Alumni's advice on how to become a freelance graphic designer with a niche

Danielle Leedie Gray

Meet Danielle Leedie Gray, a freelance First Nations Graphic Artist, Illustrator and Designer.

Danielle Leedie Gray is a freelance First Nations Graphic Artist, Illustrator and Designer. Having completed her online Diploma of Graphic Design, she shares with us her top tips for getting started as a freelance designer.

Tell us a bit about yourself. 

I am a graphic artist, designer, and Bidjara and Wakka Wakka woman from Southwest and East Queensland, Australia. I create modern and bold art pieces that reflect a deep connection to my cultural heritage and family history. My art is guided by empathy towards my cultural roots, and I invite unity and healing through a unique cultural perspective. Often my art pieces feature symbols that signify unity, progress, and gathering, expressing my desire for cultural understanding and celebration.

Why did you choose to study Graphic Design?

I chose to study Graphic Design because I am creative and interested in visual communication. I was drawn to the field because I enjoy combining colour, and imagery to create designs and art that communicate a message or tell a story.

I chose to study online because of the flexibility aspect, and I enjoy self-paced learning. Studying design online requires a high level of discipline and self-motivation, as well as strong time-management skills, in order to be successful.

A special project I worked on whilst studying was with Billy Blue College of Design’s industry partner Australian Geographic.

Astrology was an important navigating system for First Nations people. As a First Nation artist and designer, I wanted to be able to share that fact creatively using my totem animal – the emu. My goal was to give the bright people that read Australian Geographic Explorers something to be hopeful about in their future and let them know that their passions have the power to impact the world positively. 

Danielle Leedie Gray | Torrens University

Can you tell us about an art project you’ve worked on since graduating?

I recently completed artwork for a live brief for National Reconciliation Week 2023 is Be a Voice for Generations.

Be A Voice For Generations

When I was approached to work on this brief, I felt a combination of excitement and pressure. Excitement over the opportunity to create something unique and memorable, and pressure to deliver artwork that accurately represented the theme and resonated with the audience.

Danielle’s work is now available for download and sharing including versions translated into Chinese, Punjabi and Vietnamese.

Danielle’s top 4 tips on how to become a freelance graphic designer

Having a combination of artistic talent and learned design skills has opened even more design career opportunities for me and has broadened the scope of services I can offer clients.

My top tips for emerging designers:

  1. Get hands-on experience: While studying, look for career opportunities to gain hands-on experience by working on design projects, competitions or internships that help develop your portfolio.
  2. Be collaborative: One of the key attributes of a designer is the ability to work on collaborative projects with people from different fields and disciplines.
  3. Master software tools: Master design software tools, such as Adobe Creative Cloud applications and other design software that enable you to produce innovative designs quickly and effectively.
  4. Learn to develop your design-thinking practice: Developing your design-thinking involves a lot of problem-solving, research, ideation, and testing of design concepts before creating a final product.

Like any other creative field, design jobs require passion, dedication, continuous self-improvement, and hard work. Keep improving your skills based on experience, improve your experience, find mentorship opportunities and be open to learning.

Become someone people would be excited to work with on projects because of the level of creativity and the quality of service you offer.

Danielle wants to invite her work into the homes and businesses of non-Indigenous people, and to promote understanding of the symbols, stories and meaning in Aboriginal culture to co-create a united future for all Australians.

Reach out for your next project here. You can also see more of Danielle's work on her Instagram.

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