If you have a degree in a creative subject then the good news is that, while the recession has had an impact on all industries, the art, fashion and design sectors are still fairly agile.�Employment in the creative arts, for example, has steadily increased in the last few years and design graduates are particularly in demand.
Art, design or fashion graduates are often expected to complete some form of internship or voluntary work before securing a permanent role.
Fashion graduates may choose fashion jobs in one of three main areas: high fashion, designer ready-to-wear or high-street, and will focus on a specific type of design such as menswear, accessories or sportswear. Most fashion designers start out as design assistants and work their way up as they gain experience. Entry into the industry is extremely competitive so it's vital to gain as much experience as possible through work placements and internships. When interviewing for a role, graduates should take along their portfolio, including a look-book, technical drawings, mood boards and completed garments.
Art graduates go into a variety of occupations but those who choose to become fine artists find work through commissions from individuals or organisations and sell their works through art exhibits, art galleries and agencies. The Association of Illustrators (AOI) and The Society of Artists Agents website are both useful resources for agents' listings. If you are an artist in London, Artquest is also a good source of information.
If you have a qualification in graphic design it's likely you'll find work in advertising, print and web publishing or television. It's important to develop a portfolio of your work to show prospective employers. If you are just starting out, doing voluntary work will help develop your portfolio and build contacts.
After building experience, there are opportunities for art, design and fashion graduates to work on a freelance or self-employed basis such as in interior design, pitching ideas and products to buyers and receiving commissions.
A career in art, design or fashion can be very rewarding, though you have to be willing to put in a lot of hard graft and often work long hours to tight deadlines.
Most employers will require you to have a degree in the area that you are pursuing – so if you are looking to work in menswear design, for example, you will probably need a menswear design degree. If your qualifications are more general you may want to look into a masters degree or postgraduate qualification in your particular area, as this will make you more desirable to employers.
If you are planning to work for yourself as a freelance fine artist, however, you are less likely to need formal qualifications – the same goes for any job in which you are your own boss.
For design jobs you will need to have the technical skills required and qualifications to prove your expertise, although whether you have gained these from a degree or from technical courses or vocational training is unlikely to matter.
Although specific technical skills are needed for each area of the art and design sector, there are certain skills that are required across the board – whether you work in fashion, the design industry or a fine art. They include:
For jobs in graphic design you are likely to need a good working knowledge of:
When working in the fashion industry it is essential that you are constantly aware of new trends and developments in the market, meaning research skills and the willingness to be continually learning are paramount.
If working as a freelancer in any of these areas you will also need to have the ability to negotiate your pay, network with others in the industry, market yourself, sell your products, keep track of a number of on-going projects at the same time and work out your own finances, including taxes.
Because the art and design sector is so competitive, it is expected that you will have completed some form of internship before you secure a job – whether this internship is paid or not depends on your sector and the amount of work experience that you already have. It is also accepted that starting salaries will be low compared to most sectors; this is the case across the creative industries.
Average salaries for specific jobs include:
Gallery curator: starting salaries of £16,000 - £19,250 at assistant level, rising to £35,000 with experience
Graphic designer: while starting salaries may be as low as £14,000, you could earn up to £45,000 as a senior designer with a number of years experience
Illustrator: starting salaries of £14,000 - £19,000, with earnings of up to £40,000 possible – although many illustrators are freelance so exact salaries are hard to quantify. For averages visit NUJ Freelance Fees Guide or the Artists’ Information Company.
Textile designer: starting salary of £13,000 – £20,000 (higher in London), with senior designers typically on £30,000 - £40,000
Fine artist: It is difficult to say how much you will earn from selling your art, but Artquest can advise on how much you should charge depending on your level of expertise
Fashion designer: starting salaries of £14,000 - £22,000, with junior designers earning up to £45,000 and head designers £85,000
Because those with art and design skills are in high demand, if your work becomes recognised you may be able to command a higher salary. Salaries also vary greatly depending on your location and the size of your company.