Being a graphic design can be really hard. It’s stressful, you have to work with demanding clients, meet insane deadlines, and you need to constantly be creative even when you’re creatively drained. So what happens when you don’t want to do graphic design anymore? What career options do you have if you want to take a different path without starting from zero?
When you don’t want to do graphic design anymore, your best option is to take another career path that you can build from your experience in graphic design. As long as you venture into another creative career or design-adjacent job, many of your skills and experiences should be transferable. If, however, you want to do something entirely detached from design (accounting, law, medicine, etc.), you will likely need to start at the beginning of that career.
For the purposes of this post, though, we’ll go over some of the most logical career transitions to make if you don’t want to do graphic design anymore.
Why You Don’t Want To Do Graphic Design Anymore
There are a lot of reasons why you might not be interested in continuing your career as a graphic designer. Maybe you’re sick of the clients, terrible management, working with unrealistic deadlines, the creative demand, or maybe it’s all of that rolled together. Or perhaps you’ve just discovered something you’re more interested in that you want to pursue.
A few of the different areas that I’ve become interested in over my years as a graphic designer are branding, social media, UI, management, and writing (which I do here). All of these are generally minor aspects of graphic design that you can flesh out into full careers if you build them up. It really just depends on where your interests lie and where you want to work.
I’ve known a few people who started their careers in graphic design but have since taken different creative routes, while many other still remain in design, but are doing so in senior positions. Let’s take a look at some of the design-adjacent careers a graphic designer could follow that are still mostly creative in nature or related to art & design.
This is actually a fantastic career path if you don’t want to do graphic design anymore because it’s such a natural transition from designing with a strategy to building that strategy from scratch. Depending on the actual nature of the job, much of the day-to-day design production work is eliminated for a brand strategist. Instead, the focus is on developing visual and messaging strategies for brands, creating marketing campaigns that tie-in, and working to create a plan for the brand going forward.
If you’re interested in learning more about going into brand strategy, check out the book 60-Minute Brand Strategist by Idris Mootee, or the video ‘What is Brand Strategy and How To do it‘ from The Futur. Skillshare also has a few courses on branding to check out such as ‘Crafting a Consistent Brand’ by Chris Fredricks.‘
Design Manager or Creative Director
Depending on which aspects of graphic design you’re trying to escape, managing a design and/or marketing team might be perfect for you. Alternatively, simply having the creative control on projects might make all the difference to the appeal of your job.
In a management position, your design experience will allow you to have a better idea of how to manage your team’s time, how to allocate projects, and how to coordinate with people outside the design and/or marketing department. The job itself could have little or no actual designing in it and may entail more strategy, meetings, or coordination. It depends on where you’re working.
As a creative director, art director, or creative lead, you have creative control over the projects you’re given so you can decide how to allocate your team’s skills, what direction the project should go, and have final say on the project deliverables before they see the client.
I would recommend learning more about leadership and project management if you’re interested in either of these career paths. Check out the book Herding Tigers by Todd Henry, or the course Leadership & Management Essentials by Alan Jarvis on Skillshare.
If you really enjoy the messaging creation aspect of design projects, you might be interested in becoming a full time copywriter. Skilled copywriters are very valuable in coming up with brand names, taglines, brand messaging, text copy for articles, advertising, and social media messaging.
I would recommend getting quite a bit of additional training in copywriting, branding, and advertising. Copywriting doesn’t translate as directly from a design career as other paths do so you need to make sure your skills are up to par. There are plenty of great books on copywriting so read as many as you can get your hands on. There are some great beginner copywriting classes on Skillshare like Copywriting for Beginners by Jesse Forrest. If you want to learn more about copywriting for advertising specifically, I would recommend The Advertising Concept Book by Pete Barry.
If you don’t want to do graphic design anymore, jumping over to interior design might be the perfect switch. Interior design is all about creating beautiful and functional living and working spaces for people. Graphic designers know how to use colour and composition, create mock ups, and research styles. These skills are vital in interior design, in addition to many others. Interior design is probably the furthest outside of the design industry of the career paths on this list, but it could still be a good fit for creatives who want to try something different.
This career translates from graphic design a bit more smoothly than other professions, like fashion or industrial design would, but not perfectly. Interior design is a creative career but it’s in an entirely different industry. This means there is still a lot about interior design you will need to learn. Fortunately you probably already know the basics.
If you’re interested in a career in interior design there is a plethora of books to read on the subject. One book that has particularly good reviews is The Interior Design Handbook by Frida Ramstedt. There are also a few Interior Design classes on Skillshare, like Interior Design Basics by Lauren Cox.
I’ve known quite a few graphic designers who were also amateur photographers, some of who were actually extremely skilled with a camera. In my graphic design program we had a few Photography courses to ensure we understood the fundamentals, in addition to how to actually develop black and white photos in a lab. The reason for this is because photography is a career that is so closely linked with graphic design.
Designers know how to use photo editing software and understand how to create an effective composition. Getting into photography is great even if you want to do it as a hobby because it supports a design career quite well. Former graphic designers can jump into a career in photography pretty easily, but you should still learn a bit more about photography enough to build up a good portfolio.
Fortunately, in part due to Instagram, ways to learn Photography are everywhere. There are over 2700 classes on Skillshare about Photography that range from beginner to advanced. A great place to start is with the Fundamentals of DSLR Photography class by Justin Bridges. Though, in reality the best place to start is to simply buying a camera and start taking pictures. Edit them in Photoshop, use them in your design work, and continue to improve your skills.
If you have enough design experience under your belt but if you really don’t want to do it anymore, there is always the option of teaching design either in a traditional or online format. Depending on what other education you have, you could teach at a college, university, or specialty art school. Alternatively, you could create your own design education program online via your own platform somewhere like YouTube, LinkedIn Learning, or Skillshare. It depends on what you want to teach, specifically, and how you want to structure it.
The only additional skills you might need for being a design instructor online would be filming & video editing. Learning how to properly structure your classes would also be a useful skill to learn. If you want to start simple, figure out how to edit and post videos to YouTube.
On the other hand, if you really want to teach at post secondary institution, you’ll probably need some higher education if you don’t already have it. I think a Bachelor’s degree is the standard for teaching, but if you want to go further, you check out the University of the People and their Master of Education program.
Video Editor and/or Motion Designer
Videos editors take video footage, graphics, text, and sound and compile them into a video for educational, promotional, or entertainment purposes. Depending on where you work and the types of videos you are creating, you may need motion design experience as well, to create more dynamic graphics. Being a motion designer can be an entire career on its own, though the two seem to go together more often than not.
I find that once you get the basics of video editing down, having solid graphic design skills really helps with the editing process. There are quite a few programs that video editors and motion designers use today, but if you want to get started learning now, Adobe Premiere and Adobe After Effects are great places to start. Having solid compositional, colour, and typography skills are really useful in video editing and motion design.
Since most designers already subscribe to Adobe CC, Premiere is a logical option for video editing. Skillshare has tons of classes for learning Premiere like Video Editing with Adobe Premiere Pro for Beginners by Jordy Vandeput. If you’re interested in learning motion design as well, there are also plenty of classes that will show you how to use Adobe After Effects, like Introduction to Adobe After Effects by Evan Abrams.
When You Don’t Want To Do Graphic Design Anymore – In Summary
This isn’t a complete list of all the career directions you could take if you don’t want to do graphic design anymore. There are other jobs closer to design that you might prefer, like UI designer, production designer, or illustrator, in addition to careers that are entirely separate like fashion design, industrial design, game design, and many others; all of which would require much more training and education outside of your existing design experience because they are in entirely different industries.
Lastly, if the main aspect of graphic design you dislike is not being able to make your own creative decisions and project directions, there’s also the option of becoming a freelance designer or starting your own firm. This translates pretty well after having a solid career in graphic design, though I would strongly recommend learning about starting your own business, how to manage your finances, client billing, and marketing your services before you do. Check out Michael Janda’s books and YouTube channel for some amazing resources on how to start working on your own.
What do you think is the best career path to take when you don’t want to do graphic design anymore? Is it on this list or is there another path that should be added to this list? Are you reading this because you don’t want to do graphic design anymore? Why not? Let me know in the comments below 🙂