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How to be a Graphic Designer Without Losing Your Soul

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Designers are quick to tell us about their sources of inspiration, but they are much less willing to reveal such critical matters as how to find work, how much they charge, and what to do when a client rejects three weeks of work and refuses to pay the bill. How to be a graphic designer without losing your soul addresses the concerns of young designers who want to earn a l Designers are quick to tell us about their sources of inspiration, but they are much less willing to reveal such critical matters as how to find work, how much they charge, and what to do when a client rejects three weeks of work and refuses to pay the bill. How to be a graphic designer without losing your soul addresses the concerns of young designers who want to earn a living by doing expressive and meaningful work, and who want to avoid becoming hired drones working on soulless projects. Written by a designer for designers, it combines practical advice with philosophical guidance to help young professionals embark on their careers. How should designers manage the creative process? What's the first step in the successful interpretation of a brief? How do you generate ideas when everything just seems blank? How to be a graphic designer offers clear, concise guidance for these questions, along with focused, no-nonsense strategies for setting up, running, and promoting a studio, finding work, and collaborating with clients. The book also includes inspiring interviews with ten leading designers, including Rudy VanderLans (Emigre), John Warwicker (Tomato), Neville Brody (Research Studios), and Andy Cruz (House Industries). All told, How to be a graphic designer covers just about every aspect of the profession, and stands as an indispensable guide for any young designer.


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Designers are quick to tell us about their sources of inspiration, but they are much less willing to reveal such critical matters as how to find work, how much they charge, and what to do when a client rejects three weeks of work and refuses to pay the bill. How to be a graphic designer without losing your soul addresses the concerns of young designers who want to earn a l Designers are quick to tell us about their sources of inspiration, but they are much less willing to reveal such critical matters as how to find work, how much they charge, and what to do when a client rejects three weeks of work and refuses to pay the bill. How to be a graphic designer without losing your soul addresses the concerns of young designers who want to earn a living by doing expressive and meaningful work, and who want to avoid becoming hired drones working on soulless projects. Written by a designer for designers, it combines practical advice with philosophical guidance to help young professionals embark on their careers. How should designers manage the creative process? What's the first step in the successful interpretation of a brief? How do you generate ideas when everything just seems blank? How to be a graphic designer offers clear, concise guidance for these questions, along with focused, no-nonsense strategies for setting up, running, and promoting a studio, finding work, and collaborating with clients. The book also includes inspiring interviews with ten leading designers, including Rudy VanderLans (Emigre), John Warwicker (Tomato), Neville Brody (Research Studios), and Andy Cruz (House Industries). All told, How to be a graphic designer covers just about every aspect of the profession, and stands as an indispensable guide for any young designer.

30 review for How to be a Graphic Designer Without Losing Your Soul

  1. 4 out of 5

    Claire

    This book is an excellent resource for freelancers in general. Shaughnessy is a graphic designer by trade, but his insight into what it takes to become a business professional in the creative world is invaluable. I would recommend this book to writers, artists, house-painters... pretty much anyone who works from home.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    I picked up this book solely based on its title, which I found to be, disappointingly, misleading. It would be more accurately titled The Practical Aspects of Being a Designer That No One In Art School Bothered To Teach You. It weighs the advantages of working for a firm versus going freelance, talks about the process of finding clients and proposing work, and provides a number of other pragmatic tips for the working designer. These are all unbelievably valuable, but not what I was expecting fro I picked up this book solely based on its title, which I found to be, disappointingly, misleading. It would be more accurately titled The Practical Aspects of Being a Designer That No One In Art School Bothered To Teach You. It weighs the advantages of working for a firm versus going freelance, talks about the process of finding clients and proposing work, and provides a number of other pragmatic tips for the working designer. These are all unbelievably valuable, but not what I was expecting from the title, which led me to believe it would be an explication of the socially conscious uses for design. Though I’m glad I read through this book, I’m still looking for the book I thought it was.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Laura Fudge

    I have read this before… when I first became a student. It was on the reading list, and I had heard good things, so I picked it up and read bits and pieces here and there. Now I’m in my second year of freelancing and in the middle of trying to update my website, get more exposure and improve my skills, and I thought it would be a good place to start. This book is full of gems, that I have found extremely helpful for specific elements of my work and in general. In the first chapter, Shaughnessy di I have read this before… when I first became a student. It was on the reading list, and I had heard good things, so I picked it up and read bits and pieces here and there. Now I’m in my second year of freelancing and in the middle of trying to update my website, get more exposure and improve my skills, and I thought it would be a good place to start. This book is full of gems, that I have found extremely helpful for specific elements of my work and in general. In the first chapter, Shaughnessy discusses attributes needed by the modern designer and I found myself nodding along with him in agreement – I spent my childhood copying lettering off everything I coudl without even realising what it was I enjoyed about it, and some of the habits he discusses are definitely habits that I have picked up since becoming a designer. The book is split up into sections based on different areas of being a graphic designer… finding a job, working for yourself, or someone else, freelance work, setting up a studio, which are all useful regardless of whether you think it’s relevant to you or not. I design freelance, and I am happy doing so, but I still read the studio parts of the book, and still found them helpful. I found that I am not alone in the big bad world of Graphic Design, and that some of the fears and insecurities I have are shared by designers all over the world. It’s reassuring to know that you’re not the first student to come out of University and not find a job straight away, and that this doesn’t make you a bad designer. There are also loads of tips and advice from many different designers on different ways to approach briefs, finding work, self initiated work and dealing with clients, and I know I am going to keep coming back to this book as a reference tool time and time again. There is also a brilliant appendix with organisations, websites, books and other designers to check out, a wealth of information and inspiration. There are a few interviews throughout the book with various different practicioners which are invaluable for adding another perspective and more advice on different subjects and issues raised in the book. If you are, or are planning on becoming a graphic designer, this book is a must-read. This book has helped me focus on important things within my career, and has some invaluable advice.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Maryam Ansari

    The practical information and tips are a bit outdated for 2020 but the gist of the thing is helpful for any young graphic designer. All in all though, I believe it's overrated among all the books on graphic design. The practical information and tips are a bit outdated for 2020 but the gist of the thing is helpful for any young graphic designer. All in all though, I believe it's overrated among all the books on graphic design.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Cathy

    contrary to what the title states, this book won't tell you how to be a graphic designer. it WILL tell you what to do once you've acquired the software skills, graduated from a fine arts school, developed an eye for design, and found a partner with whom to start your own agency. it will tell you "how to be an experienced graphic designer". so it didn't do that much for me - a lot of common sense advice, a few informative interviews with eminent designers, and a page layout that was easy on the eye contrary to what the title states, this book won't tell you how to be a graphic designer. it WILL tell you what to do once you've acquired the software skills, graduated from a fine arts school, developed an eye for design, and found a partner with whom to start your own agency. it will tell you "how to be an experienced graphic designer". so it didn't do that much for me - a lot of common sense advice, a few informative interviews with eminent designers, and a page layout that was easy on the eyes. not much help for those just starting to get into the field or those without any design background. maybe i'll give it a second try after i get into and graduate from otis.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Deniz Cem Önduygu

    I admit, I was a bit worried about the "without losing your soul" in the title of the book before starting, but Adrian Shaughnessy turned out not to be nearly as romantic as I expected; he even argues that self-initiated projects ("personal projects") usually are not a good way to promote oneself and get new clients – something that doesn't resonate well with the title, and something I don't agree with even though I don't believe in souls. Interestingly, there are a few paragraphs where Shaughnes I admit, I was a bit worried about the "without losing your soul" in the title of the book before starting, but Adrian Shaughnessy turned out not to be nearly as romantic as I expected; he even argues that self-initiated projects ("personal projects") usually are not a good way to promote oneself and get new clients – something that doesn't resonate well with the title, and something I don't agree with even though I don't believe in souls. Interestingly, there are a few paragraphs where Shaughnessy is really soul-romantic at the beginning and they sounded so wrong to me that I even thought of dropping the book. I'm glad I continued because the rest was a gem, full of discussions and ideas that I've been thinking and talking about for years. The writing is conversational and humorous, and he generously exhibits his talent for making fun of himself – an important threshold for tasteful intelligence in my book. Full review here.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Tiffany

    This is another book that is easy to pick up and put down for inspiration. It wasn't something I read in order and will more than likely dip into here and there again in the future. This is another book that is easy to pick up and put down for inspiration. It wasn't something I read in order and will more than likely dip into here and there again in the future.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Dave Emmett

    This was a pretty good book. It covered a lot of the less glamorous areas of becoming a designer: things like actually getting a job and dealing with difficult clients. It also discusses the benefits/downsides of getting a job in a studio, in-house, as a freelancer, or setting up your own studio. I’m still not entirely sure where I plan on heading once I’m done school, I think working for an existing studio would be pretty cool, but I don’t want to rule anything out just yet. I should note that w This was a pretty good book. It covered a lot of the less glamorous areas of becoming a designer: things like actually getting a job and dealing with difficult clients. It also discusses the benefits/downsides of getting a job in a studio, in-house, as a freelancer, or setting up your own studio. I’m still not entirely sure where I plan on heading once I’m done school, I think working for an existing studio would be pretty cool, but I don’t want to rule anything out just yet. I should note that while this book is geared towards graphic designers, the advice in it applies to probably 90% of design disciplines. I have no intention of becoming a graphic designer, but almost everything in it was relevant.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Tony

    I read this book several years after completing my BFA in Graphic Design, I wish I would have read it my last year of school. This books gives great insight on the structure of the graphic design world from the perspective of successful working designers. It informs readers about freelancers, small offices, larger ad agencies and corporate in-house in the contemporary work place. A quick read and is definitely helpful for young graphic designers.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jennie

    Useful book for the business end of graphic design. I liked the exterior design and color scheme of the book, but I thought the layout of the inside pages was a little awkward, calling attention to the white space and away from the text itself.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Chrissy

    When my boss at work (the VP of marketing) saw this book on my desk at work he said 'gosh, does being a designer really put your soul at risk?' Well, yes. At least our art soul. So for those who are in the designer boat its a good read. When my boss at work (the VP of marketing) saw this book on my desk at work he said 'gosh, does being a designer really put your soul at risk?' Well, yes. At least our art soul. So for those who are in the designer boat its a good read.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    This book was recommended to me countless times by professors. I wish it could have inspired me more, but it didn't do much more than bore me. I tried to read it again recently in the midst of a very depressing job search, but it still didn't resonate. This book was recommended to me countless times by professors. I wish it could have inspired me more, but it didn't do much more than bore me. I tried to read it again recently in the midst of a very depressing job search, but it still didn't resonate.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Fai Ahmed

    A fantastic & perfect book for freelances and artists who wanna starting out, it''ll teach you things that Art school won't bother to teach you. A fantastic & perfect book for freelances and artists who wanna starting out, it''ll teach you things that Art school won't bother to teach you.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Charles

    I read this for class, and found a fair amount of helpful, real world examples and advice. The humor is dry and worked for me, but not many of my classmates. It's capped off with interviews, which vary wildly in helpfulness but are arranged alphabetically by last name, so it's a bit of a jarring way to wrap up a book. Overall it was a good read, but there may be better on the market for what it does. What it did not do adequately, in my opinion, is answer its own title question, how to pursue so I read this for class, and found a fair amount of helpful, real world examples and advice. The humor is dry and worked for me, but not many of my classmates. It's capped off with interviews, which vary wildly in helpfulness but are arranged alphabetically by last name, so it's a bit of a jarring way to wrap up a book. Overall it was a good read, but there may be better on the market for what it does. What it did not do adequately, in my opinion, is answer its own title question, how to pursue something one is passionate about under capitalism without making choices that sacrifice ethics, joy, or both. There are probably better books for that subject, too, although no one really knows the answer.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Abi Nottingham

    I found a lot of little gems of wisdom in this book. The author’s style is straightforward and there’s basically no fluff to be found, and as it’s split into regular sections it’s easy to digest. The book is obviously one successful designer’s opinion, so it’s to be taken with a pinch of salt, and although it’s an updated version I still think a few things are a bit outdated. Saying that, I think this book is worthwhile for any budding designers or artists, even if you skim the bits you don’t th I found a lot of little gems of wisdom in this book. The author’s style is straightforward and there’s basically no fluff to be found, and as it’s split into regular sections it’s easy to digest. The book is obviously one successful designer’s opinion, so it’s to be taken with a pinch of salt, and although it’s an updated version I still think a few things are a bit outdated. Saying that, I think this book is worthwhile for any budding designers or artists, even if you skim the bits you don’t think are relevant.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Samanta

    I enjoyed reading this book but it was not exactly what I have expected from it. I think the book is mostly suitable for a freelance designer or a designer thinking to start her/his own business. There is a lot of practical advice about finding the clients, setting up a studio, working as a freelancer and overcoming your fear of failure and fear of ideas. The title is great but not really suitable for this book as the question of ‘How to be a graphic designer without loosing your soul’ wasn’t re I enjoyed reading this book but it was not exactly what I have expected from it. I think the book is mostly suitable for a freelance designer or a designer thinking to start her/his own business. There is a lot of practical advice about finding the clients, setting up a studio, working as a freelancer and overcoming your fear of failure and fear of ideas. The title is great but not really suitable for this book as the question of ‘How to be a graphic designer without loosing your soul’ wasn’t really answered.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Dave Irwin

    Im actually going through this book with a fine tooth comb to try and pull out every bit of information I can. I love the layout, which I think is beautiful. The stories and lessons in the book are very approachable. They stick in your head and provide excellent advice. I think this is definitely a must read for anyone who is starting a graphic design business but also anyone who wants to work with clients at all.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Robbin

    A handy book that I have recommended to my design students, mainly to help give some of the anxiety in their head some empathy and to look forward. A senior designer friend said, "Let me know when you want to read a heavier design book," which I will probably do at some point. This book, however, is a great short read -- read the chapters that are important to you, read the interviews at the end, and go on. A handy book that I have recommended to my design students, mainly to help give some of the anxiety in their head some empathy and to look forward. A senior designer friend said, "Let me know when you want to read a heavier design book," which I will probably do at some point. This book, however, is a great short read -- read the chapters that are important to you, read the interviews at the end, and go on.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Rick Henderson

    A book every graphic design student should read. I absolutely loved this book. A long time fan of graphic design, I didn't know a lot about the industry or of well known designers. It focusses mainly on UK designers but is filled with incredible quotes. Every designer thinking about opening a studio should read this. You'll learn about the actual business from people who have been successful. A book every graphic design student should read. I absolutely loved this book. A long time fan of graphic design, I didn't know a lot about the industry or of well known designers. It focusses mainly on UK designers but is filled with incredible quotes. Every designer thinking about opening a studio should read this. You'll learn about the actual business from people who have been successful.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    I found this an insightful glimpse into the world of graphic design. Definitely took some notes in a few sections and was glad there was an update for modern digital design and web interface. That's the side of design that I find so delightful and interesting and plan to delve deeper into my studies. I found this an insightful glimpse into the world of graphic design. Definitely took some notes in a few sections and was glad there was an update for modern digital design and web interface. That's the side of design that I find so delightful and interesting and plan to delve deeper into my studies.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kylee Allred

    I was really disappointed in this book, expecting it to have much more design-related content than it did. It’s written specifically for new freelancers building up a business (not for designers in general), but a lot of the information is unnecessary, common sense, and overly specific. It did have a few good ideas but overall I wouldn’t recommend it.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ben Watson

    Good honest book, but a little out of date and two thirds of it are not useful for anybody new to the industry. A book I would recommend for any designer but not one I would go through all at once. Go back to it throughout your career for the relevant advice, don't two to finish it in one go, you'll miss most of the benefit. Good honest book, but a little out of date and two thirds of it are not useful for anybody new to the industry. A book I would recommend for any designer but not one I would go through all at once. Go back to it throughout your career for the relevant advice, don't two to finish it in one go, you'll miss most of the benefit.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Potter

    This is a good outline of what it means to be a graphic designer, but I was hoping for something that would dive more into the dilemma of being an artist while at the same time doing commercial work that may or may not be making the world a worse place.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sml BioBot

    This is a fantastic book on how to be a graphic designer in the competitive market. If you reverse its point, it also helps a lot in understanding how to interview designers when piles of portfolios and resumes arrive at your desk.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    I really should have read this book before starting my freelance designer career.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Tom Parkes

    I recommend if you are stuck in a design rut.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Cinthia

    Clear and to the point. Key points on what should be taught in school.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Neal

    Amazing resource for freelancers, consultants, and indie entrepreneurs of all sorts.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Alex Khlopenko

    To be honest the book proved the worst kind of whining memoir of people who think New Age stuff like meditation and freelancing are The Answer.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Chantelle

    So informative! This book really covered everything. As much as it’s difficult to get into specifics about graphic design, I really enjoyed this and learned a lot.

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