I was approached today by a design student, asking me if I could answer three questions about being a graphic designer. I thought it might be helpful to other aspiring designers out there if I published my answers here.
Q. Could you describe one of your typical workdays?
A. A typical workday for me breaks down into four types of tasks:
- 20%…Communication: reading and responding to emails from clients, answering the phone and returning calls
- 5%…Marketing: Posting to my blog or Facebook page to stay in front of my current audiences
- 60%…Design: Working on projects —by sketching; researching (studying clients’ target audiences, looking at trends, finding stock photos); designing comps using Illustrator, Photoshop, or InDesign; editing websites using Dreamweaver or WordPress; posting social media updates for clients
- 15%…Project management: keeping track of projects in progress, adding new projects, billing completed projects
Q. What skills are required in your position on a day-to-day basis?
A. Skills required for the type of work I do include:
- Technology: fluent in CS5.5, Microsoft Office, Dreamweaver; proficient in CSS and HTML; Very knowledgeable in using/customizing/best practices for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, email programs (Constant Contact, MailChimp); proficient in using and troubleshooting hardware such as Mac computers, iPhone, external hard drives, printers, scanners, online faxing
- Personal skills: Need to be able to communicate effectively with clients, which translates to being able to listen and reflect back what you hear, then present potential solutions.
- Business skills: Need to be comfortable with being your own salesperson—some knowledge of sales techniques is extremely helpful.
- Organizational skills: Need to be able prioritize your work and organize it well in your calendar and on your computer. Need to be able to coordinate the work of your vendors, as well.
- Communication: Need to be able to provide progress/status updates to clients and communicate any additional costs before they incur. Also need to be able to communicate needs to vendors.
- Design skills: Need to have a solid understanding of the principals of design and typography. Should have a very good understanding/background in the principals of marketing as well. Additionally, it’s very helpful to be a good writer and proficient in grammar.
Q. Why do people leave this field or company?
A. Why people leave this field…
I’ve known other designers to transition from full-time positions to freelancer positions, then back to full-time positions again. It has a lot to do with the balance of earning a steady paycheck vs. creative freedom. Others I know who have transitioned from this field retired to pursue their own fine art or teach design. I don’t know anyone who just left graphic design to do something completely different. Honestly, I think once you’re in it, its hard to imagine not having your fingers in how the world around us is presented. It kind of runs in the blood after a while!