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What You Need for a Career Switch to Becoming a Graphic Designer

Career switching can be daunting for just about anyone. It is a step out of your comfort bubble, and despite the countless snippets of information you have gathered and nuggets of wisdom you have gleaned from many, you might still feel uncertain.

This is even more so for creative industries, like design, particularly if you are planning to switch away from a completely unrelated line of work. The design umbrella itself covers a broad spectrum of professions, and perhaps you may not know what resources to look for, or where to begin.

In this article, we will cover things you need for a career switch to becoming a designer, to help you get your foot in the door and enter the realm of design.

1. Identifying Your Niche - Graphic Design

There are many kinds of designers, ranging from user experience designers to product designers and more, and each requires their own area of expertise. Before immersing yourself into a career in design, it would be good to have a rough idea of what kind of design you would like to focus on.

A clear goal would enable you to specialise much earlier, dedicating your time and effort into gaining knowledge and skills in that line of work.

Given the stage of life you may be at when undertaking this career switch, time may well be of the essence. To learn more about the different kinds of design professions, dive into research online, or reach out to others already working in these roles to hear their experiences.

After all, what better way to get an authentic view of a profession than to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth? If you are more of a hands-on person, try sourcing for taster courses online, or in-person.

These courses are more touch-and-go, but can give you a brief overview of what each design role encompasses, and what individuals in these lines of work may have to deal with every day. From this, it may be easier to formulate an opinion on which design job is most suitable for you.

Of course, if you are still not entirely sure which role suits you best, and you can afford the time to explore, it is fine to dabble in different areas of design until you discover what works best for you. A career switch should never be a hasty, uninformed decision, and you should take the time to carefully weigh the costs and benefits of your prospective path.

graphic design students part-time
Part-time design programs available at MAD School

2. Design Diploma

If you have long since stepped out of school, you might be thinking reluctantly, “Why do I need to go through this again?”

Understandably, getting a design diploma may sound like a massive time sink, coupled with the time loss from starting a different profession anew. In truth, obtaining this diploma is an extremely worthwhile investment.

Having a diploma opens doors for you professionally, as it vouches for your competence and credibility. When prospective employers see that you have a design diploma – be it a graphic design diploma, a user experience design diploma, or any other kind of design diploma – it immediately informs them that you have attained a solid foundation, and this may net you more opportunities, especially in companies, who may sort potential candidates based on the qualifications on their resume.

Gaining a shiny new qualification aside, a design diploma course arms you with the hard skills and a comprehensive understanding of design principles necessary to stay afloat in the design industry.

A comprehensive graphic design diploma course also has the added benefit of being more structured, which allows you to learn in a more systematic way compared to self-learning, while keeping you on task. The access to dedicated lecturers, fellow learners and specialised resources also grants you greater support towards your professional growth and development.

For those currently working a full-time job, you might be concerned about being able to balance a diploma course alongside your current schedule.

Thankfully, design schools offering diploma courses have become more aware of the growing demand from working adults to upskill themselves, and some have started offering evening classes, which may be more ideal for your tight schedule.

Learn more about the design diploma programs offered in MAD School.

3. A Strong Design Portfolio

Should you have conducted your own research prior to reading this article, “Design Portfolio” is likely the most common phrase that has popped up as a requirement for entering the design industry.

As the saying goes, “A picture speaks a thousand words” – as does a design portfolio for a designer. A design portfolio is critical to any designer, since it explicitly showcases the range of projects you have worked on, and allows prospective employers or clients to get a better sense of your abilities, and artistic direction, in the case of more artistic design professions.

This begets the question – how should you make a design portfolio?

Trailing off our previous point, enrolling in a design diploma course would require you to work on your own projects as deliverables, which can serve as samples to use in your portfolio.

Otherwise, to grow your portfolio, consider developing your own samples. Depending on the design profession you are looking at, this can range from case studies and your solutions to address them, graphic design samples, or anything creative you have produced in your own time.

You never know – it could be a personal project that earns you your new position one day!

As for presenting your portfolio, it would be ideal to have a website to feature all of your past works. This not only makes it easier for others to look through your portfolio, but the appearance of your website also lends itself as a testament to your design abilities – so do not underestimate its potential, and ensure that it looks clean and presentable.

Google, Graphic Design New York
MAD students in Google New York for a sharing session with their designers

Career switching to a design role has its hurdles, but is little more complicated than amassing knowledge and experience, creating a portfolio, and possibly enrolling into a diploma course to pick up some hard skills and a certification.

We hope that this guide has paved the way for you to get started on your design journey!

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