Graphic Designer – The Generalist & The Specialist

Recently, I came across a job ad which caught my attention . The job title states “Graphic Designer” but what was detailed on the job description had left me wondering. The responsibilities involves video editing and programming, aside from the usual conceptualization of artworks and liaising with clients.

During my campus days, Visual Communication students who are primarily taught graphic design skills were not trained to do video editing let alone programming. I was a Multimedia student and had the chance to learn Audio & Video Production but no programming modules. I learn Macromedia Freehand which later evolved to Adobe Illustrator which I had to self learn.

But that was 13 years ago.

So what has changed the graphic design world so much that it requires one to do more than what he/she is required?

Firstly, there are 2 types of designers – the generalist and the specialist. I happen to be in the generalist category. The generalist tend to have different software competencies for example video editing, illustration, animation, story boarding, live hand sketching.

However, there is nothing wrong in being a specialist. This group of people are really good at what they are doing and are comfortable to just stay in their specialization. They often work in big design studios where every project has other specialists who are masters of their own fields. Frankly speaking, I can’t find a decorated designer who are a top generalist. We are actually good at 1 thing but along the way we pick up stuffs and learn to adapt. No man is an island.

That being said, small design studios are cutting down on manpower; meaning all staffs are employed on contract basis or freelance basis. They might hire a full time staff with multiple talents such as a video editing background who can also do HTML programming. Sounds familiar? But these additional skills that one possessed are acquired thru either self learn or on the job ( mostly freelance jobs, with little or no pay ).

I wonder if schools had prepared adequately on their curriculum to better suit the job environment. It will be too late then if the students were to have a slow start upon graduation and failed to get the job that they want. Then again, schools can only do so much. Attachments to design studios can be rewarding if only the students are given design-related tasks instead of some paper-clipping or data entry.

Currently, I had been taking up basic programming courses primarily HTML5. Till then, I am sticking to my comfort zone (or have I transcend to another level?). Ooh the endless lifelong learning!



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