career help: Art, Graphic Design, Marketing?? ?
October 21, 2014 7:03 AM   Subscribe

Hello all!! I'm losing sleep over this.. 24 year old almost 25. My current situation is that I am teaching English abroad. I have a degree from a prominent university in an unrelated field (BA). I love art, especially illustration, and I also enjoy graphic design. But I can't decide between marketing and graphic design.

I was working in marketing and doing some freelance graphic design/illustration before moving to Europe to teach English. This is my second year teaching. The plan was to enjoy living in another country for a short time and then go back to school for concept art for video games. However, after a lot of research on the subject, I discovered that concept art was a really difficult a field to break into. I love the idea of it, having such huge sacrifices for an uncertain outcome really scared me.

So, graphic design and illustration seemed like a more practical choice. I did a ton of research on schools and certificate programs, etc, and in Europe and the United States.

The two best options I found was Scotland, which only charges around $2,000 a year (but I would have to wait until I was 26 to enter, because I would need a 3 year resident requirement in Europe before getting that price), and it is a 4 year program, and a 3 year affordable after work program in the states. They also have a 1-2 year master's program.
Additionally, in my university town they have a 3 year after work graphic design certificate program at a famous art school. The country I live in has really cheap options but I can't imagine myself living here for another 3 or 4 years as I do not like the culture.

Basically I'm at a crossroads and I'm feeling really stuck and stressed out about what route to take. My problem is that I love artistic, creative things and feel sad when I'm not doing them, but I also really like working in marketing, strategizing and the idea of having a lot of responsibility in planning the direction of a company or nonprofit, maybe going on business trips, that sort of thing.

I could basically see myself being happy in both fields, but the downsides seem to be either that I would regret not having done art, or that I am really poor, work really long hours, and are stressed about no job stability and advancement.

Right now the best plan I've been able to think of is try to get a 9-5 marketing job and try to study graphic design and illustration after work to build a portfolio

So, my general questions are:
1. Is it possible to get a job which has aspects of a traditional business/marketing job AND graphic design/illustration/creative stuff, outside of entry level or internships? (I've mostly seen advertisements for graphic design and marketing in the same description for interns).

I had an internship at a nonprofit where I did marketing and graphic design/illustration (to draw the graphics), and I really loved it. Something like that would be my ideal job. But I don't know if this sort of combined situation is something that is only found in internships and lowlevel stuff.

2. Is the saying true that "If you can think of anything else you would be happy doing, you shouldn't do art"? Any advice on how to figure this out? I have 8 months left in my current teaching job, and it's part time, so I'm studying art and trying to find some sort of little part time social media job or volunteer thing online to keep my resume relevant.

3. Any general advice for people on whether or not to "take the plunge" if they could see themselves being happy either way?

4. Is it a bad idea to want to find a job in Europe (but a different country because although I speak the language here, I don't like the culture I am in..) because I want to have a lot of vacation time and close proximity to travel, one of my big passions?
posted by fueras to Education (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Your best bet, barring finding a spot for a non-profit or some similar small business looking for an all-in-one marketing person, is to hang a sign out and become a freelancer. Being able to offer both marketing planning and design in a single stop would be a plus.

And, honestly, freelancing might be your best bet in order to build your portfolio and get some projects into your CV. Without some track record, you'll probably have a hard time landing a position in a business.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:17 AM on October 21, 2014

If pay matters in your calculations, you're probably better off working in Marketing. Graphic Design doesn't pay very well.

Since you like it anyway, try to get a Marketing job with a big enough company that they'll pay for your classes in Design. Perhaps once you finish you could move into a Creative Director position instead of grunt-level graphic design, and you'd get both the creativity and the decent pay.
posted by clone boulevard at 8:14 AM on October 21, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks guys.. yeah, the problem I am having is that the idea of trying to go back to school stresses me out so much. Looking at potential schools online just gives me a the ones I can afford are all in Europe, in random non-capital cities and I know nothing about them other than that they have programs in English.

It's such a huge risk, blah, I don't know. :/ The risk itself is causing me the stress. If I feel this stressed out about looking at schools, that's probably a bad sign right?

Any thoughts on Europe vs USA?
posted by fueras at 2:41 PM on October 21, 2014

I am someone who works in marketing and spends most of my day doing some kind of graphic design and writing. I started in nonprofits -- book publishing, cultural nonprofit, and I am now at a for-profit company. I had no design training when I started as a marketing assistant, but I picked up the software (PageMaker, Photoshop, then Quark, and now InDesign and Illustrator). I design catalogs, brochures, emails, and some product packaging and packaging design. I would never call myself a graphic designer though, because I'm not trained as one, and going through that schooling really does make you think differently than other people. I love working with graphic designers because of that -- even when I have to give them awful feedback like "make the logo bigger." When I have a big/complex project, I hire a freelancer or agency to do it.

I spent the last two days of this week, however, working on a giant spreadsheet with sales data and customer information, so my job is absolutely not all creative work.

In the U.S., you would start as a marketing assistant, and you would have a lot of grunt work to do before you got to do larger, fun, more creative projects. That's just how it goes. Nonprofits are sometimes more generous with leave, because of their lower pay scales.

Acquiring a work permit for an E.U. country isn't the easiest thing to do. I'm sure there are ways, but you should figure that into your decision.
posted by gladly at 11:35 AM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: ok, thanks so much for the feedback! it sounds like it really is one thing or the other. hrm.

well, i am in the process of applying for a european union passport (poland) thru my family. we'll see if it goes through..

in a way i wish it wouldn't. just one more thing to have to decide :(
posted by fueras at 2:31 PM on October 25, 2014

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