In this era of digital and visual media, graphic designing has become a profession with a lot of opportunities. Many firms employ graphic designers to design their advertisements, logos, cards, banners, and other things. Creative people who are looking for a productive outlet to direct their creativity may want to consider this challenging and rewarding field. Before doing so, it is important to understand the nature of the work and the particulars of this career path. It is even more important to know the things individuals will need to do in order to prepare themselves for a successful career in this area. This article will describe the job and will review the requirements for success as a graphics designer.
What does a graphic designer do?
Graphic designers (also referred to as graphic artists) are responsible for creating effective visual means of communicating messages via print, electronic, and film media using a variety of techniques which may involve combinations of animation, photography, illustration, print, and layout design. Their work can be targeted towards publications such as magazines, newspapers, corporate reports, and journals. Or their work may appear on signs, corporate logos, promotional displays, packaging, and marketing brochures. Graphic designers are not limited to working with static media; they are increasingly called upon to create visual effects for not only television and movies, but also to an increasingly larger extent for web pages.
Graphic designers illustrate their vision for the design by preparing sketches reflecting layouts and design elements. They do this either by hand or with the aid of specialized computer software packages. Designers select the visual elements which comprise the design, including colors, artwork, photography, animation, and possibly more. They are also responsible for the sizing and arrangement of the different elements on the visual media. In doing all this, designers often consult with copywriters, printers, clients, and/or creative directors. Depending on whom they work for and the specific types of projects they are responsible for, graphic designers may have relatively stable working conditions or widely fluctuating ones. In many cases, graphic designers find themselves working evenings or weekends to meet production deadlines, especially in the printing and publishing industries. About 25% of designers are self-employed. Many of those who are salaried employees supplement their income by doing freelance work on the side.
The job outlook for graphic designers is expected to be one of moderate growth into the foreseeable future. An increase in demand due to expansion of the video entertainment market will be partially offset by outsourcing of lower-level layout and design work to design firms overseas. In general, graphic designers with website design and animation experience will be in special demand in response to the growth in interactive media (e.g., websites, video games, cellular telephones, and personal digital assistants). Freelancers in particular can find plenty of work available on an outsourced basis. Many parties require graphic designers to jazz up websites or to design logos, and there are several freelance websites where graphic designers can bid on work. Due to the attraction of this career field to talented individuals, competition for available positions is expected to be keen. According to the American Institute of Graphic Arts, median annual total cash compensation for staff-level graphic designers was $45,000 in 2007. Entry-level designers earned a median of $35,000, while senior designers, many of which have some degree of supervisory or decision-making authority, pulled in a median of $62,000.
What steps should one follow to become a graphic designer?
- Be observant and aware of designs. Research popular fonts and design styles. Constantly observe the designs being featured in newspapers, magazines, etc. Pay attention to packaging designs and advertising trends in all forms of media. If there is a particular market being targeted, learn everything possible about that market and what they are likely to find appealing. Always remember that research is 75% of design!
- Practice practice practice. A "creative eye" is a nice asset to have but there is no substitute for practice. On a daily basis, make designs and try to incorporate different shapes and color combinations in them. It is not hard to find neighbors and people starting businesses that would gladly accept design work for free. Practice makes perfect.
- Further your education. Strongly consider a degree program. Although it's sometimes possible to work as a graphic designer without having a degree, a large degree of competition in the field now graduates from college. In today's job market, some entry-level technical positions may only require an associate degree; however, a bachelor's degree is required for most entry-level and advanced graphic design positions. The National Association of Schools of Art and Design maintains a list of hundreds of accredited schools which award degrees in graphic design. Try to find one that includes training in current graphics-related computer technology and whose electives include business and finance courses.
- Build a solid portfolio. Make certain the portfolio showcases only your highest-quality work. A graphic designer can start building his or her portfolio before graduating from school by accepting different freelance jobs. Potential employers and clients usually compare portfolios when deciding who to hire. An impressive portfolio is one of the most important factors that can differentiate a successful graphic designer from an unemployed graphic designer.
- Become computer savvy. In today's world, a good graphic designer has to possess a good working knowledge of different desktop publishing tools and computer graphics/design software. In addition, they need to keep up-to-date with new and updated software, either by learning on their own or by taking software training courses.
How to Stand Out as a Graphic Designer
- (For those still in high school) Take drawing courses while still in high school. A future graphic designer can start his/her career very early by signing up for high school art classes which teach the basics about color and perspective. High school students can also give themselves an early boost by actively participating in the design and layout of the high school paper or by learning how to use desktop publishing tools and computer graphics or design software.
- Get involved with design forums. These online forums are a good way to stay current on industry trends and connect with industry peers from all levels of experience. Some good examples are The Graphic Design Forum, HOWdesign, About Graphic Design, and Your Design Forums.
- Develop a unique style. Don't be afraid to be different from the pack. Strive to become recognizable so that people will know that something is your work as soon as they see it.
- Continually work on improving communication skills. An outstanding graphic designer has to be able to find clients, listen to their needs and demands, and translate their wishes into eye-catching and artistic expression. Excellent communication skills are an invaluable tool in doing all these things.
Success in the graphics design business is often a combination of valuable character traits, knowledge, and hard work. Artistic ability, creative thinking, flexibility, and an ability to manage one's time and to meet deadlines are extremely good characteristics to start off with. Self-discipline, openness to new ideas, and the ability to work independently and/or under pressure are traits which will enhance one's chances. But the most important tools are knowledge of the business and a dedication to taking the necessary steps to properly prepare for success. Knowing what to do and committing to doing it can lead a prospective graphics designer to a fulfilling career.
Resources for Graphic Designers
- American Institute of Graphic Arts, http://www.aiga.org/
- National Association of Schools of Art and Design, http://nasad.arts-accredit.org/
- Graphic Design USA, http://www.gdusa.com/
- Elance (Find and hire designers), https://www.elance.com/
- The Graphic Design Forum, http://www.graphicdesignforum.com/forum/
- HOWdesign, http://www.howdesign.com/design-forum-join-the-graphic-design-community/#?
- About Graphic Design, http://forums.about.com/n/pfx/forum.aspx?nav=messages&webtag=ab-graphicdes
- Your Design Forums, http://www.ucreative.com/forum
- No!Spec, http://www.no-spec.com/