Helmi Kemppainen, a graphic designer from Finland, gives her tips to help you choose the right design study program for you! She completed a graphic design diploma in Florence, Italy, and now works as a graphic designer at an advertising agency in Miami, Florida.

Helmi has proven to be a success in her field of work and is trusted by her clients, which include major global brands such as L’Oréal, Ralph Lauren, and Giorgio Armani.

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Think about what you want to do for work after

Rather than thinking about what you want to study for the next 1-5 years, think long-term. After graduating, what do you want to wake up to every day? How do you envision your regular working day and what kind of projects does it include?

While many recent graduates will most likely go work for an agency, in design many find themselves doing freelance work at least at some point in their career. Keeping this in mind, it might be a good idea to also consider including business studies, such as business development, sales, and marketing. Knowing your market and industry combined with knowledge on how to budget and price your services can be crucial in ensuring your success as a designer. 

Browse job listings to know what employers are looking for

It can be difficult knowing what you want to do for a living before trying it out in practice. Something that can be useful in figuring out what your career options are after graduating is browsing job listings. Look for jobs for recent graduates in the field you are looking to study and see what the job openings offer: do you find that there are a lot of openings or not (within your area), what are the skills required, what are the salaries offered, etc.

Once you figure out which fields seem the most interesting work-wise, you know to apply this in your studies, too. For example, if you choose to study graphic design, you still have several different areas of the industry you can focus on. Do you like illustration, typography, or would you rather design websites and apps? When completing your student projects, keep in mind which skills you want to hone in order to excel at work, and on the other hand, which projects do you think will look impressive in your portfolio.

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Customize your study program to fit your needs

Few students think of themselves as customers of the school system, but the truth is, especially if you study at a private institute where you pay tuition, you have every right to demand the best quality education in exchange for your money.

Syllabuses are not necessarily something you need to follow religiously – many schools will allow you to take courses from other major programs. So for example, if you study interior design, but are also interested in product or graphic design, why not include a few extra courses in your syllabus or do an extra semester as a guest student in another program?

A unique skill set can be exactly what sets you apart later on when looking for employment as a recent graduate! 

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