Faking My Way to Becoming a Graphic Designer
I am a graphic designer. Not because I have a degree or ever took a single class in graphic design, but because I decided junior year of high school that I was going to be one. When I started college and things didn't quite go to plan, I embraced a "fake it 'til you make it" attitude and gained more experience than I ever imagined.
It started with an assignment eleventh grade English class, where we had to research a career we were interested in pursuing after graduation. It was the first time I had ever heard of graphic design, but I thought it sounded like a cool job and decided that's what I'd like do. Fast forward to fall semester freshman year of college, where I took basic art classes to build a portfolio of work. That portfolio would be my ticket into the design program in the spring, after it went through a review process at the end of the semester. I told everyone around me that I was going to be a graphic designer. Even with limited experience with any Adobe software, I volunteered to design flyers and social media graphics for clubs and organizations I was a part of. Those few months I tried to gain as much design experience as I could, because this girl was going to be a graphic designer.
I tried to gain as much design experience as I could, because this girl was going to be a graphic designer.
Then fall semester ended and my portfolio of work was reviewed. Guess who got accepted into the graphic design program? Not me.
Don't worry, I wasn't even upset because fall semester I had grown to love doing "traditional" fine arts, and was accepted into the studio art program (and the rest of that story is history). But I was still deep in graphic design projects outside of class, because that's what I had been hyping up as the goal for months. I still hadn't taken any proper classes in design, but made a decision to keep up with the projects I was already involved with. I could just keep figuring things out along the way, right?
I could just keep figuring things out along the way, right?
So I finished up a new logo for a university department, and created flyers for ministries and churches I was involved with. During the summer I got an internship with a local business, designing ads for their stores and running their social media accounts. I had friends and strangers contact me about designing logos for their new businesses. Back at school, I needed a job and was encouraged to apply for a student design position with the university. I ended up working there for two years creating flyers, bus advertisements, t-shirts, and digital signage for around campus. All throughout college, people came to me because they knew I did graphic design work, and I kept busy with tons of projects. I never really sought out graphic design work until after I graduated college and was looking for a job, and had all this experience I could fall back onto. Now I work full time as a graphic designer, creating apparel designs for all kinds of businesses and organizations.
All that to say, I got loads of design experience just because I told people I was going to be a graphic designer. Even though the original plan to get a degree in graphic design didn't work out, doors kept opening to other opportunities. Half the time I didn't know how I was going to work out a solution to a project, and honestly I still feel like I'm faking it sometimes, but I'm also amazed everyday by how much I've learned by just doing it. You really can't beat pure experience.
I still feel like I'm faking it sometimes, but I'm also amazed everyday by how much I've learned by just doing it. You really can't beat pure experience.
This was a big example of "faking it 'til you make it," but I love embracing this attitude with the little things in life too. For example, this summer I had some fabric that I thought would make a really cute backpack. The only problem was that I had no idea how to make a backpack. I had recently learned how to sew zippers into pouches, and figured a backpack was kind of like a big pouch, just with some extra pieces. So I went for it and in the end had my own handmade backpack. I shared the final bag on Instagram, and had several requests from friends to purchase one. Which was crazy. A month before that, I wouldn't have thought I'd be selling handmade backpacks on social media. I just drew from the experience I had with sewing and let the rest fall into place, learning as I went.
So don't limit yourself, friends. If it's your dream to become a graphic designer or an astronaut, or if you just want to learn how to bake a cheesecake, start with the first step. It's amazing what you can accomplish when you block out that voice that says "you can't do this" and tell yourself you're capable of anything. Fake out that negative energy and get stuff done. You've got this.