Retraining as a Graphic Designer

Graphic Design

Janine Meldrum always knew she wanted a career in the creative industries and started out as a journalist before retraining as a graphic designer.

The 38-year-old, from Glasgow, said the decision to switch careers was her best move. In this interview, she tells us about her working life.

Why be a graphic designer?

I was initially attracted by colour and pattern and by the frustration of having ideas in my head but no idea how to create them. I always enjoyed desktop publishing and designing newspapers and magazines when I studied ­journalism and was interested in web design but it took me a while to make the connection and realise graphic design was the path for me.

How did you get into the industry?

After college, I was lucky enough to find an internship at a small design agency and was then taken on as a studio assistant. I worked alongside a great designer who mentored me and let me get involved in all stages of the design process, which gave me a chance to work on interesting and varied projects and gain a good grounding in different design disciplines. At the same time, I continued ­developing my own freelance work and after a few years, moved to doing it full-time.

You previously worked as a journalist – why change careers?

I loved being a journalist but couldn’t find opportunities to move into my areas of interest. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do instead and ended up working in the civil service while I tried to figure it out.

It was a big decision to change career as it meant retraining and giving up a full-time income to become a student, paying tuition fees and adding to my existing student loan debt. But I was miserable and unfulfilled in my old job so felt that it was more ­important to do something I would enjoy and I had always dreamed of being my own boss. It’s the best decision I’ve ever made.

What are the highs and lows of being your own boss?

The highs are having the ­flexibility to set your own hours, being in control of which projects you take on and never having the Sunday night dread about going back to work. It also gives you a real sense of achievement when you are responsible for every aspect of the work you produce and it teaches you new things all the time.

The lows are not always having a steady income, no holiday or sick pay and having to chase up invoices that haven’t been paid.

What’s a typical day like?

The work is different each day. Today, for example, I’ve been updating a restaurant menu, making animated web banners for another client and researching illustration styles for a future project.

It isn’t all juicy ­commissions or big branding projects as there’s a lot of everyday work like creating quick flyers or making small adjustments to existing artwork.

Not all of the work is creative either, as much of the day will be spent replying to emails, doing accounts or working on my own marketing and finding new opportunities.

Here are Janine’s top tips for being a success in the industry:

  • Stay informed and be aware of trends and what’s happening in design.
  • Take inspiration from everything around you, from posters, to adverts, book covers, shop window displays, fashion, music, nature – there’s inspiration everywhere.
  • Your communication and social skills are just as important as your art skills as you have to listen to what your client wants, communicate with them, interpret their ideas and offer guidance.
  • It’s important that you are reliable and stick to deadlines to build trust with your clients.
  • Help to inform people that design isn’t just about making things look nice, it’s about making information clear, too.
  • Work on your own personal side projects so that you can stay creative without the boundaries of a brief, just to play and experiment and keep your skills fresh.

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