Graphic Designer Job Description and Salary Information

graphic designer working on computer
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If you a creative thinker who enjoys working with the latest technologies on a variety of different projects, a job in graphic design might be for you. Graphic designers incorporate images and text into everything from company logos to promotional materials and more. The skills they bring can be valuable to a lot of different industries, but getting a foot in the door typically requires entry-level designers to have a strong portfolio they've developed through coursework or internships.

Job Description

Graphic designers create visual communications to convey messages in an effective and aesthetically pleasing manner. They design web pages, brochures, logos, signs, books, magazine covers, annual reports, advertisements, and other communication materials. Graphic designers create these materials by hand or by using technology, including computer software programs. Adobe's Creative Suite—including Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and more— is the standard in the industry and most employers will expect designers to be proficient with its programs.

Graphic designers meet with clients to gain an understanding of what they want their proposed communications to look like. They create or incorporate illustrations, pictures, and designs to reflect the desired theme and tone of the communications. Graphic designers select type size and style to enhance the readability of text and image.

They produce drafts for review by clients and make revisions based on the feedback they receive. Graphic designers review final productions for errors and make sure final prints reflect client specifications.

Work Environment

Graphic designers work in a variety of environments. Some work for graphic design, public relations, or advertising firms, completing projects for various clients. Others work at communications departments within businesses, government agencies, colleges, nonprofit groups, or other organizations. Some work in publishing houses, producing designs for specific newspapers, magazines, books, websites, and more.

Many graphic designers are self-employed. They have clients they work for independently. Self-employed graphic designers have very flexible schedules, but meeting clients' deadlines still is an important part of the job.

Whether they work for a company or are self-employed, graphic designers' workloads vary. There might be times when they are busy working on many projects and other times when they are waiting for a new project.

Education and Training

Many graphic designers complete a bachelor's degree with a major or concentration in graphic design at either a traditional college or art institute. However, people with bachelor’s degrees in unrelated fields often can gain the training they need through technical training programs, including software training courses. They might also take specialized courses in graphic design and complete internships or do freelance work.

A few graphic designers do not go through any sort of formal training and are completely self-taught. These people typically have an advanced aptitude for computer-aided design.

Graphic design is a "show-me" field, which means that hiring managers want to see evidence of your successful work from the past. Graphic designers, therefore, need to develop portfolios of their work to show to prospective employers.

Graphic design students develop their portfolios through hands-on classroom projects and graphic design internships. They also build their portfolios through specialized courses and freelance work.

Required Skills

Along with a strong portfolio, there are certain skills employers seek in graphic designers. These include soft skills, which are difficult to quantify and reflect how you interact with others and your environment. Some of the most important soft skills for graphic designers include communication, creativity, analysis, and time management.

Another important soft skill for some graphic designers is teamwork. If designers work as part of a design team, they need to be able to collaborate and get along with others.

Graphic designers also need a number of hard skills, including various technical skills, and a knowledge of both typography and color theory. These are skills that can be learned through coursework and practice, including internships.

Expected Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, graphic designers earned a median salary of $48,700, as of 2017. The bottom 10 percent earned less than $28,560 while the top 10 percent earned at least $83,140.

Jobs in graphic design are expected to grow a little less than the national average in the decade from 2016-2026. The projected percent increase in employment is 4 percent, while the national average for all jobs is 7 percent.