You may be looking to start your graphic design career or change your career to design, but what does a Junior Designer actually do?
Is the role entry level?
Junior Designer – as the name suggests – sounds entry level but many designers start their careers as Intern Designers or Junior Designer Interns. A junior is expected to have between 1 – 2 years of professional experience. An intern could get the role with non-professional experience alone. Some Junior Designers have enough talent and non-professional experience to jump straight into the role.
What can I expect to being doing day to day?
You will work with experienced graphic designers, therefore the role of the junior is to support and learn from their experience. Initially you should expect to be given the least complicated parts of a project, or to work on in-house design projects. There will be a certain level of support or admin involved while you gain experience and build your skills to work on projects by yourself.
Am I really supposed to just make tea and coffee?
In many industries, juniors spend time doing everything but what the job title suggests. In this case, you might be expected to make tea, fetch coffee, photocopy and run errands and do very little designing. Fortunately, the Graphic Design industry is not like this. Should you find yourself in that situation, you should ask to get more involved in projects to gain as much experience as possible.
Specific skills you need.
Don’t worry if you’re not the most competent person at every one, every designer is learning new things on a daily basis, especially with this constantly updating, specialist.
Your unique skills are what will set you apart from other people. A design agency may be looking for their Junior Designer to have a specific skill that no-one else in their agency has. These skills may not specifically relate to design, you might be an awesome photographer, confident public speaker or networker extraordinaire.
Do I need good people skills?
Yes! A common misconception is that graphic designers sit in front of computers and don’t need to talk to anyone. Design is always a collaborative process, strong team work skills are essential.
The reality is, most graphic design is created for a third party – a client. The client could be the company you work for and this would be considered in-house design, however the vast majority of design is created for an external person.
You may have created the most amazing work of art but you will also need to learn how to communicate your concepts to multiple people.
Typical junior designer salary.
If you’ve looked at any job website, you will see that salaries for all jobs vary greatly. Design roles are the same. Starting salary for a Junior Designer in the UK is anywhere between £20,000 and £25,000. This will vary depending on the company, recruiter and geographical location. For example, roles in central London pay a little more than roles outside of the M25. Check out PayScale for an idea of salary in your area.
Progressing my career.
A Junior Designer can expect to progress to a mid-weight design role then on to a senior designer role within 3 – 5 years. After this you could progress to a Creative Director, Art Director or other management positions.
We’ve asked some of the NU Creative designers about their first junior roles.
‘I was fortunate enough to land my first Junior Graphic Design role as soon as I finished university. I remember the job specification stated that I was to “support the Senior Graphic Designer” but thankfully this did not include making him tea or replying to his emails for him. The first couple of months were slow, picking up odd ends here and there in predominately artworking based projects. However, as I gained the trust from my peers this quickly ramped up to the point where I would be taking on projects from concept through to completion. It felt amazing to put the skills I had honed over years of education to use in live commercial projects!
The first steps into the industry were certainly nerve wracking. No one wants to make a mistake, especially when you’re responsible for producing projects with thousands of pounds riding on them. With this in mind I had a senior designer to fall back on who would keep a vigilant eye on any big projects I was working on. I also took full advantage of this. If I was even only 1% unsure of something I would ask the senior designer to not only protect my back if something went wrong but to also learn as much from him as I can. Everyday was a learning day but it doesn’t take long to stop feeling like just a junior and to start to feel like a fully competent member of the team.’
‘After a few internship stints, my first proper Junior Designer role was here at NU Creative. I’m still here to this day so it hasn’t been all that bad!
I was keen to work for an agency rather than in-house as I liked the idea of doing work for multiple brands. It was a steep learning curve coming from college to doing real work with real deadlines. I was totally prepared to do all the grunt work and be chief tea maker whilst I was learning the ropes. Going from learning to doing was a relatively quick transition and was helped by the fact that I listened carefully to my seniors and creative director and didn’t get disheartened by constructive criticism. It’s very easy to feel overwhelmed in the beginning as there is a lot to learn but listening and learning go a long way and the experience you gain from early setbacks helps shape you to be a better designer.’