How I fell into graphic design

My career path into design hasn’t been a clear, straightforward one. I didn’t plan on being here. And I am a planner at heart. When I was in high school and thought of my future self, I didn’t imagine this at all. I like to say I fell into design because that’s what it felt like: a free fall that I didn’t see coming.

Let’s back up a bit. I have always loved learning and creating things. When I was a little kid, I loved doing arts and crafts, painting, and practicing my handwriting. During high school, I took electives in art and pottery but never saw them as more than a hobby. Once I was in university, I became overwhelmed with classes and work and didn’t have much time for being creative.

Then it was time to move on to my career. Needless to say, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing after graduation. I double majored in Psychology and Crime Law, minored in Sociology, and was completely lost. I continued working at my Starbucks job full time while I figured things out. I considered optometry, criminology, law school, business school, pursuing a Masters in psychology or sociology, teacher’s college – as you can tell, I had no clear direction.

After spending a lot of money and time trying to get into programs that I now know weren’t suitable for me (ah, the joy of hindsight), I stumbled upon a publishing program at Ryerson University. I have always been an avid reader and have some writing experience so I thought, hey, I could be an editor or something, right? I enrolled in the program part time and completed it online while continuing to work at Starbucks.

To my complete surprise, the courses that I enjoyed the most in that program were two design ones that I took on a whim. One was an introduction to visual design and the other one was a book cover design course. I spent hours on projects, teaching myself how to use PhotoShop and InDesign, yelling at my computer when I was stumped, and staying up until the wee hours of the night making minute changes. I absolutely loved it.

I fell in love with design. I wanted to design book covers. It seemed like to perfect union of my two passions: reading and being creative. After my program was complete and I received my Publishing Certificate, I emailed the instructor for one of the design courses and asked him how I should go about being a book cover designer. He gently informed me that book cover design was a very narrow field, with lots of people looking for work, and not enough work to go around. He suggested that I explore graphic design, and see where that took me. I took the leap.

So, in two months, I researched potential programs, explored the different areas of design, learned about the offerings at local colleges and universities, put together a portfolio, and applied. I had no idea what a good portfolio looked like, or if I had enough talent. I went into my portfolio interviews without knowing what to expect, nervous and jittery. When I got my offer of acceptance from Conestoga College, I nearly fell out of my chair.

After a few weeks into the program, I knew I belonged in the world of design. I had found my place, finally. It took me a while, and at 28, I sure feel old to be back at school again. But I know I made the right decision, and I don’t regret my previous education and experience. It is, after all, how I fell into graphic design.

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