Graphic Designer: Informational Interview Report

[Thanks to YLR for sharing her informational interview report about being a graphic designer.]


My current career goal is the graphic design field. I interviewed a local graphic designer over the phone. He has his own local startup company.

While looking for graphic designers near my area on Yelp, I reviewed many companies and tried to contact them for an interview. Some I never got a reply from, but a few did reply to do an interview.

The main focus of the interview was to really ask questions that are hard to find answers to on the internet, as the graphic design field is very broad. I also wanted to ask about the company’s focus as I read from their website that they mainly worked with “science, medicine, and technology” companies.

I had about fifteen questions as I wanted to make it short and easy, as he did state in his e-mail he was pretty busy. From those fifteen questions however, I managed to ask about ten instead, as some were answered by him within the context of the others.

Here are the questions asked with his responses:

Can you say more about your graphic design studio company, and how did it come to be?

We’re a company that came from the passion I had towards arts in general. I think that when I was roughly around thirteen I always dreamed about having my own company and being able to run it in a way that was unique and honest to the clients as well. After some time, I would say 1996 or 97 after struggling with the graphic design job I previously was part of – dealing with work that I had no interest on, and also dealing with the fact that I couldn’t express my creativity – I decided to quit and create a business where I instead would listen to people’s stories and bring the humane side of the graphic design industry that at the time I felt was lacking and went ahead and created my company in 1999.

What is your job title and how does it define you?

When I was a college student like you, I thought that job titles were everything. At times I felt like it would define the value and connections it would bring. However… It is a hard to say, but even if it is a certain major the chances of staying in that particular area are very low, and the plans that you make at the time really are vague compared to the reality. Right now I would have never imagined being an information designer nor the president of a company. Still, like I’ve stated earlier, I think that it doesn’t define me in any way as I don’t feel any more important than my other peers. I think that I’ve come to a place where I’ve molded my knowledge and life experience into something I enjoy, so in some way you can say that the job title is something for other people to sort of classify you in.

How did you come to be a graphic designer? Did you know all along?

I certainly did not know all along, at the time computers were not that big of a deal to me, and especially not to my parents who hated the idea and concept of the words “graphic design.” But things have changed. I came to be a graphic designer because I honestly was so lost at what I wanted to become and the pressure to become a software engineer (his first career choice) really took a toll on me. At the time I had a friend -who was an art major – speak to me about this thing called graphic design and I got really interested in it. Next thing you know I had changed majors. I remember being really into art and poetry at the time as well and saw it only as a hobby, but now they are my side professions.

What are the most important skills and things you have to refrain from?

Dedication and passion are the definitely the most important skills. My advice to you is that once you feel like you do not enjoy what you do and don’t feel the drive anymore, to leave and find what you love as long as it takes.

On a scale from 1 to 10, how much do you love your job?

10 or even more. This job is a place where I look forward to doing everyday. It might be because it stresses me out, and although it sounds weird it is one of the most rewarding jobs I’ve had and I think many people can’t say that about their jobs.

What is a typical work day for you?

A typical day of work… with this field it is hard to say, especially when I am the CEO, and at the same time work on projects. Because of the different things we offer in the company, I think that this is the most versatile job anyone can have (laughs). It honestly is hard to explain how much it changes everyday. I feel like if I were to pick the most typical days out, it would be when we are starting on a brand new project, everyone gets to the company and as a group discuss a little bit about the client and what we know. Then we meet the client and really get into details about what they want from our company. We also ask about specifics and the story behind their project. Once the client leaves, we start some rough drafts and discuss some more. That sums up the day.

Is it okay if I ask about finance?

Of course! At the beginning it was very rough especially for me building the company from my home computer. It was definitely the craziest thing I’ve done. At the time it seemed like a failed experiment, but luckily it took off one day and I got enough to create a small startup with my business partner and grew our business ever since. Of course, the company had its ups and downs, and now we are consistent and thinking of finding a larger branch out in San Jose.

How competitive is this field, and how often do you employ a new GD?

I think that the graphic design field is a lot more competitive now than it ever was, especially with the increment of people looking for jobs here in Silicon Valley. Since our company has been growing we now have somewhere about 20 to 25 employees I would say, but as we move branches we are hoping that number to increase by at least 40%. Right now, we have really talented graphic designers with a lot of experience and also some even that just left college. To us, it is very much about the abilities and dedication more than anything else.

If I wanted to start my own company with an emphasis in psychology and communication, how interested would you be from a customer point of view?

Yes definitely! Like I said before we pride ourselves in being part of the science industry as well and communicating it as easily as possible to the public. So new ideas for GD and the incorporation of other majors would benefit everyone. However, I think that broadening your vision more as you go along would also help as this industry changes and grows. It is better to not restrict ourselves to one thing only.

Would you do it all over again?

Most definitely. The biggest part of what makes me so happy today is being able to use my love and passion towards the art that graphic design is, and to be able to please the client. I think that rough times are the key to success and the drive that keeps us moving. If anything, I’d do it as many times as I have to.

Discussion and What I Learned

I thought that it was going to be more of a typical informational interview, but to my surprise my interviewee was very thoughtful and gave me a lot of advice. Many times he sidetracked to give me pointers. I even got to know more about his life, art and poetry work.

I found so many similarities between when he was in college and my life right now. Some of the things that surprised me is that he said he didn’t feel like the job title defined him at all, but that instead he molded and shaped it to accommodate his needs. It was so refreshing to hear that once you get a degree, in no way will we stay in that certain industry in the same way, and that it changes and varies.

When asking about finance, he did not give me numbers but made it clear that with graphic design you never truly know, and that that was what truly made it an exciting career. For me however, I do tend to prefer stability as I see myself supporting others with my major.

Regarding the graphic design startup I had in mind implementing my psychology and communication majors, when I asked if he would be a client and be interested, he praised the fact that I wanted to involve my knowledge and passion. But he also made me realize how vague I had been when just wanting to center graphic design around these two sole things. He told me to “broaden” my ideas, as the graphic design industry is truly as versatile as it can be. I was honestly shocked because in my mind I had the expectation of him being more impressed and interested in the idea, as he himself is quite involved with science, medicine and technology. In the interview, he made it quite clear that although he was involved deeply in those areas, he was much more interested in the story and how to simplistically explain it to the people.

When Yelping the company, I thought it was a company that had settled in one place. My interviewee definitely shrunk that idea, and explained that his company was growing and they soon were planning to move out of their office to a bigger one in San Jose. I was in awe at the fact that his passion and dedication were leading to this kind of success.

Lastly, the interview also made me realize that there is time for everything, like the art and poetry that my interviewee had mentioned were his “side occupations.” It truly astounded me, as maybe I had this idea in my mind that once I chose a profession I would have to leave everything else and only do that one thing.

Overall, the informational interview was an eye-opening experience on a career that I believe is the best for me. I got to thinking for the first time about the financial aspect of something like graphic design. I can say that it has made me reflect and think a lot more about the future. At the same time, it has brought up a passion for doing something I believe in, and succeeding no matter what to create something I am proud of and happy to call work.

Did the informational interview help create a positive or negative impression regarding the career/major that you wanted to find more information about? How so?

I never really thought about graphic design being as such a tough industry to work in. I always believed it was a platform to express my creativity. When my interviewee mentioned that his first jobs were very monotonous and that he was not using creativity on an everyday basis, it led me to search online for the downsides of graphic design. I was somewhat disappointed because this mindset of this job that provides room for expression and growth was not really what I thought it was. It made me rethink and re-envision how I saw myself in the career. However, hearing my interviewee talk about how there is always room to mold what we’ve learned into something we truly enjoy keeps me in the mindset that anything is possible as long as we try hard.

If you could do it all over again, would you do anything differently in your informational interview? For example, would you ask any other particular questions?

I think I would have liked to ask a little more about his association with science companies and how that came to be. Also, I would have asked more clarifying questions that were a little confusing as he sometimes sidetracked. Perhaps questions like:

  • What was your most recently completed project about? How long did it take?
  • What is the difference between the titles “Information Design” and “Graphic Design”?
  • I see you’ve done work with statistical design and teenage suicides. How did it differ from other jobs? Did it impact you on a personal level in any way?

Did you send a thank-you note/message within 2 days after the informational interview?

Lastly, I made sure to send a thank-you message. He replied and said to keep in contact if I had any other questions and to possibly apply for an internship when I completed my Associate’s Degree.