How do I get into the industry?

Gidgidonihah's picture
Member's Forum

I have always been interested in design if only from enjoying well designed pieces. I'm currently in university and have recently decided that I would love to be a graphic designer. I know I want to do something in the design industry.

My problem is, where I'm currently at in school, I can't get into the design program. I've decided to finish up with a bachelors in either linguistics or psychology, but I don't know how to get into the design industry.

I'll be honest, I don't have a whole lot of experience. I've designed a few websites and done a couple of print ads for my company, but not much more than that. What is the best way for me to go about entering the industry?

seraphim's picture

That's easy.

The first step is to put together a portfolio of your best work. There are hundreds of websites out there on tips and tricks about putting together a portfolio. At least in the colleges around here, you need a portfolio to enter the better design programs.

If you don't have enough work for a portfolio, start asking around to find organizations that need some help in advertising. Create your own identity, too. It's always good to have a branding for yourself that is recognizable and memorable.

Perfectly Lost Designs

mara06's picture

A thought on how to get started

With a degree in psychology, you might want to begin building your professional portfolio in the nonprofit sector, designing brochures for mental health programs, Continuing Education Credit courses offered by various institutes of higher education and so on. You'll have to be better than they can do for themselves in-house, and will probably have to charge a relatively modest fee at first. You will be attractive to them not only because of your design sensibility, but because you speak their language. I know first-hand that this can be a real problem in mental health arenas. When they try to produce their own stuff, it's often patronizing, kiddish, or written with so much jargon people can't understand it. You can help them bridge the communications gap. With such organizations, you can usually be quite honest about your ulterior motive; they'll respect your openness and may be inclined to give you a break.

Another thing is that a lot of these mental health outfits have high-calibre business people on their boards of directors, and a lot of times, it's those people, rather than staff, that you'd be dealing with. One thing might lead to another.

You might find, after a while doing this on the side, that you really don't care for it, or lack the knack or something. On the other hand, maybe all you need is "field work" to convince you this is your "thing." At that point, an advanced degree may be less valuable to you than workshops and seminars geared toward professional designers, using real-world applications and philosophies.

Whatever you decide to do, good luck!


natobasso's picture

Most of us got our start at

Most of us got our start at the 'beginning' which is a production job at the first company that would hire us with no experience. That's my experience, anyway. This first experience will launch your entire career so take advantage of it when it comes.

If you can do some freelance work (call it temp or contract work to potential employers) or intern at a design firm or agency then those things will help you tremendously.

Above all, know the Creative Suite backwards and forwards and join AIGA in your area so you can meet other like minded designers. Network is king.

Powerpoint is not a design application

natobasso's picture

Great article on aiga.org on

Great article on aiga.org on becoming a designer:

Powerpoint is not a design application

jasongraphix's picture

Don't Give Up on the degree in GD

Most good graphic design programs are hard to get into for a reason. I know the program at the University of Central Florida where I went accepted students into the upper level classes once a year and at the time they were accepting a third of the yearly applicants. Getting into a program like this might take you a few semesters, but it'll be far easier to spend a year taking other art classes and trying to get accepted than to try to go back for that degree later in life.

If you REALLY can't get into the program, the above advice of networking and getting experience is valid. Your portfolio is far more valuable than a paper degree, but the lessons you learn getting that degree will make your portfolio that much stronger. Best of luck.

Gidgidonihah's picture

Jason, you summed up my

Jason, you summed up my point right there there. I simply can't get into the program because they require a 3.75 GPA to apply, which, I don't have. So I needed to know how I could get the experience and learn the lessons that I otherwise would while getting the degree.

All of your responses have been great. Thanks! I love this site.

jondodgedesigns's picture

Have you applied to The Art Institutes?

I've been reading creativebits.org for some time now and have never been compelled to give my two cents, but for Gidgidonihah the advice I can give is this... Have you tried to get into The Art Institutes across the U.S? They are willing to look past your less than stellar grades. I am an alumni from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, PA. and I never had solid grades in high school, but I graduated from AIP at the top of my class. Now I work for a "top 100" Advertising Agency. check them out... www.artinstitutes.edu


jasongraphix's picture

That's Random...

I just drove 3 hours yesterday to the Atlanta Art Institute to speak to the Web Design students there about this very topic. The program there seems really solid and the students are learning a lot of the things I wish I learned in school.

Krapster's picture

Hard work…

I'd say keep learning, do lots of "con amore" (as in unpaid) work, solicit everyone for work and above all, believe in yourself. If you really really want it, it will happen.

Oh, and when you do get assignments, practice the "under-promise/over-deliver" principle.

It is not irritating to be where one is
It is only irritating to wish
One was somewhere else

david.rudaitis's picture


If you move to the midwest art schools are little easier to get started at. The school I attended is UCM used to be call CMSU it is in Warrensburg, MO and it is a good school for Graphic Design. One of the top rated in the nation. I would not pass up school though. This is a industry that can have some pretty rough bumps. The AIGA is a great idea or any other local design groups can help you with a little knowledge about your area. In closeing I just want to say go for your dreams I pretty sure every designer out there are doing theirs.