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10 misconceptions about the design industry

By Rosa Ritchie | 19 September 2016

The design industry is full of myths and misconceptions. Whether you work in the graphic sectorinterior realm or industrial discipline, design is an interesting industry. Most people's notions of the industry as a whole are far from the truth. To dispel some of the mystery around the industry, here are 10 misconceptions about the design industry. 

1. You need to have a specialisation

There will always be some particular design jobs that require a specialist, but for the large part, being multi-skilled can be a huge asset. When going for a job, you need to be able to convince your potential employer that you will be an asset to them. If you’ve got a variety of skills that means you can be useful to them in a variety of ways. If you enjoy working in several aspects of design, embrace it. Keep practicing your range of skills, and let people know all that you’re capable of. There's even other functions within the design industry, like project management. We recently spoke to one project manager who works in the design industry across a multitude of disciplines, check it out here. 

person writing notes in journal

2. You’ll never get a steady job

A lot of professionals in the design industry work on various small projects, as a freelancer, but there are full-time positions within the industry as well. Many large companies have their own design department, rather than outsourcing work. And all sorts of businesses need a creative director. There are heaps of ways to capitalise on your creativity, and thankfully if you’re a creative person, you’ll be sure to figure it out.

3. Freelance work doesn’t pay the bills

At first, it might not. But there is a great lifestyle to be had working as a freelancer. It may take some time before you build up the skills and contacts to a point where it can sustain you financially, but it’s also not necessarily a bad thing when it doesn’t. Many creative types enjoy diversity in their working week. Earning money from activities other than design allows many artists more freedom and inspiration in their creative work, without the pressure of needing to earn rent money every week. Essentially, different modes of employment suit different people and over time you’ll come to learn what suits you.

4. You’ve got to grab any opportunity

You should take every opportunity seriously and give it careful consideration, but not every unpaid internship is going to be something that’s worth your while. Your time is precious! Figure out where you want to go, and chase down opportunities that are going to enrich your learning and steer you in the right direction. 
In terms of paid work, if you say yes to every job or piece of work that comes your way, you’ll most likely find yourself burnt out. When this happens the quality of your work may decline as a result. So take your time choosing what path your career will take, and never feel guilty for saying ‘no’ when your plate is full.

new opportunities written on piece of paper

5. Collaborations are stressful

You may have been burned a few times working on group tasks at university, but within the design industry collaboration is vital. There’s always going to be someone who can lend an insight or skill that you don’t have. The more receptive you are to the input of others, the stronger your work can become. More than that, collaborating can be really fun. Late nights at the office hurrying to finish a project are better spent with company. Surround yourself with designers and artists whose work you admire, be flexible, and see what amazing results you can produce.

6. "Don’t sweat the small stuff"

People from all walks of life might hear this phrase, and sometimes it’s true. But when it comes to the design industry, you have to be fastidious about details. Part of your job is to be a professional communicator and to make things look picture perfect. To impress employers and colleagues alike it pays to carefully edit everything you write or create. Avoid using text shorthand. Polish your resumé, and make sure every draft, text message, blog post, e-mail or staff memo is on point.

7. Print is dead

In the contemporary design industry computer literacy is vital. Many employers list knowledge of several well-known editing and publishing applications as a prerequisite to employment. But at the same time, print is not dead. Magazine culture persists. Consequently, it’s important to understand the way content should be displayed on all sorts of screens as well as on paper. And when choosing paper stock, consumers are increasingly demanding that it be sustainably produced so it helps to know about that aspect of the industry too. 

stacked magazines

8. Personal style is everything

Having a distinctive personal style is great, but not every client is going to want the same thing. Even if it’s not typical of your style, sometimes you’re going to have to produce the work that your client wants and make some compromises. This doesn’t mean you are sacrificing the integrity of the work. It means you are capable of finding inventive ways to create diverse work, and this is just a reality of offering a service to a client. You may even find you surprise yourself!

9. Stick to what you know

Even the most talented and qualified designer will always have something to learn. The design industry is constantly in a state of flux, rapidly developing and changing to meet the needs of varied clients and jobs. This requires the use of all sorts of different technologies and skills. The exciting thing is this means there’s always something to learn, and you’ll never get bored. When you feel you have mastered one skill, move onto another.

10. It’s cut-throat

There’s an important distinction between competitive and cutthroat. And while there is certainly a lot of competition for work, and a lot of amazing talent out there, it’s better to approach the industry with warmth than a hostile attitude - you can think of it as networking if you like. As we’ve mentioned, collaboration is a key component of design work. In an industry that attracts a huge variety of people, all with different experience and talent, you’ll find the ones you click with. And the more friends you have in the industry, the more work will come your way.

There are a lot of misconceptions about what it’s like to work in the design industry, and this is likely a result of the way the industry is constantly changing. It’s important to keep learning, collaborate, be flexible, and create high quality, detailed work. If you’re nailing those things, the rest will fall into place.

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