Transitioning from Data Analyst to Graphic Design/Branding

Advice needed - I've been working this year to tranistion into graphic design. I come from a data analytics/marketing background. I've taken many courses and have gotten real world experience by freelancing. I'm starting to look for full-time design jobs and am wondering if there are roles in the world of graphic design or branding where such expertise could be an asset, yet I am also directly engaging in the creation of content and graphics. For clarification, I more want to leverage my knowledge of data and reporting vs actively perform any analysis.

In addition, what would be the best way to position myself during this career change?

Hi Ellen,I'm a designer and there could be a space in information design where you could leverage your data + reporting insight into data storytelling, or you can utilise your marketing background for more agency/social media-led work. But it's difficult to say what your niche could be without knowing your design strengths/interests, and whqt you ultimately want out of working as a designer. Do you have a portfolio with more examples you can share?Happy to share my insights if you want an honest opinion about the state of the market. I'm based in London so it's going to be UK-centric but yeah, if you have more info and want to share, context is good too! 🙂
Hi Meg! Thanks for responding. I did have that thought too and haven’t attempted much data visualization in design. Not sure I am passionate about it enough to make primary focus. I really love advertising, print design and branding. Here’s my portfolio to see a bit of that Yes, any insights you have on the market would be great!
Got it! First off, I think a non-traditional route into design is possible - I was a media + cultural theory grad and I did not go back to school for design. I did a three month course, then a few months of interning at smaller studios before my first full-time job. - What kind of course did you take? What was the focus?If it's anything like the one I did, it's geared towards creating a portfolio based on course projects. Personally my issue with a lot of design education is the emphasis on 'boutique' projects - branding fancy artisan teas, experimental booklets on niche topics, doing posters for film festivals, designing book jackets with the most high-end print finishes etc. The reality is the majority of graphic designers don't work on these types of projects. It's really competitive to get into branding studios, work on cultural projects and even agencies. They often pay poorly and require insane hours because it's the "prestige" work that most design grads want to do.I don't think you should overlook any areas where you might have an edge, even if design courses have steered you more towards a specific type of project. - Why do you want to work on brand/print/ad work? I know this is a strange question but designers need to be honest about their motivations for going into design because graphic design is not primarily artistic, it's commercial art with some very specific rules - we're problem solvers designing for effective outcomes. - Any thoughts on the kind of work environment you're looking for? Any studios/companies specifically?- Where are you based? What's the current work climate like?- Do you value work/life balance?- What are your salary expectations?- Are you okay with starting at the most junior level?Re: market. This is the toughest hiring market I've ever seen, especially with the advent of AI which has made companies devalue designers even more than they already were. So it's doubly hard when you don't have experience and all the junior roles have insane skill requirements. This is not a pick and choose market, a lot of experienced designers are taking roles they never would have dreamed of 5 years ago or being forced into freelance positions because perm, FT roles are being eliminated as work dries up in agencies and studios. In-house has a lot of advantages and I have always advocated for more designers in-house for job security/work-life balance, ability to be closer to decision-makers and because you get a better perspective of brand/customer needs. Tech firings earlier this year notwithstanding, it is generally 'safer'.If you have solid marketing skills and are familiar with all the latest metrics, SEO etc, you could try pitch yourself as a data-led designer in a smaller organisation where everyone wears different hats and needs to lend expertise when needed. Potential problems:- you need to be a confident generalist designer (if you don't have exp, your portfolio needs to be great)- limited learning opportunities due to lack of senior direction (if you're the only designer)- confidence to advocate for design (if you're the only designer) - common-ish issue. I've seen seniors who can't advocate for design TBH- could end up back in marketing if design isn't a true priority within the companyI think you need honest/realistic expectations of what your first role will be, it might not be at the sexiest company but if you're cutting your teeth, look for somewhere with good design (even if you think it's boring, that's the challenge!) and a design team/senior creative to learn from. I hope this isn't over the line, but as one designer to another I think you need to work on your portfolio before applying to roles you really want. Your portfolio should be a reflection of your style/taste and edited to be your very best work (quality vs. quanity) with some context around your decisions for design. It's really hard to see that in the current iteration because there isn't a clear narrative around projects, and there is too much breadth. What does your portfolio say about the kind of work you want to do? What will employers see? I do portfolio reviews for designers from time to time, so if you want some more specific feedback off Elpha, I can help.Apologies for the long message but hopefully, it's provided a clearer picture of what's going on at the moment!
My program also doesn't have too much of a focus. It's a year long with classes in illustrator, photoshop, indesign, html/css, and typography. A lot of the projects were specific in format, but open ended in terms of subject. I appreciate what you said about going in a direction where I may have an edge. I haven't spent any time working on data visualizations as a graphic designer, but I will explore that! The market being how it is, I am definitely open to different types of positions and happy to go in at junior level to get experience. Thanks for the feedback on my portfolio. I'd love to chat more about it if you're open and will shoot you a DM!
I think itd be easy for you to find a place in an e-commerce company and help bridge the gap as a marketing designer. You could leverage your background in developing creative for email campaigns, site assets, and digital ads.
Thanks! I was thinking along the same lines because it ties in some of my other experience!