Is it too late to become a Graphic Designer at 50?
Graphic design is a field of applied arts that consists of creating visual content for either advertisement or art in general.
You do not have to be a paid professional to be a graphic designer, but in most cases, this is what people refer to when it comes to the field.
However, how does one become a graphic designer and earn a living out of it, especially at 50 years of age or later?
While the young competition is indeed something to think about, you can certainly catch up to current trends without seeking professional help or spend too much money on further education.
Important factors to become a Graphic Designer
Before starting down your path towards graphic design, there are specific questions you should ask yourself in the light of your new career development opportunity:
What does your family income look like and can you afford to jump careers at 50 years of age to become a graphic designer?
Are your children employed or are you still financing their schooling?
Do you have some money on the side for the couple of months it will take to get up to speed with new skills?
Do you want to risk a less successful career than the one you are preoccupied with right now?
It is probably not easy to answer any of these questions, no matter if you provide quality writing, administrative services or legal counselling right now.
Once you communicate your wishes and plans to your family, you can safely start considering graphic design as your new career of choice and start learning more about it.
Graphic design essentials and fields
Graphic design is much more than creating new logos or drawing a cute-looking book cover for your client.
It revolves around understanding your audience, communicating those needs to your client and implementing your artistic talent and creativity to fill that void.
Compared to writers, graphic designers have much more to worry about when it comes to day-to-day activities.
They have to manage their clients, apply for new projects, apply client corrections to existing projects and, more often than not, juggle another job besides graphic design.
This is because graphic designers usually work in printing firms or ad agencies full-time while managing their design careers from home.
Learning about marketing and communications is just as crucial as familiarising yourself with design programs such as Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, the two most essential tools in your arsenal besides your sketchbook.
Graphic design is also divided into different specialisations, allowing people to choose what they are best at and stick to it.
Some of them are more vector-based while others favour raster illustrations and digital painting.
The typographic design revolves around letter design and font utilisation.
These typography designers are technical experts, which give them an opportunity to use fonts to their fullest, often disregarding any other form of visual elements.
They provide genuine service to book publishers and ad agencies that want good copywriting and font design to go with it.
Poster designers focus their efforts on propaganda and advertisement materials that revolve around raising awareness of specific events, topics or messages.
These people are used to working in large dimensions and delivering persuasive messages through particular visual elements.
Poster design revolves around using the least amount of visible components to provide the most powerful message possible.
Book designers are often designers with good illustration abilities.
Drawing book illustrations, vignettes and decorative elements is a big part of book design.
You will frequently be asked to design the covers, the jacket as well as text elements besides the usual text design that goes with the book.
Packaging designers focus on engineering and design at the same time, since their job description involves creating product packaging.
Their job focuses less on quality writing and more on typographic elements that emphasise certain aspects of the packaging.
Heavy use of psychology is also necessary when it comes to packaging design since the point of this field is to sell specific products to particular audiences.
Advertisement design revolves around creating visual content for social media, promotions, billboards, cards, etc.
These designers often work within marketing agencies and advertisement firms and rarely work alone as freelancers.
This allows them to create powerful messages to promote their clients’ needs.
It also provides the most teamwork opportunities for people who want to become graphic designers professionally.
Now that we have covered the different specialisations inside graphic design, it is time to consider how you can learn more about them.
Depending on your professional career so far, you might have neglected the need to read, learn and inform yourself on current trends regularly.
If you want to become a graphic designer, there are individual skills and techniques you will need to come to terms with as soon as possible.
Getting to know how vector graphics work, as opposed to raster images, is as simple as watching a YouTube video, but even that can be daunting to some people.
If you are serious about starting a career in graphic design in your 50s, here are some things you should consider checking out:
Inspiration and creativity
Behance is an excellent site to find your go-to place for inspiration and getting to know more about your graphic design colleagues.
It provides an ability to create an online graphic design portfolio of your works which you can display for the whole world to see.
Many professionals use Behance as their online portfolio and merely send links to potential clients.
Pinterest is another good alternative for inspiration and a creativity boost.
Checking out Pinterest and your favourite “pins” daily will give you a good idea of what’s trending in your graphic design field without looking for any help.
It will also allow you to create personalised “Boards” for interesting content you find on the site.
Tumblr is heaven for anyone who wants to take up illustration or more traditional forms of art and apply them to graphic design.
Creators from all over the world put their creations on Tumblr and allow you to follow their blogs for further content.
The site is similar to Pinterest in the sense that it allows you to share compelling content, comment and discuss exciting creations as well as use hashtags to spread your content around the platform.
Learning Graphic Design Online
Udemy offers a plethora of free and paid graphic design courses for you to learn the basics of the trade.
This is an excellent way to make up for any lost academic education that you may not have when it comes to visual arts.
Keep in mind that practice and creativity are the most critical parts of a successful graphic design, and Udemy can help you develop these skills in a matter of weeks.
Lynda is a monthly subscription platform that revolves around similar skills as Udemy, with slightly different learning programs.
It allows you to download the entirety of the course content and watch it anytime you want as opposed to Udemy that focuses on online learning.
Just like with looking for the best writing help, it comes down to what you prefer more and how much time and money are you willing to dedicate to developing graphic design skills.
Skillshare also offers many free and paid courses that can get you up to speed with graphic design in a very short time span.
These courses are taught by industry experts and certified teachers, meaning that you will always be in safe hands when it comes to the instructors.
Skillshare is based on online learning and requires you to be on the website to fully utilise its services.
Weighing the pros and cons
Given the number of sources and information at your disposal, one would think that it is quite easy to make a name for yourself in graphic design.
After all, it comes down to personal motivation and creativity more than anything.
Even in your 50s, you are still able to make a significant mark in the industry if you have what it takes to impress the clients with your newfound passion for visual content.
Be sure to check out these stats on the net worth by age group to get an idea of how others are doing to become a graphic designer.
Just like striving to become the best writer or a football player, there are also some cons to consider before jumping careers and hoping for the best.
Graphic design is a full field with people who shoot for the stars without a single successful project or a degree under their belt.
This can make it harder to get noticed at first, just like in any other industry.
Graphic design is often an unreliable source of income.
Some months might be very fruitful and busy while sometimes you might not have anything to do.
This is why many designers take up different professions and use graphic design as a secondary income.
Starting a new career in your 50s means that you have far less room for error than your younger counterparts.
A failed project can cost you much more than if you were in your 20s since you require a steady income and a stable job for yourself and your family.
Young designers often work pro bono until their portfolios are impressive enough to impress better clients.
This is also something you cannot afford if you decide to commit yourself to graphic design fully.
Building a private portfolio of around 20 different pieces of graphic design is an excellent way to alleviate this shortcoming.
You can quickly be dragged down by the knowledge you are bringing into the graphic design from your previous career.
For example, if you worked as an analyst or an interviewer for the majority of your adult life, you might consider some staples of graphic design to be annoying, unproductive or even counterintuitive even if your peers think otherwise.
Changing careers at any point in your life is not an easy thing to do, especially if you have a family of your own.
Now that you are familiar with some essential information on graphic design as well as how people in their 50s can start learning, you have a clearer picture of how you can contribute to the field.
Consult your family and do anything you can to take some time for your newfound passion before dismissing it as a silly idea to become a graphic designer.
It is never too late to start something new in your life and become a graphic designer if you balance the scales correctly.
1 thought on “Is it too late to become a Graphic Designer at 50?”
I just came across your blog post and I want to say a big thank you. I’m 48 and have been a teacher and curriculum planner all my life using my own illustrations for my student materials. I’m torn between doing my own thing and sell my clip arts programme like on Teachers Pay Teachers and starting from the bottom and doing graphic design for a printing company. While I am determined about my career change, graphic design is a path I should consider carefully and focus more on what I am already doing best. Thank you once again.