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  1. #1
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    Surviving as a multimedia artist

    While all of the coders have ample job opportunities, it looks like us designers are stuck in the trenches. Should I be expecting the worst when preparing for life as an interactive designer? My idea is to go to undergrad school for multimedia, then head over the grad school for design. Needless to say, I'm prepared to put a lot of work and money into launching myself where I need to be....but will this be enough?

    Right now I'm only eighteen, but I sure as hell can't compete with those guys who you see getting FWA awards. Yeah, I'm still young, but there's tons of brilliant designers out there and each year the competition gets fiercer. We're looking at six to seven years of schooling so I still have a lot of time to grow as a designer, but I have to keep in mind that all of my competitors (who already kick my ***) will be doing growing as well. The only advantage I really have on some emerging designers is naturally strong managment and leadership skills.

    If there is one thing you could say to someone considering following their dream to become a web/interactive designer what would you say?

    I'm afraid of getting a lot of
    "You're better off going elsewhere if you want to earn a solid living; the field is brutal"
    but if that's the case I'll feel much better knowing that and not being blind about it.

  2. #2
    SitePoint Zealot Mitochondrion's Avatar
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    Get a second non-IT job that you like enough to keep, I don't know, maybe fixing cars or something, whatever you have tried in the past and enjoyed it. There are millions of benefits of doing this. You will have more confidence in your ability to survive financially and be successful. If the IT market is as crappy as it is now and you're in a position where losing that IT contract or job means losing all your income you will hate the IT field and get burned out. You will be vulnerable and IT people, assuming that they talk to you, will take advantage of it by ripping you off, expecting you to do all kinds of things and they won't pay for them.

    Don't become a stereotypical unemployed mutlimedia designer who claims to work as a "freelancer" (but has no freaking income) because there are too many non-IT jobs in this country, decent and good jobs, to let it happen. You can quit your backup job any time-once you get your computer career going successfuly. You have to have income, regular income, that pays your rent and gives you some kind of health insurance if you live in the States. Being a freelance designer is a poor excuse for not having those things which are MANDATORY, they' the bare minimum. They're not luxuries. A private yacht is a luxury.

    I work with this nurse who also plays bass in blues bars and loves it. Would he want to become a full-time musician and a music star? You bet but for now he really enjoys the pay and the benefits of his nursing profession. I think Vince Clarke, the UK musician from Erasure had to work as a butcher until his big music break.

    You have plenty of time to figure it out at 18 so don't stress yourself out. You can be successful without any problems but you have to abandon that "full time mutlimedia job or nothing" mindset. That kind of mindset can actually jeopardize your opportunities, esp. when you start job interviews. Also, you may have to work a bit harder than somebody who just want to put in his 40 hours a week and then relax.

  3. #3
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    Thanks for your take, Mitochondrion; very solid advice.

    The reason I'm so focused on Multimedia being the only option is because that's what I'd like to go to school for. Being a youngin' I'm not quite sure how the whole world of employment works. Would I still be able to find a solid job that isn't related to design even though thats what all of my degrees are in? I really have no idea what it takes to make a decent living (goal would be at least $50k a year).

    Going to school for multimedia is really the only educational path I feel that I could excel in...but I'm afraid that I'm going to screw myself since it doesn't lead to the most stable of careers. I don't know what my options are.

    I'd really like to get a job at a design firm, but I don't know what my odds are. Graduate school would help me there, but jobs like that are probably hard to find. If only the interactive world was more employable

    Maybe I should go to undergrad for something like english...then grad school for design...I guess that would be the smartest thing to do, but I just feel wrong doing it; my dream is to be a designer not a writer. Most don't learn a thing when it comes to getting a BFA in design anyway though...And getting a degree from a grad school would probably carry just as much weight as a BFA...if not more. But do I really want to be in a cubicle writing all day? ...That would drive me up the walls, though English is the only section I'd survive in due to my nonexsistant math skills...plus it's the closest thing to the creative field that I can find.

    Would you guys suggest any other major to study in undergrad school that would keep the creative juices flowing, but my chances of employment favorable?

    I'm willing to work at design until my eyes bleed and my hands crumble, but if it's all about luck and jobs are scarce - what's the point? I don't want to have a family, get laid off, then have no way to bring in an income.
    Last edited by theindustry; Nov 6, 2006 at 22:46.

  4. #4
    SitePoint Zealot Mitochondrion's Avatar
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    Go to grad school in design if you want to but personally I wouldn't do it. Interactive media schools have really damaged their reputation during the dotcom boom when they graduated legions of half-baked IM artists because it was such a financial bonanza for the schools. It may sound incredible, but there are job ads out there where the employer asks for self-taught designers rather than somebody with a diploma because the low reputation of the recent grads. I think a lot of those programs are all about turning in the assignments of time regardless of their quality/effectiveness but very little individual attention is paid to your design style your ideas and whether they're good enough to give you a chance on the market. The instructors, websites and pamphlets that advertise those programs can be very dishonest in painting the true situation on the job market.

    If you want to teach design then the grad school option makes a lot more sense.

    Don't count on having job security in multimedia design. If you achieve it, it will be short lived. I think once you acknowledge this it will be easier to make realistic plans. You want to enter an industry where anybody with an access to a computer and some stolen software can compete with you and competition is incompatible with survival. In many other careers there are mechanisms in place that restrict the number of new grads to an anemic trickle. In interactive media it's a huge flood of people who have nowhere to go after graduation. It's a big problem.

    All of the above just my humble opinion of course but based on personal experience, very bitter experience.
    Last edited by Mitochondrion; Nov 7, 2006 at 02:09.

  5. #5
    SitePoint Addict irkyo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by theindustry
    Going to school for multimedia is really the only educational path I feel that I could excel in...but I'm afraid that I'm going to screw myself since it doesn't lead to the most stable of careers. I don't know what my options are.

    I'd really like to get a job at a design firm, but I don't know what my odds are. Graduate school would help me there, but jobs like that are probably hard to find. If only the interactive world was more employable

    Maybe I should go to undergrad for something like english...then grad school for design...I guess that would be the smartest thing to do, but I just feel wrong doing it; my dream is to be a designer not a writer. Most don't learn a thing when it comes to getting a BFA in design anyway though...And getting a degree from a grad school would probably carry just as much weight as a BFA...if not more. But do I really want to be in a cubicle writing all day? ...That would drive me up the walls, though English is the only section I'd survive in due to my nonexsistant math skills...plus it's the closest thing to the creative field that I can find.
    Read again your post , read it carefully,and now read each sentence... Done? ok.. and now tell me why are you so unsure about your abilities to find great job as designer or writer? it doesn't matter what job wil you have. willl it be the "stylish" and "popular" job at the present time or not. The main thing you have to LOVE what you do during your work. You have to want to work you have to be SURE about what are you doing and about what you have done and what you are going to do. In this case you will be glad enough about your job, your family will be glad about your income and you'll be glad about your choice in life. You shouldn't listen to these and those experienced guys you have to listen to yourself. because you will be dealing with your life not your friends or some clever guys.
    And about writing skills. I think you could work as a designer and a writer. These jobs are both creative and you could change your line according to your WISHES, your INTERESTS at the certain period of time. it will be interesting and creative all the time.
    By the way, you write very keen I think.
    Dont' be afraid of the "monsters" of the design world they are not so scary as you think.

  6. #6
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy bluedreamer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by theindustry
    The reason I'm so focused on Multimedia being the only option is because that's what I'd like to go to school for. Being a youngin' I'm not quite sure how the whole world of employment works. Would I still be able to find a solid job that isn't related to design even though thats what all of my degrees are in? I really have no idea what it takes to make a decent living (goal would be at least $50k a year).
    If you have an ounce of intelligence you will always be able to find work to feed and house yourself, irrespective of your qualifications. Of course if you have degrees you will have a lot more better paid jobs to apply for, even if they aren't in your chosen field.

    Making a decent living isn't that hard to do if you apply yourself and work hard. But, I would always say never base it on how much you earn.

    What would you rather spend the next 40 years of your working life doing...?

    Earn 50k a year in a job/workplace you weren't happy at
    Earn 25k a year doing the job of your dreams

  7. #7
    I Love Licorice silver trophybronze trophy Datura's Avatar
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    I am a designer / fine artist / graphic designer and wear some more hats as well. I love what I do most of the time, I have been working in this field for the last 45 years, at first in industry and over 30 years now on my own.

    It has been an incredibly rich life, a life of endless learning. Rich in the sense of experience and adventure into the vast garden of creativity. It is that what is the most important thing about your choice to work in this field, it will feed your need to be creative and give deep down satisfaction. Income can vary quite a bit, but if you become skillful there will always be a door that you can open to find a new direction if need be.

    Security is at best iffy in this line of work, but once you have a few years of this under your belt you get used to that as well. In the rich years you just have to be careful to put some away for the lean years, then you will never have that anxiety about the coming drought. If you want to build a solid foundation with your schooling in this field, I would opt to learn fundamental things about the principles of design, of painting and photography. The technical skills are not as important at the beginning, you must build yourself a solid foundation on which you can then erect all your work in the future.

    To get that kind of training you must go to a school of real learning, not one that feeds you a lot of fluff. My recommendation to you is to go to the best school in the design field that exists. It is the school where all the prominent firms of the world find the best young talent, they sponsor the school and the teachers are actually people with experience in their given field, not people who were not good enough to fight for a place in their profession, which is often the case with teachers.

    This school is in Los Angeles, it is called Art Center College of Design, here: http://www.artcenter.edu/. I did not have a chance to go there, I did not live in the US then, but i can tell from observing people who went there and taught me, it is the best investment you can make into yourself -- Datura
    Ulrike
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  8. #8
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    Well, this might sound a little ridiculous coming from an eighteen year old but the goal here is to: be happy, feed a family, and take my kids to the doctors when they're not feeling well. I don't need millions of dollars, but I do need a solid foundation to build a good life on. If I have to work a job that I'm miserable at to feed my kids, so be it. The problem is not having a solid degree to take me to a different career.

    So I guess that's why I'm all wound up. Though I'm still young, I want to make the right moves to get the most out of my education. The problem is that I've looked at every career out there (thanks, bls.gov) and everyone makes me cringe. The only thing that excites me is the arts...and owning a business, but that's not exactly secure either haha.

    I don't know. I feel very uneasy and fearful right now.

    I know fields like psychology have certificates etc that only take maybe a year or so to earn. Is there anything like that for maybe programming or something a bit more solid that would assist me in getting a job that just keeps food on the table? Probably not, but figured I'd ask.

  9. #9
    I Love Licorice silver trophybronze trophy Datura's Avatar
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    Well, if you go to a school like Art Center College of Design, you have no problems finding a rather high paying job, because those graduates are the cream of the crop. Now, if you get that job and do not like working for some firm or boss, then the picture changes. All I know is that you can not predict what will appeal to you right now, those thoughts are really confusing to you at the moment. One step at a time is my advise. Don't start a family before you know where you will be heading to, probably in your early thirties. Stay with just the education right now, obviously the design world is your deep down love. Then go there and do not force yourself to head into another direction because of thoughts of insecurity.

    Life should be lived in a happy state of mind, and if you should decide to go with a second choice, you will never taste true happiness -- Datura

    PS. The old saying about money does not buy happiness is not a bromide. It is really true. But you can have both really. Do not be afraid to make a wrong step. Often those will lead you somewhere that you would have never chosen to go and end up being a blessing in disguise.
    Ulrike
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  10. #10
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    Well, the undergrad school is nothing special but the grad school is. The school is called Portfolio Center and is located in Atlanta, Georgia. It's been referred to as "design bootcamp" and produces some amazingly talented designers. Dave Werner, of okaydave.com, is the one who turned me onto the school. He graduated in 05.

    And I suppose you're right Datura. I could always go back to school...though it might cost a pretty penny (thankfully mommy and daddy will be paying my way through this time around).

    I guess I just don't want to invest my life into something that I will later find out isn't going to pay the bills. Should probably take it one step at a time...that's always been hard for me. I always want to have a clear plan on where I'm headed...something to work towards.

  11. #11
    I Love Licorice silver trophybronze trophy Datura's Avatar
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    Something to work towards is good, but in smaller increments for you now. You have hardly looked at the world yet, you are not fully capable of making profound and all encompassing judgments at this state in your life. Life is an unpredictable thing, nothing stands still, you must constantly adjust and shift directions a bit while you are living. Security is not guaranteed. For nobody.

    To the choice of school: I can not tell you what I think about the Atlanta one, all I know is that a lot of the best people were trained in Los Angeles. My husband is a good example, he went to the University of Michigan and graduated with a degree in design. Nobody would hire him. He found out about the Art Center and when he applied they gave him a credit for his four years at Michigan for 1/2 semester. That is how they valued that school. And they were right.

    At that school in LA the average age of the students is well into their twenties, most of them had 4 years in another one before. But I know, parents pay for it and they might not be willing or able to go that high. But you can always work first or in between in summers to augment the costs of that rather expensive education. And like you say: if it is not enough what you have learned you can always continue, become a perpetual student, which you have to be in the field of design anyhow. Tools change with the advance of technology, the learning never ends, unless you want to be one of those old guys sitting on a rocker some day down the road of your secure life -- Datura
    Ulrike
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  12. #12
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    datura... i agree with you!

    learn the design, not technology... techie stuff you can learn ''on-fly'', but design you are about to study all your life.

    getting some business education helps a lot! a good designer must have a wide range of skills and knowledge of various subjects, from psychology and art history to business and technology.

  13. #13
    I Love Licorice silver trophybronze trophy Datura's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by miloshz
    datura... i agree with you!

    learn the design, not technology... techie stuff you can learn ''on-fly'', but design you are about to study all your life.

    getting some business education helps a lot! a good designer must have a wide range of skills and knowledge of various subjects, from psychology and art history to business and technology.
    Fully agree with you, Design is more than a few effects on a little speck of surface -- Datura
    Ulrike
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  14. #14
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    as a designer and someone who hires subcontractors i can't say i have sympathies for web/multimedia ''designers''. no... i don't have anything against web/multimedia! quite contrary, that's field i'm getting into more and more and found it as a lot of fun!

    you don't need to excel at using latest versions os software... the best designers create their works using very basic features/options in their SW.

    installing DW/PS is not going to make you a designer. virtually everyone has driving license, but not everyone is michael schumacher.

  15. #15
    I Love Licorice silver trophybronze trophy Datura's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by miloshz
    as a designer and someone who hires subcontractors i can't say i have sympathies for web/multimedia ''designers''. no... i don't have anything against web/multimedia! quite contrary, that's field i'm getting into more and more and found it as a lot of fun!

    you don't need to excel at using latest versions os software... the best designers create their works using very basic features/options in their SW.

    installing DW/PS is not going to make you a designer. virtually everyone has driving license, but not everyone is michael schumacher.
    Yes, software is a tool just as a brush or a pencil is, as a knife or stick can be. I myself have just Photoshop Elements 2 and it pretty much fulfills all the needs I have at the moment. I can be happy with any tool and be creative, it really does not matter to me much. But that is because I have such a wonderful base in using my mind first in the creative process, the medium does not hold me hostage.

    That is today so often the case: the medium is elevated above the true value, the inspirational design that has its well deep within you -- Datura
    Ulrike
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    do you have an ability of reading my mind?

  17. #17
    I Love Licorice silver trophybronze trophy Datura's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by miloshz
    do you have an ability of reading my mind?
    No, but we probably come from the same corner of thought about the process, we have the same understanding of creative fundamentals -- Datura
    Ulrike
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  18. #18
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    well... i had such a big luck to learn from the people like yourself!

    my background in arts is rather classical.... i've attended painting/drawing lessons, studied art history and so on.

    i'm a more conceptualist and i admit i lack tech. knowledge.

    good for people like you and i is that conceptual era is just beginning... in arts, business, ...

    where do you come from? i think i can spot a classical education from somewhere like france, italy, england or russia.

  19. #19
    I Love Licorice silver trophybronze trophy Datura's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by miloshz
    well... i had such a big luck to learn from the people like yourself!

    my background in arts is rather classical.... i've attended painting/drawing lessons, studied art history and so on.

    i'm a more conceptualist and i admit i lack tech. knowledge.

    good for people like you and i is that conceptual era is just beginning... in arts, business, ...

    where do you come from? i think i can spot a classical education from somewhere like france, italy, england or russia.
    I am German, living in the US. My training of course was in the classical way from childhood on, being surrounded by thick culture. The first profession was in engineering, not in the arts, where I was truly drilled in discipline. From there I ventured into car design and after being totally disillusioned with industry I started a graphic design business. After that I came to the US with my american husband who also was a car designer, trained in the fine Arts as well. He became my mentor and taught me a lot of the things he had learned.

    From then on I worked as a fine Artist, a Romantic Realist with very intricate fine drawings and paintings in a somewhat Art Nouveau-ish style, but very much my own. And of course all things for my husband and me are somehow connected to the creative field, every thing we do is rooted there. It is our way of life. Every little thing is looked at and plucked apart, analyzed and mentally improved upon.

    I am a conceptualist as well but also a detail freak with the patients to execute. My husband is pure conceptualist being very impatient with execution (Architecture and Landscape design now). So, because of this background you and I understand each other. It is a mindset, a long learning and thinking that leads to this appreciation of a kindred spirit -- Datura
    Ulrike
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  20. #20
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    an interesting biography indeed!

    i think we should switch to private messaging or email. but it's ok for the guys here to see what makes a designer.

  21. #21
    I Love Licorice silver trophybronze trophy Datura's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by miloshz
    an interesting biography indeed!

    i think we should switch to private messaging or email. but it's ok for the guys here to see what makes a designer.
    No PM messages for this, I think this is a good informational exchange for a young person to see. It gives a nice insight into the complexity of this quest to become a professional artist, how it is an all encompassing way of life. The drive to be creative is like no other job, it is who you are, you can not separate your profession from your other life. It all merges, it is life for you -- Datura
    Ulrike
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  22. #22
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    experience speaks! design is not only a job you do, it's something you live... it's a way of thinking as well.

    i think that going to school where you only learn photoshop, flash or whatever else is waste of time and money. you can master them at your own. work 6 months a few hours a day and you'll know the program enough to accomplish the most of tasks. study design itself all your life and you'll see how weak your knowledge is, on a daily basis.

  23. #23
    I Love Licorice silver trophybronze trophy Datura's Avatar
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    True, true. I have started working with Photoshop just barely 2 years ago, but I feel very confident that i can master any task at hand because the foundation is so strong. The essence of a designer /artist does not lie in his tools, but in his mind -- Datura
    Ulrike
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  24. #24
    Mazel tov! bronze trophy kohoutek's Avatar
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    Great advice, Datura!

    Einen schönen Abend noch.
    Maleika E. A. | Rockatee | Twitter | Dribbble



  25. #25
    I Love Licorice silver trophybronze trophy Datura's Avatar
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    Danke schön, kohoutek. You have quite a string of interests in your bio there, a true indication of an artist. It is this deep interest into so many areas of the human existence that makes for a rounded designer/artist. One must be familiar with many things, one must be an observer into the smallest objects and into human behavior. That is at the core of creating -- Datura
    Ulrike
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