A Design Learning Mecca
The lively Los Angeles graphic design market has spawned a number of educational programs ranging from quick software training courses to full-time fine art degrees. Whether you’re looking to keep your skills up to date or looking to land a teaching job, these institutions may get you started:
• Art Institute of California — Los Angeles
• American Inter-Continental University
• Platt College
• Westwood College
• The Los Angeles Film School
• University of Southern California
• Los Angeles City College
• East Los Angeles College
• Los Angeles Valley College
• California State University, Los Angeles
• Loyola Marymount University
• Occidental College
• Otis College of Art and Design
• American Film Institute Conservatory
• California Design College
Breaking Into the Film Industry
Like all parts of the film industry, the Los Angeles graphic design market for jobs connected with film is competitive and difficult to crack. Some advice from those in the industry:
• Get a four-year art or design degree, preferably from a Los Angeles school, so you can get a better shot at industry internships.
• Work on student films and low-budget independent projects to build up your portfolio. This will probably involve a lot of unpaid and low-paid labor, and will test your devotion to the goal of working in film.
• The Hollywood Reporter issues a list each week of films that are going into production. This is a good time to get your resume in, when the project leaders are busily trying to ramp up.
• Network like a fiend. It’s OK; everyone else in town is doing the same thing.
• Expect to do a lot of drudge work before you get to work on cool creative projects. British designer Ben Terrett satirically describes his experience with film posters: “You’ll have the lead front centre, cos we paid him (and it will be a him) $20M. We’ll have both female supports on either side of him. We’ll have the title big. No, bigger. No, bigger. Bigger!”
Designing for Television
Television networks and production studios are big business in California, and a Los Angeles freelance graphic designer will do well to learn some video skills to complement print and interactive specialties.
Some of the TV-related graphic design jobs available include:
• Designing advertising and PR pieces to promote TV shows
• Designing promotional material for major TV trade shows
• Designing billboards and other large-format advertising
• Creating motion graphics for show credits, bumps, and promos
• Designing ads for clients
• Designing logos for series and individual shows
Jobs in the Film Industry
Film is a famously difficult industry to get into, and California is full of talented people who want to break into it. Nevertheless, you may find opportunities as a Los Angeles freelance graphic designer that would not be available in other cities. Here are some of the jobs on a film that require design training:
Art director: This person leads the crew working on the look of a production — prop makers, construction crews, landscapers, and so forth. It’s a primarily administrative job, but it is important in translating the production designer’s vision into the final product.
Production designer: This is a high-level job for the person responsible for a film’s overall look.
Graphic designers: In addition to the designers who work directly on a film, there are designers who create the credits, posters, DVD packaging, advertisements, websites, and video games connected with a film.
Graphic designers also work on products used in movies. When the script calls for a 17th-century inn sign or a futuristic bank vault blueprint, a graphic designer must create some of the “set dressings” that add to the look of the film.
Los Angeles Freelance Market
Los Angeles is the entertainment hub of the world, and the Los Angeles freelance graphic design market is lively and varied. In addition to the design jobs that can be found in any large city, the entertainment industry offers opportunities to design for television, video games, and movies.
Of course, this market is also highly competitive, and the cost of living makes it imperative to have strong business skills to keep the money flowing in.
Build your network with organizations like these:
• American Institute of Graphic Artists/Los Angeles
• Interaction Design Association
• Direct Marketing Association of Southern California
• MediaBistro Los Angeles
Many Los Angeles freelance graphic designers with online and interactive skills have found work creating film websites. This work is often done on a freelance basis. Required skills may include:
• Flash and ActionScript
• Interactive game design
• Banner and ad design
These jobs require taking the look and feel of a movie and translating it for the web without giving away key plot points.
As “viral video” becomes more common on the Internet, web video experience and knowledge will become a part of the guerrilla marketing done for independent and student films.
Skills for TV Design
The Los Angeles freelance graphic designer who works on TV-related projects needs training in design topics like typography, color, and composition, but also in software used to create television shows. This includes:
• Adobe AfterEffects
• Adobe Premiere
• Avid video editing
• Final Cut Pro
• 3D design