Monthly Archives: April 2014

What makes a graphic designer stand out?

Professional Graphic Designer Lansing, Grand Rapids, Mid Michigan

In-house Professional Graphic Designer

Recently I spent time with some local graphic design experts and the faculty from the Lansing Community College (LCC) Communication, Media and Arts Department. The LCC Annual Advisory Board Meeting is a time where faculty and professionals in the local graphic design community discuss what is most important for the students to learn to help them succeed in the graphic design industry. It is interesting to hear other professionals and instructors share the talents they are seeing in students and discuss how these skills can be honed.

Because LCC is a community college, students are typically enrolled for an Associates degree. Some students are there to transfer and some students plan to earn their Associates in Graphic Design degree and get a job. In an ideal world training would be geared to each specific goal. This luxury is saved for the colleges and Universities where students will receive Bachelor’s of Fine Arts (BFA) Graphic Design degrees or hang out until they earn a Masters in Design. The additional years offer educators to expound on design concepts, color theory, drawing technique, nuances in typography, problem solving and of course in depth graphic design software training. These are the area of study important for graphic designers to succeed. With only two years with the students what can a two year graphic design program at a community college include, what can be reduced, what is learned on the job?

It is a dilemma faced with all levels of schooling each year. With decreasing enrollment, reduced budgets, inflated products and industry tools (like graphic design software) the questions become more important each year. Each view is indulgent of the individual preferences in the group as employers and instructors who are design and art appreciators.

What I appreciate most about our annual meeting is that it has been established to address the needs of the students. What can we do to build better design students? What does a graphic designer need to know to hit the ground running when they graduate from the program? Should there be a strong focus on teaching drawing techniques or develop problem solving and visual sketching skills for future graphic design client presentations? What about software? How much time should be allotted for learning the ins and outs of Adobe Creative Suite? What if graphic design firms switch to different software? And what of the process and the conceptualizing that separates the creative graphic designer from the novice?

So many clearly important questions and so difficult to answer. One of my favorite suggestions that I would love to adopt for myself and the graphic designers in the shop is to fill seven sketchbook pages a week.  How much fun and discipline can I handle? Another list that that I think could be helpful is a list of what many graphic design shops in Michigan and design shops in Lansing may look for in a graphic design applicant.

How Graphic Designers Can Get a Job in Lansing:

  • Design and develop at least one web component with each project
  • Show the process – steps that it took you to get to the finished design
  • Demonstrate a clear understanding of type and how it works best with graphics
  • Pull off a clean design of a boring project (like a form) shows tenacity
  • Share designs in public – on Pinterest, Facebook or other forum
  • Develop an online portfolio and a solid, clean interview portfolio
  • Research great design in print and on the web (subscribe to CA and other magazines)

Students and designers will enjoy doing some of the above more than others and gravitate toward their special focus as they become more experienced graphic designers. Truthfully I believe graphic design can be taught. Graphic design that stands out, conveys and emotes a clear and moving message is created by those born with the ability to see things others don’t and communicate thoughtfully and creatively. Regardless of whether it is determined that a sketch book is required in all graphic design classes, I am proud to be a part of the LCC Graphic Design Advisory Board because we are all committed to student success and in doings o we benefit the industry we love.

So what did I miss? What talents do you seek when you hire a graphic designer?