Graduate Careers Advice

Graduate Art, Design & Fashion Careers

James Thornhill

If you’re creative, interested in art and have an artistic temperament, then a career in art, fashion or design could be for you. This is an industry that values creativity and imagination above all else, so you’ll need these in an abundance to make it in this highly competitive field.

Working in fashion and even graphic design means more than just liking to shop and follow the latest trends – you've got to set your own styles and not be afraid to do something different. Think about the designers and artists you like best – they're the ones whose work you can't help but stand back and admire.

When you start a career in art, design or fashion, it’s likely that you won’t be the one designing clothes, images or decorating a room. Instead, you'll be assisting a person or team who will do most of the creative work. But this is where everyone starts – it gives you a chance to see how the industry works, and what the best suppliers are to use for fabrics or other bits and pieces you'll need to create your designs. You'll learn how to work with all kinds of clients, and get the best out of yourself and your team.

Working hours can vary because you'll usually have strict deadlines to meet for clients, shows or your colleagues, so you might have to work nights or weekends to make sure it gets done. You'll start a design career having to work to the ideas and guidelines your manager gives you, but you'll have more freedom to put ideas forward and try new things as you get more experience. Make your CV stand out by getting onto internships or helping out with different kinds of projects.

What Art, Design & Fashion roles can I do?

Some jobs that you could in art, design or fashion include:

  • Gallery curator
  • Graphic designer
  • Illustrator
  • Textile designer
  • Fine artist
  • Fashion designer

Alternatively, if you prefer to work for yourself, you could begin your career as a freelancer, taking or commissions of work from companies or individuals who will pay agreed sums for your services.

How much can I earn as a Designer?

Starting salaries for assistants in this field are usually around £13,000.

Average salaries for the following roles, according to Pay Scale, are:

  • Gallery curator - £27,122
  • Graphic designer - £21,562
  • Illustrator - £22,030
  • Textile designer - £22,127
  • Senior fashion designer - £34,006

Freelance workers earn on a commission by commission basis and in this case, the sky really is the limit.

What qualifications do I need to be a Designer?


After a Bachelors Degree

If your degree is in a specific subject, for example a certain branch of fashion design, the roles you can apply for as a graduate should be fairly clear – as assistant in a menswear department, for example, if you have studied menswear design.

If your qualifications are more general or you have studied something that you now don’t want to pursue directly, you may want to look into a Masters degree or postgraduate qualification in your particular area, as this will firm up the skills you need.

The main thing you’re likely to need is a strong portfolio that demonstrates your work and technical ability, along with a significant amount of work experience to prove your dedication to your chosen field.

What skills do I need to be a Designer?

Art, design and fashion jobs are all about being creative, and having the confidence to run with your ideas. You'll need an open mind not just in trying new things, but also in learning from and working for people who've been in the industry a long time. You also have to be on time with deadlines, and be able to work well with a team of people.

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:

  • Commercial awareness
  • Business sense
  • Strong organisation
  • Design flair
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Time management
  • Resilience

One of the main skills you will need as an artist or designer is to be able to keep up to date with the latest trends and developments. You’ll also need a thick skin, because being successful in this industry is tough.

What experience do I need to get a job in Art, Design & Fashion?

Work experience is absolutely essential in this industry, so aside from a well-stocked portfolio you will need to demonstrate that you have taken on various internships – some of which might have to come after you’ve graduated or completed your course.

Contact companies directly and ask if you can come in for work experience or to shadow an existing member of staff. 

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