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What is a Multimedia Designer?
Multimedia is exactly what it sounds like – a combination of two or three different content forms to make a more compelling or exciting final product. Multimedia can include a combination of text, audio, images, animation, or video, and the process of combining these content forms is not easy. It takes legitimate skill and knowledge to craft a compelling multimedia product, which is where multimedia designers come in. Multimedia designers are artists charged with integrating multiple forms of media in such a way that the final product can be compelling and exciting. These designers combine a deep understanding of design and design principles with the technical savvy and expertise that is needed to use computer software, design programs, or video equipment to make fascinating works of art to be used in advertising, journalism, video games, entertainment and many more fields.
As multimedia and digital media have become more popular fields, the onus on multimedia designers to get even more creative and skilled has increased as well. Most multimedia designers aren’t just good at putting pictures and sounds together, and they aren’t just excellent at combining video with some form of text or animation. In the current industry environment, multimedia designers need to be well-rounded, and thus, need to be well-versed in all aspects of multimedia design. A designer who specializes in audiovisuals can be valuable, but with so many multimedia designers who are great at audiovisuals and are also great at combining animation with text or pictures, it can be hard for a specialty designer to look good in comparison.
It is important for aspiring multimedia designers not to focus on the creative or technical side of industry alone. Good multimedia designers have a strong background in design and also have the technical know-how and expertise that helps turn the design ideas and outlines into actual, tangible finished products. Aspiring multimedia designers would be wise to start with understanding basic design principles, then building technical expertise with video editing tools or computer-aided design software once they have a strong foundation in design.
One of the nicest parts about multimedia design is that, because it has become such a crucial part of so many different industries, multimedia designers have a fair amount of leverage over where they work and what kind of projects they work on. In fact, in 2012, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that 57 percent of multimedia artists and animators were self-employed, while also explaining that most of those designers worked from the comforts of their home. Freelancing is common in all forms of design but is clearly especially common in multimedia design where talent and ability is valued above all, and many companies are more willing to contract out multimedia design work rather than train an internal employee to work with multimedia design.
Freelancing is fun, flexible and liberating, but it can also be risky since it doesn’t offer steady employment or steady paychecks. Fortunately, for multimedia designers looking to remove some of that stress from their livelihood, there are a number of industries that employ full-time multimedia designers. As of 2012, the motion picture and video industries employed 13 percent of the estimated multimedia design workforce, and that makes plenty of sense since the largest need for multimedia exists in those industries. After motion pictures, the computer systems design industry, the software publishing industry, and the advertising industry are the next three largest employers of multimedia designers, and they employ six percent, five percent, and four percent multimedia designers respectively.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, those interested in multimedia design careers should get a bachelor’s degree first because the combination of design and technical knowledge is almost impossible to come by otherwise. Multimedia artists typically earn a degree in subjects like fine art, computer graphics, animation, or design. But as the demand for talented multimedia designers has grown, so has the number of institutions offering specialized degree programs in multimedia design or game design. Both specialized programs, and more general art and design degrees, offer excellent opportunities to build a portfolio that will impress employers and both degree paths open similar doors and offer similar career paths, so interested students would be smart to do extensive research on the programs offered at different institutions before picking the program to earn their degree.
As if the excitement of working with video, audio and animation wasn’t enough, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ data from May of 2012, multimedia designers also happen to be extremely well compensated for their abilities and expertise. There were slightly less than 70,000 professional multimedia designers employed, and as of May 2012 they earned an annual mean wage of $69,560, which is quite a nice salary for any industry and is well above employees working in other arts and design occupations. While most industries such as advertising, computer systems design, and software publishers pay multimedia designers an annual average wage close to the general average; the motion pictures industry offers an average annual wage of nearly $85,000, and it also employed nearly 10,000 multimedia designers in May of 2012, more than double any other industry. This isn’t to advocate one industry over another, since it is difficult to go wrong as long as you have the talent and strong educational foundation, but if money is what is important to you, the motion pictures industry may be your best bet.
As of May of 2012, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that there were 68,900 professional multimedia designers and animators employed across the country. They also estimated that the profession would grow slower than most professions from 2012-2022, as the national average for employment growth across all industries was 11 percent, and the expected employment growth of multimedia designers is just six percent. The number of professional industrial designers is expected to swell to 73,200 by 2022 which is an increase of just 4,300 industrial designers from 2012 to 2022.