Graphic Design

Graphic Design

How to Become a Graphic Designer

Careers in Graphic Design

Occupation Overview

The work of a graphic designer is around us all the time, making the world more vibrant. You see it when you visit web pages, look at advertisements at bus stops or in magazines, or view product logos. Graphic designers create illustrations, drawings, logos, color schemes, and layouts of magazine and web pages. They choose text sizes and fonts, and often make all the visual elements of a project fit together in a way that is pleasing to the eye. Almost no product or service exists without the need for graphic design of some kind for marketing or/or brand identity purposes.

graphically designed art

Graphic designer is one of the positions at advertising firms, public relations firms, website design companies, and magazines and other publications. Some other businesses employer their own graphic designers, and designers may be involved in the process of creating the packages for various products or even for designing video games.

Graphic designers are the people behind photos, drawings, graphs, and other elements that go into texts of all kinds. Their job is to help create a certain mood or image, packaging and presenting the message in a way that is effective.

As one example, say a graphic designer is working for a digital advertising agency. She will meet with the client to discuss the sort of image the company is trying to project. From that, she will use the appropriate colors and styles and design shapes, logos, font styles, etc. She may take photos taken by the staff photographer and decide how to size them and how to make them fit with the rest or the advertisement. After that, when the agency presents the finished print ad to its client, they may get feedback leading to revisions that the designer will work on.

Required Skills

Artistic Ability—One of the chief skills of a graphic designer is artistic ability. The designer begins many projects with free-hand sketches. Some computer programs require the designer to draw on the screen. So, even though computer software and applications fuel the work of the designer, the person must be an artist at heart.

Graphic Design Software—Just as important as artistic ability is experience with the software programs most used in the field. You won’t be hired into an entry-level position without being able to demonstrate knowledge of the current software. At present, this includes:

  • Adobe Photoshop—photo editing and the creation of complex images
  • Adobe InDesign—page design and layouts
  • CorelDRAW Graphic Suite X7—illustration, tracing, photo editing
  • Adobe Dreamweaver—web page design

Collaboration—A graphic designer absolutely must be a good be a good collaborator. This means being able to compromise and to communicate well with others. Everything a graphic designer does has an effect on other people, and will include the input of others.

graphic art sketch

Media Savvy—A good graphic designer understands how the media works, including economic issues faced by the various media; political and personnel issues across the media; ethical issues; and which methods of reaching people are effective and are, at any moment, in vogue.


Many colleges and universities now offer Bachelor’s Degrees in graphic design. One might also earn an Associate’s in the subject or attend an art institute as opposed to a traditional university. While studying, students will learn about art principles, design principles, graphics production, and web design.

During the end of one’s time as a student, he or she puts together a comprehensive portfolio with his or her best work.

Getting Into the Field

There are a few levels of graphic designer in many organizations. Some graphic designers have the title of head designer and have more creative freedom, etc. Some designers start out in administrative or assistant positions and then move up through the ranks of graphic design.

If possible, the aspiring graphic designer should complete an internship in the field. Many companies offer them, including some Fortune 500 companies.


According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual wage for graphic designers is $50, 670. The designers in the lowest 10% of the range make $27,100 and those in the highest 10% make $80,570.


The outlook for the occupation varies based on types of employment. Designers who are most technologically inclined can expect to fare best. The BLS projects 35% growth in graphic design from 2012 to 2022 in “computer systems design and related services.”

graphic design office

In short, those who will be creating designs meant to be disseminated in electronic form will be in much greater demand. The BLS projects a 16% drop in the industry for graphic designers working in newspaper, periodical, book, and directory publishing.

Outlook by region

The five states (plus the District of Columbia) with highest average salaries for graphic designers are

1) Washington D.C.

2) New York

3) Connecticut

4) California

5) Maryland

The cities with the highest salaries are New York, San Francisco, Washington, D.C.

The states with the most graphic designers, per capita, are New York, Minnesota, Utah, Washington D.C., and California. Areas that offer the least employment in this profession are Alaska, Nevada (outside the Las Vegas area), North Dakota, the Southwest tip of Texas, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

The metropolitan areas with the most employment for graphic designers are New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Atlanta.

Salary vs. related industries

Here is the average salary of graphic designers vs. related fields

  • Graphic Designer: $50,670
  • Multimedia Artist: $61,370
  • Craft Artist: $29,600
  • Video Editor: $75,090

Work Environment

Many graphic designers work in a relatively-large, open work space in the workplace of the company for which they are employed. They will work with a computer with a large, state-of-the-art printer, and may have a drafting table.

tablet used in graphic design

However, the BLS reports that 24% of all graphic designers were self-employed. This number might go up as more and more people telecommute and as more and more companies outsource work to freelancers.


The outlook for advancement within the field of graphic design is fair. One way to advance is to higher paying jobs, those that afford more exciting projects, and ones with more creative control. The occupation positioned one notch higher than graphic designer is art director.

The art director is the coordinator of all the graphic designers. The art director is the point person to the firm with whom the creative team is working. He or she must be skilled in business as well as having experience in design. The current median salary for art directors is $80,880.

Graphic Design takes place on many fronts, which means that skill in this area can be beneficial in a variety of ways. It can be a good application for drawing abilities and for those who like creating art. It can also be one of the best career fits for those who like bringing to life graphics and pictures with the kind of elaborate detail allowed by computer software.

However, one must keep in mind that a graphic designer is, more than an artist, a part of the mass media industry. He or she must create to the instructions of the client, and must be able to interact with co-workers in a business setting.