It's ok to quit, right?

almost 5 years ago from

This past December I finished my degree in Graphic Design specializing in Interactive Design. The Interactive part of the degree mostly means that I got introduced to entry level Front-end Dev like HTML, CSS, an one intro course to JavaScript and jQuery. I took me about 3 years to finish. I did 2 internships with in house design teams where I mostly learned how to get better with InDesign. I made a decent Portfolio. I've been applying everywhere, but get very few calls for interviews. I've gotten a couple of interviews but no follow up. Even when I email them to ask them for status they don't respond.

So I've been thinking if this is the right thing for me. It has me reflecting. One of the reasons why I chose design, was because out of all the interests I'd had career wise, which have been mostly in creative fields, graphic design and design in general seemed like the most practical. But it hasn't felt that way ever since finishing school. Interviews feel like auditions. It feels like the skills I acquired aren't enough and I need to wow them with personality and eye candy. I thought design was about "solving problems." It got me thinking how I don't even design for "fun".

All I wanted was a good job. But I guess this isn't really just a job. I feel discouraged and confused. It's getting harder to keep going and don't know if I should keep trying.


  • Account deleted almost 5 years ago

    The first few months after graduating were brutal for me too, so I know how it feels. Some pointers:

    As mentioned, your work looks a bit outdated. I know it's a bit of a chicken/egg situation, but try and do some free work, or go on something like briefbox to get some more up to date stuff.

    Spend like 50 bucks and get some fonts on your website that arent google fonts. To me google fonts usually scream out beginner/budget designer. Avoid montserrat, lobster, raleway and bebas neue.

    Go on dribble and look at what is popular and try and copy that. While dribbble gets a lot of shit here, it is still a good place for inspiration.

    Download some wordpress themes and look at things like spacing to see what works.

    Use material design to get a decent looking baseline grid

    For good line heights 99% of the time, mulitply your point size by the golden ratio

    Avoid using 100% black or 100% white in designs, use #fefefe instead of white or put a tiny bit of blue/red/whatever into your blacks to make them look a bit better

    read this: https://www.amazon.com/Grid-Systems-Graphic-Design-Communication/dp/3721201450

    and this: https://www.amazon.com/Interaction-Color-Anniversary-Josef-Albers/dp/0300179359/ref=pd_sim_14_7?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=0300179359&pd_rd_r=JKBDZ6R204YM32HTD1G4&pd_rd_w=ql8Ad&pd_rd_wg=m20WA&psc=1&refRID=JKBDZ6R204YM32HTD1G4

    and this: https://www.amazon.com/Thinking-Type-2nd-revised-expanded/dp/1568989695/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1523410356&sr=1-1&keywords=typography

    They are basically the three books you need to be a decent designer. If you want to do web design, read this:


    Your website layout is a bit weird, try and make definitive sections.

    Menu/nav hero/ projects/ contact/ footer

    You've basically done this, but just google 'design portfolio inspiration' to get a better idea of layouts

    Change your intro copy. Every designer applying for jobs will 'enjoy making websites and front-end coding." make it unique - "I'm an experienced graphic designer from the florida and i also love cake/cars/cats/hip hop/smash brothers - this will give you a common ground (hopefully) with the person interviewing you and you'll stand out a bit more

    Make your Resumé one page if it isn't already. When you're hiring you cant be arsed reading 10 pages of someones life. Also only put relevant experience. Nobody cares if you won a speech competition in your second year of high school

    Instead of showing logos on your homepage, show projects. Imagine going into a shoe store and just seeing a shitload of NIKE boxes. You can't be bothered opening up, so you wont buy them, then you leave the store

    When people are looking at your portfolio, they'll probably leave within a couple of seconds - get google analytics (free) and check this for yourself.

    Go to UI8 and get some nice mockups to put your work in. It'll help sell it better. What would you much rather have - A steak, or a steak plated perfectly with complementary foods around it. This is what a mockup does for designs.

    But yeah, all these things will help but basically you just need to design more. Ask anyway, ask your kids, ask your wife, ask your parents, ask random businesses that have crap design if you can help. And then get inspiration from the best. Hope this helps. /rant

    101 points
  • Helen . Helen . , almost 5 years ago

    To be honest, it's totally easy to feel discouraged if you feel like the amount of time spent didn't land you the job you were hoping for.

    Based on how I'd look at this, I think you just need to find the passion for doing what you originally set out to accomplish. I know it's easy to think that you want a good job that's why you got into Interactive Design, but I'd like to think that you like it to some degree and didn't get into it just to get a solid paying job. I took a look at your website and I think it'd be a good idea to update it with more recent works. Even if you don't have solid work to show, find an idea for a project that gets you motivated and excited.

    What are you passionate about? Is it gaming? Travelling? Maybe it's animals? Finding something you're interested in and trying to design something around it or finding some problems to solve within that space will really get you digging deeper into a design problem, which will in turn give you good design pieces to showcase on your portfolio and have a higher chance of scoring interviews and jobs.

    Keep your chin up!

    8 points
    • Denis RojcykDenis Rojcyk, almost 5 years ago

      I was about to write something similar until I noticed Helen's comment, so I will expand on it a little bit.


      Note to myself, don't use emojis in the comments, because it will truncate everything after them and you will need to rewrite the whole thing :( Twice ...

      It sounds like you lost the passion, or it wasn't there, to begin with? If you do have the passion for the craft then don't worry, this is only a temporary problem!

      What helped me quite a bit was connecting not with designers, but with developers. They usually have some side projects already going on, but need designers skills to polish them up. Not only did I made some cool friends this way, but these guys also recommended me to their companies where I started doing business. It also helped me to build a portfolio of real-life products, which is far more valuable then hypothetical projects.

      3 points
  • Joshua McDonald, almost 5 years ago

    Hey Jay,

    I know exactly where you're coming from. I graduated a year ago and I spent months trying to find a job. I set weekly goals such as applying to 12 jobs a week, which included writing well thought out cover letters or emails to each job. I drove to about 5 different interviews that were each about 3 hours away from where I live - and I never heard back from any of them. I was pretty discouraged to say the least. I felt like I had wasted all of my schooling and I was questioning my career choice.

    The story ends well though. I eventually landed a contract job for 6 months, and then after that I got an offer at a talented and thriving digital product studio.

    One piece of advice I would give - look for opportunities where you want to work, which might not even be posted on a job board. The job that I got didn't even have a job posting - I simply cold-emailed them through their contact form asking if they would consider me for any possible upcoming opportunities - and a few months later, got an email when an opportunity opened up at their company.

    All that to say - keep hustling, practicing, refining, applying - and soon enough, you'll be able to look back and wonder why you questioned yourself.

    6 points
  • Norm Sheeran, almost 5 years ago

    Welcome to the world, your experience is not limited to design jobs.

    My advice.

    • Don’t give up yet.

    • Put 10x more effort into preparing for your interviews (know the company, products, history, staff, competitors).

    • Go back into the offices and ask what’s happening, ask for direct feedback (why didn’t I get the job).

    • Rehearse your interview technique.

    • Sell yourself (no one else will).

    • Never stop improving your portfolio.

    • Get a design side project.

    • Think positive.

    Good luck!

    4 points
  • Trevor Kay, almost 5 years ago

    Try improving your resume. It's currently tells me very little.

    • Give me an actual paragraph description of what you did at a job
    • Ditch the skills graphs, these are unhelpful
    • Ditch the interests, they make you sound incredibly generic
    • Expand out the education section more to fill in some space if you need to
    • Intro probably isn't necessary.

    Your case study pages of your portfolio could do with a lot of work. They look incredibly void of content and the screenshots you have chosen don't frame your work well at all. You have these good process books but they are hidden behind a PDF which is terrible for mobile. Put that content on the actual page! Let it be seen.

    4 points
  • Duke CavinskiDuke Cavinski, almost 5 years ago

    I don't know if you're applying to be a designer or a developer or what, but a couple of things:

    You will get rejected more than accepted, especially early on. If you're passionate, you probably won't care.

    Your portfolio does indeed look dispassionate in its current state. The designs look very generic and very outdated. You need to remedy this.

    Network and build relationships and someone may give you a chance, because you'll need a lot of experience and a lot of good work to get the good job. You're going to be competing with hundreds of résumés and dozens of interviewees, and then when you actually get the job, congrats–you'll be competing with the whole industry.

    Chin up. Hopefully you'll find this is just a short blip of doubt, because this isn't an industry you just settle for out of practicality.

    4 points
  • Jay Cruz, almost 5 years ago

    You guys rock! This is my favorite online community ever. Thank's all for the great advice and suggestions. There's a lot I have to think about. No matter what I decide to do, I'll always be coming back to this community.

    3 points
  • Stephen OlmsteadStephen Olmstead, almost 5 years ago

    Jay- we've all been there and I know it can be incredibly frustrating at times. I'd encourage you to use this opportunity to reflect on your skills and gifts. In my case it took me over a decade to realize that the thing I was chasing (being an A+++ visual designer) was not the correct alignment for my skills/gifts. It was only after some extremely wise mentors and life experiences hit me that I realized I was configured in such away that if I slightly shifted my trajectory I could A) stay in the field I loved and worked hard to be a part of, B) leverage my other strengths I had been neglecting/assuming didn't have practical application to my pursuit of design (I couldn't have been MORE wrong here and this was like discovering a whole new version of my craft), and C) be not only a positive benefit to the team I was working for but a key asset. It took a long time for this realization and perspective change to set in for me and I'm so thankful it did eventually.

    I don't know you, but I'm sure you have a diverse range of skills (in the both tapped and untapped flavor) and sometimes a perspective shift can be just what the doctor ordered. I've also found that many times I'm too close to a problem to see it clearly, sometimes backing away, taking an objective look, and then re-engaging can be the best strategy.

    Ultimately I wish you the very VERY best in all your endeavors. More than that I'd be totally down to chat with you live if its of any aid. Hit me at stephen[at]invisionapp.com if you ever want to sync live.

    Chin up my friend!

    3 points
  • Ali Adams, almost 5 years ago

    I wouldn't give up. The same thing happens across all industries and jobs. It just means that you're not ready yet. There's a reason why you're not getting the job. Either job-related reasons (lacking a certain skill, not the right fit, etc) or interpersonal-related (poor communication skills, interview skills, etc.) Reflect on your past interviews ––and even though it's hard for you to see it now–– try to figure out where things are going wrong.

    You'll need to be ok with rejections. After I left my startup, I decided to go back to design and get a job at an agency (any agency.) Within the span of 6 months, I applied for over 200 jobs (no kidding), I got 20 phone interviews, and 8 face-to-face interviews. Never received any offers. At that point, I was a mid-level and have worked on huge projects with Universal, Men's fitness, and Interscope Records; Why am I not getting a job? The process took a toll on me and it really made me questions whether or not I was fit to be a designer. However, I never took the rejection personally. I kept learning, taking courses online, and reading tons of books about design, and most importantly – designing. Then finally, one boutique agency got back to me and offered me a job. I accepted.

    At that point, it wasn't THE greatest agency, we did mostly boring government work, but it was better than nothing. It allowed me to improve my client relations skills, presentation skills, etc while at the same time, the paycheck allowed me to further expand on my skillset on my free time. After working there for 6 months, one of the biggest global agencies reached out to me with a VERY attractive offer to join their team. I left the boutique agency and joined them.

    Trust the process, trust the timing. You'll always encounter these instances whether its a rejection, layoff, etc, etc. You just have to have a thick skin and move on. Never stop learning, be humble, and good things will happen to you.

    Update: I checked out your portfolio and it was....OK. But it's good for a junior level. Your designs look a bit outdated (no, I'm not saying you should follow trends) but you simply need to get better at the fundamental design principles (type, color, grid, and composition.)

    Good luck!

    3 points
  • Emanuel S.Emanuel S., almost 5 years ago

    Jay, you clearly need to see this, it's only 2 minutes and 19 seconds but it will change your perspective


    3 points
  • Petter AnderssonPetter Andersson, almost 5 years ago

    I had the same experience the first year of my career and I was also really close to giving up. I honestly don't remember why I didn't but I powered through it and it worked out somehow. Years later someone sent me this and it resonated with me so much, I wish I had heard this at that point when I was so close to giving up. Would have made that period a whole lot easier to get through.

    Ira Glass on Creative Work

    Keep at it Jay!

    2 points
  • Account deleted almost 5 years ago

    Honestly, I think the best advice I could give you is keep trying. Being discouraged and confused at the start of your career is totally normal, and it's tough to get your first job when someone basically needs to take a chance on you and give you a shot.

    I'd already been in the industry almost three years when I moved to Portland, and I was job hunting for 2 and a half months before getting a contract position. I sent over 90 emails and had 12 meetings. The final conversation that happened to land me the contract job was actually not even with the company I got hired at. It was an agency that heard my pitch and said "Actually, we're not hiring but we know someone who is." Right before that meeting I had told my wife "What's the point? It's not even technically an interview, why should I go?" I'm glad I went. Now I have 10 years of industry experience and I have a great job.

    Trust me, pushing through what you're feeling right now is going to pay dividends. It also is teaching you a ton of valuable lessons along the way!

    2 points
  • Joe Roberto, almost 5 years ago

    I spent years giving away free/insanely cheap work. This allowed me to fully understand the career & business around design beyond whats taught. This also was the quickest way to build a 'word of mouth' marketing campaign. I had local design agency's/businesses's bashing me on facebook for a while in my beginning due to customers asking them if THEY would do free work like I would. They would post things like 'NO we will NOT work for free, we have to actually pay bills'.

    This technique will keep you always evolving, and will have the most up-to-date portfolio of your work. I have seen 100's of designers come out of school with all the same work in their portfolio, this will get you no where. Invest your 'time' into getting your hands dirty as soon as you can, and it will pay off exponentially down the road.

    Long story short.. don't give up. Instead, do the exact opposite... dive in deeper.

    2 points
  • Emily Hall, almost 5 years ago

    I just want to add in here, I've kept an eye on this thread and as someone who will be graduating in 2019 I have found this thread really helpful! I'm currently on placement in between my second and final year at university and I've pretty much decided I would like to pursue a career as a UX designer. I've taken all this advice on board too for next year.

    I hope you find a job soon Jay and thank you for posting this as it's also given me some insight to the industry post-graduation. All the best to you!

    1 point
  • Sarah A, almost 5 years ago

    1) Yes, it's always okay to quit. If you honestly feel that its not the right industry for you then that is okay. But... you have some options as well.

    2) Design IS about solving problems! You need to be through when applying for positions to find places that try to solve problems, and value design. Look for positions at places with established design teams so you can find a mentor!

    3) It takes everyone a while to get hired. When I last looked for jobs it took almost 6 months to get my stuff together (Cover letters, portfolio, resume), apply to places I was interested in (and a few I wasn't just because), and hear back. Sometimes a company won't contact you for a couple weeks after receiving your resume. Don't be discouraged. (I've been in the industry for 6 years and am a Senior Level designer)

    4) You expect people to contact you back but you've put all your reasoning behind your work in a PDF they have to click to open. Each project should have a few images/screenshots/wireframes on the project page, and a decent summary of timeline/goals/project details. Most recruiters are getting multiple applications in at a time, its your job to make your site as frictionless as possible for them to see the quality and process of your work. Treat your portfolio work like you would a essay, have an intro (the TLDR), the middle bulk (all the details), and a end conclusion (Summary). Companies looking at entry level candidates, should be looking for critical thinking skills, and the ones you want to work for understand your level of design skill will grow as you go along.

    5) Look for positions with a wide variety of titles. There are "Experience Designers, UI Designers, UX Designers, Product Designers, Graphic Designers, Web Designers" Searching for other titles can help you find positions you haven't seen yet.

    Your first few jobs in design will really shape your career, try to be thoughtful when you put yourself out there, it can be a lot of work to get your foot in the door at quality places. But, it pays off down the road.

    1 point
  • Evan MacAlpineEvan MacAlpine, almost 5 years ago

    Along with all the great advice that's here. I've found it most helpful for me to kinda reverse the interview process. Connect with designers and people you respect, just to get together for coffee and pick their brains a bit. This has three benefits: it lets people get to know you outside of the high pressure environment of an interview; it gives you a chance figure out if they're actually people you want to work for; it really helps you grow as a designer since you get to hear about what more experienced industry peeps value in their own work and the work of others.

    Another thing I've found helpful for me is to not just look for a "design job", but to look for companies that I really believe in and want to help grow. I love design and making things work well, but the reality is, that's more of a function than a purpose and I think most people's passion for "design" will undulate like most of our passions do. Working for (or trying to get a job at) a place that you feel is doing good things will help you stay motivated and come through those low points, likely coming out the other end a better designer than before.

    1 point
  • Tyson KingsburyTyson Kingsbury, almost 5 years ago

    it took me a solid year from Graduation to finding my first job. I was pretty depressed about how long it was taking, but I never gave up hope...just keep pushing...your time will come :) -definitely join up with whatever local design groups and meetups there are in your area... all the hints and tips listed here are TOP NOTCH! take advantage of what's being show and told to you here...this is some first rate stuff :)

    1 point
    • Scott ThomasScott Thomas, almost 5 years ago

      I graduated art school right at the start of the recession. It was beyond depressing for my entire class as everyone struggled to land a job. One by one, I watch my colleagues give up and moved fast food jobs, which most are still their today.

      I was lucky and had such a welcoming family. I lived out a suitcase for over a year sleeping on their couches and working on their houses. I become a joke of the family, but I was very determined. I applied to around 50 companies up and down the east coast and only got 4 interviews before I got hired. I didn't apply to any job, I did ones that match my strengths with technology. I stalked hundreds of companies on social media. I send out work promotion pieces that weren't hiring.

      I stumpled upon a 9 month full time internship for an ad agency. Here, I did print, packaging, to even filming a real national commercial. I had a blast in real world experiences.... then still no one would hire me. I just about to give my dream at the end of the week... my family was done with me.... then I got two interviews at the end of that week. One said I had skills and they needed people ASAP. I had the best time of my life at that job. Sometimes when you about to give up, opportunity tends to appear.

      Don't give up.

      1 point
      • Tyson KingsburyTyson Kingsbury, almost 5 years ago

        couldn't have said it better myself :)

        I too graduated into a recession...

        the whole year I was pounding the pavement, working crappy mcjobs to make ends meet, and mainly getting nothing but 'come back when you'e 'DONE' something style interviews... no one wanted a graduate...they wanted someone with experience, but no one was handing out the experience...

        then, 'one fateful day' i handed my resume into a place that designed and printed billboards. ...not exactly the design job I was hoping for, but it was something... and the interview went really well...

        over the next two weeks, I would phone every few days to talk to the designers that had interviewed me... luckily they weren't annoyed... and they hired me.

        after a whole year of nothing, I suddenly had a decent job.

        the 6 months I spent working there were amazing. and with the real-world experience, my portfolio went from 'student work' to actual real projects. The next leap came much easier.

        in other words....NEVER give up... that's honestly the only difference between a successful designer and someone who isn't. JUST KEEP GOING!!!!!

        0 points
  • renato campanarenato campana, almost 5 years ago

    Find someone you want to learn from in your local area, drop them an email and ask for a quick chat to present your book and get some feedback. It's easier to gain perspective at the industry from someone who's been playing the game for a while. I've been a hiring manager for around 7 years, and as painful as the interview process must be for you it is your chance to show people what you're about. My personal advice, present what you're good at and chat through your shortcomings and how you plan to overcome then.

    1 point
  • Steve JobsSteve Jobs, almost 5 years ago


    0 points
  • bvdp ., almost 5 years ago

    Use your imagination and impress them.

    0 points
  • evan kosowski, almost 5 years ago

    I almost quit too. You sound like you feel exactly how I felt. I was literally in the parking lot to go to my first day at Target as a cashier when I got a call to come into my first job.

    Don't give up. Try harder.

    0 points
  • TanyaL L, almost 5 years ago

    first of all, don't give up in case you like this domain! and, do you have a portfolio with work? Maybe you should try freelance websites to begin your development in design ?

    0 points
  • Suraj Naik, almost 5 years ago

    Join Interaction Design Foundation (IDF) with 453 IDF Local Groups in 89 countries all over the world. Take part in your local group’s activities to expand your local career network, meet your next employer, employee, and client, and connect with like-minded people, some of whom you will likely soon call friends.


    0 points
  • Zsolt Kacso, almost 5 years ago

    Maybe I'm missing something. Do you enjoy the work? Then keep going.

    0 points