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The decision to become a graphic designer can be the start of an exciting and lucrative career for the right individual. Graphic designers are similar to artists with one major difference. While artists often create work just for art’s sake, graphic designers not only create art but also do so to get a message or idea across to their clients or customers. Becoming a graphic designer involves education, training and work experience. Learn everything you need to know about graphic designers and what the career entails.

What Graphic Designers Do

Graphic designers create visual concepts to communicate ideas that will inform, inspire or captivate clients. In addition to using computer software, they also do many of their initial designs by hand. They create layouts and production designs for applications like magazines, brochures, reports and advertisements.

Graphic designers use photo editing software, digital illustration and layout software. Their design layouts include selecting images, colors and typefaces. Graphic designers also create visual elements like original image logos and similar illustrations to promote an idea or deliver a message. They meet with clients to determine the client’s needs, create their designs and edit the designs to ensure they meet the client’s needs.

Their designs are used for a variety of digital platforms, including tablet devices, web browsers and mobile phones. Graphic designers may specialize in specific areas of graphic design, which might include:

  • Desktop Publishing
  • Typography
  • Email Blasts and eNewsletters
  • Advertising and Branding
  • Product Packaging
  • Logos
  • User Experience Design or Interface
  • Web Design
  • Book Design

Education Required

Although a graphic designer may be hired with an associate’s degree, most graphic designers are required to have a bachelor’s degree in graphic design or a related field. An individual who holds a bachelor’s degree in another field may become a graphic designer by completing an accredited technical training program in graphic design.

Aspiring graphic designers should choose schools that are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. Currently, more than 360 NASAD-accredited schools offer art and design programs. Students will complete courses such as:

  • Commercial graphics production
  • Graphic design fundamentals
  • Studio art
  • Website design
  • Marketing
  • Writing
  • Business
  • Printing techniques
  • Computerized design
  • Principles of design

Depending on the program, the student may be required to have completed several basic art and design courses before being admitted into a baccalaureate program. Some schools may also require the student to submit sketches they’ve done to demonstrate their artistic ability and skills.

Towards the end of the program, the student must complete a portfolio of his or her work. The portfolio is a collection of the student’s completed work. Most potential employers require a portfolio along with the applicant’s resume.

Starting From Scratch

Although the most common path towards becoming a graphic designer is earning a degree in graphic design, some individuals choose to start their careers on their own from scratch. These are the recommended steps.

  • Build a Foundation – This involves the student knowing what type of graphic design the individual wishes to learn.
  • Develop Basic Drawing Skills – This may start as early as elementary or may be a high school student brushing up on art and drawing skills.
  • Learn Graphic Design Theory – The individual can take classes on graphic design fundamentals, including layout, type, color and form/images.
  • Develop Website Design Skills – Creating a website is generally the most important talent a graphic designer can learn.
  • Learn Copywriting – Graphic designers should be proficient in copywriting skills like titles, headers, text blocks and descriptions.
  • Mastering the Software – Graphic designers should be proficient in graphic design software such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe InDesign, among others.

Career Outlook

Graphic designers will continue to be needed to help market products throughout the economy. The job growth for graphic designers will vary by the industry and the type of graphic designer according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Although graphic designers overall are only expected to see a three percent job growth between 2018 and 2028, graphic designers working in computer systems design should see a 24 percent growth.

The increasing use of the internet and its digital designs has slowed down employment for graphic designers working in periodicals, newspapers and books. These professionals may experience a decline of 22 percent in jobs. Graphic designers who keep up with the latest graphic design trends and software will typically see the best employment opportunities.

As of May 2018, the average annual wages for graphic designers was $54,680. Graphic designers in the lowest 10 percent earned $29610, while those in the top 90 percent earned about $85,760. Factors that affect earning potential include degree level, experience, certifications, employer and location.

Art and drawing seem to be subjects that students have always enjoyed from a very young age. Talented individuals who don’t seem to lose their interest in art often find that pursuing careers in graphic design to be an excellent choice because it allows them to earn a living doing something they love.

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