Year One: A Graphic Designer in Advertising

Tuesday, June 20, 2017
Year One: A Graphic Designer in Advertising

Year one: You’ve just graduated college with a degree in graphic design; you think you know it all. Use Photoshop to design a couple web pages, Illustrator to design some logos, and InDesign to make a few brochures. Simple, read the brief and do the work, right? Wrong; there’s much more to the job than the work itself. Working in an advertising agency requires a deeper level of understanding of all the moving parts both internally and externally.

1.     Going the extra mile: It’s always best to put a little extra thought in when time allows for it. This applies to both the design work and client relations. If a client is asking for A, B and C, it’s always nice to throw in option D and sometimes E.  Every design project provides an opportunity to try a multitude of concepts. It allows the client to see possibilities of how the design can extend past their expectations while still fitting within the brand guidelines. And on the client relations side, going the extra mile can be anything from hospitality during meetings to spending extra time giving design rationale. It’s always nice to have a freshly brewed pot of coffee ready when the client walks in for a conference. Anything extra that can be done can really make for a more enjoyable experience for the client if they feel welcome into the office.

2.     Always design with a purpose: All design should have meaning. It’s not just putting pretty fonts and colors on a page and then sticking the logo in the corner. The difference between art and design is that design is meant to encourage action and convey the voice of its brand. Design with a little extra thought about your expectations for the consumer and how you want to influence their decisions. Call attention to elements that matter the most in an aesthetic that coincides with the brand guidelines. Also consider that different collateral materials are meant to be treated differently, so adjust both design and messaging accordingly so that you reach the audience with power. The messaging should fit the voice of the brand in a way that reaches the appropriate audience for the product/service being advertised.

3.     Graphic design is a problem-solving process: Sometimes designers have to think three steps ahead before putting that first element in the InDesign document. Where will this advertisement be seen? How can I match the brand’s image while captivating the target audience? Designers will often create a mockup to help visualize how certain ads work in its actual end environment. This helps to gauge the effectiveness of the overall design concept.

4.     Patience: After a year of working within the brand guidelines of the same clients, it may still be rare for designers to get things right the first time. And that’s not always the designer’s fault. Sometimes a client may flat-out dislike something they’re presented with. As a designer whose job is to spend time creating masterpieces, it’s important to emotionally disconnect from the work designed to avoid getting offended or defensive. You may think you have the ripest peach of the batch, but you’ll still find someone who doesn’t like peaches. Other times, clients may have edits or have a hard time making up their mind about specific design elements. Designers usually receive the best feedback from clients when the designer takes the time to explain their rationale for some of the key design elements.

5.     Bravery: This is a business of opinions. There is no real right and wrong, but designers with the ability to create a powerful design and make a strong case for it will ultimately progress faster. Designers can’t get too comfortable hiding behind the computer screen cranking out designs like a machine. Ideas are meant to be heard and presented with passion. Designers must believe in their ideas and respect them and give them the opportunity to win.


Advertising agencies can be fast-paced environments with waves of both opportunities and challenges. Ride those waves with your best foot forward, learn from your mistakes, and always stay humble. Allow your ideas to present themselves as positive extensions of your skills, expertise and creative spirit.

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