Important Job Skills for Graphic Designers

Image shows a pair of hands working on a computer with a cup of pencils, a coffee cup, and a cell phone next to him. Text reads: "A day in the life of a graphic designer: convey message in a visually pleasing manner, proficient in adobe's creative suits, meet with clients to understand their vision. Median wage: $48,700"

Image by Theresa Chiechi © The Balance 2019

Communicating with beautiful art in today’s world often involves serious computer software experience, as well as the creative soft skills required of any artist.

What Are Graphic Design Skills?

Many employing graphic design skills work in a communications and marketing role. Technically, graphic design is visual communication. The American Institute of Graphic Arts today defines the field for current and aspiring graphic designers.

The field formally incorporates creative and function understanding of seven elements into its own form of communication: space, texture, color, line, size, form, and shape.

While many in graphic design do complete a college degree, it is not required. You will, however, need to demonstrate your graphic design skills beyond what is listed in your resume.

What Kind of Skills Do You Need to Work in Graphic Design?

© The Balance 2018


Graphic designers communicate ideas through text and image. Therefore, communication skills are critical to the job. However, communication is important in graphic design in other ways too.

Graphic designers have to articulate ideas to companies, clients, employers, etc. It requires strong public speaking skills for presentations and writing skills for proposals. Designers also have to be able to communicate with clients and employers by phone, email, and sometimes through Skype. Graphic designers must listen to their clients’ needs and convey persuasive solutions.

  • Confidence
  • Consultation
  • Customer Service
  • Establishing Rapport
  • Interpreting Artwork for the General Public
  • Understanding Clients’ Artistic Preferences
  • Interpersonal
  • Active Listening 
  • Receiving Constructive Criticism about Artwork
  • Sales
  • Verbal Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Written Communication


Graphic designers need to be creative thinkers. They have to creatively convey ideas through text and image. They have to generate solutions for their clients through creative means; for example, they might have to promote a company’s mission through a website or design an image that helps sell a product. All of this involves creativity, as well as creative problem-solving skills.

  • Aesthetics
  • Attention to Detail
  • Balancing Artistry with Audience Appeal
  • Perceptivity
  • Visually Representing Ideas
  • Sketching
  • Brainstorming


Graphic designers have to master various forms of technology in today’s world. Firstly, they need to be comfortable with design software, such as Quark, InDesign, and Adobe. This software is used by many companies to produce digital prints.

If the graphic design tasks pertain to website development, you also need to know about web design. They should be fluent in multiple programming languages (including HTML and CSS) as well as web design content management system platforms, such as WordPress.

  • Ability to Learn Digital Design Software
  • Adobe Acrobat
  • Adobe Creative Suite
  • Adobe Flash
  • Adobe Illustrator
  • Adobe InDesign
  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Dreamweaver
  • CSS
  • HTML
  • Quark
  • QuarkXpress
  • Photo Editing

Time Management

Most graphic designers are constantly juggling multiple projects at once. Because this is so common in the job, they have to have strong time management skills. Graphic designers should be able to multitask, juggle multiple assignments over long periods, and meet all established deadlines.

  • Critical Thinking
  • Deadline Management
  • Decisive
  • Design Strategy
  • Organizational Skills
  • Multitasking
  • Prioritizing
  • Problem-solving
  • Flexibility


Graphic designers need to know how to develop (via creation or selection) legible, well-designed type. They need to be familiar with certain fonts and have a knowledge of line-height and tracking.

  • Choosing Fonts
  • Logo Creation
  • Layout
  • Modifying Designs
  • Representing Figures in Space with a Balanced Perspective
  • Spacing
  • Storyboard Creation

More Graphic Design Skills

  • Accuracy
  • Analytical Skills
  • Applying Digital Resources to Resign Projects
  • Assertiveness
  • Color Sense
  • Color Theory
  • Composition
  • Creating Models for Three-dimensional Forms
  • Infographics
  • Digital Printing
  • Estimating Costs
  • Illustration
  • Initiative
  • Integrating Visual Messages within Social Media Platforms
  • Ad Design
  • Color Schemes
  • iWork Keynote
  • Marketing
  • Troubleshooting
  • Negotiation
  • Networking
  • Patience
  • Photography
  • DSLR Cameras
  • Planning
  • Presentation
  • Production
  • Project Management
  • Proofreading
  • Strategic Thinking
  • Targeting Visual Communications to Demographic Groups
  • Teamwork
  • Usability
  • Independence

How to Showcase Your Graphic Design Skills

Add Your Most Relevant Skills to Your Resume: The closer a match your credentials are to what the employer is looking for, the better your chances of getting hired. For a graphic designer, highlighting relevant soft skills (such as Creativity) with hard skills (such as specific graphic design software skills) is vital.

If you're a student or recent graduate, highlight the skills you acquired during your studies, internships, and jobs held during college.

Graphic designers have often developed their resume more creatively through the use of graphics software. By all means, use beautiful fonts and graphics to show off your skills, but make sure that the key resume information is clear.

A graphic design job application can be, therefore, an ideal time to submit a nontraditional resume. However, only do this if you think the employer will appreciate it. If the employer asks for a traditional resume, or you know the company has a conservative culture, you might want to send a more straightforward resume. You can then exhibit your skills in a portfolio.

Highlight Your Skills in Your Cover Letter: In the body of your letter, you can mention one or two of these skills, and give specific examples of times when you demonstrated those skills at work. Bear in mind that many employers will want you to submit (either with or in place of a cover letter) a portfolio of some of your graphic design work.

Use Skill Words During Job Interviews: Employers are often concerned that artists and creative can be disciplined and clear when communicating project goals and keeping to a budget. Those that possess great creative ability can sometimes give the impression that they are not grounded on practicality. That’s why it’s important that your interview demonstrate to potential employers your ability to relate to schedules/deadlines, budgets, and even interpersonal conflict.

Be prepared to show why you’re the best fit when you respond.