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How to become a Creative Designer

4 minute read

Are you blessed with a creative eye and noted among your friends for your artistic flair? If you’re thinking about your career options, you might be wondering how to become a Creative Designer.

A great way to combine creative arts skills with the ever-growing demand for digital skills, creative design work is a rewarding way to earn a living from your creative talent. Here’s what it takes to make it in design.

What does it take to become a Creative Designer?

First things first, you’ll need to brush up on what kind of design work you’re interested in. There are numerous different types that mean that each creative designer job description is different from the next.

For example, perhaps you’ll opt to become a graphic designer and spend your days creating visuals that inspire customers, or you might choose 3D or product design if you’re more interested in how things work. There’s scope for specialising further, for example in logos, packaging or brand identity.

Whichever type of creative designer you want to become, your work will revolve around coming up with visual concepts, either sketching by hand or using specialist design software.

You’ll need to be adept at understanding how to incorporate technical requirements into good design, and to keep abreast of the latest trends in whichever industry you’re working in.

If you don’t already know how to use design programmes such as Illustrator, InDesign or QuarkXPress, as well as image-editing suites like Photoshop, it’s worth getting to grips with them so that you can include them on your CV.

In addition to these practical skills, you’ll also need the usual soft skills necessary for any kind of creative work, such as strong communication, attention to detail, problem-solving and time management.

You’ll need the ability to work collaboratively, as you’ll find that on most projects many people will have a say on your designs, and you’ll usually go through several iterations before arriving at the final design.

Routes to entry

You can take short courses to learn about creative design in a matter of weeks, but to establish yourself as a designer via traditional routes takes around four years.

There are a number of ways of entering the industry as a creative designer:

  • University – this is the traditional route, where you launch your career after completing a degree in design or another creative field.
  • Non-university courses – if you don’t want to do three or more years at university, you’ll find that there are numerous courses available outside the university environment, such as these graphic design courses.
  • Self-taught – another option is to teach yourself using online resources, which could work well if you’re already working full time. You’ll find loads of affordable course options on sites such as Udemy, which you can fit easily into your evenings or weekends.
  • Work experience – if you’re going down some of the non-traditional routes, getting work experience in place is critical to build not only your portfolio but also your bank of references. Apprenticeships may be available for junior designers, and it’s worth looking out for internships or freelance jobs that will help you build valuable experience.

You’ll start out in junior roles while you’re gaining experience and building a portfolio, but as you progress you could climb the ranks in a creative agency or in-house, the top job being creative director. Alternatively, you could go into creative design freelancing or consulting if you’d prefer to work for yourself.

Advancing your career

As you start to get established in creative design, there are a few things you can be doing to help take your career further.

  • Keep learning – go to industry talks or watch them online – there are lots of free ones via Google and Twitter. Take courses to add new strings to your bow – again, there are plenty of free classes that you can take online.
  • Network – expand your professional network by attending networking events for your industry or in your local area, as well as keeping in contact with university friends, tutors, ex-employers and so on. Add interesting industry people you meet on Instagram and LinkedIn, which can act as your portfolio as well as being a great way to keep in touch with useful contacts.
  • Ask for feedback – as you get more experienced, it can be tempting to rest on your laurels, which means that after a certain point your progression may slow down. One way to counter this is to show your work to industry experts (or just your peers) and ask for feedback, offering to return the favour. 

A creative designer salary might start out at around £30,000, though junior artworker roles are likely to pay less than this at around £18,000 – £22,000.

With experience, your salary could rise to as much as £85,000 (average) as a creative director, so putting the work into growing your skills and expanding your network could pay dividends.

Creative design is an increasingly sought-after career, and at a time when digital skills have never been more in demand, it has the potential to be a lucrative one as well. Read up on how to master your portfolio here.

If you’re lucky enough to have great skills in drawing and a keen eye for design, it could well be your ideal job.

Feeling inspired? Find out more about starting a career in Creative Design by listening to our THIS IS HOW podcast, where we chat to Daniel Obichukwu, Creative Designer at TikTok.