Graphic designers create visual concepts, by hand or using computer software, to communicate ideas that inspire, inform, or captivate consumers. They help to make an organization recognizable by selecting color, images, or logo designs that represent a particular idea or identity to be used in advertising and promotions.
Graphic designers typically do the following:
- Meet with clients or the art director to determine the scope of a project
- Advise clients on strategies to reach a particular audience
- Determine the message the design should portray
- Create images that identify a product or convey a message
- Develop graphics and visual or audio images for product illustrations, logos, and websites
- Create designs either by hand or using computer software packages
- Select colors, images, text style, and layout
- Present the design to clients or the art director
- Incorporate changes recommended by the clients into the final design
- Review designs for errors before printing or publishing them
Graphic designers combine art and technology to communicate ideas through images and the layout of web screens and printed pages. They may use a variety of design elements to achieve artistic or decorative effects. They develop the overall layout and production design for advertisements, brochures, magazines, and corporate reports.
Graphic designers work with both text and images. They often select the type, font, size, color, and line length of headlines, headings, and text. Graphic designers also decide how images and text will go together on a page or screen, including how much space each will have. When using text in layouts, graphic designers collaborate closely with writers who choose the words and decide whether the words will be put into paragraphs, lists, or tables.
Graphic design is becoming increasingly important in the sales and marketing of products. Therefore, graphic designers, also referred to as graphic artists or communication designers, often work closely with people in advertising and promotions, public relations, and marketing.
Frequently, designers specialize in a particular category or type of client. For example, some create credits for motion pictures, while others work with print media and create signs or posters.
Graphic designers also need to keep up to date with the latest software and computer technologies to remain competitive.
Some individuals with a background in graphic designers teach in design schools, colleges, and universities.
Graphic designers held about 279,200 jobs in 2010.
Graphic designers generally work in studios where they have access to drafting tables, computers, and the software necessary to create their designs. Although many graphic designers work independently, those who work for specialized graphic design firms often work as part of a design team. Some designers telecommute. Many graphic designers collaborate with colleagues on projects or work with clients located around the world.
Education and Training:
A bachelor’s degree in graphic design or a related field is usually required. However, those with a bachelor’s degree in another field may pursue technical training in graphic design to meet most hiring qualifications.
The National Association of Schools of Art and Design accredits about 300 postsecondary colleges, universities, and independent institutes with programs in art and design. Most schools include studio art, principles of design, computerized design, commercial graphics production, printing techniques, and website design. In addition, students should consider courses in writing, marketing, and business, all of which are useful in helping designers work effectively on project teams.
Many programs provide students with the opportunity to build a professional portfolio of their designs. This means collecting examples of their designs from classroom projects, internships, or other experiences. Students can use these examples of their work to demonstrate their design skills when applying for jobs and bidding on projects. A good portfolio often is the deciding factor in getting a job.
Students interested in graphic design programs should take basic art and design courses in high school, if the courses are available. Many bachelor's degree programs require students to have had a year of basic art and design courses before being admitted to a formal degree program. Some schools require applicants to submit sketches and other examples of their artistic ability.
Graphic designers must keep up with new and updated computer graphics and design software, either on their own or through formal software training programs.
Beginning graphic designers usually need 1 to 3 years of work experience before they can advance to higher positions. Experienced graphic designers may advance to chief designer, art or creative director, or other supervisory positions.
Skills to Develop:
Artistic ability: Graphic designers must be able to create designs that are artistically interesting and appealing to clients and consumers. They produce rough illustrations of design ideas, either by hand sketching or by using a computer program.
Communication skills: Graphic designers must communicate with clients, customers, and other designers to ensure that their designs accurately reflect the desired message and effectively express information.
Computer skills: Most graphic designers use specialized graphic design software to prepare their designs.
Creativity: Graphic designers must be able to think of new approaches to communicating ideas to consumers. They develop unique designs that convey a recognizable meaning on behalf of their clients.
Teamwork: Graphic designers often work on projects with other graphic designers and marketers, business analysts, writers, and programmers. They must collaborate to produce successful websites, publications, and other products.
Time-management skills: Graphic designers often work on multiple projects at the same time, each with a different deadline.
Employment of graphic designers is expected to increase by 13 percent from 2010 to 2020, about as fast as the average for all occupations.
With the increased use of the Internet, designers will be needed to create designs and images for portable devices, websites, electronic publications, and video entertainment media.
Graphic designers will take on increasingly important roles in the marketing of products. For example, graphic designers working in advertising or for computer design firms may influence the design of websites and publications. Designers will work with advertising and marketing staff to create graphics for websites, mobile phones, and other technology.
Graphic designers are expected to face competition for available positions. Many talented individuals are attracted to careers as graphic designers. Prospects will be best for job applicants with website design and other interactive media experience.
The median annual wage of graphic designers was $43,500 in May 2010. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $26,200, and the top 10 percent earned more than $76,910.
Most graphic designers work full time, but schedules can vary depending on workload and deadlines.
In 2010, about 29 percent of graphic designers were self-employed. Graphic designers who are self-employed may need to adjust their workday to meet with clients in the evenings or on weekends. In addition, they may spend some of their time looking for new projects or competing with other designers for contracts.
What is this job like?
Graphic designers have a desire to create. They mix knowledge with artistic ability.
Graphic designers make drafts or drawings by hand or with a computer. Most use computer software to design newspapers, publications, and Internet Web pages.
They may work in their own office or in their clients' office. They set their schedules to please their clients or employers. They may work long hours, including evenings or weekends, to meet deadlines.
How do you get ready?
Graphic designers must have an eye for color and detail. Being creative is also important. They also need problem-solving skills, communication skills, and must be good with computers.
Most graphic designers need formal training after high school. Some attend a professional design school or may get an associate degree, but in general most need a bachelor's degree. It is typical for graphic designers to get a degree in the fine arts.
New graphic designers often get on-the-job training for 1 to 3 years.
How much does this job pay?
Graphic designers earned $43,500 per year on average as of May 2010.
How many jobs are there?
Graphic designers held about 192,000 jobs as of May 2010.
What about the future?
Employment of graphic designers is expected to grow 13 percent, as fast as the average for all occupations.
Moreover, graphic designers with Web site design and animation experience will especially be needed as demand increases for design projects for interactive media—Web sites, mobile phones, and other technology.
Individuals with Web site design and animation experience will have the best opportunities.
Graphic designers with a broad liberal arts education and experience in marketing and business management will be best suited for positions developing communication strategies.
Graphic Designer - Wikipedia overview
American Institute of Graphic Arts - List of student associations
National Association of Schools of Art and Design - NASAD website
Making Choices About the Study of Graphic Design - AIGA NASAD brochure
Art Directors Club - Education page with competitions and scholarships
Graphic Designers - Bureau of Labor and Statistics outlook
Some information on this page has been provided by the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics.