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The Experience Matters

    The 2024 Designer

    by Michael Oetken

    A New Millennium

    The year is 2000, and most of the 2018 college freshmen in my digital media courses are newborn babies at the time. My own daughter won't be born for another two years. College graduates—classified as Generation X—are starting to enter the workforce and it's an exhilarating time to be a professional graphic designer. The internet is beginning to change the way we work, communicate with friends and family and even how we entertain ourselves. The world is still about eight years away from the emergence of smartphone technology that has become a daily staple in most people’s lives, but there are still massive shifts in the way business is conducted. The internet is starting to change our world in profound ways.

    It’s Time to Retool

    As a professional graphic designer entering the workforce—circa 2000—most marketing is still based primarily around the printed medium. The majority of portfolio pieces for most graphic designers at the time are printed materials (ads, brochures, posters, etc.) that they designed. However, something interesting can be noticed in various job postings within the industry. The words “and web designer” are being added to position titles and descriptions. My first job title was “Graphic and Web Designer.” Because the internet was becoming a viable option for businesses and organizations to use as an avenue for marketing strategies, graphic designers who know how to create and design content for the web are in higher demand.

    Regarding the technical aspect of this new marketing strategy—most graphic designers had to start learning how to use brand-new software applications, like Dreamweaver and Flash; and rethink how to use tools like Photoshop and Illustrator for digital media design. Some graphic designers even learned how to develop and code web pages using HTML and CSS. Those designers were onto something—even if they didn’t know it at the time. That idea of combining skills as a coder/web developer and as a graphic designer will become one of the most sought-after traits for professional designers in today’s market.

    The Future Looks Exciting

    Fast forward to 2018 and the concept of combining technology and art is something consumers see and experience every single day (most of the time not even aware of it.) Everything from Snapchat to the digital ordering kiosks you use at McDonald's is combining art and technology. If you want to be a successful designer in 2019 and beyond you not only need to have a good grasp on the fundamentals of design (digital and print), but you better know how to code a webpage, develop a mobile app, design a user experience and produce/edit video. Also, graphic designers are no longer glued to their workstations. With graphic design software now readily available on laptops and mobile phones through apps, it has made it much easier for them to work anywhere in the world, which also makes it easier for companies to outsource talent without having to hire in-house. 1

    The intersection of technology and art is where you will find the most amazing user experiences, and it’s the spot where all businesses and organizations want potential customers and users to find their brand. Designers that have the agility and flexibility needed to get clients to that intersection will know nothing but success and reward.

    Statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor suggests that careers in multimedia design will grow at a rate of 8% by 2026.2 Degree options like the digital media program at Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus are designed to teach students how to embrace and use that passion for technology and art in a creative career path.

    1 Norcross, N. (2017, October 09). How Graphic Design Is Evolving. Retrieved September 25, 2018, from

    2 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Multimedia Artists and Animators, on the Internet at (visited September 23, 2018).

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