Production artists prepare beautiful package designs for print, they usually work very closely with graphic designers, both graphic artists and production artists are skilled in design. A production artist is very similar to a graphic designer, and the job duties between the two are often misconceived. Production artists however specifically specialize in the output of the package design, such as preparing and press checking files. A graphic designer does not have a great deal of knowledge in regards to preparing and press checking files. Most production artists are entry level positions paying no more than $12 an hour, Production artists are merely graphic designers in training.
While larger companies recognize the difference between the two separate but similar positions smaller companies do not. This can lead to graphic designers being utilized as a production artist and production artist being used as designers. The work of a graphic designer is a tedious position and should not be handled by a non experienced graphic artist with absolutely no design experience. In the same since a Graphic designer should not be handling and preparing and press checking files if they lack the know-how.
For example production artists prepare documents for print, making sure the actual document or file will turn out as printed, they set up the bleed, separate the colors and typically prepare the final document for press. On the other hand the graphic designer designs for web, print, multimedia and has been properly trained to use good design principle and practices. A graphic designer usually has a 4 year degree whereas a production artist may learn his knowledge through on the job training. Graphic Designers are originally trained in the aspects of production, however because most graphic designers don't work at a printing press these practices that were once taught are soon forgotten.
Surprisingly, due to the popularity of many technological advances many designers don't even need to have any production experience. Many print companies will know accept a Photoshop or illustrator file without any file preparation. Many print shops have developed a GUI interface for customers that let them visually select the features the want. Because mostly every print company offers this feature, knowledge of production experience is never needed.
Employers, who specifically need pre-press packaging, or production skills, are usually the Print shops themselves. They will need several production artists rather than a graphic designer to prepare the files needed to go to press. If you are a graphic designer and are looking to gain some production experience, you are going to need to freshen up your skills. In Design & QuarkXPress is the industry standard software currently being used by printing presses across the nation. Packaging skills are heavily sought out by many employers who are looking to hire at an entry level. If you just graduated as a graphic designer and need an entry level job, search for jobs with the keyword production artist.
Most of the jobs as a production artist are not design positions, and will probably be very boring and repetitive. Remember, it's all about getting your foot in the door, in 6 months you will have the experience needed to move on and get a more creative gig. I started out as a production artist; we all have to start somewhere. If you want to be the best in your field it takes passion and requires the willingness to constantly update your skills in this particular field. If you feel that you are passionate and you can take the time to gain the training; then I don't see any reason why you won't be successful in everything that you do.
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