Applications are now open for the Melbourne Design Market — http://t.co/nV2wZSU5rV
Not so many moons ago if you wanted to be a graphic designer you could get away with expertise in QuarkXPress, Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, plus a dash of innate talent. Today, however, it’s quaintly anachronistic to think you can be a designer if you just know how to use a few design tools and, unless you end up working for a huge advertising agency or design studio, it’s very likely you’ll be doing a lot more than just sitting there making things look pretty. You may even be undertaking project management, asset management or workflow management. It’s also likely you’ll be in contact with clients in some form or other. You’ll need an understanding of the media landscape, so the creative solutions to clients’ problems are relevant, and that means more than watching a few hours of TV or YouTube a night.
It’s also becoming less and less relevant to simply intend to go into business as a print designer. Say you specialise in typesetting the financial pages of annual reports and you call up a bunch of studios asking if they have freelance work available for typesetters. Most will expect not only a typesetter, but a design and project all-rounder. Some younger studio managers may even ask you what a typesetter is. It’s the same across media. You may not set yourself up as an animation, video production, web development or media planning company when you break in to the business, but clients hear the same gossip you do about how the hottest new platform is going to leave behind all the businesses that don’t adopt it – just look at the explosion of Twitter. You can bet you’ll have clients who’ll be asking you about motion graphics for their websites, video for their YouTube channel and WordPress plug-ins for their company’s intranet.
These changing times are reflected in the schools and courses you can find in Desktop’s annual course guide. Very few offer courses where you learn plain old print and paper design and little else. Though an overused buzzword in the 90s, ‘multimedia’ has now come into its own as more of the tools to create and distribute communications have fallen within the reach of even the leanest studio. Post-production and animation (and their close cousin, video editing) are still, however, somewhat of a special case.
The software is becoming more affordable all the time – Apple’s Final Cut Studio Two is a good example, packed with video editing, motion graphics, audio, colour grading, encoding and DVD tools for RRP $1698. And these are tools that would have costs hundreds of thousands of dollars in the analogue era. Yet in order to master video, animation and digital post-production properly it pays to have the best equipment, because it’s what you’ll be using when you get into the industry. So unless you have a rich uncle the best place to get access to state-of-the-art technology is at Australia’s accredited training colleges.
Out in the real world
Of course you may have the skills, practice time and the best equipment money can buy, but there’s one thing you can’t cheat at – experience in a working studio. Do your homework, because the best training courses will be those modelled on real-world environments.
It’s a wonderful feeling to walk into an interview with a fantastically detailed Flash website, beautifully rendered piece of three-dimensional artwork or a showreel you’ve sweated over for months, but what will you say when the studio manager says, “Yes, very cool – that’s the sort of work our clients give us, and they usually need it done within the week. How long did this take you?” The most important thing industry-relevant training can give you is a ‘live’ environment with deadlines, co-workers and the constraints of your equipment, and possibly an indicative budget. If you land a job at an agency where money is no object, clients are organised enough to give you far-off deadlines and you have the best applications and hardware money can buy, then good going! Chances are though that the other 99.9 percent of us are going to enter a career beset by compromise, where you have to let something go when it’s near enough (or even awful in your view, but which the client loves) or worse, has to be perfect in an impossible time-frame.
Luckily for us Australia’s design and multimedia schools offer the best way to experience a studio outside a studio, but it’s just as important to do your homework about the tutors at the college you’re considering. Are they fusty old career academics or have they been at the coalface of a real agency or studio environment? Half of what you’ll learn is handling the demands of the work, not just the work itself, and the only person who can teach you that is someone who’s been there.
Above all, remember that the most important thing you can learn is an adaptive mind. Designers of your parents’ generation learned their trade on bromide machines and pasting boards. If you know someone who’s been there for a few decades and has still got ‘it’, that’s the quality you’re after. Tools will change, trends will certainly change, even some of the fundamentals are flexible, so the most important rule of graphic design you can learn is knowing when the rules can be broken. You’ll never discover them all and some that you learn will be useless in five years, but stay ahead of the curve by learning the most important lesson of all – that you’ll never finish learning.
Image Copyright tdelosreyes