Graduate weapons for attacking the job hunt – graphic and web design

With over 300,000 students graduating last year and a larger figure anticipated to do so this summer, knowing how to make yourself stand out from the crowd will be your golden key to success. For the benefit of those who have not caught the previous episodes, the graduate weapons are a series of blogs designed to take on the key industries that you graduates are aiming to break into and provide you with insider tips on what the Inspiring team look for in the greatest of candidates for these roles. This week I delve into the design sector, analysing both web and graphic career paths.

Graphic designers are communicators. They possess the ability to translate information and ideas through various visual media, from illustration, letters, colours, patterns and photography to information and physical materials. They create everything from product packaging and corporate documentation to digital interfaces and album covers. A creative mind is essential to a career in this industry. Accompany this with solid IT and drawing skills and you have the necessary foundations in place.

Talent, ideas and your portfolio will often come second to formal academic qualifications in graphic design, which is unlike other areas of design. However, most professional graphic designers will have obtained a BTEC HND, foundation or degree level in graphic design, or another art/design-based subject. Think of your portfolio as your Facebook profile, your dating website page, your CV. It’s an invaluable asset demonstrating your style, your artistic ability, and your vision. It should be an instrument that illustrates your identity through your ideas and projects. Constraints of client requirements and commercial briefs are common in the graphic design line of work so it is worth taking this into consideration and ensuring that you demonstrate experience in dealing with such margins. Similarly, you may come across projects where you’re given more of a free-reign, so some exhibit of your artistic style would be recommendable.

Bear in mind that employers will be looking for versatility. Ensure you’re familiar with the latest design software, whilst being able to produce visual ideas away from the computer. Flexibility is key. You should hold the ability to bring your understanding of visual elements and composition to work in varying areas; such adaptability will appeal to employers. In addition to this, an ability to find practical solutions to problems, and communicate them to less creatively-minded audiences will be advantageous.

Any capability to demonstrate experience in the daily requirements of a graphic designer will strengthen your application. No matter how insignificant it may seem, highlight any experience in situations such as discussing the requirements of a project with clients/colleagues (or even fellow students), providing an analysis of required costs for projects, sourcing of appropriate materials, providing initial designs or computer visuals, preparing designs with the use of specialist computer software or working to strict deadlines and budgets.

Web designers combine their creativity with technical ability to build and re-design websites. They possess the ability to picture how a site will appear visually, whilst understanding how it will work from a back-end perspective.

Your fluency in various programming languages will act as your qualifications in this industry, with HTML, Javascript, CSS, PHP and Flash existing as the most widely used programmes, experience or a related degree equipping you with the ability to use these languages will be essential.

As an aspiring web designer, employers will be looking to see that you have a good grasp of the basics. This includes an eye for detail and design, a strong knowledge of image manipulation software e.g. Adobe Photoshop, a decent understanding of HTML coding, experience handling basic database, word processor packages, and HTML editors such as Dreamweaver. Keeping in the loop with the constantly-evolving technology will be an essential aspect of a career in web design. Whether it’s through online resources, trade press, or learning from colleagues and connections, it is imperative to remain at the forefront of all technological advances, whilst remaining aware of what works best for you and your area of work. To top this off, showing a genuine passion for web design will go a long way.

Building a network of contacts with skills that compliment your own is a great way of strengthening your portfolio. Your ability to communicate and collaborate seamlessly with the requirements of a client and the ideas of graphic designers will lend you to employers.

For both web and graphic design, your portfolio is a showcase of your ability. I’m sure it goes without saying that this should be online, but it’s the content that you really need to perfect. Demonstrate a range of experience. From differing projects, styles, media; the broader the better. This will give your potential employer a real insight into your capabilities and allow them to easily identify whether you are the right match for the position.

Hannah is a Digital Marketing Intern at Inspiring. She tweets about all things golden here: @hlcroberts and pins all things pretty here: gildthelilly.