Design Dilemma: The New Designer in Town

This one just came in from Case: 292PLUTO-X (remember, we’re using case numbers instead of names or initials now). He’s a young recent graduate who moved to the big city (Seattle, which is a big tech center) and is confused about doing print vs. digital and wants to know which to pursue (both, of course, but more digital in Seattle) and how can he make connections to find a job.

So, join us as we delve into another Design Dilemma, helping to answer your questions, queries and concerns about the murky world of design

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Unfamiliar Territories

Here’s the dilemma:

Hello, I am graphic and web designer from Milwaukee, Wisconsin and just moved out to Seattle, Washington towards the end of last year to try to find a better opportunity within the design environment. The design market in Milwaukee is pretty limited by being a small city compared to Seattle. I just finished up my web-design certificate at a local tech college in Milwaukee and trying to expand and get more experience with it, but like every college kid experiences and hears often is that you have to have experience to get experience within that field of study since a lot of companies are looking for more then 2 years of professional experience in that area.

“I am trying to find a happy medium between the two so I can be more marketable, but I see that either you focus on web and media or print 100%.”

I have 7 years of experience in print, but I would like to expand on that and focus on mainly the web and media environment since Seattle is more of a techy city. I know a lot of companies are still looking for print designers, but the future positions (UX/UI, Visual Designers) are moving towards the web and media environments. I am trying to find a happy medium between the two so I can be more marketable, but I see that it is either you focus on web and media or print 100%. With print, I have done it from concept to the final press checks. Created all types of printed pieces from trade show booth graphics, packaging and marketing advertising materials (logos, brochures, company ID, etc.).

I am just stuck on what area I should focus on more just to land a job, but still try to get into the web and media environment.  Hopefully you can give me a few options to look at with my print and web dilemma.

Thank you,

Case: 292PLUTO-X

I had to read this a couple of times because I had to prove to myself that I had not just received an email from 1998. It’s not actually that uncommon. I hear it a little more often than I’d like. Is there really a question about digital vs. print these days? Have art schools failed students for over a decade, not giving them updated statistics on web and print? Obviously the answer is — “yes!”

Those of us who were at least entering the design field when computers arrived on the scene still assert that having a basic knowledge of the printing process may be curmudgeonly and as boring as an episode of Matlock. Yes, print goes on and will continue… but for how long, in light of school kids being given tablets, rather than books? Tablets and readers, digital billboards and augmented reality for Google Glass. I doesn’t look promising.

I wrote back to the person in question with some gentle “Mr. Rogers” advice:


I still get this question from a lot of students and working professionals who want to transition from print to digital. First, let’s clear up that conundrum about your choices of print or digital. If you want to die, do 100% print. If not, you can certainly do a mix with digital, which has really been the standard for the past fifteen to twenty years for “designers.” So, I’d say really learning digital design is the way to go and will have a better financial return than print would.

“Is there really a question about digital vs. print these days? Have art schools failed students for over a decade, not giving them updated statistics on web and print?”

Keep in mind, that a town like Seattle isn’t just about web design. It’s apps, technology… the next big thing on the web! Will you just tread water in web design, or just ahead a light year or so and get in on the technology that will drive the web in the future, as opposed to invest yourself into what has been around for a long time and is due for a big evolution.

As for being in a new city and wanting to make friends and connections, Seattle has some great design organizations. Join them, attend events, participate on threads about design on local group websites, volunteer for these groups and put yourself out there as best you can.

The reply?:

Hello Speider,

It helps. Thank you for taking the time to help me out and give me some advice with my dilemma. I really do appreciate it.


I moved from NYC, where I was born and raised, to St. Louis, Missouri (I married a St. Louis girl and beware that all small town kids want to return to show up their family). I was definitely a square peg being hammered into a round hole but my differences were noticeable and I soon found I was known around town. However it happens, there is no bad way to get press, they say. I prefer, in the words of Dorothy Parker: ” I don’t care what is written about me so long as it isn’t true.”

I went to Phoenix for a year and a half on family business and got to know people exactly as I’ve described in the answer I gave in our dilemma today. It’s true that I’m weird and have no inner monologue, so everything comes spilling out, so if people can put up with me, you should have no problem meeting the right people, whether you’ve recently moved, or have lived in the same place all of your life.

I know it can be hard for some people, but it IS who you know in the business world. So, get to know people, know your print basics and say “hello” to technology as soon as it happens.

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