What is art and design?
Artists see the world around them in very different ways. They translate their feelings, opinions and observations into creative work, or fine art, including paintings, sculpture and installations.
Designers are seriously creative too, but they use their skills, or applied art, to find solutions to practical tasks, from creating an eye-catching design for a flyer, a piece of jewellery, or a comfortable and stylish sofa for you to lounge around on.
You'll often find a big overlap between fine artists and designers, as both are very interested in working with materials to create different textures and effects.
There are lots of creative jobs that support artists and designers too, in galleries, auction houses or through collectors and others who need people with special arts knowledge to track down the next big thing.
What art and design jobs can I do?
There are lots of creative careers that feature the work of artists and designers:
- Artists: Create work to sell to buyers. They work in a variety of media, including painting, photography, print-making and pencil drawing. Sometimes people commission artists to make specific pieces for them and some organisations, like universities and museums, employ artists in residence to create work for them or share ideas.
- Graphic designers: Create visuals using type, image and graphic forms in order to communicate a specific message to audiences. In a graphic design career, you can use image-making software and code. Graphic designers work with books, magazines, posters, exhibitions, advertising, apps and websites.
- Craft designers: Include silversmiths, potters, instrument makers and weavers who have been perfecting their skills over many centuries and tend to make their products using traditional techniques.
- Product designers: Use artistic and technical skills to create products that look good but also perform a practical function. They often have an interest in tech and how things work.
- User experience designers (UX): Focus on user satisfaction by improving the usability and accessibility of a particular product, such as an app or website.
- Motion graphic designers: Use graphic design, animation and live action filming to create short sequences, for instance on TV, music videos and games.
- Fashion designers: Create new clothing and accessories for brands and design houses. They working with materials and technology, using their artistic skills to bring new trends to customers. Check out our Fashion & Beauty and Retail & Merchandising Career Zones.
- Interior designers: Design inside spaces such as shops, offices, museums and hotels.
- Animation: There are a wide range of roles available within animation. You could work in the film, games or TV industry, using different techniques, including 3D computer graphics, 2D drawn and stop frame to bring ideas to life.
- Illustrators: Use their skills to tell stories and create different styles and moods, from bringing a character in a children’s storybook to life, to creating seasonal greetings cards. Illustrators can also specialise in technical and scientific drawing for reference books.
- Art auctioneers: Sell art, on behalf of someone, to competitive bidders. They also use their specialist knowledge of art and antiques to put a date and value on things and occasionally check for fakes. Buyers and collectors track-down and snap up valuable and up-and-coming art work to build up public or private collections.
- Gallery and museum curators: Put together collections of art or artefacts to inspire and educate people. Curators also manage staff, write press releases and raise funds to keep their work going.
- Front end designers: Use code to design websites, apps and games. Check out our IT & The Internet Career Zone
Is a career in art and design for me?
To work as an artist or designer it is essential to be creative and curious as well as to pay attention to detail. You will need to be self-motivated, full of ideas and able to work alone, or as part of a team if you are working for clients.
If you want to work as a curator or someone who supports artists and designers you should enjoy researching and reading up on different cultures, styles and popular trends. Having great knowledge of the art world around you is important.
Artists take inspiration from lots of places and can come from very different backgrounds. Previous experience in other areas like engineering or writing can give a unique spin to your work.
How can I start a career in art and design?
You don't always need a degree to get started in creative careers, but the arts world is very competitive and graduates fill up lots of entry-level jobs.
The most important thing is to get as much work experience as you can and to build up a creative portfolio – this can include projects you have done for fun or practice – to show off your skills.
Lots of artists and designers work with computers, so brush up your software skills too, with design programs like Photoshop, Illustrator or Indesign.
As well as studying art and other design subjects like graphic products or textiles, you should aim for a grade 9-4 in GCSE English and maths as this will open up your opportunities to explore arts administration jobs.
At A-level you can choose from a range of art and design subjects including fine art, graphic design and photography.
Instead of A-levels, you could opt for an NVQ certificate or diploma in Design Support or a BTEC in art and design, which prepares you for lots of different roles.
There are also intermediate and advanced apprenticeships available in graphic design and illustration for school leavers.
Students who want to go on to university will need to complete a one-year Art and Design foundation course, as this is usually needed to get on to art and design degree courses. Many students also choose to study for their degree at a specialist arts college which offers the broadest range of relevant subjects.
You don't need a foundation qualification to study for an art history degree, which is a popular choice for curators and auctioneers, who usually need a degree to get started in their careers. Museum studies and other history or education based degrees are useful for this career too.
Join an art, craft or design club through your school or local community. Look for competitions to enter as well, to help you build up a portfolio of work. You might even win some prizes...
Submit your work to blogs or websites, like Creattica - to show off your talents.
What art and design qualifications are available?
If you study art at school, college or university, you can get qualifications such as diplomas, A-levels and degrees.
Artists and designers can pick up qualifications from computer-based design and programming courses.
Art therapists complete postgraduate training and qualify as psychotherapists.
There is also the chance to join professional organisations which provide training, such as the Chartered Society of Designers.
Did you know these art and design facts?
The Angel of the North, created by British Artist Anthony Gormley, is the largest angel sculpture in the world, and is seen by one person every second due to it’s handy position next to the A1 dual carriageway.
Richy Baldwin the graphic designer behind Superdry started life as a delivery man and a sign writer. Over the years he has produced over a thousand graphics, helping Superdry become a high street name.
For more art and design career advice, take a look at our article about the career routes design and technology can lead to.