Working as a graphic designer can be intimidating when you’re a fresh graduate who doesn’t know where or how to start making a name for yourself. That’s why we have Mariam Dayhoum from MDesigns to show answer your questions and help you navigate your designing career the best way possible.


What courses or classes do I need to take if I never studied graphic design in college?

Studying graphic design in college or at a design school will get you on the right track to becoming a ‘qualified’ professional. But it’s simply not in the cards for everyone, you don’t really need a formal education to fulfill your dream of becoming a graphic designer, you just need the drive and dedication to pull it off.

You can choose to go old school and create things by hand, but the world has gone digital, so you should be able to work with Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. I truly recommend a beginner to start with Adobe Illustrator first, and then move onto Photoshop. Illustrator is easier, to begin with, and it’s used to make logos and icons. So this will give you a solid foundation, it makes it easier to work with photoshop. Keep in mind the tons of online tutorials and books there to help you. These are the two main and most used programs. You can expand your skills as the need arises to “Adobe InDesign” if you want to do any print designs.


How do I build a good portfolio if I never worked with brands before, what do I need to do?

Early in your career, when it comes to finding a job or a freelancing client, your arsenal is your portfolio. It would be the first impression of you from an agency or client, and its an easy way to showcase your talents and strengths. They don’t have to be designed for an existing brand. You should pull together some of your best pieces of work you’ve done during your design education or self-taught education and put it forward. Resist the temptation to include everything you’ve ever designed, don’t show anything you are not proud of.

For the self-taught graphic designer, it’s okay at first to look for design references and get inspiration from other designers and aim to make that 10 times better. Don’t worry about being original for now, that comes later, once you’re comfortable with your field (whether it’s branding, animation, app designing etc.). It’s just like learning an instrument, you first learn how to play other peoples songs before composing your own, right?

After that, you’ll be well on your way to landing your first freelance job or agency job. The work you showcase on your portfolio is likely the work you’ll have the easiest time selling to clients, as clients, will want to know if you have experience working on similar projects before.

I’ve been at the agency for a year now and learned a ton on the job. However, I still seek designers much more talented than I am and learn from them. I still watch online tutorials and geek out at the design section of bookstores, because there is still so much to learn and to improve on and add to my portfolio.


Is it better if I start my graphic design career working in a company first or working as a freelancer?

As a designer, I always get asked what is better, freelancing or working at an agency? To be honest, there is no right or wrong answer to this one. But there are certainly perks and pitfalls for both. I think it depends on what you’re looking to get out of your career. I’m happy to get the best of both worlds, so I still currently do both, I work full time at an advertising agency and freelance under my own business, MDesigns, mostly at night and occasionally on weekends if need be. I have learned a lot from my 10 to 7 job, that I’ve directly applied to my freelance business; of course, because usually, when you work by yourself, it’s more difficult to find people to mentor you or teach you something new, so I get that help from my colleagues.

However, I think that it is really important to get the experience from an agency first, as it can show you how to and how not to work. It can give you the bigger picture, for future work. Also, you will get to work with colleagues, get help and share ideas for projects. The only issue with an agency is that you’re constantly forced into just one role, and that can get quite repetitive and boring, when it does, don’t be afraid to take the freelancing route. Nothing is more satisfying than running your own business, choosing your own clients, setting your own rates and working when you want to. Also, when you have freedom with your thought, you can be more creative, as working for an agency, you will be constricted and stuck a lot of the times.


How much can I expect my salary to be working in a corporate vs. working as a freelance graphic designer?

Skill, experience and level of responsibility all play a big role in graphic designer salaries (not to mention, the country you’re in or freelancing for). That’s why a graphic designers’ salary can fluctuate between somewhere around 5K to 40K. Don’t forget that’s just a rough average. There are also different roles within the field of graphic design incorporate; there are interns, juniors, seniors, art directors, finalizers, retouchers, web designers, head of art and more. Of course, not every freelance graphic designer has a steady client base, and the demand for freelance work can fluctuate, one month you’ll find yourself flooded in client requests and the next you’ll find yourself binge-watching series.