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Student Spotlight: Graphic Design

Currently working as a graphic designer, a freelance artist and a professional drummer in London, a former art student would like to guide you through the challenges you will face upon graduation.

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Art students often wonder how they will be able to continue their work and find a place in the highly competitive UK art industry after their studies have been completed. Hotcourses conducted an interview with an artist who successfully finished his certificate course in graphic design at London College (formally a part of Middlesex University) and a post-graduate course in computer science at a private college in London. He also acquired a degree in professional music (drums) from Academy of Contemporary Music. Currently working as a graphic designer, a freelance artist and a professional drummer in London, he would like to guide you through the challenges you will face upon graduation.

First of all, how long have you been interested in art?

I have been involved in art for as long as I can remember.

When my brothers and I were younger my Dad would show us his drawings and sketches and we would copy him and his styles.

This eventually evolved into painting and using different colors and I started doing some more complicated drawings like sceneries, portraits and pretty much everything else.

When did you decide to become a graphic designer?

My love for art started when I was really young but deciding to become a graphic designer only occurred to me in 2005.

I have always loved computers and been interested in different software and technologies and as I was browsing through the course brochure at college I stumbled on Graphic Design. I read the description and really liked it so decided to enroll in the course. Right after my first class I was absolutely sure I wanted to be a graphic designer.

Learning a lot of things about design and different design software felt so natural for me and I can honestly say I loved every single day of the course. Unfortunately, it was just a short graphic design course so in the end, I had to learn most things by myself through online and CD tutorials.

What did you find about yourself during this process?

A lot of things. One is, I guess, the fact that not all things can be taught and learned in school. When I was at college, I felt that there were more things that I could have been learning so I decided to do a lot of them on my own and really work hard.

I’ve watched a lot of video tutorials, read books and asked fellow designers on forums and I’ve realized that doing all these things has made me learn an awful lot in just a short time.

What would you be doing for living now if you weren’t a graphic designer?

It’s hard to say, but before I became a graphic designer I was working in an office doing admin jobs. If I wasn’t doing graphic design for a living I guess it would have to be something like working in an office, doing odd jobs, or maybe being a musician or photographer.

If you did not have to earn money for living, what would you be doing most of your life?

I’ve been an artist all my life. If I didn’t need the money, I’d still be doing arts, designing, photography or playing drums as these are my passions. I chose to be a graphic designer because I love art and if I get paid to do something I love then even better. It’s the same with playing drums. Art and music give me peace, they are my soul and I honestly could not live without either of them.

How difficult was it for you to find work initially?

At first it was difficult to find clients. There are so many graphic designers out there and the competition is quite high. When I was just starting out and expanding my portfolio, I had to take on clients for free just to get more experience and to get my name out there.

When I started working for a newspaper company as a designer and layout artist, it was actually the start of my career as a professional graphic designer. I learned so much, met different people and designed for small and big businesses in the UK. The fact that I was also in charge of marketing helped me build a good relationship with these people and I have continued to design marketing campaigns for them up until now.

Now that I’m working full time I find it difficult to take on more clients because I just don’t have enough time. Sometimes though, it’s hard to say no to a client  - especially the ones that I’ve become good friends with.

What software do you love the most in terms of its functionality?

I would have to say Photoshop and InDesign. I use both on a daily basis and for me they are the best software out there for the job. Their interfaces are very user-friendly and consistent with other Adobe products with some really cool and very accurate tools. I have used Quark in the past but prefer InDesign. For me there are just so many things you can do with it and no limitations. Plus the ease of use is a bonus.

Do you like working in London? Would you recommend pursuing a career here?

I love London and can wholeheartedly say that this is my home now. It’s a great place to live and work and although it is a bit expensive I love working here.

One thing I’ve noticed about working as a graphic designer over the past couple of years and especially through working with different clients across the globe is that it really doesn’t matter whether you’re in London, China or Canada. If you have access to a computer, Internet and a phone line you can work anywhere.

However, there’s still the question of whether you want to work as a freelance designer, have your own studio or work for a company. The last few years have changed dramatically in that a lot of small design studios are now getting more work than the big ones. I guess it’s due to the fact that most clients want to save money by hiring a really good freelance designer or a small studio rather than going with a well-known or bigger studio.

What is your plan for the next 10 years in terms of your career and what are your future goals?

I have been planning on setting up my own studio. So that’s the plan basically. Just to have my own graphic design studio and get my own clients.

What advice would you give to the students who want to study graphic design?

1: If you love art then studying graphic design is going to be an enjoyable experience. Education is important, so if you get a chance to study don’t think twice, just go for it.

2: There are a lot of things you can learn in school but if you don’t or can’t afford to go to uni or college it’s not the end of the world.

3: Graphic design is about talent. Learning software or applications can be done in a short period of time. I know a lot of designers who didn’t have a formal education but can still create stunning artworks and are demanded by many clients.

If you have both talent and education then you are definitely on the right path.


Useful information:

Graphic Design courses in the UK

Art courses in the UK

Read more stories from art students

Read about entry requirements for the UK

Getting to grips with the English language

Learn more about the Royal Academy Schools

Study in the UK


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