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Graphic Design Questions

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Once again, I have changed my interest for what I want to do with the rest of my life. Hey, I'm a still a kid, it happens, lol. But I have a few questions about graphic design.

1.) What colleges are best? I perferably want to go to one in either New York City or Boston. What kind of grades do I need to get into these? What subjects do they look at most? I currently have a B-, B average.

2.) Not trying to know everyone's personal salary, but what does the graphic design artist make per year?

3.) Anything I should do in high school that would help me get into a graphic design school? Keep a sketch book or something? Should I draw logos, or anything? Any after-school activites that might help?

Thanks in advance all for the help!

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1. I dont know....RISD, or something else, check yahoo by searching universities+(state)

2. JACK....dont do it for the money....unless youre really really really good.

3.Drawing stuff is good, making a portfolio is even better....nothing major, keep it simple. most schools have portfolio review days, so if youre a junior or something they can check it out and tell you where you need to improve before you apply.

Good friggin' luck :cursing: you young whipper snapper

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I had a shot to go to the New York school of Arts a long time ago but could not find a US sponsor, so never went. the school looked pretty good.

Vancouver BC Canada has a very good school with a very high job placement rate. A lot of the students are offer jobs before they graduate.

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A design school might look good for your first interview. But trust someone who went to a crappy school for design, its what you make of it. No school on earth can give you creativity or talent. They can show you the ropes, but you can learn those anywhere. Don't worry about going to the best, just make the best of your time there and you'll do fine.

As far as money, you'll make an ok living. You won't need a second job, but you won't get a new car every 2 years. But to make any kind of big bucks you'll have to be in Chicago or New York City. And there your cost of living negates anything you make. So, be prepared to make more than a teacher, but a bit less than your typical business professional. It really depends on your skill, experience, and where you work. I don't make much, but I live in a town that costs nothing to live in, and I work for a small company. I have alot of responsiblities and work on a large variety of projects being the only designer on them. Sure I could make more in Chicago, but I'd be making CD's for the other designers and taking out the trash for 2 years and paying 1200 in rent a month. Don't get me wrong, I'm getting by and I can buy the things I want (after my raise recently) but I'm not making as much as I'd like. I probably never will. But I love what I do, so that's the most important thing, to me at least.

The absolute biggest thing you need is a strong portfolio with a wide variety of skills. Even though I've been out of school for only a year, I've gotten to interview a fair share of designers. You must have a solid portfolio to be considered. I saw too many people that were completly clueless, using 4 fonts on a banner, terrible pixilated photos, all school projects, all pieces using a program that you only use at Pixar (MAYA), etc.

Make sure your typography skills are good. That's the first thing I look at. Too many people use Myriad or Arial at a size 14 for large blocks of text. I'd say 1 out of 5 people use fonts well out of college. I was not one of them so I'm not trying to be on a high horse. I had a clue, but not much of one. You'd be amazing at what happens when you consider the font size, kerning, and color more than just slaping times 12 in black in a piece.

Also, the wide range of skills. Don't do a bunch of Maya renderings (3-D) and expect to get a job at a company that deals mostly with print. If you have a strong portfolio, that will usually trump experience. But make sure you don't have all print ads or logos. Variety is good.

I'd say don't be afraid to put in a simple layout. If you can't layout an ad for your local grocery store for the local paper, you can't layout an ad for Nike in Sports Illustrated.

Last, don't use all school projects for your portfolio. Do things on your own. Get pro-bono work. Design shirts for school organizations. Whatever it is don't let half your portfolio be projects you got in school for class. Shows no initiative. To me, I see someone who just did what they had to for a degree.

Graphic Design isn't easy. Its different than other jobs. To succeed, you will have to sacrifice your free time in college and after college in the real world. You'll have to work your 8 hour shift and then come home and work more on your own. Its alot like sports. Sure you can go to practice, go to games and play. But the only way you can move to the next level is if you hit the weight room every night when everyone else went home.

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Pat pretty much covered it, but I'll add in a few more things?

There are a few good art schools in the Boston area: Mass College of Art, the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, and Montserrat College of Art (my alma mater, 15 miles northwest of Boston in Beverly). RISD is also an awesome school, but I think it tends to deal more with fashion, architecture and industrial design.

Schools like to see a good range of media and subject matter in the portfolios. This way, they can see that the potential student has already been familiar with different styles and methods. There should be one self portrait in there.

As far as salaries go, I think I make a good sum of money in my paycheck. But I'm also a member of a union, the Communications Workers of America. It's unlikely a graphic designer would be unionized, but that's the way my company is run; everyone is either union or management.

After you graduate (or even working while going to school) you are very likely to start with a "grunt" job. This would include simple layouts based on templates, cleaning up artwork, resetting copy, etc. Nothing very creative about it for the most part. But it will get your foot in the door, and you'll really get a hands-on view of workflow in the real world. And you can see how frustrating it is to have changes come down at the last minute, approved from people who have no sense of design.

Hope this helps, good luck with your portfolio and interviews.

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the money isn't great....most designers i know (including myself) do lots of side work/freelance projects to help with the money....but we all share one common thing...we absolutely love what we do.

before you make a career choice, you better make sure you love the field.

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the money isn't great....most designers i know (including myself) do lots of side work/freelance projects to help with the money....but we all share one common thing...we absolutely love what we do.

before you make a career choice, you better make sure you love the field.

I can back up the statements of Mr. Fiasco -- you really don't make much in this industry, perhaps those high profile designers out there make some decent coin, but every designer I have ever worked with gets very little compared to what you'd think they'd make.

In my case, I work as a web and graphic designer for a newspaper here in the Greater Toronto Area, 3-days a week, and make under $15k Canadian per year. Full-time designers at this same place are bringing in just over $20k Canadian per year. The full-time designers I worked with at mapleleafs.com/raptors.com were making $30k CAD/year (they offered me an insulting $2400 to work there for 104 days a year - roughly $3/hour)

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I have to say what constitutes good pay is a relative issue.

How magazine does a salary survey every year.

Your job title / experience and talent dictate average salaries.

A creative director is averaging 60,000

An owner / principal averages 51,000

Art Director averages 49,000

Entry level is around 26,000 but the overall average is showing a low of around 40,000 in the south to 57,000 in San Francisco

Now those figures are averages so you have to realize there are those making less and those making more. Where you live does dictate but don't think you HAVE to live in NYC to make the big bucks. Today's technology means many designers, myself included, don't even see some clients face to face. I work with many people all across the country and I have never sat in a room with them.

You can live in the midwest and make east coast salaries or billings.

Minneapolis, Des Moines, Wichita, Omaha, Lincoln have agencies that work on a national and global scale.

As far as schools go. My experience with hiring grads and also attending design school is that you do need to go to a school that knows their stuff. In a way others are correct that even the best schools can't make you a creative. BUT I have seen some applicants come from some design programs that wasted the student's money and time.

Find a good program. Some place that has a good reputation and you will be guided better than at a school that is looking out for your tuition and not your future.

Be wary of schools pushing you to learn every 3D program, animation program, etc. Those types of programs are good eye candy but 90% of designers never tough them. Unless you plan on working in that type of field exclusively, stay clear of design schools using that type of "cool" designing as their hallmark... again unless you plan on working for Pixar.

The best programs will teach you design principals, typography, illustration, layout etc. while introducing you to real world software that you will actually see and use in the real world.

Visit with ad and design agencies in your local area nd get their input on schools. They see the best and worst in your area and can recommend the schools that they see turn out the best, most well prepared designers.

Do as much freelance as you can, even while in school. Your portfolio should be strong but don't throw everything you have in there. 8-10 pieces max. Show diversity but know the prospective employer. Research their clientel and types of projects they take on and gear your portfolio towards that employer's strengths. An agency doing mainly corporate design work for fortune 500 companies doesn't necessarily need to see your sports logos or cool flash animations. Whereas a hip, small graphic design studio wants to see work that shows your diversity in different mediums.

Above all know the employer you are applying with, if they see your book and can't see how you can fit into their family you end up in their "others" bin.

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I will give you some numbers for the NYC / Long Island Area.

On Long Island:

Fresh out of college graduate: $20,000-$35,000

2-3 year experienced designer: $40,000-$57,500

5+ year experienced designer: $60,000-$75,000

Creative Director (typically 8+ year experience) $85,000-$105,000

In New York City:

Fresh out of college graduate: $25,000-$42,000 (about the same as Long Island)

2-3 year experienced designer: $45,000-$62,500

5+ year experienced designer: $70,000-$87,500

Creative Director (typically 8+ year experience) $95,000-$125,000

These are just general averages based on the jobs I have seen available as well as averages of some of the people I have interviewed over the years.

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