Making a career of your creative talents can be very exciting. Design is a dynamic field with so much room for career exploration and experimentation, but, as is the case in any industry, thinking about your aspirations and how you can achieve them is a crucial first step.
How do you pick a career path? How do you pivot to something that’s a better fit as your career continues? How much can you expect to get paid? These are big questions worth asking before jumping into your career in design or changing the path you are on now. Here’s what you should know about your options as a designer.
What you can look forward to in a design career
There is no single path to success in design. Your career path will look different from your colleagues and peers and that’s perfectly fine! Embracing the flexibility of this field can yield incredible results, so embrace variance.
Pre-pandemic, it may have been more common for designers to work in an office or studio, but a post-pandemic world has changed this. Some surveys have identified that 42% of creatives prefer a hybrid work setting to fully remote or in-person work structures.
Regardless of the work setting you prefer, experience is important. It may come in the form of freelance work, internships, volunteer work, or paid work in a professional design capacity. The more opportunities you make yourself available to, the more rounded your portfolio will be. Not only this, but you’ll likely build a strong professional network along the way.
There are three typical outcomes designers work towards as they develop their careers, though it will likely be the case that these roles will blend and bleed into one another.
- Practitioners or individual contributors: At this level of work, you will likely be putting design in motion, creating content or work, and following creative direction that has been strategically outlined.
- Managers and executives: At a managerial level, creatives help craft a strategic design plan and coordinate teams of designers who work closely with them. These roles likely also involve communication with various stakeholders and some reporting.
- Consultants: Consultants typically work as stand-alone resources that step into organizations and help with a range of design tasks.
Depending on where you work and which field of design you are in, the avenues to each of these roles may be different. The niche you are in may also affect things like salary and workload, too.
Here are some pathways you can explore.
- Graphic design career path: As a graphic designer, you can expect to work about 37 hours a week on a variety of projects, including websites, packaging, branding, and more. The average graphic designer in the US makes $50,710.
- UX design career path: As a UX designer, the focus of your work will be to improve user experience on your clients’ websites and apps. This design avenue is also known to be quite flexible with many avenues of success worth exploring. The average salary of a UX designer in the US is $97,582.
- Product design career path: Product designers are responsible for the end-to-end creation of a product, working from conception up to the launch of a product. There is quite a bit of overlap between product design and UX design. It’s a collaborative role that involves wearing many hats, it’s the perfect role for someone who likes to use design in multiple mediums. The average salary of a product designer in the US is $79,405.
Benefits of careers in creative design
Flexibility. Unlike many other career paths, the path of a designer is extraordinarily flexible. This can be a significant incentive for those who would rather steer clear of required formal training or certification. With the right skillset, designers have access to many exciting roles such as product designer, UX/UI designer, graphic designer etc., each providing its own unique challenges & rewards.
Job security. A career in design can provide job security and a steady income along with personal satisfaction from seeing your work come to life. Designers are at the forefront of new technology and trends, creating beautiful visuals that capture people's attention and help them connect with products or services.
Community. Working on interesting projects often leads to friendships between colleagues who share similar passions & interests while also helping build confidence by producing tangible results from hard work invested into learning new techniques & software tools used within this industry .
Getting started on a design career path
Starting your career in design will require some planning and preparation and building your portfolio will likely be a part of this process. As you start out, this may seem intimidating, but it will be a helpful reflective practice that will help you demonstrate your value and pinpoint your strengths.
Here are some ways to elevate your portfolio once a rough outline is put together:
- Showcase your processes in your portfolio, this is especially important if you have a niche skill that makes you especially marketable.
- Provide context for your designs and tell a story that reflects your ability to be adaptive, detail-oriented, and original. This demonstrates your value.
- Quality is far more important than quantity, curate a portfolio that is specific to your current projects and is a reflection of the work you are most proud of.
To find out more, check out this article on how to flesh these elements out into a full design portfolio that stands out.
Become the designer you want to be
Whether you are just starting out or looking to get ahead, the arsenal of design tools you carry with you can make all the difference. Readymag—the web-based design tool—can help you take the next steps in your career. Build your portfolio, join the design community, and get inspired for your next big thing.
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