Graphic Designer: ‘I Get To Exercise my Creativity Every Day'

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'A common misconception about a design education is that it’s not hard work,' says Pauline Lu. 'In my experience, you have to work harder than everyone else.' (Credit: Courtesy Pauline Lu)

My name is Pauline Lu and I am 31 years old. For the last several years, I've been working at Narrative Content Group, an Atlanta-based company, as a designer and animator. 

Why did you get into graphic design? Did you always want to do this?

As a kid, I was always drawing and more interested in arts and crafts than anything else. That transitioned into my interest in drawing and designing on the computer later on. I was lucky to have good guidance, classes and resources in the arts available at my high school. As I learned more about the avenues for a creative career, I decided that this was what I had to do. 

What does a typical day for a graphic designer look like?

I like to start my day off with a good breakfast, then I read my emails and prioritize my design tasks based on upcoming deadlines and events. Some days, I attend meetings to brainstorm new marketing and visual concepts. It’s great having project managers at my current job, so I don’t have to personally handle the non-design parts of the job like consulting and scheduling with clients. Being a graphic designer means a lot of screen time. I spend all day on my computer, so I try to take regular breaks to walk around, stretch, and go outside whenever I have the chance. That is especially important now that I’m working from home every day. 

What do you like most about your job? And least?

What I like most about being a graphic designer is that I get to exercise my creativity every day, and it’s also very rewarding to see my work published online where other people can see it. What I like the least is sometimes doing projects that I have very little creative input on, but I know that is just part of the job.

What’s the most common misconception about being a graphic designer?

I think people assume with most art-related careers that there aren’t very many jobs out there and that they don’t pay well. A common misconception about a design education is that it’s not hard work. In my experience, you have to work harder than everyone else.

What do you wish you knew about the job before you got into it?

I love my job so much, it’s hard to have any regrets about it. My advice to anyone who wants to pursue this career is to research all their options for training and education, and don’t make a decision based on any perceived prestige of a well-known arts university. I know many successful artists who did not take the university path. Another important thing to always keep in mind is to manage your expectations and allow yourself to experience the success you’ve had. 

What personality traits or qualities would make someone a good fit for this job?

For an artist or designer, a high level of creativity and ambition usually comes naturally. But the willingness to take critique, be flexible and work together with a team is what makes someone good at this job. 

Why would you recommend that someone go into graphic design?

If the act of creating visual art or the impact of your art on others is what motivates you, and you are willing to sharpen your skills and work harder than anyone else, then this might be the right kind of job for you. 

If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?

If I wasn’t in my current industry, I would like to try feature film production. As far as something not in the creative field, people have told me I would be a good counselor or teacher.

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