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Confessions of a Recent Design Grad: My Path in the Design World

Confessions of a Recent Design Grad: My Path in the Design World

Rachael Posnak / CMYK

My path through the design world has not always been smooth. I’ve taken some detours and risks that I wasn’t sure would pay off, but I’ve learned from all of my experiences, and I don’t regret any of them. I don’t purport to be a seasoned pro—I’ve been in the business for only eight years—but I know the early years can be some of the most challenging. This is the time when you’re searching for your niche, and it may take several tries before you find it.

Knee-Deep in X-Acto Blades

When I graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree in English, graphic design was appealing to me because it seemed to marry my passions for writing and for visual art, blending the verbal and the visual. Plus, I’d heard you could actually buy groceries every week with a design salary. After college, I went to an intensive two-year design program at Portfolio Center in Atlanta, Ga. Like so many other aspiring graphic designers, I had dreams of designing album covers (only for bands I liked, of course—no teeny boppers), edgy posters with experimental typography (again, probably for progressive bands) and maybe every now and then a Web site for an upstanding nonprofit agency.

I didn’t realize at the time that those gigs usually end up costing you money. That didn’t stop me from taking them on, mind you, but it did mean that I had to find a job that would pay for the other 99 percent of my groceries. Not to mention that when I got out of design school—knee-deep in student loan debt and credit card debt from buying a laptop, a printer, countless jumbo packs of X-Acto blades, an emergency room bill for the time I dropped the X-Acto knife on my barefoot, eight different kinds of glue, a cutting mat, five different kinds of tape, inkjet paper that costs $2 a sheet and piles of balsa wood—the first thing on my mind (no matter how many times they republish the “First Things First Manifesto”) was not integrity or principles.

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