Last updated on November 30th, 2022
Being a beginner, it’s usual to make mistakes in your career. Similarly, graphic designers make some basic mistakes in the early phase of their careers. They may end up losing many job opportunities and clients if they do not correct those flaws soon. Once they are on the right track, clients start coming to them with more work due to their talent and skills. One of the renowned Art Director, Tyler Pate offers crucial advice to the budding designers about how to expertise and prepare well for their careers.
Graphic design is a vast field covering a wide range of designs, including marketing materials and visual identities. Logos, brochures, business cards, websites, and a host of other works are what the designers create. So, the earning opportunities are plenty in this field. But only professionally accurate designers get the deserved work and respect from clients.
Most designers make some basic mistakes in starting their careers and do not know how to rectify them. Considering this, Designhill, the leading creative marketplace, thought it fit to address the budding designers’ issues. Therefore, the marketplace conducted an AMA with Tyler Pate on 28th April 2020 to guide designers on what basis designers must follow.
Tyler Pate is a renowned art director, graphic designer, illustrator, and has worked in various fields of the design industry. He graduated from Francis Marion University in visual communication. Currently living in Florence, SC, he works as a full-time freelancer and illustrator, delivering creative solutions to companies and brands.
Graphic designers go through a lot of doubts and struggles in the early phase of their careers. It is here that they should get proper guidance from experienced designers. Considering that, Tyler Pate gave them useful tips in an AMA session on how to start their career on a sound note. He shared his rich experience with the design community and artists. He gave some basic and valuable tips that help designers and artists and build a flourishing career. This session helps them lay a solid foundation for their career.
Here Is the Video Of The AMA Session With Tyler Pate
Here Is What Tyler Pate Has To Advise To The Graphic Designers
Designhill: What is the root cause of designers having confusion about their specialty?
I think a lot of times people confuse what they want with what they are good at. I have always been somewhat well rounded in graphic design in general. I have always had a fascination with creating logos and brands. But I developed a more keen interest in illustrating, creating posters, storytelling, and what the true meaning behind the art is. I actively pursued that more. I would have a balance of the graphic design.
Find out what you love to do.
But every time I got free moments, I would just jump to illustrating and trying to get better at that. And, eventually, that starts to rise in the skill set. And, I would only suggest that if you have something that you’re good at, and that’s your core, then, don’t stop doing that. This is because you have to keep honing in and sharpening those tools. But you have to find a little more time to do what you love. And I think once you find that, you’ll realize how easy it is to create a career for yourself and pursue what you want.
Designhill: Should a designer have a signature style, or is it okay to have variety?
I feel like it’s nice to have diversity. For instance, if you’re a graphic designer working for an ad agency or some sort of design firm, it’s good to have flexibility. You should be able to pivot your stuff and define what you’re doing for the client that needs help. That will mean you should change a little bit.
Clients will approach you for your style
But if you’re a freelance designer or freelance illustrator, it’s good to have a unique style setting yourself apart from all the others. This is because people are going to come to you wanting your style. So, dial back what you’re doing and really cast the net on where you want to go. You want to go to an ad agency or want to go in full time to be an illustration artist. Once you pick one of those directions, then I think you should either hone in on what you’re doing and flourish in your style. Or, you should be well rounded so that you can get more opportunities.
You should also realize that all these little things, as a graphic designer and artists, they build upon each other. So, you might be an outstanding artist or an illustrator; still, you have to keep everything sharpening and in the right direction.
Designhill: What are your passion projects, and how do you choose them?
One of my most significant passion projects is a project called Creative Pain. That’s kind of a project where engagements like what we’re doing right here happen. It is about communicating with a larger audience of creatives who struggle with the creative process. They are the ones who are wondering. How do you break through?
The Creative Pain helps embrace that moment and encourage that unfamiliar territory. This is because I think from breaking through, you are able to grow as a designer or artist and understand that it is okay not to know how to finish that great idea.
I’ve been able to create cool things around the brand from those creative projects. Such passion projects that I’ve developed allow me to get off the computer and create environments and experience.
Designhill: So fundamentally, what you are suggesting is that one should not stop creating. And secondly, we should always be risk-friendly. We cannot be risk-averse. Take a leap of faith some time and find out what we are good at?
Yeah, exactly. You never know. I mean, you might find something new if you’re just, you know, taking a shot. We can’t plan everything ahead.
Designhill: How do you fix your charges as a graphic designer? Basically, how do you charge your clients?
I think every project needs to be addressed in its realm. If you have someone coming to you for a logo, you’re going to charge for a logo in a completely different way than you would in illustration, marketing materials, or print materials. This is because they’re just so different in the thought process. A lot of times, I will kind of make a logo, and then I’ll divide that payment up across the whole project.
Break your project into a different tasks
I create milestones. I think that’s the most important thing about creating payment for your work is to create milestones for the client. If you break it up into individual pieces, you are able to tell clients that this first milestone is 14 hours, the second milestone is 36 hours. And then they’re starting to understand that a lot of time goes into creating logos, banner ads, etc., materials.
You just have to be mindful of your time. You might create a great logo in two hours. But do you charge two hours for that logo? That’s just not how it works. You charge for a logo process. And if you get there quicker than most, that’s where you’re able to sit back and say, it is about my experience now and I am going to charge for that.
Designhill: How does the payment charges process work?
I think the biggest misconception is that a project such as creating a logo comes easily. But I guarantee that you are probably going to have the next project or the project after, which is going to stump you. You will sit there, rocking your head around it. It may take four times to complete that than the other logo did. And that’s just the creative process. It is a new set of parameters, things that you didn’t account for in your payment charges.
So allow yourself that flexibility in your payment plan when you freelance for clients. Make sure that you are not wasting so much time and not getting paid for it. That’s the biggest thing to keep in mind.
Increase your charges with every next project
I will especially advise beginners that they should increase their charges with every single project. I am not saying that you multiply it by hundreds and thousands of dollars. But increments like just a little bit every time will eventually get you to a point where you will be charging what you should be. So just gradually get into it.
Designhill: What qualities and skills should a good graphic designer have?
Never give up
There are only two things I could probably boil it down to. You should not give up. Make sure that you are not going to see failure as an option. You have got to put the hours in if it means that you stay up all night. So, persistence is everything. You always put in everything that you can do with every piece that you’re making.
Enjoy the puzzle
The other thing is solving the problem. You should enjoy the puzzle. Every project that I usually work on, I see it as a couple of different puzzle pieces. I just sit there trying to piece it together and fit what I’m trying to do. For instance, for a logo project, if it is for a fitness gym that is located in a certain region, and their competitors are a, b, and c. How do all these pieces fit together?
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Designhill: How can recent graduates get a job?
The question is how a recent graduate can get a job and define a career path. Well, it’s a mental game. You have to be strong during that period of time, as you are going to have a bunch of insecurities and doubts. And, your work is not to promote yourself to these companies that you might want to go to.
Always create something
The best advice I can give you is to create projects. You should always be creating something. Your work could be seen by an art director or creative director or a brand. If they can see some of your work, then that is going to give them more obligations to work with you.
So, you should always be creating something, even when you don’t have a job, or you are not really a full-time designer. A lot of my illustrations are just things that I make up because I think it’s fun. I enjoy that process. So you should find a way to enjoy that process and what you are creating.
You are like a powerhouse of design and creation, and you find yourself in a fun position where the creating process comes naturally. This is what I would do if I were getting paid or if I wasn’t. That is how you enjoy it in between not having a job.
Designhill: How do you respond when a client gives you a harsh criticism?
Well, if you are working with a client, there’s one thing always to remember. They are paying you to do work for them. So you need to walk that line pretty fine. You can not say that this is what it is, and this is how it needs to be. I don’t go about it that way. You should work with the client, make the clientS feel like they are involved in what you are making.
Go back to the design brief
It is a teamwork effort. If a client does not like your design concepts or the colors, then go back to that design brief. You should revisit the information in the notes that you wrote down from the initial meeting with the client. Take note of what they said. If they did not give you enough information to create what they want, then you need to go back to that first step. You need to do it again.
When I am showing my first results or first design, it rarely gets picked by clients. So, I put my ideas on paper and show them and then hear their response. They’re going to have opinionated responses from it. I need to understand what they like and don’t like, and what really resonates with them. I take back that information and create and show them exactly what they asked for. And I’m able to put my artistic taste and design expertise to it.
Designhill: What makes a graphics design portfolio standard?
This is a tough question to answer. I still struggle with this. I just want to give you some idea of how that works in your career. It is tough to get noticed, no matter the level you are in. You have to think about why you’re doing it and what you solved. And what were the results? Can you show them in a portfolio? Everybody who goes to that site is going to see what you were doing, how you conquered it, and then, what were the feedback and results from it.
Explain your designs in the portfolio
So tell that story and create your work in a way or a manner that shows that and your portfolio is educational. It should be educational for everyone who views it. It shouldn’t just be a lookbook of really nice looking designs. This is because a client can see many beautiful pieces of design, but doesn’t understand the meaning behind it. Therefore, try to explain your work the best way you can. And if you could creatively do that, I think you’ll win.
Designhill: How can one have experience in different fields of design?
I think it does take time to get over learning things. You just have to do it. I never went to school for motion graphics or animation, and yet recently, I got a lot of projects. I am learning how to animate the things that I’m pitching. I can learn while creating something, and I’m getting paid for it, which is good.
That takes time. You have to plan. You just build your clientele, get more freelance work, and more agency experience. Then, you can probably go full time. And then that’s when you have the information and the skills to make that transition. You should just try to get a lot of experience by working with as many clients as you can to understand it and then make the leap.
Designhill: What do you do if you’re creatively stuck?
I suffer from that mental block a lot, and everyone goes through it. Don’t single yourself out. There was a point where I used to think that I’m the only one that’s stuck in this. But you have to understand that that is the process to figure out this puzzle. Because you want to solve what is in front of you, that is stopping you from finishing the work.
Some suggest to get off the computer, look for inspiration, have the time to put the project on hold or jump on another project. But there is a deadline tomorrow, and I don’t have anything today to do, then what do you do? If I just sit and get frustrated, I am not getting anything out of pulling my hair.
Go away and come back with a clear head
If you step away, go for a walk, go clear your head, go look at an inspiration site, go get inspired, just doodle draw, you will kind of shut down the problem in your head. Then, you will creatively get something else flowing by doing something else. I will advise that if you can do that successfully, then you’ll be able to step back into that project with a clear head.
A lot of times, your self is holding your abilities back. You just have to have a clear head, and you will solve the problem. It’s just, I’m not thinking clearly. So step away, come back, and then you’re able to address it as you should.
Designhill: What specialty in the designing world would you suggest focusing on and how to start?
Find out why you like a creative style
You should try to expose yourself to the design community as much as possible and engage and be inspired as much as possible. In this way, you will be able to see what you want to do. You will love this style, this logo, and like the things that this designer makes. When you are constantly mindful of that and aware that this is kind of what you gravitate towards, then, examine why you gravitate towards it to know about the creative style that you could do.
Pursue what you enjoy
I like scalability and that you can go in endless directions. You need just to be inspired. I grew up just sketching and making little skateboard stencils, and you can make that a full-time job. And if you can genuinely show that to the world that you love, someone’s going to pay you to do that. So I would just pursue it based on what you enjoy doing.
If you want a broad answer, I would say, jump into a job that you’re not familiar with. My first job out of college was with a design agency that specialized in digital media and website design. One of the things that I was the worst at in school was website design. So the first thing that I did was find a job in website design so that I would get forced to learn how to do it. So that’s another way of looking at it.
Designhill: How do you refuse an offer, which is good, but it is very time-consuming and not good for a portfolio?
That is a good one. I am a stickler with projects that could take up a lot of my time. It could also pay me a good bit of money, but I’m not able to have it in my portfolio. That portfolio is number one for me always. That portfolio is my brand, my name, and I want to make everything that I do on that portfolio. So that’s a push and pull. You have many different factors there.
You have to think about how bad do you need that money. If you need that money, you should flip that switch. This is a job. You are hired to do something, flip the switch. If you need to pay rent, pay to eat, pay for the tools such as a laptop, you have to have these things. So, take those jobs, if you are at the point where you need it.
But if you’re at a level or a position where you don’t necessarily need that money, and you can refuse it to get a design job where you can creatively, explore what you want. You could simply refuse by saying that you are too busy.
So, these were the key tips that Tyler Pate shared with the design community. As a budding graphic designer or illustration artist, you should benefit from his experience. You can achieve your career goals steadily by adhering to the advice. But have patience and continue to practice your art and skills to ensure high quality of design and art pieces.
As a graphic designer, you can put your skills to test by joining the design contests launched by clients at Designhill, the leading creative marketplace. Just come up with unique design ideas and create an appealing piece of design or illustration for clients and win their contests. This way, you not only earn money and many freelancing jobs but hone your skills as well.
Tyler Pate, the renowned graphic designer, and illustrator advised that the budding designers and artists must work in what they are interested in. They should have a design style for which clients will hire them. He advises designers to create a portfolio that tells a story, and most importantly, never give up and enjoy creating projects.