When you imagine an artist or designer at work, you might be picturing somebody indulging in their hobby and not actually doing any ‘work’. The artist is sitting on a mountainside and painting a charming landscape scene, catapulting multi-coloured paint at a huge canvas, or placing a stuffed shark into a glass box. The designer is swinging from side-to-side on their office chair and playing around on Photoshop, cropping images and trying to decide which colour to use for the background of a website: ‘muddy asphalt’ or ‘cigarette ash grey’?
Sure, working in art and design might seem like a wonderfully idyllic and relaxed career choice, where you have pure freedom to let your creative juices flow. However, it may shock you to know that these career paths are actually a lot of hard work. So before you make the decision to get into art and design, you should firstly discover what it’s really all about.
Is there a difference between the art industry and the design industry?
Careers in art and design are all about creating things which are appealing to the eye. Art is traditionally created purely for its aesthetic appeal, whilst design tends to revolve around a product. You might even say that design is art with a function. The two different areas may seem worlds apart in their purpose, but the people who work in art and design all tend to have an essential mix of practical skills and a talent for using colour, space, shape and form.
What essential skills should every artist or designer have?
Admittedly, to work as an artist or designer you are going to need to be creative and have a keen eye for detail. In order to be successful you must have the ability to know what looks good, to come up with new ideas and to develop your own style. However, creative flair alone is not enough. Working independently as a freelancer is common, but many artists and designers don’t actually work entirely on their own. When working as part of an art collective or for a design agency, it is essential to develop excellent communication and teamwork skills.
How do I become a professional artist or designer?
Often, the career path of an artist or designer does not take a particularly conventional route. Freelance work allows you to be in charge of your own business. However, this means you can’t rely on your artistic talent alone. You will need to be business savvy, diligent and excellent at networking in order to receive those essential commissions for your work, without which you won’t be able to survive. There may be periods of time when it’s hard to get any work at all, so you may need to do some stopgap jobs whilst you pursue your true passion on the side. It’s going to be an exciting and creative career, but it’s also going to be pretty challenging.
What are the different branches of the art and design industries?
Careers in art and design can span many different specialist areas, from painting, photography and prop design to architecture, animation and art conservation.
Fine artists, photographers, and designer craftspeople (e.g. jewellery designers, silversmiths and woodworkers) tend to take a more freelance career route in pursuing their passion, developing their own individual style, exhibiting and finally selling their work.
Graphic designers can work in many different areas, from book design in the publishing industry, to web design and packaging design for the food and drink industry. Some graphic designers work on a freelance basis, whilst many work for niche design agencies or as part of in-house departments of larger companies. You will often be working on various projects simultaneously. Life as a graphic designer can therefore be exceedingly fast-paced and challenging as well as highly exciting.
The worlds of engineering and construction would also be nowhere without the technical design skills of architects, product designers, spatial designers, landscape designers and mechanical design engineers.
Art and design careers don’t necessarily involve drawing, painting, sculpture or computer-based work. Indeed, fashion design and art conservation are other rewarding artistic careers that you might not have considered.
Whatever area of art and design you want to get into, you can definitely turn your career into an absolute masterpiece. You just need to know how!