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Graphic Design/Survival Job Until I'm a Desginer


Hi There,

I have a degree in public relations but my work history has been in non-profit fundraising for the past for years. I've always wanted to work in graphic design and will be taking a certificate course in graphic and web design this March. However, I'm currently unemployed and need a "survival" job until I'm able to seek work as graphic designer. I decided that I would transition into an entry level marketing role as a way to keep me close to the creative world so to speak. Most marketing roles I found want you to have some experience with the Adobe CS. Do you think this a good move for me? What types of survival jobs could I take given my background that would keep me close to the "creative" world until I can start looking for work in design which wont be until the end of this summer? I have a diverse skills set for admin type of role but I'm afraid to get stuck in that role and I'm really trying to move away from non-profit work in general. Thank you!

The graphic design industry is highly competitive as are most marketing jobs these days. If you are looking for a survival job, why not use your experience in public relations to get a job that pays you enough to finish your education in design? A certificate may not be enough to get you a job that pays well enough to survive, and using what you already know to make a living while you learn a new one is the way I'd go.

While Marketing is not Design, like PR, there is some cross-over...if you are good at writing you may find a job like newsletter/social media writer or editor, and this may allow you to do some of your own graphics and layout work. If you find an paid opportunity as an office desktop publisher position, that may get you some experience with page layout software, but it may not get you closer to a job in graphic design (though if you have a portfolio of strong work, your experience and education matter much less). And learning how to tell a story can be a skill that will help you in a design job.

Study hard, and do some good design work. Make a portfolio. If you can only afford a certificate as a level of education, make sure you attend seminars, take additional online classes, subscribe to design publications and attend design conferences like HOW Design Live, so you can network, be inspired and learn at every opportunity. Design requires a lot of dedication and passion, as well as talent (and persistence) so just be prepared to do the work. Ask local non-profits if you can help them with their graphic design needs (you have connections to several non-profits, do you not?). You might be able to get an internship at a printer or sign shop but this again may not be paid, or will be paid very little.

Think hard about why you want to transition to graphic design, it often pays a lot less than public relations in most cases, but since you've been working with non-profits, perhaps money isn't a key motivator. Are you creative? Can you communicate visually (Can you draw? Read Milton Glasier's "Drawing is Thinking")? Do you think strategically, and are you able to make materials visually compelling?  It will not be an easy road to make a good living as a graphic designer unless you are really good at what you do. But if your passion is design - go for it.

Sorry for the delayed response and good luck!  

Graphic Design

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Patti Glenn


I can answer questions about InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, Acrobat, Dreamweaver and Flash (some actionscript). I understand color theory, layout and design principles and typography. Additionally, I can address concerns involving project managment, proposals, and working with contractors (not too much on legal issues though). I can answer questions on both web (CSS, AJAX and XHTML) and print design/production.


I work in web development/design using CSS, AJAX and XHTML. I develop and design printed materials and campaigns (annual reports, catalogs, brochures, corporate identity, packaging). I work as a freelance designer and marketing communications consultant, and also in-house for a public b-2-b company as Sr. Graphic Designer and Marketing Communications Manager. I have worked in Graphic Design for 10 years, and before that I worked as a studio artist producing fine art and illustration.


BFA Fine Art and Masters Certificate in Multimedia Design.

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