What to Expect during Your First Graphic Design Job
So, you're officially a graphic designer. You've made it past the interview process and just got your offer letter or call. This is a super exciting time. All that hard work in school and working on your portfolio has paid off. They could see by those fake book covers you created in class that took you an entire semester that you have an amazing amount of creativity and tenacity to contribute to the team. But, what will you be working on and what will your first few months at your new exciting job look like?
You probably have a lot of expectations of what it will be like working as a graphic designer. Perhaps you'll have your own office with your name in big letters on the door. Maybe you've seen the roll portrayed in movies or television and fantasize a little about the awesome creative things you'll be working on. It's also easy to see the pay range of graphic designers in your area and feel like you will be hitting that upper end of the scale in no time at all. The reality is a little different than what you may be expecting and shouldn't discourage you from pursuing a career as a designer.
One of the realities that can be frustrating in your first design position is that your opinions and design abilities may not appear to be valued by the team or leadership. Your employer has a responsibility to make the client happy and may not be willing to risk their satisfaction while you cut your teeth on your first projects. The types of projects that you'll be receiving in this first period may seem like grunt work, but it's a great time to prove yourself and learn a lot about the process. You'll be given small projects as tests. Take them very seriously and put your best effort forward.
Some assignments you'll receive in this period may be taking care of corrections and revisions. This is a great time to learn the structure of the filing system of your organization. It's important to know where files are kept on the server such as stock photography, fonts, archives and support files for each client. Take advantage of this opportunity to learn how your organization tracks time or projects. They may have a very sophisticated job ticketing system in place to log instructions and keep track of where a specific project is in the pipeline. You may feel unappreciated because you feel like your talents and ideas are going to waste but the projects you're given in this time are still a valuable part of making the client happy, which should be the ultimate goal of everyone in the company.
"Stay positive!" (It's not just a tagline in a poster)
It's really important to stay positive and focus on the prize. It's not likely that you'll be given opportunities to prove yourself if you have a bad attitude. When you do get to contribute in creative discussions, don't hold back. You're fresh and full of great ideas. That's why you were hired. You have passion and creativity. But also try and remember that the quickest way to bring the process to a halt is to criticize someone else's ideas. Be positive by encouraging your teammates and they will encourage you and your ideas in return. Some of the best ideas come from building off of others and collaborating to come up with a great solution.
Over time, you'll have more opportunities to create and work on what you feel like are important projects. Be intentional and really think about the process you went through in coming up with these creative solutions. Share with your creative director or supervisor the ideas that you had when you designed these elements and why you chose them. This creative process is very important to relay to the client. If a client or your boss asks why you chose a certain color, typeface or treatment, the worst answer you can give is that you don't know or that it just looked cool. This brings us to another important topic that you may not be aware of as part of your new job as a graphic designer. You are now a salesman.
You are your own best advocate
Depending on how your team is structured, it's very likely that you will have to sell or fight for your designs. This is why it's so important to be intentional and deliberate when designing. If you can't back up why your design is the way it is, then why would someone else want it or respect it? Don't be afraid to voice your opinion. Be confident and know that even if your ideas are rejected, that you worked hard and created something great.
Nothing is permanent
If you've put in your time and still feel like it's not going to be a good fit, remember that you're creating great portfolio pieces that are like gold when seeking your next design gig. The most important take away from this first job is experience. You are being paid to learn everything you can about being a designer and the industry. Learn all you can from your team and leadership and don't forget to have fun. You've made it this far and it will only get better from here.