Getting a new career is not just for young people anymore. Anyone can change careers, and in fact, it is becoming normal to switch from one area of work to another at least once in your lifetime. Studies show that changing jobs four times by the age of 32 is now normal and that switching from one industry to another is not unusual anymore. If you feel stagnant in your current career, not just your current position, why not make the change?
Have you always been a creative type? Consider making the switch to a design career! If you are willing to put in a little work, you can become a designer any time you want. There is always more room for graphic and web designers, interior designers, architectural designers and drafters, event designers and planners, and other creative workers in all sectors of design.
Now is a Great Time to Become a Designer
Regardless of where you are in your current career, now is a good time to make the change to design. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), art and design occupations throughout the U.S. are growing at an average rate of four percent, adding nearly 34,000 new jobs by 2026. Specific careers in design are growing as fast as or faster than the average:
- Careers in architectural design and drafting are growing at seven percent.
- The rate of growth for jobs for event designers and planners is 11 percent.
- There are expected to be more than 11,000 new jobs available for graphic design in the next few years.
- For interior designers, the growth rate in jobs is four percent.
Design is also a great area to get into right now because of the ongoing need for creative professionals in technology. Web development and design continues to be important, and growth in this field is up to an impressive 15 percent. Technology brings with it new types of design too, like user experience and user interface design, which helps ensure websites, apps, and products are easy and pleasant to use and interface with. New technologies will likely require new types of designers, like those that can design augmented or virtual reality environments and experiences.
Before you try to launch your new career or jump into a new school for design, it is important to narrow down your vision. If you don’t pick just one or two of your top choices for the kind of design career you want, you run the risk of losing focus and failing to settle into a niche where you can find employment or get clients for a freelance career. There are several areas of design you may want to consider targeting:
Graphic and Web Design.Graphic design involves creating any kind of visual communication, from print advertisements to magazine layouts. A subset of graphic design is web design and development, which involves designing and creating websites.
Interior Design.Interior designers create or modify indoor spaces to make them aesthetically pleasing and functional, while also matching the desired tone of a client. These designers may work on a freelance basis or for design firms and work on residential or commercial spaces.
Event Design.Event planning and event design are very similar to overlapping tasks. However, event design focuses on the creative aspects of crafting successful events. The designers are responsible for the overall tone of an event as well as the specific elements that create the tone and send the right message.
Architectural/CAD Design.Computer-aided drafting is a technical skill, but it is one that is used by designers who create architectural spaces and three-dimensional models for product design.
Assess Your Current Skills
To become a designer you need to be realistic about what you can and cannot do. To determine your next moves, figure out what your current design skills are and where you may be lacking. From there you can decide whether or not you need classes to bolster your skills and knowledge. Start with basic art skills. Designers usually have a good foundation in art, although not necessarily a formal art education. And, of course, they have a solid foundation in design principles, most often through a formal design program.
Technical skills are also important for today’s designers. All types of designers are able to use basic software programs and also design-specific programs. If you have not used any design software programs, like Adobe Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator, consider taking short courses to learn how to use them. Other tech-related skills that many designers have include basic HTML and social media.
Take Short Courses to Get Your Feet Wet
Take a look at the skills you lack and take one or two classes in those areas. You should be able to find classes you can take without fully enrolling in a degree or certificate program. Courses in software, drawing, or basic graphic design are great for getting started on the path to become a designer. They will give you a better foundation for moving forward with a new career and can also help you decide if you’re heading in the right direction. For instance, if you take a class web development, but you realize you realize that creating websites is more technology than design, you may want to switch to a graphic design course or art classes.
To Become a Designer, Learn to Network
Networking is an important skill in any career. To launch a new career it is more important than ever. Long before you are ready to quit your current job, start talking to and networking with other designers. Contact local professional organizations for designers, call local design firms, and ask around for anyone who is interested in mentoring a new professional. Many experienced people in all types of career fields are often willing to mentor someone who wants to work hard to learn.
If you aren’t sure where to start, or if you hit dead ends with these suggestions for getting to know designers, head online and join relevant industry groups. These communities can help you learn from others but also meet new people who are either working in design already or working toward a career in design, like you. If you are taking any design classes, talk to your instructors about how to connect with more professionals. This kind of network will be crucial as soon as you make the big leap into design and start looking for clients or positions within design firms.
Start Designing Now
You don’t have to complete the steps above to do what may be most important of all: actually design. As you go through the more practical steps of becoming a designer, take time to practice designs kills. You don’t need to have a school-directed project or a paying client to take on design projects.
Create fake projects, like an advertising campaign for a company you like, a website for a friend’s new business venture, or a new design for your living room. Practice is crucial to getting better at design, and by crafting designs now you will have more to add to your portfolio as you take more concrete steps towards working in this field and seeking clients.
Go to School to Become a Designer
When you’re really ready to get into your new career and to commit to making the change, it’s time to go to school and get the skills you need to make it a reality. Some designers are self-taught, but there are benefits to completing an educational program: instructors who are working designers, access to software and technology, other new designers to work and collaborate with, hands-on, practical learning, and direct instruction to help you when you are struggling. You cannot get these things by teaching yourself in your spare time at home.
Many design programs are flexible and cater to students that are working adults. So, if you don’t feel comfortable taking the plunge and quitting your current job to go to school, or if you can’t afford to do so, look for a program that fits your schedule. By the time you finish the program, you will know if you can take the leap or if you want to find part-time design work while you keep your current job.
If you’re ready to start now, check out design programs in your area. In South Florida, a great option is Miami Arts & Design Education. It offers several diploma programs that take either 8 or 16 months to complete, so you don’t have to spend years learning and training. There are also shorter courses, several weeks long, that can help you learn specific skills at a time. Now is a great time to start working toward your dream career as a designer; you just have to choose your field and get enrolled in the right program.