An Open Letter to Graduating Design Students by FIDM Graphic Design Graduate, Rebecca Button

Recent Graphic Design/Entertainment graduate Rebecca Button shares some advice for all graduating design students after completing her first freelance project, designing theatrical key art (also known as a movie poster art) for Myriad Pictures– no small feat! Button graduated from FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in 2011 while interning for leading design firm, Petrol Advertising.

Congratulations, class of 2011…. enjoy!

Rebecca Button Headshot

“There’s the world how we imagine it to be and the world as it really is.  A lot of (metaphorical) hand-holding happens while you’re in school.  Your teachers and fellow students support you in ways you take for granted and somehow you believe this will translate to your life after graduation as well.  Admittedly, it’s a nice thought but you are about to have some eye-opening experiences.

One of mine happened recently when given the opportunity to do some freelance work for Myriad Pictures creating theatrical key art.  A first crack at my dream job and I had no idea what to expect.  Well, to avoid any surprises for those of you yet to venture out on the same path, I submit here a few tips that may help you navigate the REAL world of entertainment advertising.

time is of the essence

Time is of the essence. Long gone are the glorious days of spending two weeks (or more) on developing a concept for your key art. The average turn around time is one to two days and turning in not one comp but THREE. Things move very quickly in this game and you have to be prepared to handle the tight deadlines. And here you thought all-nighters would be a thing of the past…while you’re still developing your lightning speed, all nighters may still be happening for you.

Keep yourself available. Because of the aforementioned deadlines, things are happening rapidly. After a comp is chosen, revision after revision, after revision (after revision…) must be made in order to ensure the copy, billing and artwork are correct.  Your client is relying on you to be available to make these changes immediately and keep the ball rolling. If you are unreachable, this will cause the project to be delayed and that is a no-win situation for everyone. On my most recent job, we were down to the wire on a Friday afternoon when I was informed the director’s name was misspelled and everything had to be re-printed.  Had I not been available to quickly make the changes, we wouldn’t have made it to the printers in time and you can only imagine how that would have gone over…

Ask questions. If you aren’t sure, ASK.  Never assume that because you are the designer you are the “owner” of the project and can do whatever you like.  That being said, use your noggin—(understandably, common sense is not a commodity afforded to everyone, but if you’ve got it, use it).  Your client will be grateful.

Be confident. You are getting paid for your design skills and knowledge which means you need to voice any concerns or suggestions you may have to the client about design decisions being made. They may not end up doing what you’ve suggested, but by expressing your opinion your client has more information with which to make their decisions.

COMMUNICATE. Most of the communication was done through a dizzying number of emails. It’s the way of the world now, but things like tone of voice and body language are lost. To avoid confusion, if you can, work in-house. If the client prefers email, respect that, but definitely don’t shy away from a phone call if directions through email are unclear to you.

Work as a team/ a.k.a. Don’t pass the buck. If you see a copy error, let them know.  Sometimes it may not be an error so you always want to double check if it’s okay to change it, but don’t assume that since you’re “just a designer” you can’t also proofread and keep an extra eye out for mistakes. The end goal is to create a flawless piece of advertising that both you and the client are proud to present to the public.

Ask for help. Let’s face it, chances are you aren’t God’s gift to design (if you are, then well done but this still applies to you). If the project is beyond the scope of your abilities, do the best you can and then seek guidance from more experienced designers in order to get the job done. It’s frustrating to not be able to deliver what a client wants on your own, but if you look at it as a learning opportunity and make sure that the job is completed properly, everyone will be happy.

Pay attention in Pre-Press Production class. Yes, you will be required to use these skills. As the designer you are expected to be able to communicate with the printer and deliver print-ready mechanicals. I know there are people out there who do pre-press for a living, so you don’t have to but it’s a REALLY GOOD IDEA as a designer to learn it too.  Everyone will love you for it and it may just be the difference between landing a job or not.


Work hard, do your best and go after it!  It’s an amazing feeling to finish a project and realize you are officially a part of the REAL entertainment advertising world.  Best of luck to you all!


Have more questions?  Feel free to contact me through my Blog the “Ask Me Anything” link at the top of the page.

Questions/comments? Email the editor, Mani O’Brien at mo’




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Author: Mani O'Brien

Mani O’Brien is the Online Editor for the FIDMDigitalArts Blog and the Social Media Marketing Manager for FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising. She earned her bachelor of arts degree in print journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism & Mass Communications at Arizona State University in 2006, and Associate of Arts degree in Graphic Design (Professional Designation) at FIDM in 2010. When she’s not brainstorming social media marketing ideas or writing about the graphic design and digital media, she enjoys practicing yoga, reading magazines, and hanging out with friends and family in Los Angeles.

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