How I Became a Graphic Designer

NicoleBotello 0
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With a burning desire instead of specialized education

I never planned to design and get paid for it.

In 2013, I entered the St. John Fisher University for the Humanities at the Faculty of Linguistics. Then I did not even think about the fact that there is a profession of a designer. I have a diploma in translation: I studied English, German and Spanish.

I came to design in a roundabout way. I’ve started with part-time jobs, for example, I processed photos for Instagram for a penny. After 6 years, I organize shooting in Mexico, I consider design to be my favorite thing and I get up to $2000 per month for it.

First job: content manager

In the profession of a translator, I quickly became disillusioned. Simultaneous translation was not taught at my university at all, but instead prepared for boring work with documents in a translation agency or as a teacher at school. Translators and teachers in Mexico receive 3-4 thousand $ a month.

I started working as an English tutor. For one lesson I earned $200. I didn’t have any more side jobs, so I plunged into a hobby: I often arranged photo shoots for my friends and took pictures myself with pleasure.

In 2013, I started Instagram and wanted to learn how to beautifully process photos. Then I started learning the basic functions of Adobe Photoshop. I could lengthen my legs in the photo or make a beautiful preset: a set of filters for quick image processing.

I also started making videos on YouTube, where I talked about life or shared style tips. For each video, a beautiful cover was needed to make the video stand out and be watched by as many people as possible. I learned how to overlay text and an image on a photo in Photoshop. For a bright cover for the video, minimal knowledge is enough. I really liked the process.

I started working in design only in 2017. Before that, my income consisted of part-time work as an English tutor. My young man then worked as a targetologist – a specialist in setting up advertising in social networks. For the account of a local bar, he was looking for a content manager – a person who would post pictures with descriptions on Instagram and make sure that the posts were released on time. By that time, I already had a beautifully designed personal Instagram, so he suggested that I try it. For such work, I received up to $10,000 per month.

First job in design

One day I accidentally found out that the designer had left the bar with which I had been working for two months as a content manager. The guys announced a competition for a new place – they had to draw a poster for the event.

I didn’t have any special skills. But I already knew how to work in Photoshop and had a rough idea of ​​how posters and posters for bars are made. I posted them every day on social networks and did not see anything complicated in them at all.

I sent my version of the poster, and the guys and I worked together. So I started working with them in 2017 and collaborated until the pandemic. For the project she received $10,000 per month, made advertising layouts, pictures for social networks and posters. It was necessary to make 2-3 posters per week for each bar party. Sometimes people came to me with more complex tasks: for example, to make a menu or a leaflet – a small poster for the tables.

When I got a task, I sat down, opened Google and looked for ways to make a picture. For each task, I spent about 3-4 hours – of which an hour was looking for references and ideas on Pinterest. I was interested in new technologies.

When I tried to make each poster different from the other: I added a neon font or an unusual gradient. I learned how to implement ideas from videos on YouTube or from the first links in Google. If you enter the query “How to make a neon font”, search engines give out a mountain of free detailed manuals.

To grow, I asked an experienced designer friend to give me feedback. He helped correct the most common mistakes. My posters most often “lacked air” – this means that there was not enough free space on the image. I also suffered from the combination of colors: I could freely combine anything, but the colors did not fit together; put a shadow on the text, and it was already unfashionable.

My first employer was an extremely loyal client. All his comments were justified: for example, I used a color not from the brand book and they asked to change it, or the photo did not fit the advertising criteria.

What programs have I taken?

I learned to work in most of the programs needed by the designer on my own. When the task arrived, I opened the desired program, YouTube and Google, and understood it in practice.

In my experience, some of the features in these programs are easy to learn intuitively.

You can learn Photoshop all your life, but two weeks is enough to master the basic functionality. The latest version generally has built-in learning: hints appear when you hover over the button.

After Effects is a much more complex program. It took me 3 months to learn how to use it without looking at the manuals. I used the free versions – I just downloaded them on torrents.

Tools I use as a designer

Program Why would you need
Adobe Photoshop Raster program. I do 80% of my work in it: I create posters and any pictures for digital, website design, printing
Adobe Illustrator Vector program. It is convenient to draw pictures or individual elements in it, because a vector image can be enlarged at least 100 times, but a photograph cannot
Adobe After Effects Animation software
Sony Vegas Video editing software. There is also Adobe Premiere – some designers find it more convenient
Adobe Indesign Program for layout, for example, diaries or booklets