Graphic designers create visual concepts, by hand or using computer software, to communicate ideas that inspire, inform, or captivate consumers. They help to make an organization recognizable by selecting colour, images, or logo designs that represent a particular idea or identity to be used in advertising and promotions.
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Graphic designers combine art and technology to communicate ideas through images and the layout of web screens and printed pages. They may use a variety of design elements to achieve artistic or decorative effects. They develop the overall layout and production design for advertisements, brochures, magazines, and corporate reports. Graphic designers work with both text and images. They often select the type, font, size, colour, and line length of headlines, headings, and text. Graphic designers also decide how images and text will go together on a page or screen, including how much space each will have. When using text in layouts, they collaborate closely with writers who choose the words and decide whether the words will be put into paragraphs, lists, or tables. Their work typically involves the following:
Graphic design is becoming increasingly important in the sales and marketing of products. Therefore, graphic designers, also referred to as graphic artists or communication designers, often work closely with people in advertising and promotions, public relations, and marketing. Frequently, designers specialize in a particular category or type of client. For example, some create credits for motion pictures, while others work with print media and create signs or posters.
Graphic designers also need to keep up to date with the latest software and computer technologies to remain competitive. Some individuals with a background in graphic design teach in design schools, colleges, and universities.
A bachelor’s degree in graphic design or a related field is usually required for jobs in this field. Beginning graphic designers usually need 1-to-3 years of work experience before they can advance to higher positions. Experienced graphic designers may advance to chief designer, art or creative director, or other supervisory positions.
Nevertheless, those with a bachelor’s degree in another field may pursue technical training in graphic design to meet most hiring qualifications.
Most schools include studio art, principles of design, computerized design, commercial graphics production, printing techniques, and website design. In addition, students should consider courses in writing, marketing, and business, all of which are useful in helping designers work effectively on project teams. Many programs provide students with the opportunity to build their professional portfolios. This means collecting examples of their designs from classroom projects, internships, and other experiences. Students use these examples of their work to demonstrate their design skills when applying for jobs and bidding on projects. A good portfolio often is the deciding factor in getting a job.
Students interested in graphic design programs should take basic art and design courses in high school, if the courses are available. Many bachelor's degree programs require students to have had one year of basic art and design courses before being admitted to a formal degree program. Some schools require applicants to submit sketches and other examples of their artistic ability.
Graphic designers must keep up with new and updated computer graphics and design software, either on their own or through formal software training programs. They must be able to create designs that are artistically interesting and appealing to clients and consumers. They produce rough illustrations of design ideas, either by hand sketching or by using a computer program.
Graphic designers must communicate with clients, customers, and other designers to ensure that their designs accurately reflect the desired message and effectively express information. Most use specialized graphic design software to prepare their designs. They must be able to think of new approaches to communicating ideas to consumers. They develop unique designs that convey a recognizable meaning on behalf of their clients.
Graphic designers often work on projects with other graphic designers and marketers, business analysts, writers, and programmers. They must collaborate to produce successful websites, publications, and other products.
Graphic designers generally work in studios where they have access to drafting tables, computers, and the software necessary to create their designs. Although many work independently, those who work for specialized graphic design firms often work as part of a team. Some designers telecommute. Many graphic designers collaborate with colleagues on projects or work with clients located around the world.
Most graphic designers work full time, but schedules can vary depending on workload and deadlines. In 2010, about 29% of graphic designers were self-employed. These individuals may need to adjust their workday to meet with clients in the evenings or on weekends. In addition, they may spend some of their time looking for new projects or competing with other designers for contracts.
The median annual wage of graphic designers was $43,500 in May 2010. (The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less.) The lowest 10% earned less than $26,200, and the top 10% earned more than $76,910.