Graphic designers conceptualize and create visual designs that help clients communicate messages about their mission, products or services. Graphic design careers are ideal for someone who is artistic, creative and adept at working with people and computer programs. It can be rewarding to build rapport with a client, learn about their business and bring their message to life through tangible design. Graphic designers sometimes face challenges such as tight deadlines or clients who misinterpret their designs, change their mind about the concept or don't understand the creative process.

Day in the Life of a Graphic Designer

Most businesses need graphic designers to help them succeed. It is the graphic designer's job to understand the message a client wishes to communicate and to translate that message into visual design. The use of computer graphics programs is essential for this job. There are a lot of different roles for graphic designers in business, and completing a graphic design degree program can help you prepare to take on a wide variety of responsibilities. Here are some examples:

  • At a large advertising agency that serves a wide range of clients, a graphic designer crafts designs for print ads, branding and PowerPoint presentations. She doesn't interact directly with the clients but works collaboratively with the firm's creative and art directors.
  • At a nationally known insurance company, a graphic designer handles the design and production for corporate events and trade shows. She coordinates several aspects of each project (such as scheduling) and serves as liaison between the internal client, design and production teams, and printers and distributors.
  • In a college fine arts department, a graphic designer creates printed and electronic material promoting the school and its performing arts events. Her manager outlines the specs for each project and provides feedback at every stage. Sometimes the designer must research the details of an event to get the full picture.
  • At one large publishing company, a graphic designer is on the sales/marketing creative services team. He designs marketing pieces in a variety of forms, all with a branded look and feel.
  • At a digital print shop, one graphic designer creates graphics for customers. However, much of his day is spent re-designing and troubleshooting existing files for clients and colleagues.
  • Having gained experience at previous jobs, a graphic designer now runs his own business. He is responsible for every aspect of his business, from attracting and retaining clients, meeting their graphic design needs, and doing his own accounting and tax work.

Important Characteristics for Graphic Designers

A successful graphic designer is naturally creative and artistic, with an eye for design and a passion for visual art. Graphic designers use computer programs to create and revise their designs, so it is important to be comfortable learning and using design technology. Listening skills are also important, since the designer's job is to grasp the concept or message the client wants to convey. Good people skills help a designer work effectively with clients and co-workers.

Education Requirements

Ideally, preparation to become a graphic designer begins in high school. Taking relevant courses and starting a portfolio of work at this stage can help pave the way for college coursework at graphic design schools. In fact, this is a prerequisite for some college graphic design programs.

Earning an associate degree in graphic design is a step in the right direction. Internships at this stage can provide hands-on experience and may help you decide what specific types of graphic design careers interest you. With an associate degree, you may be limited to entry-level positions.

Earning a bachelor's degree in graphic design is the surest route to entering the field. Look for a college that is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design.

Other Ways to Prepare for Graphic Design Careers

You can give yourself a competitive edge with extra preparation:

  • Get training in as many graphic design software programs as possible.
  • Learn as much as you can about the process of graphic design and production. (This will help you appreciate the process and the role each person plays.)
  • Continue to build a portfolio showcasing your work.

Career Tips

Staying current and versatile in graphic design is a worthy goal throughout your career. Learn new or updated design software, and stay on top of the latest design trends through journals or online resources. Keep a portfolio of your work up to date in case you decide to change jobs or need to impress a new client. Pursue ongoing professional development, even if it isn't required.


  • Graphic Designers, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/graphic-designers.htm

Metro Areas Sorted by Total Employment for
Graphic Designer

Listed below are the 10 largest metro areas based on the total number of people employed in Graphic Designer jobs , as of 2016

Metro Area Total Employment Annual Mean Salary
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim 13,930 $58,100
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward 5,820 $68,110
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell 4,880 $53,570
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington 4,450 $52,680
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach 4,310 $47,560
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue 3,650 $59,950
Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land 3,210 $47,190
Detroit-Warren-Dearborn 2,820 $52,490
Denver-Aurora-Lakewood 2,610 $52,820
San Diego-Carlsbad 2,490 $50,390

Compare Total Employment & Salaries for Graphic Designers

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Total employment and salary for professions similar to graphic designers

Source : 2016 Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, BLS.gov

Most Popular Industries for
Graphic Designer

These industries represent at least 1% of the total number of people employed in this occupation.

Industry Total Employment Percent Annual Median Salary
Professional And Technical Services 79,010 37% $45,820
Traditional Publishing 29,940 14% $37,370
Printing 18,160 8% $36,100
Miscellaneous Manufacturing 7,860 3% $36,200
Office Services And Staffing 7,290 3% $44,620
Durable Goods Wholesale 5,880 2% $42,460
Business Management 5,650 2% $47,610
Education 5,220 2% $41,600
Movie And Music 5,030 2% $52,150
Government 4,040 1% $54,340
Non-durable Goods Wholesale 3,970 1% $40,090
Non-store Retailers 3,270 1% $39,200
Non-profit 2,640 1% $44,240
Media And Broadcasting 2,620 1% $42,870
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Numbers in parentheses are counts of relevant campus-based schools in the state; online schools may also be available.

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