What It’s Like Being a Graphic Designer: Lessons Learned Working At an Agency in 2020

Our graphic designer Ethan, has worked with us for almost a year now. He wanted to share the insights gained during his time working at Planet Media in this blog. Keep reading to find out the skills and knowledge Ethan learned by working as a graphic designer at an agency.

My name is Ethan – I’ve been Planet Media’s in-house graphic designer since February of this year. When I started here, I’d been taking freelance graphic design and animation contracts for a while – social media content for music gigs, visuals projected behind DJs, and the odd infographic here and there, but I had not had a recurring workplace (at least in the design industry) until that point. Here’s a few things I learned about working as a graphic designer at an agency in Canberra

Adaptability

I’ve picked up a lot in my time here; the most important skill I think being adaptability to a variety of environments. When I’m designing content for fun or my brand, I have a quite particular style that I like. I really enjoy a mock-print vibe, with plenty of heavy-handed textures and grungy elements, lots of distortion, bright and saturated colours, and so on. By far more often than not, this style is very unsuitable for corporate branding or business clients. I’ve learned that a good designer can use their skills and tools to very effectively create content within a set of brand guidelines, such as pre-established colours, and so on, without having to push those boundaries. There are, of course, situations where there’s a lot of merit to pushing limits and allowing creative freedom – but those situations won’t be very positive (for the designer or the client) if the basics haven’t been mastered yet.

Knowing Your Niche

Another thing I’ve learned is that at least when starting out in the visual design industry, whilst there’s a lot to be said for specialising in a particular design field (motion graphics, illustration, lettering, documents, and so on), in a position like mine, a huge part of the role is the capability of completing any design task sent my way. Sometimes that was animated clips for social media, sometimes it was a set of images for the front page of the Canberra times, sometimes it was a full suite of 27 differently-sized display ads or even corporate brochures. Even just within the parameters of making an Instagram post, I was often required to create illustrations, product mockups, sometimes requiring hand-drawings, and so on.

Whilst there is plenty that has already been written by designers about the debate between generalisation vs. specialisation, in my experience, it’s great to have as many skills in your toolset as possible, and to keep as many options open as possible. You can always end up specialising (and then even re-generalising) later on in your career, but it’s much more difficult to pick up the skills necessary to create polished animations if all you’ve ever done is logo designs and branding. To upskill yourself in a particular region, you don’t necessarily need to have studied it academically – although it certainly helps. There are YouTube tutorials available for literally anything and everything, as well as a plethora of great guides available on sites like Udemy, Domestika, and School of Motion. Don’t be afraid to look to sites like Behance or 99designs for inspiration either.

Business vs. Leisure

Lastly, it’s important to be able to navigate the business world itself. Doing digital drawings or animations as a hobby is one thing, but being able to grasp exactly what a client needs, or exactly what will appeal to a target audience, is an entirely different ball game. The technical skills alone aren’t quite enough to cut it as a designer. Having the ability to sit in on a meeting and gauge what a client is looking for, and to present your own suggestions as appealing but not domineering, is an important skill – not just in the design field but in most industries.

There’s also plenty of secondary skills that just come with time and experience – negotiating contracts, effectively planning out bigger projects, and being able to look at whatever pieces of content need to be created that day and know which will require more time for effective prioritisation. The skills I learned during my time at an agency will be valuable no matter what I end up doing in the future.”

There you have it! It was very insightful to learn about Ethan’s personal experience working at Planet Media with a few practical skills he learned on the job. If you have an interest in working at an agency in the future, we hope that Ethan’s experience showed you what expectations as a graphic designer at an agency may look like!

Planet Media is always keen about the growth of both the clients and employees. We want our team to be enthusiastic about achieving the client goals with maintaining high-quality marketing service standards. If you have any queries related to digital marketing, contact us ASAP.

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