Advice for design students

I get a lot of emails from students asking for help. I can’t reply to everyone, so now and again I publish blog posts that answer common questions. With 700+ pages on this site, here’s a selection of content I think’s most helpful.

Last update: May 2015.

information sign clouds

On getting hired

On learning

On self-employment

On dealing with clients

On commercial printing

I also pieced together a resources page on the Work for Money, Design for Love website. It’s mostly for designers who want to become self-employed.

Photo by Steve Kay, thank you

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  1. Wow, this is great! This is a good resource for professionals as well.

    Thanks for putting this together for us!

  2. Thanks a lot David, this is a nice directory of resources. The insights are always helpful.

  3. Great links David. Will go through them during my free time! :)

  4. Raihan S

    Reading this in my Typography class right now. Thanks so much! :)

  5. sergio santana

    Thanks for these great links!

  6. Thanks David great resource!

    Heres another post your viewers may find useful: 5 Tips for Design Students –

  7. This is an exceptional resource, i wish that when i graduated that i found a post as helpful as this!

  8. Hi David,
    you have profiled my business card in the past – and thanks for your interest. My next idea is to use a door hanger flyer like they use in hotels as part of my next business card/info flyer. Perhaps you have some ideas, feel free to email me and we can discuss. thanks David!

  9. Gemma Weirs

    Awesome. Bookmarked and retweeted. ;-)

  10. David, I just want to say thanks for this post. You are by far one of the most thoughtful designers out there! I still remember when you responded to my email and I thought that alone was nice of you. Thanks for more amazing resources :)

  11. Richard Turner

    You are so kind man, thank you for your effort. I personally appreciate it.

    More power!

  12. Thank you for sharing these awesome resources, this is so helpful!

  13. Chimera

    Great resource Dave, thank you!

  14. Very nice collection of information. I wish I had such a concise resource during my student years, but we can all continue to educate ourselves.

  15. Always a great source of inspirational words; from your book to your advice. Thanks David!

  16. This is INCREDIBLY useful, I’ve put it in my blogroll.

    Now when students contact me I can send them to your much more comprehensive advice rather than my piddling bits and pieces :D

  17. You’re all more than welcome, and Amanda, that’s excellent. Thanks.

  18. I discovered this page today, maybe the best discovery of the year! Thank you for the inspirational collection!

  19. Awesome article. I couldn’t stop reading it until I finished it all. The self employment hierarchy was an eye opener.

  20. Getting started as a designer, freelance or otherwise, is definitely a tough nut to crack without the right guidance – beautiful list David.

  21. Hello,

    If and its a BIG if, someone decided to go on their own and say a potential client asked what qualifies you to be a graphic or web designer, what would be a good answer? It’s just that there seems to be some courses available but then some seem to be not quite what would seem appropriate to this career.

    Thank you,

    Best wishes

  22. David I was wondering what your advice to students would be regarding sites like People Per Hour. I took at look at it and was suprised just how many students were bidding to do work at silly prices. I know you have to start somewhere, but the site really devalues graphic design, Logos design for Vertical Blind Company£10 – £50.00 fixed fee (- 10% commission), 70 bids.

    The site is full of students who in the long run may find they slightly damage the industry they seek to get into.

  23. My advice is to steer well clear, Gavin. Clients who value the visual identity of their business at a hundred or so pounds aren’t worth your time. You’ll end up losing money by accepting those kinds of jobs, and if that’s the case, you’re much better off by improving your portfolio with pro bono design.

  24. john mooney

    As a student again I wish I had read this the first time.

  25. Zenny

    Hello Mr. David, actually I came to know about your page and links for the first time. My sir, Mr. Shahid Breir, suggested that I to refer to your links. They are very helpful in our projects. Thanks again.

  26. This is like my design bible. Thank you for sharing, David!

    You’re amazing!

  27. This is a good resource for professionals as well. Thanks for sharing.

  28. Thank you for the tips, very kind of you, I’m a graphic design student and this has helped me a lot.

    All the best


  29. Brittany Lanning

    I have recently been hired by a dental group to create a logo for them. This is my first time designing a logo for a company. I went to school for graphic design so I have created logos before but I have not created a logo for a business before. They asked me how much I charge and what it includes. I am unsure what to set my rates at and what other things would be included. Can you give me an idea of how to set my rates?

  30. This blog post (and the comment thread beneath it) might help you, Brittany: How much does logo design cost?

  31. I’m a recent design school graduate and I’m in the process of job hunting. It’s going slowly and at the same time I can’t help but wonder if taking a design apprenticeship would be the best fit for me now. I have experience from freelancing and related experience from internships and a web design job, but not industry experience. What’s most important to me now is learning and growing, so I’d really like to know if you think that becoming an apprentice would be ideal for doing just that. I haven’t found anything on your blog about apprenticeships, so I figured that I’d ask here. Any advice would be much appreciated. I always find your advice very useful!


  32. Hi Catrina, I don’t have any experience of apprenticeships in particular, but I think there’s quite a lot of overlap between them and internships. You have experience in relevant employment, self-employment, and from internships. It doesn’t seem as if you need to search for an apprenticeship. You learn and grow on the job. Employers will know this.

  33. I love this post! Really good for the beginner or aspiring designer.

  34. You have the best site for valuable information; I have referred to your site, my GAG Book and AIGA resources with all kinds of business of design questions.

    What you do for the design community is wonderful. I am pretty sure I speak for many when I say; “Thank You!”

  35. Hello, I am about to complete a course in visual communication. For references and guidance I always refer to your blog. The advice for design students column helps a lot, so thank you!

  36. Sanvi Naik

    Hi David,
    I just graduated with an A.S. in Graphic Design from a community college. I have worked on academic projects, but do not have any work experience. I am putting together my resume and applying for jobs. I am hearing that most companies toss out resumes without work experience. What would you advise about showing my academic projects in my resume. I am not sure if that is something people generally do.
    Looking forward for your reply.
    Thank you,

  37. Don’t add student projects to your resumé, Sanvi, but do include them in your portfolio. When experience is hard to find, pro bono design is one solid option. Good luck.

  38. Sanvi Naik

    Thank you so much for the advice David

  39. Hi David,

    Not too sure if this is the right place to ask this question but can I have a go?

    I’ve been reading that you should deliver your work in pdf format either to a customer or a printer. I was wondering how you convert your artwork into pdf. I know of pdf online which I use to convert Publisher files to pdf but how can I convert say a logo or something for print?

    Many thanks as always,

    Best wishes

  40. I don’t use Publisher, Graeme, so I’m not sure how much help I can be. But if I’m creating a print-ready PDF from Illustrator or InDesign I’ll use the “export to PDF” or “save as PDF” option. I don’t think I’ve ever converted a logo file to PDF for printing, because the logo has always been part of something else (a business card or brochure for instance).

  41. Anne R.

    I am a middle-schooler visiting on behalf of my school career research project, and in seeing this website, graphic design seems like a creative and enjoyable way to earn money. I know I hardly count as a real design student (as of yet), but in any case this article was a helpful resource. So, I’d just like to thank you for your helpful tips, and maybe one day I will have a portfolio as colorful as yours.

  42. Christina

    I stumbled upon your great site, looking for ways to write up a contract. I poked around your site some more, and landed on this section. I am a design student and I will graduate in Sept with Honors…and the links on your page (and throughout your site) have been helpful!

    This is a completely new venue for me, and at times overwhelming, but I am excited to step out into the world of design.

    Thank you for taking the time to write/blog/share your thoughts and experiences!

  43. Graeme

    Hello David,

    Just received a notification that Christina had replied to this post and I would just like to say thank you again for this, it’s amazing that you took the time and effort to put all this information up and more so that it comes from a very reliable source.

    Thank you,

    Best wishes

  44. Anne, Christina, Graeme, it makes me happy that my website is of some use to others, so thank you for making me happy.

  45. Christina

    It is a great help, David! I have passed on your link to fellow students. Hopefully they will take the time to check it out. You have a lot of beneficial information.

    There is a lot to consider as a designer. You’re welcome, I am glad I found you!

  46. Robert Lieu

    Hi David, this might seem like a silly question but do you have any advice on how to approach design theory books? What do you personally find the best way to study from them?–annotating like you would with any academic book or having a sketchbook handy so you can try to put the book’s concepts in practice?

    I’m going to begin my graphic design major this fall. I know getting work experience at internships is the way to prepare but unfortunately I believe my weak portfolio prevents me from getting employed;therefore I want to better prepare myself by trying to learn as much about design theory outside of college as possible so that I may improve on my portfolio.

  47. I’ve don’t really have a plan when it comes to reading books, Robert, but I almost always have a notepad and highlighter nearby.

    You can still gain studio experience without a strong portfolio. Try asking local business owners if you can spend a day or two shadowing one of their designers. And good luck with your major.

  48. Even if the post is 2 years old, this is very helpful.

    An act of selflessness, David. You’re blessed!

  49. Great resources and great advice. I’m in my final year of design and your site is just and abosulute blessing, will be taking all of this on board

  50. Alexandra Hatmanu

    This is an awesome post. You helped us students a lot. If only there were more like you that took into consideration our needs or just give us some directions to follow. Lots of thanks. Now I have no excuse to actually start studying. :D

  51. Tony Pritchard

    Hi David
    Great resource – well done. I’ve written a provocative piece entitled ‘How to be Good at Graphic Design’ on my blog ( I hope you think it’s appropriate to share here. It offers good will advice to students of design.

  52. I just came across this while researching for my thesis. One of the things I’m sort of focusing on is the creative process. There are so many great resources here. I will definitely have to spend more time with it. Thank you for putting this together!

  53. I just came across your site and as a relatively new ish designer looking to expand my horizons, I am very glad I did. New or old, this information is extremely useful to any designer. Thank you for sharing your insight, tips, and advice!

  54. Hi David,

    A great list of places for new designers to get some solid tips.

    I hope that someday soon you’ll be able to add “The Designers Guide to Freelancing” to your list of “A few Good Books.”

    Good Luck

  55. Hi David!
    Thanks for the links. I admire you as a designer, but creating a separate place for students was a clever move and timesaving for all of us.

  56. Hello David,

    I purchased your book, “Work for Money, Design for Love”, and it has helped with so many questions that I have had, which I am eternally grateful for. At the end of this month, I will be graduating with an A.S. in Graphic Design, and I am in the process of launching my business. However, I am still concerned about delivering work to my future clients. If I design something that requires print, for example, stationery or packaging design, do I send it to the client and have them print it with a printing company? Or should I contact a print company and have them print out and send the physical design to the client? I would really appreciate some advice. Thank you.


  57. Hi Sonia, thanks for reading, and it’s great to know the book helped. For the printing, it’s up to you. I generally leave it to my clients, but if you want to handle it, add a markup to the total print cost so you’re paid for the time involved.

  58. Hi David,

    Thanks for a great book “Logo Design Love.” It contains a lot of details about the linear design process. But what about Mood Boards? I hear it a lot when people refer to “design inspiration.” Is a Mood Board necessary when brainstorming or just an option in final design presentation? Sorry if this question is a bit lame because there is nothing discussed similarly in both your blogs as I’ve searched. And I also lack the basics as I study independently. It will be nice if you can suggest some books or link to some posts.


  59. No need to apologise, Linh, and you’re very welcome for my book. It’s up to you if you want to create a mood board. I generally don’t, but give it a go if you think it’ll help.

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