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Freelance Graphic Designer

Lena Montague

Tell us about your work---what do you do? I work as a freelance graphic designer. I get most of my clients through word of mouth, or by advertising on various web sites for the trade (commarts.com is a good one). I design company logos , stationery , brochures , web site graphics , as well as signage for their buildings. What skills are needed? In order to be a successful designer many qualities must be present: A good sense of space, color, hierarchy, relationship between elements such as pictures and lettering . You must also be able to look at many fonts and pick one that conveys the message of the project you are working on. Being a designer is not about making things pretty. There must be a reason behind your choices of color, fonts and pictures. Good communication skills are necessary too. What was your major? I received a BS in Art , a degree which allowed me to take fine arts as well as graphic design classes. How did you get started in your career? I started while in college, working part-time at various work-study jobs around campus. First, I worked in the County Mapping Division, then I worked at the State Historical Society designing flyers and brochures. By the time I was a senior I had a pretty nice portfolio which landed me a part-time job at a local magazine. When I graduated I had quite a bit of experience so that I didn't have to apply for an entry-level position straight out of college. What experience do you need in this job? You need to know how to use the tools of a graphic designer: Adobe Photoshop , Adobe Illustrator , Quark XPress , and preferably a web design program such as GoLive or Dreamweaver . Any experience at an advertising agency, design studio, or magazine is great. In order to get an internship or a job you need to have a portfolio: a collection of your designs nicely presented in a display-type oversize book. Don't spend too much money on the actual portfolio, it is the creativity and attention to detail in your designs that matter! Describe your "typical" workday: Each day is different since I usually follow a project from start to finish. I check my emails and voice messages, call my clients and/or vendors to check on the status of the project. If I am starting a new project I always do pencil sketches and some computer sketches to get my brain freshened. Some days I go the printer to do a press-check, i.e. make sure that the colors on the brochures coming off the press look good. The printer isn't always careful and the colors can be inaccurate, which will upset your client if you don't correct the problem on the press. Other days are devoted to client meetings to discuss new projects or to present design solutions. I also look at trade magazines to get inspirations or just work on the computer all day refining my designs. What is the hardest aspect of your job? To be creative all the time. Luckily, as a freelancer, my job is very varied since I follow all aspects of the project, not just coming up with the ideas, but also getting price estimates on the printing, overlooking the printing process, talking with and visiting the clients. What is the most rewarding aspect of your job? A happy customer and a great design for my portfolio. Each project is about making the client happy while not compromising great design (some clients don't have great taste so it becomes your job to educate and elevate their taste buds in a professional manner). What are your suggestions for someone considering this field? Try working in different design venues: ad agency , design studio , magazine , book publishers , in-house design or marketing departments (large companies usually have their own design studio "in-house"). There are so many different ways to be a designer, and wherever you consider working, make sure that you really like the design style of the company because that is the flavor of what you will be designing. After a few years you can work for yourself as a freelancer if you prefer. Remember that all the people you get in contact with become your Rolodex. As a designer, it is important to have dependable contacts especially if you decide to work for yourself. You are building your own reputation and if you are dependable, professional, and capable of creating good designs on time and on budget, you can make great money!
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