5 Tips To Help You Survive Your Graphic Design Program

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As a Graphic Designer working in the field for almost two years now, I am constantly looking back to see the progression I’ve made from student to professional. I find one of the first conversations I have upon meeting new people is about how I got to be where I am.

Without going too far back I’ll rewind to my last semester of school where I found myself working 2 part-time jobs, drinking way too much Red Bull, working on projects and constantly looking for job and internship opportunities.

If you’re a Graphic Design student, my next 3 posts are for you! If you’re a Graphic Design student in your last year, these posts are especially for you!

I’ll talk about my struggles and I’ll throw in some tips that helped me along the way. I’ll cut out the fluff and give you the straight goods on managing your time, applying for jobs and going in for an interview.

Time is your currency, invest wisely

One of the first things I remember about the last few months of school is that I was constantly busy. This is the case with most last-year students and should be nothing new. What I can tell you is, learn how to effectively manage your time. Get to know your work and school schedule early in the semester and stay on top of it.

Going into my last year, I found I was unprepared for the amount of work I would be coming across. As the work started piling, I knew I had to do something before I drowned in the sea of project briefs.

I found some time management tips online, but quickly came to realize that they didn’t all work for me. They simply weren’t sticking. So, I had to find out what was working for me and what techniques I could stick to for at least a semester.

So, here are 5 key ingredients that worked for me and still do to this day:

1. Get an agenda

This will be your best friend. The more you use it the more it’ll benefit you. I had a physical agenda that I would constantly update. Now, there are more efficient time management tools online and even as apps. Any smartphone these days will have some standard calendar tool. It all comes down to what works best for you. I still use a physical agenda and written lists to this day. Why? Because it’s what works best for me.

2. Prioritize

What projects are due when? Which projects will take you longer? This works hand-in-hand with your agenda. Make a list and put the most urgent project first. Or, put smaller projects that will take less time first. Get the smaller projects out of the way so you have more time to work on the bigger projects. Also, don’t write your list and forget it – stay on it, keep checking it, cross out what’s done and look at what’s next.

Make daily lists of what you want to accomplish that day, or even a weekly list – again, it’s what works best for you. No matter which one works best for you, I guarantee that the great feeling of crossing out a project is universal.

3. Make good use of free work periods at school

This should be a given, but I found that it’s easy to get distracted and I even found myself watching videos on YouTube, updating Twitter or playing Angry Birds. Free work periods are an essential time profs will give you where you can work on projects and even get some help with them. Use them! You’ll thank me when you rack up a few more hours of sleep. Profs know you’re stressed, believe it or not – they’re trying to help, so, get the most bang for your buck and take advantage of that help.

4. Overestimate

For every single project you have on your list, overestimate the time it will take you to complete it. That way you’re prepared for the worst and, if it takes less time, well, then you just earned yourself some Angry Birds time – #SCORE! Be over-prepared rather than under-prepared and you’ll still have some hair after you graduate.

5. Make sure you have a time savings account

Unexpected projects and random nights with friends are very likely to happen. So, just like a savings account, make sure you give yourself time for such unexpected events. You’re more than likely going to have a couple hours or more each day of free time. So, move that time accordingly.

Take it from someone who was in your shoes not too long ago, knowing how to manage your time effectively will only help you get things done and prepare you for the future. Learn how to do it early on, that way it won’t turn into a project in itself and add to the stress rather than helping with it.

 

Want to learn how I went about looking and applying for jobs and internships? Check back soon for my next post – I’ll tell you my story and give you some tips along the way.

Photo credit: Friday Design (Drinking) Face by Patrick Haney on Flickr
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About the author

Dan Ioanitescu combines his passion for design and technology on a daily basis as an in-house Graphic Designer for the one of the largest IT Solution providers in North America. He works on everything from print, web and tablet app design. Through social media, he leverages his experiences as opportunities to share stories and insights with other designers and design students alike. Read more of his blog posts at www.danondesign.com or connect with him at about.me/danioanitescu.