3 Career Tips For Aspiring Designers

Those of you who know me or have been following my biz journey for a while will recognise I love to share tips, tricks and things I’ve learnt about business, life and my favourite topic DESIGN!

Today, I want to share with you my tops tips for those considering a career in design (graphic or interior particularly) from someone who did it themselves (your truly)! I’ll also be busting some common misconceptions people think about being a designer to set the record straight! #truth

designer career tips

Firstly, if you’ve been pondering a career change or if you’re a recent school graduate looking to find your life niche, let me just say, the creative industries are SO.MUCH.FUN. I’ve always been a creative person (or a “creative” as I like to refer to it) and since I was a little girl I’ve loved drawing, writing and playing or acting – all of the creative stuff in life. My family have over the years referred to me as a bit of a dreamer or “off with the fairies” but I don’t mind this term because if you don’t dream in life where is the fun?!

Being a creative and being able to work creatively for a living is seriously the coolest thing. Some days my work doesn’t feel like work and I think that’s what we all aim for in life.

Being creative can come in SO many shapes and forms and I believe everyone has a creative spark in them somewhere. So if you’ve been considering this avenue I’d like to share some tips you may find helpful…


1. Figure out what type of designer you want to be

The design industry is quite a broad one, and when I was in school I tried out a few different design avenues including fashion design. Turns out fashion is not my forte, but thankfully graphic design is! Be sure to do a little research into what types of things each design field entails and work through which career suits you and your skills best.

A lot of people think graphic design is all about digital computer design like games and multimedia. Let me tell you this is NOT what I do. Gaming design is a whole other ball game and in my degree we didn’t even touch on anything like this!

Graphic design can include both print and digital design such as designing Facebook advertising for a small business, or designing a WordPress template for a website or as simple as designing a new page layout for a magazine or an advert for the newspaper. I’ve done all of these things and that’s what makes my job so much fun. No one day is the same.

Don’t forget, if you’re not into the whole “graphics” thing there’s a whole swag of other fields to get into like interior design/styling/architecture, web design, game design, design for screen/stage/sets or fashion design. But bear in mind, in the digital age we are in today, computer work is a given in any of these fields.

2. Get qualified 

I’m sure there are millions of self-taught talented people out there working as graphic or interior designers and stylists without obtaining any real qualifications but I would advise if you see yourself seriously make a go of it in the design industry you should get qualified. These days there are thousands of institutes offering design courses at all levels.

I completed a degree in graphic design at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga  NSW which was three years of full time study but there are also incredible private colleges just as good (if not better) than full blown universities offering Advanced Diplomas, Diplomas and Certificate courses in all facets of design. I’m currently studying my Diploma of Interior Design and Decoration via distance education with the International School of Colour and Design (I can’t recommend these guys enough!)

If you do decide to study via a private college or school rather than a university, be sure to check out whether your qualification at the end of the course is industry recognised. Most courses are these days but just to be sure, check it out properly and do some research!

Another note on study:
You don’t need to be located in a major city to get qualified! As I just mentioned, I am studying my Diploma in Interior Design by distance education which means everything is offered and submitted online! My course has been incredible and the support from the lecturers and coordinators has been amazing. I live approximately 800km from Sydney and this has not hindered my chances at getting qualified what so ever. Just keep in mind study via distance education means self discipline and motivation and if you’re not the type of person who can kick yourself into gear then considering on-campus study might be the best option for you.

3. Never stop learning

Since graduating from university I am not ashamed to say that I’ve learnt 50 times more about my industry on the job and with real life clients and I am never not learning!

University courses can only take you so far – it is up to you to stay immersed in your field to increase your knowledge and growth as a designer. One way I keep up-to-date with design trends is reading magazines, blogs and “researching” trends on Pinterest (it is research after all!) 😉

I also try and attend regular business conferences or guest talks to not only learn more about business but to learn more about being a professional in this industry and to network with other designers and business people. You can learn a whole lot from your competitors or colleagues, and it is important to know how to stay current in your industry.


1. You have to be good at drawing

This has to be the most common of all misconceptions when it comes to the creative arts industry. I think nearly everyone you speak to (outside of the industry) thinks to make it in this business you need to be some sort of Picasso or Brett Whiteley and it’s simply not true. Sure, being able to draw and sketch your visions and ideas is an amazing skill to have but it isn’t imperative to a career as a designer, particularly a graphic designer.

If I am being honest, (which is always the best policy), I didn’t start drawing again until this year when I started my Diploma in Interior Design. I am lucky to possess some skills in the drawing department but I had been professionally practicing in the graphic design industry for over two years without having to pick up a pencil or sketch book. I will admit, since reconnecting with my sketch book I have seriously enjoyed the release from the desktop and mouse and I plan to infiltrate these skills into my design repertoire more often. So if you are a terrible drawer (or at least you think you are because I believe everyone can draw at least something) do not let this change your mind about this amazing career.

2. You get to sit around at cute coffee shops on your laptop everyday and never have to do any “real” work

WRONG. So, so wrong.

If a comedian was to do a “sketch” about artists and designers I am sure they would act us out as chilling in Starbucks listening to folk music while we drink copious amounts of matcha lattes but this would only be partly true (I really do love matcha lattes and sitting in coffee shops). 😛

But seriously, whether you work for a design studio or yourself as a freelancer – there will always be paperwork and work in general even if it doesn’t feel like it. Don’t forget when you’re making money in Australia (and pretty much anywhere in the world) you’ve got to declare what you’re making and pay bills and buy food. There will always be client contracts to sign, electricity bills to pay and your Netflix membership to keep running, so don’t kid yourself and think that being a designer means no paperwork or work in general.

Now get out there and get qualified ya’ll! This industry is such a rewarding and exciting one. Just to make it even easier on you, I’ve compiled a list of fabulous institutes who offer design courses here in Australia both on campus and online! You’re welcome.


  • International School of Colour and Design: offering industry recognised courses  and diplomas in Interior Design, Decoration and Styling and certificate courses in Design + regular short courses.
  • Design School: a new addition to the design-sphere created by Jenna Densten known and recognised for her stint on hit television series The Block with her husband Josh and co-founder of interior design studio Bicker Design. Offering after hours study in Melbourne for Certificate IV in Interior Decoration.
  • Billy Blue Design College: offering a large range of industry recognised courses including degrees in communication design, graphic design, multi-media and more.
  • CATC School of Design: A private college offering Diplomas and short courses in graphic design, interior design and photography.

Disclaimer: I have no affiliate links with any of the above named institutes and can not vouch for the quality of their teachings. I have simply put this list together as a resource of institutes available to you. Please be sure to research their courses and modes of study before committing to any study. 

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Ellie is a freelance graphic designer, business and lifestyle blogger, health and wellness enthusiast and the founder of The Darling Design Co.

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