For the past ten years, I danced professionally and performed at several venues, with celebrity artists, and in a variety of roles at both Disney and Universal. While I danced professionally, I completed my bachelors slowly and paid for it myself by supplementing the cost with scholarships. After college, I leveraged my understanding of marketing language to teach myself visual design. Through a few internships and tons of self teaching, I taught myself graphic design and now work for an INK 500 digital marketing company as a multimedia designer!
How to Teach Yourself Design without a Degree in Design
During my senior year at Rollins College, I took a communication class that required “professional looking” presentations and minor work with the video editing software, “After Effects.” At the time, I also committed to working with the school newspaper in a design role as they were in need of more designers to layout the paper than writers. Luckily the designers patiently taught me just enough of InDesign to layout the paper. I ended up applying that knowledge to making my presentations professional looking in my communication class and started to fall in love with layout design.
Commit to Practicing the Skill and Utilize your Resources
I quickly realized I liked the possibility of a career focused on designing more than copy writing or account managing for an agency. However, since my degree was in Communication and not design, I had a far way to come. I continued to join marketing based campus organizations and put myself out there as someone who could fill the need to design meetup flyers. Every time I committed to designing a flyer, I spent countless hours watching YouTube videos on how to use Illustrator and scanning Pinterest for layout ideas. Below are a few resources that definitely helped me during my journey:
- The Orange County Public Library – The downtown Orlando Library has a floor called The Melrose Center and teaches free mini technical classes. Whenever possibly, I would take their Photoshop or Illustrator classes so that I could ask questions about tools.
- Lynda – Membership is free with your library card.
- YouTube Channels – PHLearn
Create Opportunity for Yourself
As my senior year closed, I interned at a variety of organizations in marketing and public relations roles. During every interview, I also mentioned that I could design flyers or social posts and I definitely believe that always helped me secure each role. Once I finished my fourth internship, I had enough designs for a small portfolio. I built a design site with the free website portfolio service Adobe offers with a Creative Cloud membership.
Leveraging your Current Relationships for Opportunity
After I completed several internships and built a very small portfolio, I landed a job as a designer for an up and coming female cosmetic surgeon. While I worked for the cosmetic surgeon, I started freelancing with a high end retail store and boutique yoga studio. Both the retail store and yoga studio knew I worked for this specific doctor and liked her marketing efforts. My freelance work was first built on establishing those relationships by going to yoga and occasionally stopping in the retail store. Maintain a strong work ethic and a quality reputation proved to help me in my journey of securing clients without a formal design background.
Do I Still Dance?
Today, I still maintain my status at both Disney by dancing at “The Beauty and the Beast” show at Hollywood Studios and Universal as a Beaxubaton at “The Harry Potter” themed world. Luckily both parks allow me to work less than a handful of times a year and still keep my status and employee perks! I always take dance classes whenever I can at Underground!