Digital Nomad Jobs – Become a grapic designer.

I think I’ve realised I haven’t got what it takes.

If you want to become a graphic designer I’m going to assume that you are either already pretty great at graphic design or optimistic enough that you can learn everything from scratch and become world-famous as the digital nomad that designed the new bottle or can for a brown carbonated soft drink, I’m a Pepsi kind of guy but we don’t discriminate or blindly promote products here, other brown carbonated soft drinks are available. They are just not as good.

Anyway, there are a few ways to become a successful graphic designer and I suppose which path you choose depends on how much time and money you have. Of course, the most standard and time-consuming way is to go to design school, dedicate 4 or more years of your life, say goodbye to X amount of £/$/€ and most depressingly of all have to spend time in class with, there’s always at least one, an incredibly pretentious artist. If you choose that path, good luck to you. You’ll obviously learn all there is to learn about graphic design and place yourself on a good footing towards a (hopefully) successful career, you probably won’t get much out of the rest of this post mind. I’m going to be looking at a way for the un-art-educated of us to become successful carbonated soft drink packaging designers.

Firstly, you’ll need to know a little bit about graphic design fundamentals, fortunately, you can do this easily online with a quick search of ‘graphic design basics’ or ‘fundamentals of graphic design’. You’ll find a wealth of content out there waiting eagerly for you to click. Free or paid, videos or text, whichever style you like best I’ll wager you can find and utilise. A good place to check out for online courses is Udemy*, they have a huge range of courses to browse in price ranges to suit all pockets. Have a read, decide what suits you best and then come back.
*Obligatory affiliate link, it really is pretty good but like I said, there are also a lot of free options open to you.

Cosmic, now that you’re up to date with the basics and you still think design greatness is your destiny you’ll need to get your hands on some software. You are now vaguely backed into a corner by Adobe, the industry standard and a little bit expensive monthly subscription software system. Don’t get me wrong, if you’re dead set on design it’s well worth the money but if it’s still a vague fancy have a look at some free software you can use to get a handle on it all such as GIMP, Inkscape and Scribus. They (almost certainly) probably won’t replace the need for Adobe but can be a really useful tool to have a practice on before you commit your soul to the Adobe beast.
(I really should point out that every designer I know uses Adobe software and they are convinced it is the best, I don’t want you to think I see them as some form of evil design dictators, I don’t, honest.)

Once you’ve got your software and spent a huge/massive/monumental chunk of time mastering the features you’re ready to get started on the fun part of graphic design, the design! You are going to need a strong portfolio to help get you noticed so you’re going to need to get designing. Whilst building up your portfolio concentrate on what you enjoy doing and what best shows off your own skills but also think about things that can show off your range and adaptability. Unfortunately, not everyone is going to be as enamoured with carbonated soft drink packaging designs as I am so you’ll need to prove you’re not a one-trick pony.

Just because you are developing your portfolio you don’t have a licence to stop learning, everywhere you go you should be looking at designs and reaping all the inspiration it might be offering. Stay on trend, keep up to date with the latest fads and fashions, you don’t want to get left behind. Research the things that might seem small to you like fonts, everyone’s favourite junior school spooky Halloween font probably won’t cut it these days (unless it’s Halloween, but even then, come on. It’s 2017, there must be a better one by now?)

When you have a solid portfolio to showcase your skills you can start looking for work. By solid, I don’t mean a massive collection of everything you ever deemed worthy to give digital life too, just a curated selection of some of your finer works. Alongside that last point, don’t feel the need to throw away any of your old work, you never know when you might want to look back and think ‘what the flip was I thinking there? Or ‘wow, if I just change that one bit this will be epic’. It won’t take up any time or effort to keep the work saved and could be a valuable resource for you further down the line.

Work wise there are a few places to go to for beginner graphic designers, a select few would include Upwork, Freelancer and Toptal. A more comprehensive list of sites can be found at the always (constantly/occasionally/sometimes, maybe) updating Digital Nomad Jobs – where to find work list.

What do I need skill wise?
Design skills. That’s a given I hope. You don’t need to be an excellent drawer but a basic knowledge of design and knowing which way around to hold your graphic tablet’s pen is a bonus.

I have hopefully debunked the myth (that I may have just made up) that you need a formal degree or qualification in design to succeed as a graphic designer. I guess that maybe having a Foundation, BA or Masters might help you get noticed but I’m sure being a good designer outweighs a few letters after your name**.

Being a graphic designer requires more than an artistic bent, you’ll need to be a good listener to ensure you understand your clients brief, potentially a problem solver, have good communication skills and (a lot of) patience. You still fancy design as a job?
**Thomas Rogers DN – Thomas Rogers Digital Nomad

What do I need hardware wise?
Mainly a good computer that can run the Adobe software, details of which can be found here.

Alongside the good computer, you’ll probably want to get yourself a graphics tablet, I believe that a popular choice among professional designers is a Wacom, you can find out about all of their products on the Wacom website but you might want to shop around to get the best prices.

What do I need software wise?
Feed the Adobe beast!

Again, it really is very, very good.

Where do I find work?
As well as the websites listed above you might want to have a look at the following – Coroflot, Behance, AuthenticJobs, Aiga, Freelancer, Krop and Dribbble.

How well does it suit the digital nomad lifestyle?
Pretty well to be fair, your hardware requirements are very minimal and it’s easy to get hard-wearing bags these days to keep your expensive toys safe as you digital nomad it around the world. I guess you might have to overcome a few issues regarding time zones depending on where you are in the world but whats a few late nighters if you can spend the next day relaxing on the beach with a nice cocktail?

As long as you can get online you’re not restricted as to where you work from and seeing all those exotic products and places might even help you get some creative ideas for a new design, a new design for say a brown carbonated soft drink package?

One Reply to “Digital Nomad Jobs – Become a designer”

  1. All pretty good advice, but I would contest the lack of need for formal design training. While I know one or two excellent designers who are entirely self-taught, most are not. It takes a huge amount of self discipline to push yourself to move beyond your comfort zone and college will do that for you, teach you how to self-educate more effectively and force you not to rely solely on Adobe Photoshop for everything; the hallmark of many self-taught designers.

    Most self taught designers I know are horrible typographers for example, because it take a huge amount of discipline to become skilled in this area, which is the life-blood of good graphics and doesn’t yield the instant gratification of messing with filters and effects in Pshop. If you forgo formal design education, be prepared to work a lot harder, it’s not the soft option some make it out to be.

    Also, I’m a senior designer and only ever used a graphics tablet briefly years ago, I don’t find them useful in my workflow. Illustration heavy designers make great use of them, but I prefer a programmable gaming mouse, where I can preset shortcuts and enjoy the ergonomics of equipment designed for use over many hours.

    Also, don’t believe anybody who tells you to buy a Mac and says they’re better for design. Whatever gives you the fastest cpu, largest amount of ram and decent ssd primsry dtive for your cash will yield the best performance. Designers often know nothing about computer hardware so it’s pointless asking most of them fir advice here; ask a gamer, they know hatdware inside out, most designers haven’t ever even opened their machines.

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