From Bachelor of Design to graphic designer

Steph turned her love of illustration into a graphic design career after graduating from the Bachelor of Design.

Steph working from home

How would you describe your overall experience studying the Bachelor of Design?

I really enjoyed it. The balance of guidance and creative freedom in my classes was a big reason why I enjoyed studying so much. Each student could develop and explore their own style and skillset. We were incredibly fortunate to have so many opportunities to share our work with our peers, including our end of year exhibitions which were also attended by industry professionals. I have met some incredibly talented people and have made some fantastic friends through the course. As a cohort, we were all very supportive of each other and our creative endeavours.

When did you decide what you wanted to major in?

I decided that I wanted to major in graphic design during my first year, because the classes were enjoyable and challenging at the same time. Graphic design brings visual art into the digital space, which makes it accessible to a wide range of people, and that's what intrigued me about the major in the first place. The graphic design major gave me a multimedia experience as we were often encouraged to work with analogue materials, video, and sound. For my electives, I minored in performance design which opened my mind up to the applications that graphic design and visual art could have.

What was your favourite subject in the course?

I enjoyed so many of my classes. I would have to say that Graphic Design Studio 3, our very last studio subject, was my favourite. We got to do a variety of projects which included branding, infographics, book design, animation, posters, videos, illustration and painting. The assignments were a jumping-off point for us to experiment and develop our skills. I also really appreciated the fact that the tutors gave short time frames for each project to mimic what it would be like in the workforce.

Tom Yum spread graphic design work
Image: work from one of Steph's final projects.

What was the most valuable skill you learned throughout the Bachelor of Design?

Aside from the Adobe suite and other graphic design programs, a really valuable skill I’ve carried over into my work is learning to view things from different perspectives. Most people can make something look pretty, but making it look interesting is a very different challenge. I have also learnt that it is crucial to be open to other mediums and styles. Though graphic design is mostly a digital medium, some things cannot be achieved using a computer. I found my love for illustration during my time undertaking the Bachelor of Design. Through all of my subjects, I had time to learn and develop the skill to illustrate. Today, illustration is one of my favourite things to do, and I can incorporate it into my graphic design work. I also taught myself how to animate, which has added another element that I was able to bring into my practice.

Are you currently working in graphic design?

Yes! I'm a graphic designer and illustrator at Accuratus. I found the job advertisement on Seek.com, I had an interview with the director of Accuratus in early January, and I received the job offer a week later!

How did you find the transition from the Bachelor of Design to working in industry?

I found the transition a little mentally tricky. Knowing that my work would be for a real client as opposed to a hypothetical client was a bit daunting. Having to trust my instincts and not being able to ask a tutor what they thought about my work was also scary. Despite this, I think I've adjusted to working in the industry quite well. I have definitely been using the skills and knowledge I gained from the Bachelor of Design in all of my work.

Work on show at the MSDx exhibition
Image: Steph's work on show as part of MSDx Summer, the Faculty's end of year exhibition.

It's a very difficult year with Covid-19 impacting lives profoundly – are you still working throughout the pandemic?

Working has been good so far; I'm enjoying the variety of work I get to do. I've had the opportunity to do a mixture of graphic design, illustration, and animation for a wide range of clients. Everyone in our office has been working from home since mid-March. I'm very grateful to still be able to work during the pandemic. I like that there is no travel time between home and work, as it used to take an hour each way. The absence of travel time lets me do more personal and freelance work on the side. One downside is that it is becoming difficult to balance my personal life with my work life sometimes.

What are your next steps thinking towards the future?

Looking at the big picture, I've always toyed around with the idea of starting a design studio with a couple of my friends from university. But that's a plan to revisit once we've all had a little more time working in the industry. A dream project of mine is to work as a food illustrator, possibly work with a brand on some sort of food packaging or illustrate a cookbook. I just know I want to illustrate and hopefully make that a full-time career. In the current climate with Covid-19 playing a significant role in job and future security, I have thought about going back to do an honours degree or a teaching degree, but nothing is set in stone.

Project example
Image: work from Steph's 'Before & After' project.

Do you have any advice for anyone thinking about studying the Bachelor of Design?

I'd tell them to do it. You will have so many opportunities to develop your own skills and style and discover new ones too. The balance between academic and studio classes go well together as you can bring knowledge from each class into your practice.

To those currently studying the Bachelor of Design, I would say everything you're doing right now will pay off in the end. There will be some days where you will doubt yourself and your skills, there will be highs and lows, but in the end, it's worth it. Take in everything your tutors tell you because this is your time to learn and absorb as much as possible. There are so many pathways, opportunities, and places that the Bachelor of Design can take you.


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