How to enhance my graphic design education?
May 9, 2007 12:44 PM   Subscribe

Pursuing an MA in illustration this fall at SCAD. After graduation, I'd like to secure a job in graphic design while becoming a successful illustrator. Given my background, what would it take for me to achieve this goal?

I have an undergraduate degree in illustration and over 4 years print production experience. I have a small graphic design portfolio of volunteer projects, but they aren't the greatest and haven't helped me land any jobs. I've become really discouraged, financially unstable, and have strayed far from my goal of becoming a successful creative.

That said, I want to support myself as a graphic designer while building up a steady flow of freelance illustration projects. I just don't know if I need an additional degree in graphic design to get ahead. I have the technical skills and software knowledge. Will a few classes (i.e. typography, principles of design, and web) be enough?

Thank you!
posted by apipameme to Education (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
why not support yourself as an illustrator while building up a steady flow of freelance illustration projects?
posted by allthingsfixable at 12:55 PM on May 9, 2007

I agree, use the degree in illustration and don't waste your time trying to become a graphic designer in the meantime. You'll only end up trapped in a graphic design job.
posted by thebrokenmuse at 1:38 PM on May 9, 2007

You should have a very solid grasp of typography.
I'm sure you're covered formally and have solid compositional skills, but you can't go wrong having a background in illustration with strong typographical skills.

Also, if you want specifics on which classes to take and/or professors, let me know, I graduated SCAD graphic design.
posted by Sreiny at 1:58 PM on May 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

I go to SCAD (for Photography) and considered staying to get an MA. I decided against it because from what I haved gathered, it would have been basically an expensive year of self-directed study. I don't know about design or illustration, but for me I know what kind of images I want to make and I don't need to take out another student loan to do so. I can do the same work on my own time (and simultaneously get paid) rather than going further into debt.

If you're heading in a fine art direction, then I think an MA/MFA is a good way to go, but not if you're heading out into the commercial world. I agree with everyone else, take the money you would have spent on tuition to support yourself while you build your freelance career.
posted by bradbane at 2:02 PM on May 9, 2007

allthingsfixable, I'm guessing because there aren't very many illustration jobs, most illustrators work as freelancers.

apipameme, you say that you already have the technical skills and the software knowledge. That is most of what you need. Just don't think of graphic design as Art. Graphic design is a craft, and I mean that in the highest sense of the word. I think the technical skills are the basis of the work. But of course, you also need to know how to approach the process. Taking some classes at SCAD if possible would help, especially typography. And get to know the graphic design faculty or grad students and talk to them about it.

I would recommend reading Edward Tufte's books and attending his seminar if possible. There is a specialized field of design called information design which he mostly addresses, but I think the principles are the same for good graphic design, because it is all about communicating concepts or relationships visually. It boils down to identifying signals amidst noise, eliminating or minimizing the noise (or visual clutter), and highlighting the signal (the message) in visually appropriate and intuitive ways.
posted by daser at 2:09 PM on May 9, 2007

to elaborate. I realize that illustration jobs can be few and far between, but what I was trying to say concisely was why waste time and money building a design portfolio if what you want to do is illustration.

However if you're looking for a more stable full-time job, I would just apply for any creative position you can find. Apply for a Jr. Graphic Design position, or work as a production artist if you want to get your foot in the door at a design firm or ad agency. In the end it's your portfolio and your personality that will get you that first job. I got my first Jr. graphic design job with out having received my diploma yet.

Don't bother with spending the money on the second degree or the Edward Tufte seminar just yet ( I agree E.T. is amazing, but not worth the money for where you're at. Plus, if you're lucky your employer might pay the $400 for you to go, and while helpful, not crucial for getting that first job)
posted by allthingsfixable at 3:04 PM on May 9, 2007

Best answer: You need a good portfolio.

You need good people skills to convince people to hire you.

You have print production experience, which you should highlight as an assest.

You should also figure out what kind of designer you want to be. Agency ? Publication (working for magazines and newspapers etc? Corporate (working for large institutions)? With the print production background, you could probably hit up one of the local newspapers for something part-time to pick up some resume experience.

SCAD has a job board for part-time, fulltime and freelance work. Use it to learn.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:41 PM on May 9, 2007

I debated going to SCAD for Illustration Design. However, if I am going to grad school, I decided I'd want to get an MFA and not just an MA. Anyways, from what I understand, Illustration Design is basically a mash up of Illustration and Design courses. So if you're looking for some extra design skills, that might be a good program to explore.

I am also hoping to go the path of graphic design because just supporting myself as a freelance illustrator terrifies me. I want to have a job where I will be able to financially support myself and do freelance work on the side.

Good luck!
posted by Becko at 12:01 PM on May 10, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for your posts everyone. I agree, trying to afford an additional degree in design doesn't make sense. Time to take the plunge in illustration and try a more "self-educated" approach to graphic design.

Sreiny - I would really appreciate your recommendation on SCAD graphic design classes and professors. That would be great, thank you!

daser - I will definitely check out Edward Tufte's books as I am currently researching "must have" graphic design literature. thanks.

allthingsfixable - I agree with your approach of applying for entry level jobs in the creative field while pursuing illustration. I just don't want to get stuck in a time warp, like I did for 4 years in a print shop doing pre-press and making photocopies all day. (sigh). I'll just have to be more proactive with my approach.

Becko - I understand your fear of freelance illustration. Seems like it requires a lot of patience and diligence. SCAD's Illustration Design program is a great suggestion, but I think I need to finally concentrate on one field so I can feel like I'm moving ahead. Good luck to you too!
posted by apipameme at 10:11 PM on May 10, 2007

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