Graduate in Graphic Design versus the Mature Designer the Challenges

graduate designer anology climbing up a mountain

With the economy in the state its in, being a graduate in graphic design at the moment must be very difficult. At any financial time good or bad, getting that first elusive design job is always the hardest, it’s the chicken and egg thing, everyone wants design experience but how to you get it if you have only just graduated. In this blog an anonymous graduate graphic designer shares his/her problems of trying to get a Graphic Design Job in London.

So is it easier for the more mature designer than the graphic design graduate?

I think perhaps the problem can be almost as bad for the older designer. If you are a more mature designer who has lost your design job due to redundancy the issue may be that you are now considered too expensive, especially with so many others out of work. As a more mature designer with possible mortgage, family etc there are more rigid requirements of a certain level of wages and less time to put in those long hours to get jobs done or learn new software.

It’s the same with freelancing, the more mature designer must be able to differentiate themselves enough and show their experience and reliability in order to be able to challenge the cheaper quotes of younger designers and new graduates.

From my own personal perspective I used to worry that my design would not be as trendy as a younger designer, but then if you think about it in a lot of projects trendy is neither wanted or suitable for the job.

Can you be too old to be a designer?

I posted on Linked In recently to ask Can you be too old to be a Designer and got some interesting responses you can read here

Check out also an insightful post on the Creative Freelancer Blog called “Too old to be a designer” which the blogger Laurel Black states “I have been told that if you are over 40, no agency will hire you. If that’s true, what happens to all these people when they get laid off?”

So what is the answer for both graduate designers and mature designers alike?

I think it is case of standing out amongst the crowd, networking and finding your perfect design niche. It’s the sweet spot where there is demand and where you are considered the go to person in that field? Just off to look for my sweet spot (oops that sounds a bit rude!)

What do you think? How have you found your graphic design sweet spot?

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  1. Posted April 10, 2012 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    Hi Tara,
    interesting article with some good varied opinion. As a P/T tutor teaching Graphic Design I see a mix of standards and enthusiasm from students. In my experience the older students coming back into education make for a more interested student, willing to learn and experiment more, promote themselves etc and are more aware of the ‘outside world’. Yet that said, there is some real younger talent that needs direction and nurturing during their design education. Standing out is indeed important, especially when applying for jobs, and its also important to ‘be prepared’ for industry. It can be tough out there, but not impossible!
    Regards, Paolo.

  2. Posted April 10, 2012 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    Hi Paolo, Thanks for your input, you sound like you get to work with an interesting mix of people/students. What ways have you seen your students market themselves to get jobs or freelance work, any unusual methods?

  3. Posted April 10, 2012 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    Hi Tara,
    My final year students work towards an end of year show and we invite industry figures etc to the show. This is the students’ opportunity to shine and ‘stand out’. Aside from the usual CV’s / portfolio stuff, it’s important that they show external projects too, anything extra outside of the curriculum. Some students have their own freelance clients which is great, others offer little. There are many ways to produce giveaways, the more interesting things I’ve seen are home made fanzines and books with work examples / creative stories. Easily done via Blurb or Photobox and cost little, great to leave with a studio manager etc.
    Regards, Paolo.

  4. Posted April 10, 2012 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

    Hi Paolo,

    The print on demand idea for books fanzines etc is a good one. It’s amazing how slick you can make something look and it doesn’t have to cost the earth. Shows are great too its just they all come at once so businesses get loads on invites at once and its that difficulty of getting people to the students show especially if they don’t have positions available. I went to my old college’s show a few years ago and was shocked by the lack of website addresses/blogs or online portfolios by the majority of students. Hopefully this has all changed now as the web becomes more and more accessible.



  5. Posted April 10, 2012 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

    Hi Tara, yes it would be great to know that all students prepare by printing their own business cards, have an online presence etc. We constantly explain the importance of ‘creating their own brand’ and being prepared before the show. Surprisingly, not everyone listens or believe it’s that important. Sometimes it takes a while to get it, frustrating!
    Regards, Paolo.

  6. Posted April 11, 2012 at 2:40 am | Permalink

    This is an interesting article. With everything going digital, I would’ve thought that graphic designers would be in demand.

  7. Posted April 11, 2012 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    That is really good thing it enables one to become one to become self-reliance and get the latest knowledge and confidence in future. Hope to read post like this from your end. Keep it up !!!

  8. Posted April 11, 2012 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    Hi, This is quite a thought provoking post! I think that a fresh out of college graduate can never have an upper hand over a mature designer just because of the freshness or trendiness factor. Just like all other fields, I too believe that experience still plays a pivotal role. Of course nobody can stop a brilliant young designer to achieve the place he/she deserves in the industry, but that should not concern an established mature designer.

  9. Posted April 11, 2012 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for your thoughts Taucf. I think younger designers can also have the upper hand on the pricing front (they don’t need to charge as much)

  10. Posted April 12, 2012 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    Hello Tara, really interesting post! I was in the ‘graduate designers’ position not too long ago, I think there is a real lack of advice and direction for graduates (for me anyway). I had to teach myself by working on anything I could get my hands on, working on my portfolio (even working for free) and getting myself out there is the best thing you can do after graduating. I applied to endless amounts of jobs, but after setting up my own website and just constantly working on all projects I could get, I ended up starting my own business and have never looked back.

    For graduates it is a real learning curve and one that if you are not getting the experience from jobs. You need to be making your own experience and teaching yourself. I am now in the position where I am receiving applications and I make sure when I reply that I give them feedback on their work and as much advice as I would have liked to have received myself.

  11. Posted April 12, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    Hi Alasdair
    Glad to hear how your persistence paid off. I guess the problem with University/College is that they are busy teaching you how to design and don’t have time to teach you how to market yourself.
    Hope your business is going well :)

  12. Posted April 12, 2012 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Tara,
    I think that is exactly the problem, but with blogs and articles like yours there is information for those who search for it with great advice!

    I think the most important thing I learnt was that work rarely just turns up on your door. You need to actively go and get it, whether this is through marketing yourself, networking or selling your ideas.

    Nice blog by the way, have only just found this and after looking through more articles, they seem to be a lot more relevant than many other design websites. subscribed! :D



  13. Posted April 12, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Alasdair, flattery gets you everywhere :)

  14. Posted April 12, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    lol, that is another lesson I learnt!

  15. Posted April 18, 2012 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    Creativity and aesthetic sense matters more than being a mature designer or a graduate, i assume.

  16. Posted June 19, 2012 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

    I agree with a previous poster – You would think that there would be a high demand for graphic designers – both young and old – since everything and everyone is on the internet these days. :) This article definitely helps to show that it is actually not the case, and helps to give a different perspective,

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