with other commenters: if you don't know the diff, others will, and they're probably better designers for it.

On Feb.20.2008 at 10:50 PM
Elizabeth’s comment is:

2. Why do I have to know the differences between Helvetica, Arial, and Univers?

Dude, it's not that hard. If you find it a chore, just remember how many math classes you didn't have to take in art school.

And I agree with other commenters: if you don't know the diff, others will, and they're probably better designers for it.

On Feb.20.2008 at 10:57 PM
Manuel’s comment is:

I can’t draw at all, so will that hurt my chances of succeeding as a designer?

I think it's enough to be able to get an idea across using stick figures.

What's more interesting to me is that the following questions aren't asked:

I can’t write at all, so will that hurt my chances of succeeding as a designer?

I don't read at all, so will that hurt my chances of succeeding as a designer?

I don't program at all, so will that hurt my chances of succeeding as a designer?

I don't travel at all, so will that hurt my chances of succeeding as a designer?

It's important to visualize ideas but working as a designer goes a lot more beyond rendering. "Drawing" is equivalent to "Rendering", which is just one small piece in the puzzle. Systematic thinking, organizational skills, and facility with language are also as important.

On Feb.20.2008 at 11:44 PM
Manuel’s comment is:

BTW, I'd LOVE to work on identity as well as look and feel of video games, in collaboration with game programmers and game designers. Graphic design is a good foundation for it, I think. Probably film is too, as is computer programming and animation.

On Feb.20.2008 at 11:47 PM
David Sherwin’s comment is:

Manuel, your comment above rocks.

A designer who thinks great thoughts can evolve ways to communicate them properly. Their growth and maturation as a designer will come about through whatever medium they can master first and expand from there.

On Feb.21.2008 at 12:42 AM
Jandos’s comment is:

Should you work for free for a portfolio piece? If only it were that simple. You can, but remember people are less likely to value what they don't pay for. Without consequences for them, they can decide not to print it, change the colors to lime green and purple, or let it molder while they move on to other projects.

And, if they're not paying you, they're probably cutting other corners as well—expect instant printing and a Dover-grade art budget. The odds of marshaling a piece to completion that shows something more than what you could do on your own or in school is possible but by no means certain.

On Feb.21.2008 at 10:05 AM
Stacy Rausch’s comment is:

1. I can’t draw at all, so will that hurt my chances of succeeding as a designer?

I think that knowing how to draw even a little can only help a designer. I don't do thumbnail sketches as much as I did in college, but when the need to do one for a client is there, I may not be Rembrandt, but I can usually get my point across with a quick sketch.

I agree with Dayne on this one, I drew and created alot of stuff as a kid, and that probably pushed me toward an artistic field (Graphic Design/Fine art).


2. Why do I have to know the differences between Helvetica, Arial, and Univers?

I could probably figure out the difference between the three fonts if I had to. I think the bigger picture is knowing how different typefaces work for a project and when and why to use them.

3. Is it true that I have to know Quark?

Probably... I learned it in school, used it my last sememster and haven't touched it in over 2 years. I think knowing the program (even just the basics) can only help me as a designer. Is it my favorite program? God NO!, but if I ever change jobs and have to use it, I can.

4. What’s wrong with downloading illegal copies of software because I can’t afford to buy them as a student?

I have to admit that my first few semesters of college, I had "borrowed" software from friends, but as soon as I was able to afford the student version, I bought it. I kept hearing that if you plan on using the software to make money you should own the copy.

5. How long should my resume be?

one page, well designed, no mistakes...

6. Should I work for free just to get some experience?

I have. Usually it was for friends or family though. Also, my internship was for credit only, so that to me counts as working for free.

7. Will I have to leave (the city where I live) in order to get a job?

I moved across country and changed schools with 1 year left to graduate (from AZ to VA) to have the opportunity for more internship/job prospects. I would say it depends on where you live and what jobs there are available. In my case where I lived in AZ there was one newspaper, 2 design studios, and not much else available. oh, and did I mention it was a college town with alot of graphic design students trying for the same few jobs.

8. How do I get work as a freelancer right out of school?

The little bit of freelancing I have done was usually by word of mouth from friends, or with other departments once I got my current job.

9. What if a job description asks for print and interactive design experience, but I don't have interactive experience?

I would probably hesitate to apply. I am in this position now. I know the print side of design the best, and have actual experience to back it up. I may be looking for a new job soon, but I don't have the web/interactive experience that most jobs post that they require knowledge of.

To me it doesn't seem fair to ask a designer to have an expertise in both. I went to school for a focus in print design, and only took maybe 3 classes period on the web/interactive side of things. if you need a interactive designer, hire one. if you need a print designer, hire one.

just my two cents.

10. Can I get a job working in the video game industry by learning about graphic design?

not a clue... I assume having the solid design background would help, but you still have to know how to use the programs, and think in terms of 3-d, etc.

On Feb.21.2008 at 11:42 AM
Christy Errico’s comment is:

6. Should I work for free just to get some experience?

It depends on who you are working for. If they know more than you, maybe. If they know less than you, absolutely not. When you are starting out, I'm a strong believer of working for the best people you possibly can, even if it means less money. Because what you are doing most importantly, is building your credibility. The knowledge, experience, and portfolio boost you can get, is well worth it. But don't work for free for just anyone. Make sure they are paying you with knowledge.

On Feb.21.2008 at 01:33 PM
Jason Laughlin’s comment is:

1.) Does it hurt you professionally? Maybe not. But I will ridicule you (mostly in jest), as I am not a nice person.

2.) Because I will ridicule you. I sense a theme mounting.

3.) No. And generally if you are familiar with other software you can bumble around in something else to get a job done.

4.) I just stayed at school and used their equipment until my eyes were bleeding. But I wouldn't ridicule you... much

5.) 1 page

6.) Depends on the job their asking you to do, you don't want to give too much of yourself for nothing, but generally it's not the end of the world.

7.) That depends on you. But no. As Paul Westerberg says, if you can't do it where you are, you can't do it (I'm certainly paraphrasing).

8.) Talk to everyone you see.

9.) Ditto Armin's answer

10.) Perhaps

On Feb.21.2008 at 02:33 PM
Kangaroo Deziner’s comment is:

This is a bit interesting for me, since I recently graduated and now working an entry-level position at a firm. Here's a few pieces of advice I wish I had heard from someone in my position while I was still in school.

1. I can’t draw at all, so will that hurt my chances of succeeding as a designer?
It may not "hurt", per se, but it could inhibit. I can't draw very well either, and I find it frustrating when I can't quickly communicate an idea with a client by just sketching it out for them. You don't need to be great at this, but I would suggest learning a bit of it.

2. Why do I have to know the differences between Helvetica, Arial, and Univers?
Every font has quirks and differences that make it stand out from the others. Each font has a personality of its own, no matter how similar it is to another font. Those subtle personality traits can change the meaning behind a message, and since being a graphic designer is about communicating effectively, knowing the differences is very important.

3. Is it true that I have to know Quark?
Quark and InDesign are just programs you use. What's the most important is your knowledge of design and typography, and communicating clearly. With that being said, many places will use only Quark, or only InDesign. You should have a working knowledge of those programs or you're going to look a little silly when you're asked to create something and you're stuck on why you can't get one column of text to flow into another column.

4. What’s wrong with downloading illegal copies of software because I can’t afford to buy them as a student?
Just buy it as soon as you can, that's all I'm going to say about this.

5. How long should my resume be?
No longer than one page. And that doesn't mean cram all the information you can into one page. Think of your resume as a design piece. Apply what you know about design to it. Make it interesting visually, and make sure the copy (text) clearly communicates the most important things to the person reading it. A lot of people just think they need a lot of information on it, but no one cares your dog is a black lab named Fluffy.

6. Should I work for free just to get some experience?
While in school, I don't see too big of a problem with this. I wouldn't suggest doing it for for-profit companies or individuals, though. I would pick some non-profits that you like, and offer your services to them.

7. Will I have to leave (the city where I live) in order to get a job?
Probably not. Graphic design is needed everywhere. To just get a job, there should be plenty of opportunities in nearly every community, but to get your dream job, you may need to relocate.

8. How do I get work as a freelancer right out of school?
I would talk to the teachers at your school. My internship and first job came from my teachers, because a client looking for someone starting out had contacted to school for recommendations. I think this probably happens a lot. Your design teachers, or the dean of your design school will often be contacted by people looking to hire someone to do a logo, or a website, or whatever. Talk to them.

9. What if a job description asks for print and interactive design experience, but I don't have interactive experience?
Apply anyways. Nothing bad can happen from applying, even if you don't get the job. One may be more important than the other to them. Or they may be willing to spend time training you in interactive if your print is strong enough.

10. Can I get a job working in the video game industry by learning about graphic design?
A strong understanding in design principles is necessary in the video game industry. Also, the majority of people working in the video game industry, especially those who have been doing it for a while, don't have degrees in Gaming that have been sprouting up in colleges everywhere. They have traditional art degrees and such, and are all self taught when it comes to gaming. That's what they're looking for. I don't think any college's program is up to par with what the gaming industry wants their people to know, so it's all self taught. An interest in the field and proving you're willing to teach yourself and learn what's relevant to them is a big factor.

On Feb.21.2008 at 08:34 PM
Gigi F.’s comment is:

Wow, it would've been great to have the answers to some of these questions while I was still in school. Though I have to admit I value the answers a little more having learned them the hard way.

1. I can’t draw at all, so will that hurt my chances of succeeding as a designer?
I think Manuel above hit the nail on the head. Someone else said that drawing is thinking visually, and that's what it's really all about.

I can't draw anything other than stick figures but I can do some sketching. It's really all about being able to communicate the idea to the client in a visual manner. Will I be an illustrator some day? Of course not! But that doesn't make me any less of a designer.

In my case it does help that I began as a photographer. I think taking pictures does for me what drawing does for other designers - it gives me a way to see the world and focus on the details like how the light hits a subject and the composition of an image.

2. Why do I have to know the differences between Helvetica, Arial, and Univers?
Because it's your bread and butter! Seeing the nuances in font shapes not only allows you to pick the right one for a project, but helps you see the details in everything.

3. Is it true that I have to know Quark?
Yes...and no. I think there are less and less clients that demand the use of Quark, and if given a choice I would pick InDesign in a heartbeat, but you never know when you're going to need it.

4. What’s wrong with downloading illegal copies of software because I can’t afford to buy them as a student?
Well, I'm married to a lawyer so the word illegal says it all for me.

5. How long should my resume be?
One page and only one page.

But for the love of god design the hell out of that page! Use grids and typography to the best of your abilities. Show everyone what you're capable of. And NEVER EVER do it in Word, unless you have the ability to lay it out as strongly as you could with InDesign/Quark.

6. Should I work for free just to get some experience?
Only if it'll give you a great portfolio piece or it's for a cause you believe in.

7. Will I have to leave (the city where I live) in order to get a job?
Depends. Where do you live? What is your dream job? There are too many unknowns for me to really answer this one. There is a need for designers everywhere, it all depends on what you want to do.

8. How do I get work as a freelancer right out of school?
Ummm...who knows. There's lots of good advice above, but to be honest I don't think you would benefit from working on your own as much as you would from taking a full-time position (even if it's in-house).

9. What if a job description asks for print and interactive design experience, but I don't have interactive experience?
Get some! I think the world of design is becoming more and more jumbled. You don't have to be able to code an entire Flash application in AS3, but it helps you and the programmer if you have a grasp of how that works. I think everyone should have a basic understanding of at least HTML and CSS these days, it can save the day when that web designer is out sick and the client wants that update yesterday. Do make sure you get compensated for the additional skills you use though.

10. Can I get a job working in the video game industry by learning about graphic design?
Sure, but you have to have some background in animation too.

On Feb.22.2008 at 09:07 AM
Gigi F.’s comment is:

Wow, it would've been great to have the answers to some of these questions while I was still in school. Though I have to admit I value the answers a little more having learned them the hard way.

1. I can’t draw at all, so will that hurt my chances of succeeding as a designer?
I think Manuel above hit the nail on the head. Someone else said that drawing is thinking visually, and that's what it's really all about.

I can't draw anything other than stick figures but I can do some sketching. It's really all about being able to communicate the idea to the client in a visual manner. Will I be an illustrator some day? Of course not! But that doesn't make me any less of a designer.

In my case it does help that I began as a photographer. I think taking pictures does for me what drawing does for other designers - it gives me a way to see the world and focus on the details like how the light hits a subject and the composition of an image.

2. Why do I have to know the differences between Helvetica, Arial, and Univers?
Because it's your bread and butter! Seeing the nuances in font shapes not only allows you to pick the right one for a project, but helps you see the details in everything.

3. Is it true that I have to know Quark?
Yes...and no. I think there are less and less clients that demand the use of Quark, and if given a choice I would pick InDesign in a heartbeat, but you never know when you're going to need it.

4. What’s wrong with downloading illegal copies of software because I can’t afford to buy them as a student?
Well, I'm married to a lawyer so the word illegal says it all for me.

5. How long should my resume be?
One page and only one page.

But for the love of god design the hell out of that page! Use grids and typography to the best of your abilities. Show everyone what you're capable of. And NEVER EVER do it in Word, unless you have the ability to lay it out as strongly as you could with InDesign/Quark.

6. Should I work for free just to get some experience?
Only if it'll give you a great portfolio piece or it's for a cause you believe in.

7. Will I have to leave (the city where I live) in order to get a job?
Depends. Where do you live? What is your dream job? There are too many unknowns for me to really answer this one. There is a need for designers everywhere, it all depends on what you want to do.

8. How do I get work as a freelancer right out of school?
Ummm...who knows. There's lots of good advice above, but to be honest I don't think you would benefit from working on your own as much as you would from taking a full-time position (even if it's in-house).

9. What if a job description asks for print and interactive design experience, but I don't have interactive experience?
Get some! I think the world of design is becoming more and more jumbled. You don't have to be able to code an entire Flash application in AS3, but it helps you and the programmer if you have a grasp of how that works. I think everyone should have a basic understanding of at least HTML and CSS these days, it can save the day when that web designer is out sick and the client wants that update yesterday. Do make sure you get compensated for the additional skills you use though.

10. Can I get a job working in the video game industry by learning about graphic design?
Sure, but you have to have some background in animation too.

On Feb.22.2008 at 09:08 AM
Gigi F.’s comment is:

Sorry about that second post everyone!

On Feb.22.2008 at 09:10 AM
agrayspace’s comment is:

Everyone can stop posting. Gunnar won.

Also, DO NOT DESIGN THE HELL OUT OF YOUR RESUME. Typeset it professionally with sophistication and intelligence. Don't forget to write it that way as well. But for god's sake, if your resume has a "concept" your dead in the fucking water in my book.

On Feb.22.2008 at 09:48 AM
Adam Okrasinski’s comment is:

2. It's not that you have to memorize the subtle differences between similar typefaces. It's that you have to know that Helvetica and Univers will always look better than Arial will. Typography is a subtle science. Arial (designed in the 80's) just cannot compete with the expertly cut and test-of-time-passed perfection of the other two (designed in the late 50's.)

On Feb.23.2008 at 12:05 AM
Kristine Putt’s comment is:

1. I can’t draw at all, so will that hurt my chances of succeeding as a designer?

Not really. Truly effective graphic design is comprised of technicality, aesthetics and marketing strategy (color psychology, appropriate font choices, etc). If you have these three, you can always outsource for an illustrator or sketch artist if the project calls for it.

2. Why do I have to know the differences between Helvetica, Arial, and Univers?

It's important to know which fonts are better choices for specific projects. For instance, Helvetica is a good choice for some print headlines, but Arial is easier on the eyes when it comes to reading text on a web site. Play with, study and learn all the fonts you possibly can! Develop a passion for fonts, they can be your best friend - but when used incorrectly, they can make your project look like mud.

3. Is it true that I have to know Quark?

Nope. Printers these days use Adobe programs. But generally speaking you should learn as many design programs as you possibly can. It's like learning a language - once you know one foreign language, it's much easier to learn another.

4. What’s wrong with downloading illegal copies of software because I can’t afford to buy them as a student?

You are the master of your own integrity. But software - as well as school! - is very costly, and some students can barely make ends meet. You won't get my criticism if you download software while you're studying. Just make good on it when you can afford to, and buy the legit software as soon as you can. Most certainly, by the time you are charging for your work! Besides, with legally purchased software, you get upgrades and support.

5. How long should my resume be?

ONE page if you are just getting out of school, no more than TWO if you have past work experience, and NEVER list more than 3 previous employers. Think of a resume as a "bait to hook" - not a book!

6. Should I work for free just to get some experience?

Payment doesn't have to be in the form of money. For instance, maybe you and your client can come to an agreement that, in lieu of payment, you leave your trademark on the printed piece ("designed by...."). But don't eve do anything entirely for free - it devalues our craft and devalues your self-worth.

7. Will I have to leave (the city where I live) in order to get a job?

Maybe. If you're applying with a design firm, it depends on how far out you're willing to send your resume. But if you choose to freelance, you can basically work almost anywhere in the world. That's part of the beauty of our work - it's all electronic.

8. How do I get work as a freelancer right out of school?

Network, network, network. Join the Chamber of Commerce. There's Craigslist. Don't forget Meetup.com. If you're not on MySpace yet, what are you waiting for? Once the word gets out about your ability, you won't have any trouble getting clients. The only trouble you may have is learning to manage your clients/projects.

9. What if a job description asks for print and interactive design experience, but I don't have interactive experience?

Show a little ambition and apply anyway. Be honest and don't tell your interviewer that you have a skill you don't, but elaborate that you are willing to learn and grow in the areas you aren't experienced in. If you don't ask, you won't get.

The last question is not within my realm of expertise, sorry.

The best advice I can offer is this:

When it comes to freelance graphic design, do not view other designers as your competition, but rather as friends in the trade. We artists are a friendly kind of bunch - we're not typically intimidated by competitors, and we love our work so we naturally want to share our passions with others in our field. Besides, one kind of designer's style will vastly differ from another's, so there really is very little competitive factor in our industry (unless of course you're planning to open your own design and advertising firm). View other designers as your friends, associates and colleagues. You can learn from other designers (many are very willing to share their love of their craft) and will even throw some bones your way when they get busy. In our industry, it's common to outsource when we get buried, so the more connections you make now, the better off you'll be when the time comes to launch. I've learned many tricks and tips from other designers and have made so many friends along the way just by asking questions, being courteous and helpful and accepting constructive criticism. All this has given me much more than anything I ever learned in school.

On Feb.23.2008 at 04:30 AM
Greg’s comment is:

if your resume has a "concept" your dead in the fucking water in my book.

I'm interested to know why this is. "One page, letter size, well typeset" seems to be the consensus. Not to say that the last several resumes I've sent out weren't exactly that; in fact the only time I've ever sent out a resume that wasn't the standard form was the first time I sent them out (though, that's the only time that I've ever gotten a job as a result).

It just seems to me, that if there was a profession that would want to throw convention out the window, especially in the area of self-marketing, it would be design. The only reason I can think of for maintaining the "8.5 x 11" convention is for ease of filing, and it seems to me that if your resume is just getting filed away then the point's been missed. Isn't the idea to call attention to yourself? I certainly don't see the need for the "if it's not 8.5 x 11 and one page I'll just throw it away without looking" mentality. I can see the need for making it concise and well-written, but why take the fun out of it?

Another thing that has me thinking is some of the responses to the drawing question, particularly the people who have responded that drawing isn't a necessary skill for a designer (myself being one of those people). I wonder if we've gotten art direction confused with designing. Certainly you don't need to be able to illustrate to be an art director, just like you don't need to be a great photographer or writer. You just need to be able to combine the ideas into a coherent visual message that's on-brand and on-strategy. And I don't debate that art direction is a key skill needed to be a designer, but doesn't graphic design kind of encompass all those things? What is the definition of a designer? I tend to think of the designer as the person who works in a smaller studio and does their own illustration, their own copywriting, all the things necessary to get the project done, as opposed to the art director who works at a large agency where tasks are delegated or farmed out due to the amount of work. Doesn't the "graphic designer" label require one to be more of a jack-of-all-trades? Am I fundamentally misunderstanding my own profession?

On Feb.23.2008 at 08:51 AM
rynot’s comment is:

1. yes.

2. it's your profession.

3. no.

4. nothing's wrong with it. except its illegal.

5. as long as a piece of string.

6. no. but you'll have to.

7. no. but probably.

8. ask for it.

9. lie.

10. no.

On Feb.23.2008 at 10:27 PM
Gavin’s comment is:

1)
Design college in United States: "Yes"
Design college in England: "No"

On Feb.24.2008 at 04:22 PM
Gigi F.’s comment is:

"Also, DO NOT DESIGN THE HELL OUT OF YOUR RESUME. Typeset it professionally with sophistication and intelligence. Don't forget to write it that way as well. But for god's sake, if your resume has a "concept" your dead in the fucking water in my book."

Thanks for clarifying what I meant Agrayspacer - I consider typesetting and using good typography as part of design. By no means should it be a concept resume, but it should look like you know about design and typography.

On Feb.26.2008 at 06:22 AM
Dustin’s comment is:

Should I work for free just to get some experience?

When there's no price to worry about, the client will take full advantage of that and you'll have no control at all over the project. You'll turn into a production artist real fast, doing countless revisions until they get it their way. It's a very slippery slope and I'd stay as far away from it as possible.

Having the ability to charge for revisions will get you to a final product a lot faster and it will look and work better also. Having that control over the project will make it more YOUR project, because the client will not feel as inclined to add their own little ideas to the design, no matter how bad those ideas are.

If it's free, you'll get frustrated with the countless revisions a lot faster and might not get to a final product at all. As you can imagine, that can be a very bad situation.

Charge something, even if it's a tiny little amount. Someone who isn't willing to pay you isn't going to respect you and will take advantage of you. I learned this the hard way. Even charging as little as $50-$100 as a student makes a world of difference.

On Feb.29.2008 at 07:56 PM
Fiona Clark’s comment is:

1. Any extra skill set you can bring to the table helps.

2. I think it's a matter of learning details.

3. I'm a recent graduate who is freelancing around. All of the on locations jobs I've done so far have had me using Quark. I do hope that changes soon though.

4. School's will usually provide a computer lab with all the software you need. But heck, we've all done it.

5. One page.

6. This is something I encounter on a regular basis and it all depends on you. If you feel strongly about a project then maybe you should work on it during your free time (keeping paying projects as the priority). Don't be taken advantage of though. Doing a poster for a non-profit won't consume your life and may lead to greater things. But creating an entire catalog or something out of the goodness of your heart may be a bad business choice.

7. When there is a will, there is a way.

8. Network, network, network. Having an agency at first to sell you around helps, as long as you know they are charging more for you than what you are getting. Negotiate an hourly you want and you shouldn't have an issue (plus they provide benefits sometimes which is needed). Any experience is good experience.

9. Go for it anyway - what's the worst they say? No? Express an interest to learn interactive and blow them away with your portfolio I suppose.

10. Anything is possible.

On Mar.03.2008 at 11:40 PM