Learn About Being a Graphic Designer
What does a graphic designer do?
Graphic designers create visual content in both print and digital form. They might work on advertisements, newsletters, publications, digital media, film, web or app design, product packaging, or interior or architect designs. A company, client or art director will give a graphic designer a message or idea to communicate visually. The designer then uses text, images, and color to form that visual element. Other job responsibilities might include:
Selecting fonts, colors and photos for layouts
Using software to create digital illustrations
Turning data and ideas into images
Presenting designs to clients or managers and making changes as needed
Entry-level, freelance and contract graphic designers often earn an hourly wage. Those employed full-time in companies’ art or design departments, however, can earn full salaries and benefits. Years of experience, education level, type of company and geographic location can affect a graphic designer’s salary.
Common salary in the U.S.: $17.27 per hour
Some salaries range from $7.25 to $43.15 per hour.
Graphic designer requirements
Graphic designers are typically creative individuals who have completed some visual design training, either in college or through specific certifications and courses. Some specialize in certain areas, such as web design or product packaging, while others are proficient in a variety of creative mediums.
Some graphic designers can get a job with a certificate or a two-year associate’s degree alone. However, most graphic designers have received a Bachelor of Arts or Fine Arts degree in graphic arts, graphic design or a similar field. Some colleges have programs that focus specifically on art and design and the courses needed to prepare graduates for graphic design jobs. Many of these are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. Graphic designer jobs do not typically require an advanced degree beyond a bachelor’s.
Most graphic design training occurs through experience. New graduates might get an internship to gain experience and start building a work portfolio. However, as design becomes increasingly digital, existing graphic designers might take computer or software training courses to keep their skills up to date. They might also keep up with current design trends by taking online classes or seminars. Organizations such as the American Institute of Graphic Arts offer professional development in the form of courses, webinars, conferences and more.
Graphic designers do not need a license or certification to get a job. However, certificate programs that offer training on specific software programs, such as publishing and design suites, might make a candidate more appealing to potential employers.
Graphic designers must have a variety of professional skills in addition to creative talent to succeed. These might include:
Creativity: Graphic designers must think of new and exciting ways to visually communicate ideas.
Artistry: In addition to coming up with ideas, graphic designers must have the artistic talent to draw, illustrate or computer-generate images. They should also be comfortable using different mediums.
Communication: Graphic designers should clearly discuss messages and ideas with the art director, client or other artists to make sure they are creating an effective design.
Computer skills: Today, most designers use graphic design software to create or edit images and layouts. They might need to understand how to use photo editing, layout and publishing software.
Time-management: Graphic designers often work on strict deadlines and multiple projects at once. They must prioritize projects and use their time efficiently to meet these deadlines.
Analytical skills: Graphic designers should be able to take a complex idea or data set and determine the best visual representation.
Graphic designer work environment
Many graphic designers are self-employed or work independently. Those who work in office or studio settings are often part of a team of artists and designers that report to an art director. Graphic designers collaborate with clients and colleagues in industries and departments such as advertising, marketing and public relations.
Because graphic designers work on deadlines, their schedules might vary. They must complete projects on time regardless of how long it takes. Independent graphic designers might need to meet with clients on weekends or in the evenings.
How to become a graphic designer
A graphic designer’s success depends on years of experience and special training. Steps to become a graphic designer might include the following:
1. Earn a degree
Most graphic design jobs today require candidates to have a bachelor’s degree in graphic design or a similar field. When deciding what college to go to, you might choose one recognized by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. These programs set up students specifically for a career in design. If possible, enroll in classes that are not art-related but can benefit your career, such as marketing or business.
2. Complete an internship
During college or immediately after graduation, you can gain valuable experience and begin forming professional relationships by interning with a design company or department. With the connections gained from an internship, you may more easily find a job as a graphic designer.
3. Build your portfolio
In addition to a resume, most employers ask for a portfolio filled with examples of design work when hiring graphic designers. Start creating a portfolio as soon as you have work to show, even if you are still in school. Regularly update your portfolio as you gain skills and experience. Choose work examples that demonstrate your talent and creativity. Try to include a range of work, from print advertisements to website graphics. Many graphic designers have a portfolio containing anywhere from 10-15 pieces of their best work.
4. Consider an advanced degree
Some graphic designers get a Master of Arts or Fine Arts degree to advance their skills and knowledge. These programs take about two to three years to complete. While most graphic design jobs do not require an advanced degree, having one might qualify you for better job opportunities.
5. Improve your skills
The design industry is continuously changing. Attend conferences and webinars to learn about the latest trends, software and technologies. Professional organizations such as the American Institute of Graphic Arts and the Graphic Artists Guild often host events and seminars.
6. Find your specialty
Some graphic designers choose to focus on one aspect of design, such as branding, digital design, motion graphics and more. If you have a creative strength and there is a market for it, you might put your continuing education and job-finding efforts toward that skill.
Graphic designer job description example
Our company is looking for a graphic designer with brilliant ideas and attention to detail to join our team of talented artists. The graphic designer will be responsible for envisioning and designing logos and layouts in both print and digital form. The graphic designer will work closely with the art director to produce engaging content that uniquely conveys each client’s message. The ideal candidate will have a bachelor’s degree in graphic design and be well-versed in desktop publishing and creative design software.
Individuals looking for graphic designer jobs might search for positions that have similar qualifications and duties, including: