Become a Graphic Designer

In 2012, the median wage for graphic designers was $44,150 per year and $21.22 per hour[v]

Salary Potential If you become a Graphics Desginer

In 2012, the median wage for graphic designers was $44,150 per year and $21.22 per hour[v]

Create graphics and visual concepts for needs ranging from advertising and product packaging to book covers and publication layouts

Graphic designers may design by hand, but more commonly they use computer software to create or enhance their designs. Most importantly, graphic designers help to convey a brand’s message in creative and original ways that inspire and inform consumers. If you’ve ever purchased a product because you saw a billboard, magazine ad, website, or package design, you were influenced by the work of a graphic designer!

I f you decide to become a graphic designer you could work for advertising, publishing, or PR agencies, among other potential employers. Graphic designers could also be self-employed.  Some graphic designers focus on print media and publication design, while others focus on design for websites, mobile applications, and internet-based services. Many handle both print and web design needs. 

What Does a Graphic Designer Do?

Graphic designers communicate ideas using visuals. They may design logos, brochures, magazine layouts, websites and banner ads, cards and invitations, and a variety of other items. They may design for print, web, or both. Below are some typical duties you may perform if you become a  graphic designer:

  • Using design principles to conceive and develop visual concepts and layouts
  • Working with clients to determine a design project’s goals, scope, and vision
  • Creating logos and graphics for business promotional materials, websites, publications, and more
  • Selecting color scheme, fonts and text attributes, and images; developing a style guide for consistency throughout the project
  • Using computer software to create, edit, and publish images
  • Working with production staff, such as printers, to make sure the product is finished to specifications
  • Maintaining records and archives of projects, images, and client information

Graphic Designer Qualities and Skill Sets

In addition to creativity and artistic ability, graphic designers may need to have some technical knowledge to help them bring their designs to life. Here are some qualities and skill sets that may benefit prospective graphic designers:

  • Knowledge of desktop design and publishing software such as the Adobe Creative Suite (InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, etc.), QuarkXPress, CorelDraw Graphics Suite, and more
  • Knowledge of webpage creation and development software such as Adobe Dreamweaver, Adobe Flash Player, Adobe ColdFusion, and more
  • Knowledge of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), Hypertext markup language (HTML), JavaScript, and other programming languages that may be useful for web design
  • Artistic ability – graphic designers usually have some drawing, painting, and/or photography skills
  • An understanding of design principles, like color, composition, typography, and more
  • Communication and customer service skills – graphic designers often work with clients to decide on visual concepts and project specifications, so they should be able to articulate their own ideas as well as provide a good customer experience.

How to Become a Graphic Designer

Education [i]

The National Association of Schools of Art and Design accredits around 300 graphic design programs, including colleges, universities, and independent postsecondary institutions. In most cases, graphic designers earn at least a bachelor’s degree in graphic design. In some cases, they may hold a bachelor’s degree in another field but pursue technical preparation in graphic design.

Typically, a graphic design program teaches studio art, design principles, computerized design, web design, and other key knowledge areas, in addition to helping students develop a portfolio of their work. Graphic designers often pursue learning opportunities throughout their careers to keep up with evolving software, design tools, and, trends.

Training and Career Enhancement[i]

In addition to design and technical concepts, graphic designers may benefit from knowledge of writing, marketing, and business in order to work effectively in teams and pursue more diverse functions in an organization. Some graphic designers pursue enhanced career opportunities such as chief designer, art director, or creative director after gaining several years of professional experience.

Certifications may be another recommended step for graphic designers. Typically offered by software and product vendors, these credentials could allow graphic designers to demonstrate their technical proficiency in programs such as the Adobe Creative Suite. Here are some possible certifications:

  • Adobe Illustrator Certification – this credential could certify your knowledge of creating and editing vector graphics for print, web, and mobile using Adobe Illustrator software.[ii]
  • Adobe InDesign Certification – this certifies your knowledge of laying out and designing text, graphics, and more using Adobe InDesign software.[iii]
  • Adobe Dreamweaver Certification – if you’re interested in web design, this certification could help you demonstrate your knowledge of website architecture, design, coding principles, and more using Adobe Dreamweaver software.[iv]

Graphic Design Salary Potential and Job Growth[v]

Now that you have a better understanding of what a graphic designer does, you might be interested in potential earnings for this career path. Salary potential and job opportunities vary, but the following stats may be useful if you want to become a graphic designer:

  • In 2012, the median wage for graphic designers was $44,150 per year and $21.22 per hour.
  • Between 2012 and 2022, job growth is projected to be about 7% for graphic designers.
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the most job growth for graphic designers will be seen in areas such as computer systems design, web and mobile design, and other electronic or internet-based design.[vi]

If you’re interested in pursuing a graphic design career path, you may want to explore educational opportunities in this field. Check out some possible degree programs below.  


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