INDUSTRY GUIDE: An Introduction to Art, Fashion & Design

1. Industry Overview

The term creative economy refers to the socio-economic potential of activities that trade with creativity, knowledge, and information.

At the heart of the creative economy are the industries that lie at the crossroads of art, fashion, design and business. The 21st century will depend more on the generation of knowledge through innovation and many economists believe that governments, private companies, and nonprofits across the world are increasingly recognizing the importance of the creative industries as a generator of jobs, wealth, and cultural engagement.

The industry’s name, on the whole, appeals to students that study creative subjects that are ready to combine their greatest passions with a career in this fast-paced, intense industry.

Company types: What do they do? Who do they do it for? And why do they do it

  • In-house designers - For medium size businesses whose needs range from print work to web design, smaller, more personal design companies are a perfect fit. The environment is very team-oriented, with everyone usually in-the-know with each project. A typical small design company has project managers acting as the go-between from designers to client and can be more personal.

  • Traditional design companies – A traditional design agency is going to offer you a different experience when it comes to your design needs than a freelancer, mainly in the sense that you’ll have an entire creative team working on your project as opposed to a single person. An account director or account manager interacts with the client to decipher the requirements for a campaign or other design elements. They make a creative brief which is then shared with various departments who collaborate to develop the concepts into deliverables.

  • Freelancers - Some designers choose to work as freelancers. As a one-man team they likely work from home to complete projects and don’t earn a set salary. They typically charge an hourly rate for their services and may depend on a constant influx of work to make a living. The number of hours these types of designers work for can vastly range from just a couple hours here and there to a full time work week. It all depends on how much work they seek out. Some designers may even work freelance as a side job while working full time somewhere else. Freelancers can find projects on websites like and

2. The Job Market

Market outlook: Who's hiring?

The United States and the United Kingdom are global leaders in the arts, heritage, and media. The Los Angeles-based creative industry business, for example, leads this field at $504 billion, and more than 40 million people work in the US creative sector, which has added approximately 400,000 new jobs over the past decade.

New York City is home to over 14,000 creative businesses and non-profits and around 9% of all creative jobs in the United States.

The five boroughs are home to 28% of the country’s fashion designers, 14% of producers and directors, 12% of print and media editors and 12% of art directors. Over 900 fashion companies have their headquarters in New York City. New York Fashion Week’s annual September and February events generate close to $900 million in total economic impact. New York City is home to more than 75 major fashion trade shows plus thousands of showrooms.

The creative industries continue to represent a significant part of London’s economy, as well as the creative industries for the UK as a whole. London’s creative industries are more productive than the average for London’s economy as a whole. The productivity of the creative industries in London was 25 per cent higher than the average across all sectors of the London economy.

Roles, career paths, earnings and work-life balance: What can I do?

  • Graphic Design: create designs such as advertisements, websites, magazines, computer games, products, exhibitions, and more. Aid in the production of new and innovative ideas and cohesively work with creative department.

  • Interior Design: assist with internal space renovation, along with flooring, carpet, and paint selection. Develop interior strategy and sketch design plans. Help to identify materials and furnishings.

  • Textile and Fashion Design: create designs for woven, printed, and knitted textiles. You will assist in areas of merchandising, product design and development, product cycles, and campaign promotion.

  • General Design: designers typically specialize in one area of design, such as fashion, packaging, product, graphics, illustration and many more, although creative cross-overs are also common.

Depending on their level of responsibility and the company they work for, designers may work to their own brief or be given a brief with specific requirements. Freelance designers tend to have a larger portion of control over how they spend their day and the projects that they work on.

Tasks depend on the sector in which you intern but may include:

  • Visualizing an idea and producing a design by hand or using computer-aided design (CAD).
  • Keeping-up-to-date with emerging trends as well as general trends relating to manufacturing techniques, popular brands and cult designs.
  • Planning and developing ranges of products.
  • Working with others in the design team, such as buyers and forecasters, to develop products to meet a brief.
  • Liaising closely with sales, buying and production teams on an ongoing basis to ensure an item suits the customer, market and price points.
  • Understanding design from a technical perspective, e.g. producing patterns, toiles and technical specifications for designs.
  • Sourcing, selecting and buying materials.
  • Adapting existing designs for mass production.
  • Overseeing production.
  • Negotiating with customers and suppliers.


Salaries can range from $40 - $80K+ depending on position, experience and specific company. The US National Average industry salary is $50k

A typical career path may look like so:

  • Assistant
  • Executive
  • Supervisor
  • Manager
  • Director

Work/life balance

Work/life balance: 3/5

Most creative occupations are demanding beyond typical office hours and as such, you may experience positive work/life balance for a time and then expect a dramatic swing.

Academic, hard and soft skills: What do I need?

You will need to exhibit:

  • Creativity, innovation and flair.
  • An ability to generate ideas and concepts.
  • Design and visualization skills, either by hand or through CAD.
  • Familiarity with programs such as Sketch, Adobe Creative Suite, Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Acrobat etc.
  • Commercial awareness and business knowledge.
  • Self-promotional skills and confidence.
  • Interpersonal, communication and networking skills.
  • Ability to negotiate and to influence others.
  • Good organization and time management

3. Industry Knowledge: Things you should know

Terminology: What terms, phrases and concepts should I know?

  • Alignment - The position of elements within the margins. This can apply to text, images or other elements. There are four types of alignment: Left, right, justified and centered.

  • CMYK - Stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (or Black). As a subtractive, reflected light color, it works on the basis of reflected light. It is the standard color mode for sending documents, mainly sourced for printing – be it magazines, newspapers, flyers, brochures, annual reports. In subtractive color, white is absence of color while black is the combination of color.

  • RGB - Stands for Red, Green and Blue. As an additive, projected light color system, it works with anything that emits or radiates light, the mixture of different wavelengths of light creates different colors. Typically used for screen output... In additive color, white is the combination of color, while black is the absence of color.

  • Color palette (color chart) - The defined set of colors that are acceptable to use in a project. Each color should have a set value rather than a name such as red, purple or mint. There is no set number of colors in a palette; they often vary by project and include three or more hues, shades and tints.

  • Copyfitting - The process of adjusting type size, tracking and line spacing to make it fit in the desired space. Copyfitting techniques can include manipulations to the font (size and spacing) or editing to make the words fit.

  • DPI - A key term when referring to resolution, DPI stands for ‘Dots Per Inch’ and refers to the number of dots per inch on a printed page. Generally, the more dots per inch, the better quality the image – and 300DPI is the standard for printing images.

  • FPO - This is a placeholder image, typically low resolution, which is used to hold a certain shape or size before the final image is ready.

  • Hero image - The biggest, boldest image or graphic in the design. This often-oversized image is the focal point of a design.

  • Negative space (white space) - The unused space around your design is referred to with these terms. White space is generally defined as space outside the text and image areas while negative space is often part of the overall design scheme. Both should be thought of as intended spaces and planned out.

  • Pantone - The Pantone Matching System is a proprietary color system created by the Pantone company and is commonly called just Pantone. The standardized system allows designers to speak the same language in terms of color for a variety of publishing options.

  • Proof (paste-up, wireframe, mockup) - An early copy of a design project that is used to look at concepts, check for errors and serve as a tool for checking the status of a project.

  • PPI - Another key term when referring to resolution, PPI refers to ‘Pixel Per Inch’ and is the number of pixels per inch in your image. This will affect the print size of your photo and will affect the quality of the output.

  • Raster images – These images are created using thousands of pixels. They are not easily resized as are Vector images; enlarging a raster image too much will diminish quality. Photographs are an example of a raster image.

  • Resolution – Number of dots per inch, or dpi, in an image. Images for the web are usually be around 72 dpi, or a low resolution, while images for print should be around 300 dpi, or a higher resolution.

  • Vector image – A vector image, such as a logo, is one that can be easily resized without loss of quality.

Hot topics: What topical happenings should I be able to discuss?

The shift from specialist to multi-skilled: Specialists will always have their place, but you should prepare to skill up and join the majority to compete for jobs in this industry.

Pushing the limits of technology: New announcements concerning 3D printing materials such as glass and graphene and 3D printed objects that shatter the previous limitations on shape and size are just around the corner. These “big area” 3D printing machines hold the promise of manufacturing an entire airplane wing structure or blades for massive wind turbines in a single print.

Giving the power to the consumer: Putting designs in the hands of the consumer is increasingly becoming the norm for fashion brands. Companies like Nike have experienced huge success with custom shoes and allowing users to choose their own colors and materials, and embroider their names on sneakers. Furthermore, kids can visit the Build-a-Bear Workshop to construct their own stuffed animal, even including a custom sound chip. Personalization looks set to reign supreme in 2016.

4. Resume & Interview Preparation: Things you should do

Resume content: How can I make my skills, experiences and interests count?

Joining design-based clubs is an excellent way of showing that you are passionate about your chosen industry. Think graphic design, fashion and art societies – anything that shows you have an eye for the creative.

Examples of your creative skills are also appealing for potential employers. If you have evidence of a successful design project or even practice mock-ups, make sure you can show them off. Online portfolios are the perfect way of showing that you are actively involved in furthering your skills and pursuing a career in this sector.

Sharing content and engaging in relevant debate on social media is not only a good way to keep up to date with industry happenings but also another avenue to publicly show that you are serious about your passions.

Interview preparation: What interview questions do I need to master?

  • What kind of design software are you familiar with?
  • What is your design process?
  • What have you learned from your mistakes as a designer?
  • What are your design career goals?
  • What do you know about our company/brand and our designs?
  • What qualities do you consider necessary for a good designer?
  • What kinds of design projects interest you?

Must read blogs and websites:

Good Design Makes Me Happy - Celebrating all that is good in the world of design, from packaging and typography to signage and business cards.

99U - Filled with tips on how to be a better employee and leader, daily insights on productivity and an inside look at what it’s like to work in a creative environment.

Illustrator’s Lounge - A daily dose of inspirational illustration.

Digital Arts Online: Full of news, reviews, features, portfolios and guides to keep you up to date with digital artistry.

Inspiration Hut: Regularly updated collection of artwork from across a variety of creative sectors. Endless motivation.

Art News: The oldest and most widely-circulated art magazine in the world, Art News has been a leading source of industry updates since 1902.

The Dsgn Blog: Founded and curated by Croatian designer Ena Baćanoić, The Dsgn Blog has a focus on the work of young designers and students from all over the world.

Design is Fine.History is Mine. : A fun tumblr feed with a focus on nostalgia and old-school design, penned by a teacher of design history from Germany.

Eye on Design: The blog of the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA), Eye on Design showcases the best new multidisciplinary work from emerging and established designers across the world.

Designspiration: You can browse this selection of high-level design inspiration by keywords or even color, so if you want to be inspired by blue or a particular phrase, this sit can deliver.

SiteInspire: Choosy in its selections, SiteInspire is a collection of the best web design out there, specialising in clean and simple sites. Sometimes, less is definitely more. You can even submit your own design for inclusion.

Typewolf:You know the font you want but you can’t find it? Head to Typewolf, an independent typography resource to make it easy to find the perfect lettering for any project.

Must watch:

The Director: An Evolution in Three Acts (2013) - Filmmaker Christina Voros examines the work of Italian fashion designer Frida Giannini, the creative director for Gucci.

Design and Thinking (2012) - This movie will show you the ins and outs of 21st century design, such as, how design thinking applies to a business model and how people are changing the world with their own creative minds. The movie gives you a full filmmaking viewpoint on design.

PRESSPAUSEPLAY (2011) - The digitalization and the accessibility of art and design have given artists an open door to creating as much as their creativity will allow. Anyone can express their artistic side in so many ways and forms. People usually do that because they have an idea or emotion to share. The question covered by this movie is: In a culture where anyone creates art, how can you distinguish between the good art and the bad art? And more importantly, will this postmodern movement lead to a mediocrity of art?

Helvetica (2007) - Helvetica is an independent film that is all about typography and graphic design, thus, its is a must watch film for any graphic designer out there. In this film, you will be taken on a journey that explores that history of the Helvetica typeface and how it has changed the world ever since its conception. Aside from that, it features interviews with famous graphic designers, including David Carson and Massimo Vignelli.

Other useful links and sources