Studying design in college is all about making yourself professionally ready to bring those big dreams in your eyes come true: the glamour of the fashion runway, the fashion week and your name rolling out after a Bollywood film. But, to really fulfill all those dreams you may have to strategize such that your career progresses on the right path after completing the degree or the diploma in design that you may be currently pursuing. So let’s take a closer look at how best you could design your own future career.
RÃ©sumÃ© and portfolio
Even though the world of design is all about artistic creativity and being unconventional, the rÃ©sumÃ© and the LinkedIn profile are still required to have your achievements systematically presented so that you are able to share your skill-set and your qualifications with a potential employer. An online portfolio is something that is almost de rigueur now in all creative fields. Therefore, early in your professional growth learn computing skills which help you create and then update your portfolio frequently. Create your portfolio such that your potential employer gets a visual review of your diverse skills. For example, an intelligently planned portfolio can demonstrate your diverse skills in illustration, computer graphics, photography, crochet or whatever else you bring to the table. So, a quick glance of your portfolio would leave an impression not only of your design capabilities but also of your technical skills.
Internships and exposure
You may have decided to pursue a course in design because you wanted to channelize the creative energies within you but the world of design is as much about design as it is about business. The design course you join would mould your design sensibilities and also teach you the various technical skills that you will require in the industry. However, creativity can remain undiscovered or under-utilized unless it is also integrated with business skills to make creativity profitable. Thus, while you are in college do make the attempt to learn more about the “business of fashion”. One of the easiest ways to learn the business side of things is, to do internships with senior designers and/or fashion houses. While you are in college, do several internships to get a glimpse of how things are actually done on the field. Additionally, there are some art/design residencies that have been established in India you could apply to. Join them so that you can gain an opportunity to network and acquire additional skills.
Collaborate with peers
Considering the fact that design world is supremely competitive and all about intellectual property, you may find that many senior designers, after a point, may not be willing to nurture fresh talent and/or share their “trade secrets”. Once you are more technically skilled and confident about your skill-set then you may find collaborating with fellow students and other fresh graduates to set-up small (low investment) exhibitions to get a feel for the budgets, marketing, maintaining quality in production, consumer tastes, etc. Collaborating with peers can give you an opportunity to learn from each other’s strengths. However, it may also reduce the extent of attention your work receives in an exhibition. So, weigh your options and personal preferences and take the decision to collaborate or go solo.
Even though it is the designer who creates a name for oneself, no designer works in isolation. A designer’s work space is studded with tailors, master crafts-people, retailers, quality fabric providers, washers, dyeing experts etc. It takes a whole army of experts to finally create flawless products. So, while you are building your career don’t underestimate the value of these experts in your growth and build relationships with a range of people. Other experts that you may need to network with would be retailers, merchandisers, buyers, bloggers etc. Trade shows, exhibitions, online platforms are a great means to build these networks and gradually build your own brand.
It is no secret that the world is gradually shifting from brick and mortar business to e-commerce business models. This shift in the business ecosystem has benefitted people who want to enter the market with lower investments. The implication of this, on your career strategy, is that you need to learn to be social media savvy - not just for yourself but for your career as well. Thus, Instagramming your designs and also your design inspirations can help create an interest in your work. Similarly, using Youtube to create short, behind the scene videos of your design process can help give an insight into your world. Facebook business pages and Facebook marketing are already being exploited in a big way and it remains a useful low cost method to widen your network.
Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
If there are several red birds sitting in a row, there is a good chance that your eye will first lock into the bird that is brown or standing outside of that queue. Life is like that as well, in order for you to be noticed you may find that you need to step out of the line and develop your own USP. For instance, you could enter the business segments that are under-represented in the world of design. You could start by using your business skills and do market research of the needs of the consumer. Thus, if everybody is making dresses, then look at belts or scarves or handbags to stand out from the crowd. Similarly, if everybody is designing for the tall and the young, then design for the under-represented populations like portly middle-aged people or senior citizens or specially-abled as they also make a sizeable chunk of the population. Think of design, not just in terms of fabric or colour or cut but also in terms of enhancing functionality for the consumer. Thus, a hidden panel of lycra, in a well-designed garment, can add great value to somebody who has a cellulite-driven body or some extra loops in a shirt or pants can enhance functionality for those who wear spectacles or carry a walking stick. It is these USP’s that can really help you be that brown bird in an otherwise red row of birds.
Your brand and image
Consumers look at the designer to provide something “different or unique” and enhance their lives by upping the style quotient. Additionally, design is a very visual medium. Therefore, just as you design your product you also need to design yourself and your brand to reflect the same. When you are just starting your career it is easy to follow the norm and take on a “persona” which is not your own or follow the trend blindly, but eventually it may be difficult to break out of the artificial mould that you have created and set yourself free. So, even though initially it takes courage, be true to who you are and build your own brand which is a true reflection of your style.
*The author is a fashion industry expert.
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