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15 unexpected career paths of graphic designers

There’s never been a better time to work in the creative industries, with countless career options open to those with artistic flair.

In years gone by, as a graduate, you may have been limited to just a handful of roles, but graphic design qualifications will now set you up for all manner of jobs – from book cover designer to copywriter. Here we share 15 of the most unexpected occupations of graphic designers to help inspire your creative career, as told by the graduates of Graffins College.


Graffins College students at the UN Nairobi

1. Fashion Designer

As you’ll know, creatives are seldom interested in just one area of design. Fashion, for example, is an extension of many other forms of visual expression, and so it makes sense that some graphic designers turn their hand to garment and accessory design. Shillington New York graduate, Greg Bemis, took his illustration talents to Nike’s headquarters in Oregon where he excelled in the Basketball Footwear department. “I think it is a career that allows you to wear different hats and do a multitude of different things.”


2. Marketing Manager

Having a background in graphic design will particularly help with roles that involve briefing creatives, such as marketing, for example. Marketing Managers are expected to oversee all aspects of the mix, from brochure and website design to written communications. Sydney graduate Alexander Wu-Kim applied his skill-set to a role as Digital Marketing Manager at fashion label, Local Supply.


3. Teacher / Lecturer

At Graffins, a high number of our graduates go on to become lecturers, with some returning to the places they studied to help nurture the careers of budding professionals.

Laura Weldon, part-time teacher at Shillington Manchester, explains the appeal: “I teach because I am as passionate about design today as I was first starting out. I love seeing that passion and interest for design in the students. It’s such a great process to be part of—we have students come in that have never used a Mac before, and they graduate with the skills to be a designer. It also keeps me on my toes and gives me a fresh perspective on things as I am surrounded by 22 students that have completely different outlooks.”


4. UX/UI Designer

Although the visual element of design is the main reason many people choose to study graphics, some prefer to explore more of the behind-the-scenes ‘process’ when entering the industry. UX and UI provide fantastic careers to the technically skilled, utilising designers’ abilities to help users to easily interact with a product. Shillington Melbourne graduate, Lori Beth Kaye, has done just this.


5. Wedding Invitation Designer

Weddings are now big business, with the average bride and groom spending £33K on their special day. With the industry booming, roles for the creatively gifted are plentiful, with couples requiring all manner of stationery, from save the dates to table plans.

This is a path that has enticed many Graffins College graduates, including Emily Kerr, who has a few words of advice for designers entering the field: “My main learning from doing invites is that its key to involve mother of the bride from the start. So many times friends have been charmed by quirky personalised first drafts. However, later down the line, the family get to see and suddenly things have to become more traditional!”

I love that my days are never the same; every day poses a new question or problem that I have to solve through design.

6. Letterpress Printer

Cemented in the heritage of graphic design, letterpress printing is likely to be on the list of dream careers for many. However, being a highly skilled practice, it takes years of work to develop the trade. Eleanor Rogers worked as an administrative assistant in corporate finance before deciding to kickstart her creative career. After graduation, she landed an amazing opportunity at Chapel Press, a specialist letterpress print studio in Melbourne, and has enjoyed her unique role since.


7. 3D Illustrator

Rather than opt for a career that fully encompasses traditional skills, 3D illustration can be a happy medium between this and focusing on contemporary computer processes. At Shillington, we host a ‘handmade day’ to encourage more exploration into this field. One of our recent guest lecturers, Kyle Bean, who’s worked for clients including Google, Emirates, Kinfolk and Wallpaper, offers advice to those considering a career in 3D illustration: “Having good making skills is only half of what is really necessary when it comes to this kind of work. You also need to be good at communicating your ideas and carefully planning your projects."


8. Book Cover Designer

Ebooks may now be a popular choice for readers, but printed pages are still very much in demand by book lovers the world over. As such, there is high demand for enticing covers that will draw in potential readers – great news for creatives. Holly Ovenden is a stellar example of an inspiring designer that specialises in book covers. She is currently working in-house at Bloomsbury Publishing in London, after graduating from Shillington. Similarly, David Pearson has created critically-acclaimed artwork for a variety of clients including Penguin.

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Westlands Campus
Westlands Road, Off Mpaka Road,
P.O. Box 13800, 00800 – Nairobi.
Mobile: 0712 222877, 0736 541192

Tell: 0718612673

Moi Avenue Campus
Veteran House opposite Rahimutulla Trust Building along Moi Avenue.
P.O.Box 45965-00100 Nairobi
Mobile: 0723 772546, 0733 765427

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