Lauren Rae Holter (aka Holter Monster)
How difficult is it to get a job in this profession?
Lauren: I think that entirely depends on your skill set and how you’re able to market yourself. In my experience, there will always be a lot of competition applying for jobs as a Graphic Designer, but if you’re able to fill other roles as needed, like Illustrator, Copywriter/Copyeditor, Production Artist, Animator, or even Researcher in addition to designing, you become more valuable to any team.
Danny: There aren’t as many opportunities in our area. Once established, you can do freelance work from anywhere. If you’re looking for more opportunities or openings in a specific type of graphic design, it will help to be closer to metropolitan areas.
What are the major requirements for this profession?
Lauren: Likely the most important requirement for seeking a job in graphic design is proficiency with the Adobe Creative Suite. I think basic knowledge in Photoshop is a base requirement anywhere, even if you hardly use it for that particular role’s duties; The ability to use Adobe Illustrator to create infinitely-scalable vector graphics is monumentally important; and having skills with InDesign will benefit you along the way too, in any case where you may need to layout work, create PDFs that won’t break on other operating systems, or prep complicated print files, like for books.
Danny: Although college isn’t necessary for this profession, having a degree will open many more doors. While some things can be taught, I think it definitely helps to have a gift for art and an eye for design.
Is this a long-time job, how many years can I work in this profession?
Lauren: At this time in history, this is definitely a job you can keep lifelong— but it will likely not be the same job forever! Part of being a professional designer is that you must always continue learning. It’s important to learn new skills, new features in software you use, new printing mediums, new coding languages— whatever is related to your specific job, you must always be learning, changing your methods, and adapting your craft. It becomes easier and faster everyday to create digitally, and you want to keep your skillset sharp and relevant.
Danny: It’s definitely a long-time job and you can work as long as you want to in this field.
Is this a sustainable job?
Lauren: Absolutely, but it depends on the person! If you aren’t willing to grow with the changing industry, you can get left behind very quickly.
Danny: Yes! There will always be a need for this profession.
What does a day with your job look like?
Lauren: I work as User Experience Designer at a cybersecurity company— we produce web-based enterprise software, which means the products I work on are used primarily by other companies and not by the general public. My day depends on what part of the process I’m currently in on a project. My job includes researching competitors products or other software that may have similar user flow patterns, compiling and presenting that research to my team, using it to inform my wireframe solutions to issues I’m assigned to investigate, designing hi-fidelity mockups of screens in our product (this may include data visualizations like graphs and charts, laying out a dashboard of widgets, organizing a bunch of dry data into a big table that’s easily sortable by the user, etc.), and even creating interactive prototypes to let user’s click through in user testing interviews. When designs are ready to be implemented into the product, I pair up with an engineer as they work on it, in case I need to make changes to the design because of technical limitations.
Danny: One thing I love is that there really aren’t typical days. There are always some larger projects I’m working through for print media or digital design. In and around that, I’m designing graphics for our website, digital signage, postcards, social media, flyers, magazines, newspaper ads, event posters, billboards, etc.
How has your career changed over the years, what does the future look like in your field?
Lauren: My career has changed quite a bit over the years, as I’ve continued to hone more and different skills. I started as an intern at an advertising agency, where I did mostly illustration and layout design. After that, I worked at a t-shirt printing company and created custom vector art (at a very fast pace) and prepared files for screen printing. After that, I worked at a publishing company, and was responsible for designing ads, laying out the text in the Classifieds pages, and laying out ads/text in magazine spreads. From there I took a risk and accepted a job at a small tech startup, where I filled any design role that was needed with skills I’d accrued at my other jobs (custom illustrations, laying out things for print, prepped files for screen printing), and in addition I began learning how to design user interfaces by working with my team to make our cloud security web-product look better. We were very lucky to be acquired in 2018, so I now work for a much larger cybersecurity company. My field has changed many times, but generally, the one thing that has been constant is that my eye for design is an asset, and I’ve been able to make myself useful to my jobs by learning new things and skills.
Danny: My job has changed completely. When I first started, my job was almost exclusively web design. After a few opportunities to showcase design skills, I was given more and more opportunities. Now about 95% of my job is graphic design and marketing. I love it!
How do you stay updated on the latest graphic design tools and trends?
Lauren: I try to always be looking and stay observant! I follow a lot of artists, designers, and illustrators who I admire on social media, so I’m always looking at recently made work. I look at design blogs and websites. I explore new features in Creative Cloud when they are announced instead of putting it off(!). I go to art openings, galleries, museums, installations, etc.— it’s important not to pigeon hole your inspiration into just Graphic Design, especially if you are responsible for content creation and not just content organization.
Danny: It’s hard to keep when you stay busy but I belong to a few websites that email me trends periodically. I also receive a quarterly national education marketing magazine that shows trends in my particular area of graphic design/marketing for higher education.
As a graphic designer, whose work do you admire?
Lauren: I gravitate toward illustrators and typographers— I really admire the work of Jenna Blazevich (Vichcraft), Alyssa Wigant, Danielle Evans, Clark Orr (Hellcats, Inc.), Josh Breeden (St Francis Elevator Ride), and of course, Aaron Draplin.
Danny: I really don’t have a particular designer I follow, but I admire anyone who can use simplicity for a clean, impactful look.
What do you do when you’re running out of time on a project?
Lauren: Take a step back! It seems wrong, but if I’m running out of time, it’s probably because I didn’t have a clear idea of what I was doing when I started. I try to begin at the beginning, ask myself what problems I’m trying to solve and how this should ideally look at the end, and then I try to make a plan for how to get there. I can work exponentially faster with a plan, so sometimes I just need to reformulate. Then I set up my desk as the ideal work environment (coffee, water, oil diffuser going, music if its a project I can concentrate on with music on, blank page in a sketchbook open, etc) and get in the zone. Alternatively! If I’m REALLY low on time and the project is not going to come together in a way I can be proud of in time, I reach out to the client as early as possible and let them know honestly— usually folks are pretty nice if you remind them you’re a human too and that life has perhaps gotten in the way, and if they’re smart, they’ve already built in some cushion around your deadlines anyway.
Danny: Panic! Hahaha. You really have to trust yourself to come up with a great, creative design solution. There have been times I’ll look back through past designs to spark an idea.
What does a good portfolio look like to you if someone wants to be a graphic designer?
Lauren: I think a good portfolio would firstly show a brand range. Graphic design can encapsulate so many kinds of work, I think it’s important to show that you as a designer are versatile. If you can handle laying out 1,000 words into a few slim columns of a newspaper with the same elegance you show off the main branding for an event, that’s a great place to start! Also I think it’s important to be able to design campaigns fluidly so they can be applied in any number of shapes and in many mediums. The ability to create a branding identity that is cohesive from the 25px web icon to the 5×7” printed brochure to the screen-printed t-shirt to the 7 foot wide vinyl banner is a feat, but it makes for some of the most solid portfolio work you could aim for.
Danny: A good portfolio probably depends on what kind of job you’re trying to get. I don’t necessarily have a portfolio ready to show, but I keep editable versions of all of my designs. I also have physical copies of every major print project I’ve worked on.
Check out Holter Monster here: http://www.holtermonster.com