Eric Madsen, The Office of Eric Madsen
My impression after interviewing students over the years is that
there is generally very little awareness of the graphic design
profession at the high school level. It doesn't seem to have
changed much since I was in high school, but let's face it, there
haven't been many prime-time television shows about the adventures
of a graphic designer either.
One of the most important things a prospective graphic design
student can do is to discover for themselves as much as possible
about the profession outside the college curriculum. Early in their
college studies, students should visit design firms and talk to
people successfully practicing graphic design. This will help them
know what to demand of the curriculum, will put them in touch with
the reality of the profession, and in turn will make them more
marketable to an employer.
They should demand that outside designers be brought in for
lectures, critiques or special project assignments and that studio
tours be arranged. I recommend internships and believe students
should show their portfolios for review after their second and
third year, or even after each semester of those years. The student
will learn that the subject of typography is absolutely critical,
that exposure to a wide variety of design problems is essential,
that the concept or idea behind the design is key, that practical
knowledge of production and design skills is as important as
theory, that exposure to basic business practices is helpful, and
that the importance of
the portfolio can't be overemphasized. At the moment of the
interview, the portfolio becomes the student.
They will also learn that the ability to write and speak
effectively, even to spell correctly, is essential. The designer's
client base is the business world, and the successful designer is
one who is prepared to communicate with this market. Designing is
only a small part of the process. Planning, listening, writing,
estimating, scheduling and supervising are all part of a designer's
One last thought: Be prepared for the fact that your parents
will probably never understand what you do for a living.
In the beginning of a career, the transition from school to work is difficult. Lynda Decker of Decker Design offers this advice.
Section: Tools and Resources -
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In-house, agency, or freelance? Why AIGA’s resident career expert thinks agency, followed by in-house, then freelance is the best path for students and emerging designers.
Section: Inspiration -
career, in-house design, freelancing, professional development, Design Job Series
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