What Do Those in Digital and New Media Jobs Do?
Those who work in digital and new media, like graphic designers or illustrators, create original drawings and art to either provide pleasing illustrations or to convey information. For example, these types of graphic artists can draw pictures for publications like magazines, books, or greeting cards. They may also illustrate wrapping paper just for "fun." Oftentimes, they have to use their art in order to communicate a message. One great example of this would be working with commercials, where "storyboards" or some other rendering of the finished product is usually made to construct a blueprint of sorts for the actors, directors, etc., to follow.
Most people who work in visual media jobs, or viz media jobs, have to be able to follow specific instructions with their drawings. In other words, it's not the same as being an artist like van Gogh or Picasso, who were the more purely "creative" types and created art specifically based on their own choosing. Instead, these types of illustrators and graphic artists in new media jobs have to be able to meet exact specifications and follow guidelines established for a particular project.
For example, technical illustrators may produce drawings that show how machines work in specific detail to help mechanics and others who need this type of illustration to figure out how to maintain, repair, or solve problems with machines. Similarly, medical textbook illustrators may render specific drawings of the human body so as to show how organs and such are placed. Those who illustrate scientific works may draw realistic renderings of planetary formations, plant life, and so on to help professors and other teaching professionals teach concepts to students.
Another type of media job is that of the graphic designer. Graphic designers do get to exercise creativity more than technical illustrators do, but they still must follow specific guidelines and deadlines. They may work in publishing and help with the layout of newspapers, magazines, and books; they may create logos for businesses; or they may even work in television and create graphics. Still others work on the Internet, designing interactive media, multimedia projects, and web pages.
Therefore, media jobs, including digital media jobs, are about as diverse as can be. These types of illustrators and designers not only work in new media, like digital media, but they may also work with traditional paint and canvas, pencil and paper, and so on. The sky is really the limit with this type of work.
Education and Background
Of course, you must start out with an innate skill and desire to draw and create. You must have imagination, and you must have knowledge specific to the type of drawing or illustration you want to do. For example, as a medical illustrator you must have specific knowledge of the human body and its inner workings. Today, because of new technology, computer graphics courses are as essential as traditional graphics courses are. In most cases, for a traditional job within a company you'll need some education in illustration or graphic design. Schooling can be limited to a two- or three-year program, but is often desired to include a full four-year bachelor's degree. Many employers prefer or even require that you complete a four-year bachelor's program in your desired field to be considered for employment.
No matter where you go to school, a good art school is going to teach graphic design and illustration, including aspects related to composition, layout, advertising, design, lettering, and (increasingly important today) computer graphics. In addition, if you get more specialized, you may work on elements of display, typography, or package design. If you plan to freelance, it's a good idea to take advertising and business courses too, so that you know how to get the word out that you are available for hire.
If you're going to be a medical illustrator, you'll need extensive training in the sciences as well as graphic arts. If you wish to be a medical illustrator, a master's degree is increasingly important to prospective employers.
Applying for Work
No matter where you apply for work, it's important that you keep a portfolio of your best work to show to prospective clients or employers. In many cases, your school's placement office can help you find work once you leave school as well. If you're a new artist, it can be especially useful to apply to companies that need graphic designers and illustrators. You can also peruse the Internet for jobs in these areas. In this case, you'll need a resume that showcases experience you've had on any jobs you've held, but just as important is that you have a portfolio to show to prospective employers.
Job Opportunities and Outlook
This particular area is undergoing a significant shift at present because computer graphics programs and websites with stock photographs have allowed many publishers, art directors, and writers to produce their own artwork. However, medical illustration will be a growing field as further advances are made, so these advances will need to be illustrated or otherwise visually rendered.
In addition, graphic designers are also going to be in high demand because advertising, product design, and marketing all use graphic design in their efforts to promote products and services. Web pages, too, are likely to be a hot market for graphic designers as the Internet continues to expand. However, competition is fierce since these are very popular fields for artists to get into.
Compensation and Working Conditions
This field is so varied that working conditions and salary are varied, too. If you're hired as a full-time graphic designer, you may work in manufacturing, advertising, or publishing. As a medical illustrator, you'll usually be illustrating medical texts and other ancillary products. If you're self-employed in any of these fields, your hours will be much more flexible, but your income will also be much more varied.
Salary for graphic artists and others similarly employed averages about $38,000 a year, with medical illustrators making upwards of $60,000 a year.
Media jobs and digital media jobs continue to be a growing field, especially in the areas of graphic design and medical illustration. Medical illustration especially is going to be a growing field as advances in medicine produce more work to be done and therefore require more illustrators. Medical jobs are very rewarding, creative, and challenging, but are also very competitive and therefore job attainment is not as easy as it might appear to be at first. Nonetheless, for those with talent and drive, it can be a very rewarding and lucrative career.