The Terminal

Design Students: Set Yourselves Up for Post-Quarantine Success

Just because life has seemed to hit the pause button, it doesn’t mean that you (or your future) has to. There are plenty of ways you can still equip yourself with the skills you will need to graduate and apply for jobs in the future.

You had plans for you summer, whether it was an amazing internship, a freelance job, applying for jobs upon graduation, or something else entirely. But with COVID-19 turning the world upside down, many of those dreams and goals have come to a screeching halt. You want to graduate ready and prepared to start your career, but now that your summer (and much of your school year) has been taken away from you, you are left wondering what to do.

Luckily, we have some great tips and tricks to help you to fully take advantage of this time at home. Just because life has seemed to hit the pause button, it doesn’t mean that you (or your future) has to. There are plenty of ways you can still equip yourself with the skills you will need to graduate and apply for jobs in the future. These suggestions can help you develop yourself, your network and your portfolio.

Develop yourself.

Many of you have spent time during the quarantine working on yourself by delving into hobbies, exercising and spending time with your family (or feeling the pressure to do all of these while juggling school and the effects of a global pandemic). We understand that there is a anxiety around coming out of quarantine better than before. We’re feeling it, too. But we want to encourage you to try do develop yourself in at least one area while at home, and we have two suggestions for how you can do just that.

1. Learn a new skill

There are thousands of tutorials on YouTube, as well as learning platforms like SkillShare and Lynda. You can learn a new skill (or improve on one) in a platform you are familiar with, or you might want to learn a totally new program. A few skills that we suggest nailing down before you graduate are:

  • Learning the basics of animation in After Effects
  • Getting skilled with the pen tool in Illustrator
  • Touching up a photo in Photoshop (blemishes, teeth, flyaways, etc.)
  • Removing a background (or extending it) in Photoshop
  • Mocking up a product/logo application in Photoshop

2. Watch design talks or pick up some books on design and get inspired! We have a few suggestions listed below:

Develop your network.

When you hear the word “networking,” you probably picture a room full of people in suits with nametags and painful small talk. Because of this outdated perception, your instinct may be to think that networking only applies to businesspeople and that it won’t help you in the design world, but that is far from the truth.

Networking is simply communicating with people in your desired field, job or company and developing relationships with those people. But developing your network is so much more than just adding people on LinkedIn. While networking is a continual process, we have two tips that can be utilized right now and will serve you well in your time as a student.

    1. Build a list of your favorite companies that you want to apply to, either for an internship or full-time job upon graduation. There are a lot of things going on when you graduate, so it is best to start keeping track of your desired companies before it is time to apply. Linked are a few resources you can use to build this list.

      Ask yourself these questions to narrow down your search: Where do you want to live? What type of work would you like to do? What size company would you like to work for? What type of work do you like? Following these companies on LinkedIn and Instagram help to give you an idea of their culture and the type of work that they produce.

    2. Reach out to a designer in the area (or in your desired field) to find a mentor during the summer. They can give great advice on applying for jobs, reviewing your portfolio and more.

Develop your portfolio.

Having a good, clean portfolio is the single most important part of applying for a job. While it is helpful to have that network in place, your portfolio can get your foot in the door and get you noticed, and many times, it will be the main reason that you are hired. We as designers are constantly developing our portfolios as we grow, and being a student is no exception. It is important that you improve and develop old projects as you gain knowledge and improve your designer’s eye. We have listed a few suggestions below (and these are often things that come up in portfolio reviews).

  • Try to replace all of your studio photography with mockups when possible. Unless you are a master photographer and craftsman, it is very difficult to get beautiful pictures of your work. Mocking things up will allow you to have more control, and the work will look more cohesive in a portfolio.
  • Clean up old work. Fix typos, extra anchor points, kerning, etc.
  • Update old projects and make them better. Go back to a project that you loved, and use your current knowledge and expertise to refine and elevate your work. Would it work better if it had a different typeface? Color palette? Illustration?
  • Expand on those projects by adding things like an ad campaign, packaging, additional products or animation. This will help to position you as a designer who understands brands and how they work as a system. It will also bring your work to life and give viewers an idea of how your designs could live and work in the real world. Brand New is a great resource to see how some of the best agencies present their work.

There are thousands of things that we can all do during quarantine. We know it because the pressure is coming at us from all sides telling us what we “should” be doing. We know it’s hard. If you can focus in on these tips, you will be able to use this time to grow and challenge yourself, but also set expectations for yourself and home in on what you want to achieve. It’s okay if you need to take a break or if you have difficulty starting or finishing a task. The most important thing is that you are trying and working towards something.

COVID-19 has been a struggle for all of us, and even more so for students, but remember that we are here with you, we’ve got your back, and we want you to succeed as much as you do.