When Is Someone a Professional?

May 5, 2011

The subject came up recently in discussion forums and I wanted to share my thoughts on the subject. At what point is a graphic artist considered a professional? Of course there are those who claim that simply owning or using a particular brand of software is the main requirement. I’m sorry, but that doesn’t really mean anything. Software is simply a tool and artists created quality work for years without a computer at all. In the hands of a knowledgeable user, most any software can get the job done. My opinion is that CorelDRAW can get a job done quicker than competitors in most cases. That isn’t really what this discussion is about.

Much of the discussion focused on the point at which an artist should be pursuing a paying job. Some would argue as soon as they had the software and equipment needed. If I were to go buy a hammer, saw and other tools right now, that definitely wouldn’t make me capable of taking on a paid job as a carpenter. I’m sure I could struggle though a project, but I’m not sure the result would be of a high enough quality to ask for payment.

I have seen users who purchase a piece of output equipment and CorelDRAW and assume they can start charging clients for work immediately. These users have little to no knowledge of how to use CorelDRAW and even less technical knowledge of the graphic they need to create. Gaining the knowledge of the tool (CorelDRAW) and the things that make a quality file take time. Even experienced users are always learning new things that allow them to produce artwork faster and to create files that output properly.

A phrase that comes to mind is “don’t bite off more than you can chew”. For those who are new, make sure to start with small jobs where you can afford to learn along the way. The worst thing you can do is take on a large job on a tight deadline involving a huge learning curve on your part. That is a recipe for disaster, possibly financial disaster for you.

Another aspect of the discussion involved training. Is is possible to be self-taught or is training required? Some of the arguments against formal graphics arts training pointed out a huge failure in the schools today. They don’t teach graphics arts, they teach how to use Adobe software. Adobe has some great software, but the software does not make anyone an artist. Both good and bad artwork can be created with software.

I’ll give a brief example of a class I just finished. It was a photography class at the local community college geared towards getting the most out of camera RAW files. For the part of the class where we are using software, the instructor has us using Adobe Photoshop Elements. To his credit, he has often mentioned that the same things can be done in a number of different packages. The key is to understand the techniques for adjusting the images in the software as those same techniques can be applied in other software that processes RAW files. Prior to this class I had not used Photoshop Elements and I have no plans to use it after the class. Yet I have already used the techniques learned in both Corel PHOTO-PAINT and Bibble 5, my tools of choice.

Can you become a professional by teaching yourself? Absolutely. It just takes longer than if you have good training to help speed up the process. As a provider of CorelDRAW training, I know that my CorelDRAW Unleashed training and CorelDRAW Unleashed Training Boot Camps will boost your knowledge much faster than doing it all on your own. While they have a reasonable cost, it is a cost that can easily be recouped by the time saved and the knowledge gained. I try my best to not only show you how to use CorelDRAW and Corel PHOTO-PAINT, but also to create files that will output properly.

This is a question that doesn’t have an exact answer in my opinion. For those who are new, I suggest you take the time to learn the craft of good design as well as the software. And if you already an experienced designer, keep learning as there is always something new to learn.

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Foster D. Coburn III

Foster D. Coburn III is author of 13 best-selling books on CorelDRAW and has been a contributor to numerous technology and graphics-related magazines. Foster has taken many projects, including this Web site, from the early design stage through to a finished piece. He has been a featured speaker at many graphics conferences. His first Web site was built in 1995 and he has been working exclusively in WordPress since 2013.

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