Want to be a valuable graphic designer? Know your way around a printing press

Alphagraphics designer Megan Fontana shares advice on how to do well in a competitive job market.

A printing press for food packaging.

(GIF via YouTube)

Alphagraphics could be thought of as a design company that has embraced tech while focusing on the foundations of the graphic design industry.
Founded in 1970, the Utah-based company with presence in Newark, Del. built a strong business model and went into franchising in 1979. By 1984, Alphagraphics became the first desktop publishing retailer, at a time when most people didn’t know what the words meant (and why would they? Both the Apple MacIntosh and the first desktop publishing program came out that very year).
At the same time, the company didn’t lose sight of its origins as a printing company and, to date, it remains one of its key offerings. According to Alphagraphics designer Megan Fontana, while many young designers know how to create most don’t necessarily have the skills to set those designs up for print. We spoke to Fontana on what it takes to make it in the industry.
“I went to Millersville University,” said Fontana. “My major was Industrial Technology with a concentration in Graphic Communications, which actually helped me out because I learned about the printing process as well.”
After college, a valuable connection helped her get her first break. “I started out doing freelance; but I got in with the first company because I knew the marketing manager. I still work with them to this day.” Having the right connections is always helpful, as any freelancer or entrepreneur will tell you, but skill development is vital, too: “After doing two years of freelance, I applied to Alphagraphics and was hired the next day.”
Fontana has a hot tip for graphic designers just starting out in their careers: “Develop an understanding of the print industry,” said the designer and account manager. “In my experience, about 50 percent of the designers I come across do not know how to set up files for printing purposes. To me, graphic designer is a broad title.”

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