While she has always loved art, Margot Harrington thought she was destined for a career in education. But, a mix of art classes, internships, self-education and graphic design jobs led her to a career as a freelance graphic designer.
JMA: How did you decide to pursue a career in graphic design?
MH: I meandered for a little while in school. I started out thinking about going into education. My whole family works in education and I thought it would be too easy — which is hilarious now because I know teaching is so hard. Looking back, it’s really that I thought I knew what I would be getting into and I wanted something different. I took a couple of art classes and loved them, but I was freaked out about making money. I was paying for school myself and wasn’t confident in my ability to make money as an artist. I had my parents in my head a little too much telling me I need to make money and be a contributing member of society. Graphic design seemed like the best way to merge art with those values.
JMA: How did you make the transition from art to graphic design and learn the skills you needed to be valuable in the job market?
MH: As a student, I was very focused. I was one of the few people in my class who made a portfolio. I gutted a vintage suitcase and filled it with my work; I got a Flash for Dummies book so I could make a two-page website for myself. What I learned in school was conceptual. And back then there weren’t online classes or YouTube classes — or YouTube at all. I spent a lot of time supplementing my education. I got an unpaid internship with a small design studio and that was huge for me in terms of learning what the world is like, and starting to understand how the process works. It was humble pie for me. I was so green.
After the internship, I wasn’t sure if I was going to stay in Madison, where I went to school, when my friend offered me — well, not even a couch because she didn’t have one — but a place to crash in Chicago. I packed up and moved with $500 and spent two months on her floor.