Becoming a Recognized Graphic Designer

As a graphic artist I have developed an eye for marketing. Visual is my forte, but a photograph or a drawing has to speak a thousand words, so I have refined a way of imaging words. Whether it’s a beautiful rolling meadow or an industrial setting full of cranes and electric cable hoists, it is important to see the real picture the words are conveying. How can I help impart a product’s point of view with a drawing only, sans text? How can I convey editorial weight with design? These are the very questions that stimulate the creative mind of a graphic artist.

At a recent event hosted by Esquire Magazine honoring several of the renowned artists who have influenced graphics and design through the decades, I had the pleasure of meeting a well-rounded group of proteges. The traditionalists who are always aware of incorporating different techniques to keep their work trendy, and the technocrats who work solely in the modern vernacular made up the mosaic of characters.

There is an abundance of graphic artists – the field’s cup runneth over, but there are only a handful of greats. Paul Rand is a name that graphic artists recognize as one of the greats. His work is familiar to the entire civilized world. You can see his enduring achievements in the logos of IBM, UPS and ABC. It’s an art form that takes complete devotion, intuition and savvy to stand out in the crowd.

We all know Andy Warhol’s work. The best known piece that he is identified with is the Campbells soup can. He probably has sold more soup unintentionally than he ever would have imagined. None of which was his intended purpose, but it’s his ability to present something with authenticity that hooked the market. His authentic style was not as a graphic artist, but his authenticity as a devoted conveyor of art was.

For most, a career as a graphic artist usually starts by doing stock images. That’s where I started, and I don’t regret a day of it. Still very green, I needed the structure that a corporate position offered, one that didn’t come naturally to me. It’s a place to get a reputation and to meet and learn of the mentors that you’ll need. Within that department the ability to showcase one’s particular style is actually frowned upon. Starting humbly is a right of passage that all the successful artist must go through when moving forward. In time I transcended from being a commercial artist to a graphic designer, and struck out on my own.

Amassing a large portfolio showcasing my incomparable style was the key to building my path as a sought after artist. We all know that our portfolio is the foundation of any presentation, and it needs to be kept fresh. My portfolio is my personal expression that I present to the boards of potential clients – this is uniquely me through and through.

No one ever told me that being an artist was going to lead me to a path of gold. I had heard all the stories of the struggling young artist and saw first hand what the competition was like. I had to step out of the pack if I wanted the kind of recognition that brings in the big money. I had to have the special touch that is just out of reach for so many good graphic designers.

It’s not just hard work and talent, it’s perseverance. It’s believing in one’s self in a way that builds an armor-like protection against criticism and rejection. If that is brought into play then actual talent will be viewed by enough eyes to get a bit closer to the goal. Is the goal money, fame or both? Artists may be willing to starve for their craft, but egos loom large and fame comes in on top. Money follows fame and it circles back around as a means to an end. Recognition by colleagues is the best reward a graphic artist could ever earn.

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