There are a countless number of students entering their senior year in a graphic design program in college. Graphic design is a weird in-between profession/major that needs the education but could almost be considered a trade. Designers offer a service but a service with much thought and process behind every decision, at least that is how it should be. Most professional designers (even the young ones) would say that their first years out of college were a whole new learning experience, kind of like going through college again. Here are a couple tips for the soon to graduate graphic design student.

1. Get to know a printer.
Students will find out once in the work force that they don’t just get to do awesome full color, grunge, band posters anymore. Newspaper, direct mail and magazine ads are done daily at advertising firms. You will be working in print and most of the time there is a communication gap between the designer and the print shop. Building a good relationship with a print rep may end up saving you money but will definitely help you to get the product you want, printed correctly and on time. You could also read 4 Tips for Designers to Communicate More Effectively with Print Shops.

2. Keep file size down.
This may seem silly to even have to mention but Adobe InDesign is for layout not Adobe Photoshop. InDesign is built to be able to accurately space layouts, leave type clear and readable and keep file size down, among other things. Spend time in InDesign. Build bits and pieces in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop but don't build the layout there.

3. Simplify files.
File organization is important when you are working on several projects a day or week. My project folders have 4 maybe 5 things in them: the final InDesign file, the final print ready PDF, a links folder and a font’s folder, the possible 5th thing is an information folder if I am given a word document with the clients ad specifications or information on it. Keep your folders clean.

4. Be able to defend your work.
You will never get the amount of feedback you get while in the classroom setting. Don't shy away from criticism and comments. Be able to defend exactly why you make the design decisions you do. There is a lot of research about what kind of titles stand out, what kind of graphics work best and so on and so on. If in a critique a fellow student would say something like ‘why is this ad so text heavy, I don’t like it because it is distracting’ and if you had educated yourself on advertising you would have be able to say ‘It is proven that mid to longer length ads (separated into 2 or 3 columns) for this target market and product get a better response rate because the people that are really interested are the ones that are going to read all the way through it, digest information and then buy services’ students tend to think design is up to personal preference in reality there are some things that work better than others.

5. Read Ogilvy on Advertising.
Do yourself the favor.


6. Take advantage of online forums while in college.
Get involved in online forums and design groups. In college it is easy to get wrapped up in college things and seclude yourself for the design world. Learn, support and pull information from free forums.

7. Gain confidence early.
Whatever it takes for you to feel like you are good at what you do. Even if your school doesn't require an internship, still go get one or two or three. It is like real world experience and that is invaluable. Join the forums attend the adobe seminars there are tons of things you can do to continue to build your education outside of the classroom.

8. Study advertising.
Don’t just present yourself as someone that makes pretty things. Designers are in the advertising field and the more you know the better.

I am a firm believer that graphic design could/should be a 2 year trade school for students. Just because the skill of the programs are what is taught in school, the tricks of the trade are learned in the work field. The sooner students get into the work force the better for them. Graphic designers are needed so much more than ever before, with Internet graphics needed by the millions and desktop publishing programs created by the hundreds making ANYONE a designer. Professional, logical and well thought out designs are needed.