Getting a + job with a Communication Design Major...

Here are ten tips to consider if you would like to get a good job in the design field.

1. There are no magic pills we dispense at Wartburg that will get you a job. If you haven’t heard it before from me (or someone else), the fact that you have a degree in design really doesn’t make much difference. What does make a difference is your portfolio. This book shows prospective employers everything they need to know about your capabilities, your talents, your knowledge, and your experience. Think of every class you take as a potential to build and improve your portfolio-building.

2. Don’t just strive to do a good job with your school projects – do better. After all, are you really trying to get that ‘A’ or are you trying to prepare yourself for your future? The best design students work to get ‘A’ level work, then try to perfect what they are doing – for themselves. School is probably the last time when you will be able to chase after ideas just for the sake of chasing them. Enjoy the freedom. Do it well.

3. Build your resume. After four years of school, most students don’t have much of a resume. But you can make yours better while you are in school. Do design work for anyone at any time (even if it means doing a free sign design for the side of Uncle Jeb’s truck). Join the Trumpet and the Tower Agency. Work on the Circuit. Jump at any chance to enter any competition. Join the Artist Guild. Do things.

4. Devour books. Start with the assigned books (The Elements of Typography & Envisioning Information), and then go further. Megg’s History of Design is crucial, but so are others. Don’t just read them. Make up your own design projects to investigate (play with) the concepts they present. Understand them. Use them. Devour them. Even if the subject doesn’t come up, the person interviewing you for a job might be able to tell you have no idea who William Caslon or Stefan Sagmaister are.

5. Read magazines. We have issues of Print, How, Graphic Design USA, Communication Arts, and sometimes Graphis. These let you know what people are thinking in the design world and what type of ideas are hot. Design is constantly changing.

6. Read design blogs every day. Investigate what they say. If you are not interested enough in design to do this, then perhaps accounting is a better occupation for you (it pays better). Investigate the list of design sites from my external links. Let me know if you find some other good ones. The blogs are listed under... well, you can guess.

7. Take every opportunity to immerse yourself in design and art. Never pass up an opportunity to go to an exhibit or museum, especially if it has to do with design, but even if it doesn’t. Watch all the seasons of Mad Men. I don’t really know why, it is just something that designers do. Don’t think it is the truth - it is entertainment (with some elements of truth!).

8. Get a good internship. Hopefully one where you are working with a designer who you think does good work. At a place not unlike the place you would like to work at after school. And do better than a good job. Your supervisor will be a crucial reference for your next job. If it means working at night to do better, do it.

9. Join a group of designers. The local one is the AAF-Cedar Valley. Besides hosting design awards and having designers talk, they also are very student-aware, and do things like a ‘Meet the Pros’ event where designers will look at student portfolios. They even have student membership rates. The largest national organization is the AIGA, which you can find out about from their website. If you can afford it, join at their student rate. If you can’t afford it, at least visit their website every now and then.

10. Take the initiative. If you don’t get the kind of job you want, keep trying. Figure out how to get it. Talk to people. Work on your portfolio, talk to people some more. Do what it takes to get the job you want. Start now.


- Thomas Payne. Updated 5.2010