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Career: Digital Artist

A Day in the life of a Digital Artist

A digital artist makes art using the computer as his or her primary tool. This art can be intended for a CD-ROM, video game, or website; but almost as often, it is printed out and hung on a wall. Individuals who crave stability, please note: Change in this field is constant. Whether you’re an illustrator, graphic designer, animator, or game designer, the software you use is constantly evolving. Depending on the company they work for, digital artists may wear many different hats and contribute to five or six projects at one time. Most of their day is spent developing an interface for a project, drawing pictures, assembling the art, and making buttons for users to click on. “The work atmosphere is like a big clubhouse, and we can easily be there until midnight or two in the morning, particularly when working on a deadline. We easily can put in a 12-hour day, and 10-hour days are the average. That’s because we’re in the hot seat and clients want things yesterday,” says one artist at a startup company.

Paying Your Dues

A general art education is a good first step, especially for networking, as so much of this industry involves working with creative people in other fields. While a job with a print magazine was once the best way to break into commercial art, the Internet now allows young artists to land jobs as a junior/assistant designer, website designer, art director, illustrator, animator, or game designer. Today there aren’t any steadfast rules or traditional channels to paying your dues. You may be relegated to the toilet paper account as a junior art director at an ad agency, but if you’re stuck in the same role at an interactive agency, you can make the toilet paper talk, dance, and sing. You’re not going to be making complicated video games in the beginning. There is much to learn about how to manipulate the software; it takes time to be able to grasp the intricacies of its usability and understand a language that’s not totally developed. If you can say that you are not only an illustrator and graphic designer, but also know typography, understand color and page layout, and know how to optimize graphics for use on the Web, you will be an extremely valuable commodity. Right now, the demand for creative talent is immense, largely because the Internet is comprised of a world of technicians and engineers, and the people who start companies and develop software generally don’t have an understanding of how to create art. Because every project involves teamwork, communication is as important as artistic skills. In Web companies where technology often breaks inexplicably (particularly around a deadline), being calm, practical, and logical is an asset. While creativity and imagination are the most important attributes, understanding what makes things work and an analytical ability to think like a programmer is often very helpful. In the Internet arena, an artist’s unbridled creativity should be balanced with logic and analytical skills.

Associated Careers

A talented artist is infinitely marketable; he or she can work in virtually any field. An illustrator may work on storyboards for movies or music videos, for example; an animator could move from the Internet into film. While a graphic designer can’t jump to industrial design without further training, one could make the transition to packaging design. In school, you generally choose a particular field of design, and unique training is provided for each field. In graphic design, on which Web design is based, you could also make the leap to book or advertising design.

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