As an agency built and run by young people, at Sonder we’re always excited to give ‘up and coming’ creatives a chance. One of the most common things we see are fresh university graduates, who’ve studied Graphic Design or Web Design but aren’t familiar with the programs we use. They can usually work their way around Photoshop and Illustrator, but can’t use web design programs like Adobe XD or InVision.
Our Design Lead, Alex recently answered a couple of questions from Slickplan about his role. One of the answers that stood out in the office was where he mentioned that the best way to get into web design was to just start designing and that budding designers need to learn the programs. It struck a chord with a few of the designers and we ended up in a discussion on the best way to break into the industry. These are the seven steps to find a career in web design.
Step One: Learn Industry-standard Programs
The first and most essential step to kick starting your career in web design is to learn the programs you’ll be expected to use in your career. Programs like Adobe’s XD, InVision, and ProtoPie are a web designer’s life. XD and InVision can both be downloaded for free and ProtoPie is only $99 for a year’s subscription. Watch Youtube tutorials, listen to podcasts, and experiment by yourself to learn these programs intimately. If you’re not studying at university, or not studying design, learn programs like Photoshop and Illustrator as well as they’re needed constantly.
Step Two: Start Designing
The best way to learn is to just do it. Once you’ve got a few tutorials under your belt and you know the basics of the programs, the best thing is to just start designing. Look over websites and understand the basic layouts within them, or design something abstract. Alternatively, you could find a basic website and try and recreate it yourself in one of the programs.
During this process it’s good to learn the basic techniques and ‘rules’ of design. Learn about colours, learn about layouts, learn about key terms. Study websites and work out which kinds of websites suit which kinds of layouts. Read up on User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) design. UI and UX design are key players in the web design world and your career will (or should) revolve around them.
To be the ultimate candidate for a career in web design, learn how to put together a prototype and how to thoughtfully work out how the pages interact and connect with each other.
Step Three: Build a Portfolio
Once you’ve worked out how the programs work and you’ve had a chance to play around with them, build that portfolio. When you’re applying for any creative role, your portfolio is key. So start designing a diverse range of websites. Ecommerce sites, informative websites, standard business kinds, design a heavily photo-based website. Make sure they span across a range of industries; an online fashion store, a mechanical workshop, a barber shop. Then create your own website, apply the rules of design and try and make it reflect who you are professionally. This can serve as your portfolio, so as a web designer this should probably be a photo-heavy website. Website portfolios are perfect because they show forward thinking, are simpler for the recruiter, and show off your work in a super neat way.
Step Four: Keep up with Industry News
This probably goes for any industry, especially a constantly changing one like Creative Industries, but keep up with the news. Design trends come and go, new programs are found to be better and old programs are disregarded. New techniques and principles are discovered. Follow a web design blog, follow web designers on Twitter, listen to podcasts, just be sure to keep up and pay attention.
Step Five: Intern — Experience is Essential
Whether you’re currently studying at uni or trying to get into web design through a different avenue, get an internship. You’ll learn from experienced professionals who typically know a lot more than your university lecturers. You’ll receive mentoring and and support. The most valuable thing in internships is where you learn everything your university wouldn’t dream of teaching you; how to communicate with your team members, to communicate with clients, how to manage your time and how to balance projects. It’s that real-life experience that gives you a boost over other applicants. An even better thing about internships? If you work hard and show what you’re capable of you might even get a job at the end of it.
Step Six: Network
Ever heard the saying, ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’? It’s a pretty slack saying but it definitely rings true. Becoming friends with people in your industry can be a great way to naturally learn more but it can also be really useful when you’re deep in a job search later on. Join a web design Facebook group, contribute to Reddit threads, attend functions.
Step Seven: Apply
Start looking at job recruitment websites and applying. Even seeing the job descriptions can be useful in your learning process. You may see a recurring requirement that you hadn’t thought about and now you can go off and work on that skill. Be sure to refine your resume and cover letter, and tailor them to each job — agencies can see through a templated, one-size-fits-all letter. Remember if you’re lacking experience, try and negotiate; whether it’s a salary negotiation or asking for one day a week, show how excited you are to join the agency.
Originally published at sonder.com.au on January 17, 2019.