Welcome to class. Sure, it’s summer – and you may have an internship at a creative design agency (or maybe you’re just looking for one) – but if you really want to make it in this industry, you’ll want to always be learning. Even during the summer, and especially during your internship.
So let’s think of this as “summer school,” and I’ll let you in on the advice that I give the students in the typography course I teach as an adjunct instructor at UMSL. (Follow the jump for 10 tips & an infographic!)
1. Know typography. Be able to recognize good typography! You don’t often get to tell a story without words, so learn to set them well. (Remember, your book will show it if you haven’t spent time honing your type skills).
2. Know your strengths. If you can’t tell how your strengths compare to others, then you may not know what good design is. You should always be aware of your strengths and weaknesses so you know what to work on and what to emphasize in your portfolio.
3. Be on time. School and your internship are your practice ground. It’s not acceptable to miss a client’s deadline, so it’s not acceptable to turn in late work or internship assignments (even if a client will never see them!) Learn to manage your time, and know how long it will take you to complete a task.
4. Present yourself and your work well. Not only are you selling your work, but you also are selling your expertise as a designer. Be sure you appear professional and smart, from the way you align yourself and your work with your clients or dream agency to the way you actually share your work (visually and verbally).
5. Get digital. A screen is just another medium to design for, and people are using screens now more than ever. Your portfolio should be 50% digital work, and you should know all the advantages and constraints of this ever-changing medium. Stay aware of trends in social media, web and mobile trends.
6. Don’t wait until you’re a senior to get an internship. Seek internships early and often. Get as many real world experiences as possible while you are in college, and your portfolio will see the benefits. The bonus? You’ll learn the type of creative design agency environments you prefer. Knowing what you like and don’t like in terms of agency culture will eventually help guide your job search and ensure you’ll end up loving your job.
7. Go on studio tours. We were all in your place at one time, and you’ll be surprised how eager professionals will be to share advice and show you around their workplace – whether it’s a school group or through AIGA or Ad Club event, search out local opportunities or use social media to connect with professionals and create your own opportunities.
8. Love what you do. You have to love design, art and the mediums you’re designing for to be happy at this job. I can honestly say that I never wake up in the morning thinking, “I don’t want to go to work today.” With the right outlook, this job can be fun and challenging every day.
9. Know how to sell your work. Design isn’t just pretty. Every decision should have thought and reasoning behind it. You will be asked, “Why did you do that?” Have a reason.
10. Build a portfolio that shows who you are. Savor your time in school because it is the only time you will get to design for you. When you build a portfolio of your student work, be sure it shows who you are – not simply who you know that is willing to let you do freelance.
Good luck! If you’re a working art director, let us know what tips you’d add in the comments. And if you’re just starting out, feel free to ask questions in the comments and we’ll respond with advice from real life pros.
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