What Graphic Designers Do
Graphic designers communicate concepts for brands with images, creative layouts, fonts, and other visual representations. Most graphic design today is done with computer software, though some is still done by hand.
A few of the projects graphic designers work on include logos, websites, emails, ads, posters, displays, product packaging, video games, and album covers. Most graphic designers work for specialty firms or marketing firms, though others may work in-house for a company or freelance. They work closely with clients to understand the image they want to convey and their goals, and will also collaborate with other creatives, such as designers, developers, and copywriters, to complete projects.
Who would enjoy a career in Graphic Design?
Creativity is important, as is having natural artistic talent. However, graphic designers are tasked with creating someone else’s designs as part of a branding effort, which means that they must also be good listeners and able to understand the feelings or appearance others would convey with words.
Being an effective communicator is important while working with other creatives and team members too. Most of the time, a graphic designer’s schedule is fairly regular, and there’s often flexibility in the hours worked as well as the ability to work remotely. At the same time, clients often have rigid deadlines, so it’s common for professionals to have to put in extra hours, including nights and weekends, when a deadline is looming. For this reason, those who can flex their schedule to meet needs enjoy the field more. Lastly, design trends and techniques are constantly evolving, so people who like to continuously develop their skills do best.
Who mightn't like the career?
Clients and senior staff sometimes shelf a good idea or request repeated revisions on a project. This can be frustrating, particularly when a graphic designer feels the work was done well or is proud of an accomplishment, so the career might not be right for someone who isn’t dedicated to client satisfaction and those who can’t be resilient through periods of negative feedback. With software being used heavily in the industry today, those who are uncomfortable with technology and using numerous programs also struggle in the position.
Graphic design is a developing field. In many cases, skilled individuals can get hired even without a degree, provided they have built a strong portfolio of work. However, employers today do generally look for at least vocational training in graphic design, though an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in graphic design, or a related degree, in addition to having a quality portfolio, is preferred. Possessing additional skills, such as web design and development, can make it easier to land a job as well.
Before an individual even gets to an interview, prospective employers will likely review his or her portfolio, so it needs to be very polished and showcase a variety of work. During the interview, questions will typically surround the types of technology and software the candidate is comfortable with, as well as how he or she has handled projects in the past.
Moving into Graphic Design from another career
With additional training and a strong portfolio, virtually anyone with any background can make the transition into graphic design. However, creatives and those with technology-related backgrounds tend to have an easier time making the transition.
Role: Not everyone begins as an intern, though it’s commonly a component of vocational training and degree programs. Internships may or may not be paid. During this stage, emerging professionals are given exposure to a variety of job duties, though they usually work under close supervision.
Junior Graphic Designer
Role: After graduation, most graphic designers take entry-level positions as junior graphic designers. They work under senior graphic designers and handle some of the more remedial tasks, such as editing designs, recoloring, and correcting typefaces. Occasionally, they’re also involved in collaboration sessions with the senior staff.
Senior Graphic Designer
Role: Senior graphic designers have a lot more freedom with projects. They interact with clients to determine objectives, have brainstorm sessions, create mockups, pitch ideas, and oversee projects through to completion.
Role: Those who want to move into leadership roles can often work toward becoming an art director or creative director. Art directors oversee the artistic elements of various projects form print ads to storyboards for TV. They often come up with the concepts behind projects and may do rough sketches or mock-ups, and will then pass the work onto designers.
Role: Creative directors oversee the creation of advertisements. They develop brand-appropriate concepts that are in line with the marketing team’s goals. They also manage all creative staff, including copywriters, editors, graphic designers, and art directors, and may handle everything from planning to budgeting.
Graphic designers don’t travel much, but their skills enable them to work from anywhere.
Junior Graphic Designer: According to data from PayScale, junior graphic designers have salaries of approximately USD$40,000 in the United States, £18,000 in the United Kingdom, CAD$36,000 in Canada, and AU$41,000 in Australia.
Senior Graphic Designer: USD$59,000, £29,957, CAD$54,213, AU$68,058.
Art Director: USD$61,731, £36,064, CAD$59,027, AU$74,096.
Creative Director: USD$118,000, £78,149, CAD$98,118, AU$98,879.
Bonuses are not a big part of a graphic designer’s salary, though some can earn as much as USD$10,000 split between bonuses, profit sharing, and commissions. Once an individual reaches the director level, salary may increase by more than 10-20% after bonuses are added.
Why Graphic Designers move on
People have a hard time breaking into graphic design, and the demands being placed on graphic designers for skills like using software and coding are increasing. For this reason, many never really get their break in graphic design, particularly if they live in a region with lots of competition. Others pick up additional skills and move into related creative, marketing, or computer fields. For more information, see “Why I Quit Graphic Design,” and Indeed discussion “Graphic Design, a dead field!”