How freelance graphic designers learn informally to develop independent practices

by Barto, Jody, Ed.D., TEACHERS COLLEGE, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY, 2014, 271 pages; 3621762


This qualitative case study was designed to explore with freelance graphic designers who manage sustainable independent practices, their perceptions of how they learn to acquire the competencies needed to develop and maintain their practices. A sustainable independent design practice was defined as an independent practice that is able to win and maintain the necessary number of projects in order for the designer to make a living.

The study is based on the following assumptions: 1) most freelance graphic designers will perceive that their undergraduate education did not properly prepare them to develop business skills; 2) successful freelance graphic designers are self-directed learners who continuously initiate and engage in informal learning activities; 3) successful freelance graphic designers produce aesthetically pleasing work, as a designer's portfolio is integral to their ability to win projects; and 4) successful freelance graphic designers are highly technically proficient and take advantage of virtual tools to facilitate their networking and knowledge sharing with other practitioners, and communication with clients.

The sources of data for this study were interviews with 20 freelance graphic designers along with an online focus group of 5 additional freelance graphic designers, and critical incident reports in order to further extend the findings.

While this study set out to examine how participants learned to develop and sustain their independent practices, a key finding revealed that they learned primarily through informal means of learning from experience, engaging in research, and dialogue with others. The findings identified that freelance graphic designers who manage sustainable independent practices: 1) need to have graphic design proficiency, an ability to manage the business, interpersonal skills, and a capacity to handle change; 2) learned primarily through informal means; 3) facilitated by support from others and managing work/life balance, while finding new work.

The principal recommendation resulting from this study is that freelance graphic designers who wish to develop and maintain sustainable independent practices should continually seek opportunities to learn informally from experience, engage in research, and dialogue with others.

AdvisersMarie Volpe; Lyle Yorks
Source TypeDissertation
SubjectsDesign; Entrepreneurship; Adult education
Publication Number3621762

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