A strong wind was blowing, it was spring of 2014 and some of us were swept away in the anxiety of graduating from design school. How do I get a job? How will I pay my bills? Am I going to find somewhere where I finally enjoy going to work? What do my prospects look like after graduating from design school? Some of us were front-end development savvy, some of us had learned User Experience centered design and some us were just looking to slang some visual design and get paid for it. But all the people I’ve interviewed for this ‘Year later’ post, stood out to me in my class as ambitious designers. Here are the perspectives of my classmates on web marketing and the industry a year after finishing school at Minneapolis Community and Technical college for Web Design.
Considering it’s been about a year since you entered fully into the design industry, what are some highlights of things you’ve learned over the past year?
“A few things come to mind here. I Design a lot of different pieces for print, so working closely with printers for various projects has taught me a lot as far as how to design for that particular print piece, and set up for production. Overall though I would say I have learned how to manage my time really well. I am always jumping from one project to the next, and keeping in mind various deadlines, so it’s really important to be efficient with your time and stay on top of things.”
“I have learned a great deal about continuous learning as well as focus. There was a lot of talk about “the Unicorn” when we were in school, and because of that we had a lot of people aiming to know enough to be dangerous in many facets of the industry that we were entering into. This was me, in a way, when I graduated and was out applying and selling myself as an asset to various teams. I frequently found myself answering questions delving into what I liked more, design or development. I found a job that allowed me to wear many hats, as it were. I realized quickly that there is more marketability for someone who has a broad base of knowledge, yet they have deep knowledge on a more specific area.”
“Right after school I entered into the tech industry as a UI/UX Designer. Quite quickly I learned that the job title of UI/UX is a vague and abused one. It is everyone’s duty, be it copy writer, developer or designer, to empathize with their users. This however is often overlooked unfortunately, and it often shows in the product that is created.”
What do you think the market looks like right now for digital designers coming into the industry?
“The definition of a digital designer is a bullshit term. One might focus on a medium over another, but at the end of the day you are really just a designer. That said, being a designer in the tech industry today can be very rewarding. Finally designers, especially in SAAS world, are being rewarded and valued quite well. That said, getting your first foothold can be quite difficult. In order to boost your chances one really has to look towards a few cities for lucrative employment.”
“It seems to me that we are in a design boom. I have been seeing that, by and large, people are clamoring for design. Developers are in demand as well, but I regularly run into developers who are searching for people to design for the product that they are working on.”
“I think it looks great. There is a huge need for digital designers. In today’s world it’s essential to have not only a digital presence, but make things easy for people to access on various digital platforms. With that, comes a lot of innovation and with more innovation comes new ways of designing. Whether it’s for applications, websites, emails, multimedia, etc, I think there are a lot of opportunities out there. “
What’s a challenge you’ve faced over the last year in the job, that you didn’t realize you’d have a year ago?
“I underestimated the role that process plays in the the industry. As design professionals you invariable are only as effective as the process used by your team will allow. I have spent the better part of the year since graduation working with my team to change our process and am seeing really positive result.”
“For me, it has been learning how to be an effective project manager. When working as a team on various projects, you not only need to be conscious of your own deadlines, but also make sure your team is on track, and making sure the client, or fellow employees give you the thinks you need to complete your pieces of the project on time.”
What’s something that’s gone very well over the last year in your job that you wouldn’t have anticipated?
“The answer to the previous question plays into my main success in the last year. Not only does helping to retool the process implemented by my team help the company deliver better products, it has also allowed me to try things that I am reading about and learn new tools and processes.”
“Taking a leadership position and exploring modern technological territories has been quite fruitful. One thing the tech industry offers, for better or worse, is the opportunity to explore none traditional ideas or approaches to problems. So far its been quite rewarding.”
“I think I’ve learned to be more efficient with my time and decision making skills. Learning things like quick keys when you are developing saves a lot of time, and also just being able to make design decisions quicker. When I was in school I would often have a hard time sticking to one decision, or have a tough time figuring out which direction I wanted to go in. In the real world, sometimes you just have to make a decision and stand by it. “
What would you tell someone graduating today from design school, to consider as they enter more fully into the job market in the design industry?
“I think it is important to keep learning. Expand your knowledge. If you are a print designer, learn as much as you can about the web, because I think it will be a huge advantage. If you are a developer, keep learning new languages, and stay on top of where things are heading. I also think communication and organization are keys to success. If you aren’t an organized person by nature (I know It’s not my gift), then find a system that works for you, and do what you have to do to stay organized.”
“It is probably the most generic answer, but (considering the experience mentioned above) I would tell a recent graduate to stay thirsty. I know that you always hear the advice of keep learning. It is absolutely true. I recently returned to my alma mater to see the portfolio show, and a common question from the exhibiters was, “how much of X do I have to know?”. I would say that if it is integral to the thing that you want to have the deepest knowledge in, you need to know ALL of it (or at least as much as you can soak up). I am decidedly focusing on design. I will probably always tinker in code. I will always read up about the bleeding-edge of development. Do I need to be able to hand code major js? Probably not, but I do need to stay up to date with where the industry is going with trends as well as tools. I strongly believe that if you find what you like to do, and stay ready to always adapt how you tackle problems you will never be rendered obsolete.”
Alex Oskie went on to note “I have found that there are a LOT of rad people in the design world that just want to talk. There are many awesome design centric meet-ups and groups to immerse yourself in. I am still trying to make time to do all that sounds cool to me. Also, I really am becoming adamant about solving real problems. It is cool to see people redesign iTunes, but what is really accomplished by tackling a problem devoid of real user pain-points and real stakeholder needs. It really doesn’t tell people much about how you solve problems, and that is what we do.”
Of course I’ll be keeping up with the stories of these creative folks and I seriously appreciate their participation on this. Follow them on Twitter, connect with them on Linked In and check out their websites.
I will take a look at your current site, if you have one, and talk through possible improvements based on my experience now for over 5 years working in web marketing, monitoring analytics, user testing websites, research and improving websites.