What is a Graphic Designer?
Table of Contents
- What is a Graphic Designer?
- What does a Graphic Designer do?
- How to become a Graphic Designer
- What is the workplace of a Graphic Designer like?
- Do graphic designers need to have the ability to draw?
- Where can one find graphic design inspiration?
- What is the difference between a graphic designer and an illustrator?
- What is some good advice for graphic design students?
- What is it like being a graphic designer?
- Do Graphic Designers need to be able to code?
- What are the biggest differences in designing for print versus the web?
- Further Reading
- Similar Careers
A graphic designer is a visual communicator, someone who creates visual concepts by hand or by using computer software. They communicate ideas to inspire, inform, or captivate consumers.
Graphic designers help to make an organization recognizable by using a variety of mediums to communicate a particular idea or identity to be used in advertising and promotions. Examples are fonts, shapes, colours, images, print design, photography, animation, logos, and billboards. They also collaborate with artists, multimedia animators, and other creative people on many of their projects.
How to Become a Graphic Designer
What does a Graphic Designer do?
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:
- Meet with clients or the art director to determine the scope of a project
- Advise clients on strategies to reach a particular audience
- Determine the message the design should portray
- Create images that identify a product or convey a message
- Develop graphics and visual or audio images for product illustrations, logos, and websites
- Create designs either by hand or by using computer software packages
- Select colours, images, text style, and layout
- Present the design to clients or the art director
- Incorporate changes recommended by the clients into the final design
- Review designs for errors before printing or publishing them
Graphic design is becoming increasingly important in the sales and marketing of products. Therefore, graphic designers, also referred to as 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 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. Some individuals with a background in graphic design teach in design schools, colleges, and universities.
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How to become a Graphic Designer
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.
A bachelor’s degree in graphic design or a related field is usually required for jobs in this field. Those with a bachelor’s degree in another field may pursue technical training in graphic design to meet most hiring qualifications. Beginning graphic designers usually need one to three 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.
Most schools include studio art, principles of design, computerized design, commercial graphics production, printing techniques, and web 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.
What is the workplace of a Graphic Designer like?
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.
Now that computer-based tools are available, the ability to draw is not as important as a good sense of design. You don't have to be an amazing artist in order to be a graphic designer, but you do have to be able to make basic sketches and drawings on paper. Your sketches and drawings should be able to convey your ideas to someone else, most likely your boss or a client. If you feel uncomfortable with your drawing skills, find some tutorials on drawing and sketching. Don't worry or get frustrated, since the more you practice, the more you will get comfortable and gain confidence.
Sometimes it's hard to find the inspiration to create a unique work of art for a client. One thing that you can do to help open up your creative mind is to put yourself in the customer's shoes. What would persuade you (as a customer) to buy the service or product? Why are you buying it (is it a need or a want)? The one and only mission that a graphic design has is to sell the client's service or product (they act like visual salesmen). So if you can come up with an idea which would compel you (yourself) to buy, then you are definitely on the right track.
You can also look at how past graphic designers have dealt with similar products or services, and their creative work may spark some new ideas in you. Doodle design ideas over and over again until a solid design starts to show itself.
Both graphic designers and illustrators do design-type work.
Graphic designers will work on design elements and structures, providing a visual message/brand for a company in order to sell a product or service.
Illustrators, on the other hand, will typically do commercial work for companies like comic book houses, publishing houses and advertising agencies. They do a lot more drawing, designing of product packaging, working on book illustrations, creating company logos, and graphic novels.
Graphic design degrees require a concentration in product design, website design, and publication design. Illustration students have some graphic design training, but most of their coursework includes art history, drawing, and painting. The illustrator doesn't have the advanced knowledge of a graphic designer.
If you like to draw and illustrate concepts, illustration would be a good fit. If you prefer to code, make websites, and do detail-type work, then graphic design might suit you better.
Also relevant for Illustrator
It's important to love the whole design process, from beginning to end. Make sure to keep updated with any changes in the industry; it moves at a fast pace. Having said that, don't blindly follow trends leaving great ideas behind. Doing design for the sake of design is not the way to go.
Sometimes you'll become overly invested in a design you're working on, so much so that you become defensive if it's criticized. Don't get overly sensitive about criticism - keep your mind open to suggestions. Just because someone doesn't like your work doesn't mean you are a bad designer.
Invest in your portfolio, and be selective in what goes in it. Focus on your best pieces, and make them as impressive as you can make them. Employers will often ask you to explain what's in your portfolio and why it's in there, so make sure you can explain why you included each piece.
Working as a graphic designer is not as glorified as many would think. It can be a stressful, cutting edge career, where one has to wear many different hats and face challenges daily. The industry technically and creatively evolves faster than almost any other industry, so graphic designers have to constantly stay on top of trends, learn new software, consistently stay creative, and come up with intriguing concepts and designs that will capture the minds and emotions of those who view the work.
A huge part of a graphic designer's job is being intuitive and attentive to the client's needs; being able to see through what they are saying vs what they are really saying (or meaning). It takes more than artistic ability to be a good designer; it takes excellent communication skills to understand and manage the client's expectations and criticisms. Developing client-related skills, and making the design process about them and their product (and keeping your ego out of your work) will set you above many other graphic designers.
Graphic designers work with all types of media. Their designs are printed on paper, silk screened onto signage, and displayed on screens as an app or website, to name just a few. Understanding what is and isn't possible in the intended medium is crucial to creating an effective design.
So, yes, designing for digital media like websites and apps requires understanding what you can and can't do with code. Knowing how to code a website on your own isn't necessary, just understanding the high level concepts and being able to have a conversation with developers is enough.
You can sketch almost anything, and while that freedom can be an important part of the creative process, a designer knows that for any project, success depends on well defined constraints. Learning about the limitations of your medium is an essential part of being a designer, but you don't need to “write the code” yourself.
Designing for the web introduces a whole host of new variables, limitations, and opportunites that aren't present in print design.
While print design usually means designing for fixed layouts where the designer knows exactly how the content will be displayed to users, web design requires taking into account the fact that users can be viewing their content on a variety of devices, each with different pixel densities, color profiles, and screen ratios. Often times, this also means designing for fluid experiences, where designs must be able to react to changes in screen size and page events, presenting new design challenges.
Futhermore, the technical constraints are higher in designing for the web, where the designer is expected to know what is and isn't possible with current technologies. For example, web typography is still in its infancy: many standard typographical tools aren't available or easily accessible, and some foundries still do not license their typefaces for use online. In addition, bandwidth constraints require designers to also take things like filesize into account, sometimes restricting design opportunities in the name of a better user experience.
Designing for the web, however, also brings with it interactive elements that aren't present in print design, which offers up many new possibilities, but creates more work for the designer. For example, it opens the door to adding animations and transformations to page elements, but that also introduces user-experience as a new goal for designers to worry about. Whereas with print design there is usually little user interaction, on the web it becomes a primary concern to the designer, creating a new lens through which they must look at their work.
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