How to Get into Graphic Design (With No Experience!)

Written by
Rebecca Smith

Published
Jun 21, 2018

Jun 21, 2018 • by Rebecca Smith

You don't have the education. You don't have the experience. There's no way your work would get noticed.

Do you dream of joining the community of professional graphic designers, but are plagued by worries like these? If so, you're not alone.

The excuses we tell ourselves (excuses which almost always lead to walking away from dreams) are poisonous, and they can quickly stop us from taking the right actions. Don't let the fear paralyze you.

Regardless of experience, there are paths to that star-studded dream world. Here, we'll show you how to get into graphic design.

Without experience.

Is It Really Possible?

Well, we hate to give away the ending to the article, but it most certainly is.

If you've studied graphic design in any way, you've probably heard of William Bernbach. He is one of the iconic figures in graphics and industrial art, and he went to school for . . .

English.

Or take Tibor Kalman, who attended New York University for only a year and who impressed his boss so much with his window displays, he netted a job as creative director at Barnes and Noble.

In fact, career coach Lavie Margolin recommends applying for a job if you meet a measly 70% of the requirements. You could have all the right traits an employer is looking for without the "necessary" experience. That's why you can't just count yourself out of the game.

Don't ever doubt yourself. It is possible and believing that is half the battle.

How to Get Into Graphic Design

But where and how do you start to build your portfolio? Take small steps. Begin where you're comfortable and add on as you gain experience and confidence.

School

Were you one of the over 10,000 students enrolled for graphic design in 2016? Or are you considering joining a college, but aren't sure if you should?

Whether you're a graduate, a freshman or someone just toying with the idea of school, being educated in your chosen field brings a lot of perks along with it. Callie Malvik is the Associate Content Marketing Manager with ties to Rasmussen College, and she points out college teaches students presentation skills, preparation of printing files and perspective.

It also offers networking and feedback opportunities you can't get elsewhere, as well as specifics on a number of different branches you might never have thought you could be interested in, like package design basics. Even better, enrollment is down almost 5% nationally right now and the demand for graphic designers is up.

Even if you decide not to go to school, self-studies need to be vigorous to give you every advantage.

Volunteer

Consider volunteering. It might mean a few hours without a wage, but it looks darn good on a resume. Habitat for Humanity writes, "Volunteer experience strengthens any resume, and professional networking website LinkedIn even includes a section for highlighting your volunteer work."

Volunteering demonstrates you are willing to put your time and talent forward to help the community. Further, it's a way to show off those crazy graphics skills of yours and build a portfolio.

Even better, it creates a transition into a new line of work or gives the right nudge for a promotion. And, hey, it has amazing health benefits.

Go Pro Bono

Try your hand at freelancing and offer to do a couple small, odd jobs for free. This is purely to get your name out there and start compiling examples for that portfolio, so don't overdo it.

If you're interested in this, consider our next tip.

Internships

Yes, the dreaded "i" word that makes all adults cringe. However, studies do support the notion that internships can lead to landing a job. In fact, in some sectors internships can boost chances by as much as 60%.

Of course, try to find a paid internship if possible, but don't be so quick to snub your nose at unpaid ones. They're just as valuable to your resume.

Personal Works

If you love graphic design (and we mean really love it), you should have some personal works you've completed just for you. These can act as great starters for a portfolio.

After all, employers are more interested in your talent than your past. If you can snag them with an eye-catching design, a job is within your grasp.

Be selective here. Ask for critiques from people who will be honest with you, and be just as honest with yourself.

Networking

You've heard it before, and it's time to hear it again. Like it or not, networking is the prime way of getting a job today. In fact, it's estimated that approximately 70% of positions are filled through this process.

Stay in touch with other artists and send them interesting links now and again. If you've gone to school with other graphic designers, reach out to them.

Likewise, it's important to wrangle up some fantastic references. Past teachers, coworkers and local artists look great on a graphic design resume.

Organizations

Consider joining some prestigious organizations and becoming an active member. Among some of the more popular is the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) and The Freelancers Union.

Double bonus: these are prime locations for networking.

Online Presence

If you're like most of America today, you're obsessed with Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Use it to your advantage.

Make your own website and begin putting together an online portfolio, as well. Additionally, reach out through social media to other artists and create a professional profile.

Consider selling some of your art or posting it to obtain followers. It's a great way to strut your stuff so that you can catch one of those elusive graphic design careers.

It's Possible

We hate to rub it in your face, but an "I told you so" just seems so right here. It takes work, time, effort and a whole lot of patience, but getting a job in graphic design without experience isn't an impossibility. It's more than doable.

Now that you know how to get into graphic design, say goodbye to runaway thoughts about a future as a starving artist. Instead, take a look at how you can use Instagram to hitch a job.

Get that portfolio going, and show your unique self to the world.