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Graphic Designers — Who Are They and What Do They Do?

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Graphic designers, also known as graphic artists, are on the front lines of all modern forms of advertising and entertainment. You see their work every day on the Internet, on television, and in magazines and newspapers. Graphic designers design artwork and layouts for all other types of visual media such as logos, brochures, books, packaging, posters, labels, signage, exhibitions and advertising, in addition to designing packaging and other visual aspects of electronic media.

It is a fact that humans are visual creatures and graphic designers are the folks that bridge the visual gap between companies and consumers. Without some sort of visual stimuli to entice consumers to buy their product, many companies will fall flat relying on catchy slogans and superior products alone. Every company out there recognizes the intrinsic value of a great graphic designer and they are willing to pay for them. Graphic designer jobs can therefore be both enjoyable and financially rewarding at the same time.

What Do They Do?

On a daily basis, graphic designers plan, research, and form visual solutions to communications issues. The biggest part of their job lies in finding the best way to convey a message via the various forms of visual media using illustration, color, fonts, animation, photography, and various layout and print methods.

Graphic designers also create the overall design and layout of newspapers, magazines, corporate reports, journals, and various other publications. In addition to these services, graphic designer jobs may also find you producing promotional packaging, brochures and displays for all kinds of products and services, designing logos for businesses and their products, and developing environmental graphics (i.e., signage) for both business and government entities. As mentioned earlier, many graphic designers these days create material for web pages, computer software, and any sort of information technology media. Television and movie producers use graphic designers to create attractive television ads, movie trailers, and television and movie credits.

A large part of the design process is determining exactly what a client needs. This usually means figuring out what sort of message the client wants to send with your design and what its appeal should be. In order to better serve their clients, graphic designers consider every facet of their target audience when creating a new design or layout. They research and gather information through close interaction with their client and regularly meet with their client's creative director or art director.

Before anything is finalized, graphic designers create mock-ups or sketches to show their client what they have in mind for the project. Once the design is approved, graphic designers also may assist in further production by checking any beta versions of the design for errors before it goes to the final stage of production.

What Education and Training Do You Need?

Graphic designer jobs usually require a bachelor's or less-often an associate degree in graphic design. In addition to your degree, employers will be looking for candidates with a solid grasp of appropriate design software and computer graphics. Candidates that demonstrate problem solving skills, good communication skills, and of course creativity are bound to have a leg up on their competition. Graphic designers also need to be able to quickly adapt to shifting consumer tastes, be well read, and able to work independently under pressure. You must also be able to exercise self-discipline in order to meet deadlines, especially if you are a freelance designer or if you run your own design company.

As mentioned earlier, most graphic designer jobs require a bachelor's degree in graphic design, but some entry-level positions may only require you to have an associate degree. Many colleges and universities across the country offer bachelor's degree programs in graphic design. The curriculum for such programs usually involve courses in website design, commercial graphics production, studio art, computerized design, principles of design, and printing techniques.

Some schools also offer associate degrees in graphic design. These 2-year programs usually focus more on training students in the many facets of graphic design, rather than giving them complete liberal arts education you get with a 4-year bachelor's program. Graduates of these programs can usually land jobs serving as graphic design assistants, doing most of the technical part of graphic design, rather than the creative part. Whether you take a 2- or 4-year program, an internship is also a great idea. An internship can provide you with invaluable on-the-job training and experience, in addition to contacts in the industry.

Because graphic design is such right-brain, creative line of work, graphic designers must obviously be imaginative, inventive, resourceful, expressive and detail-oriented. In order to display their traits and accomplishments, graphic designers keep a portfolio of all their best work to show to possible employers and clients. Quite often, a good portfolio is what will get you a job over someone else with a similar resume.

What about Salary and Opportunities?

There is always room for advancement in the field of graphic design, depending on your skill level. When you first start out, you'll probably receive on-the-job training and you'll probably need a few years of such training before you can move on to a better position within the company. Such entry-level positions usually offer a salary about $40,000-$50,000 annually, depending on your experience and skill level. Supervisory positions, such as creative or art director or chief designer, become available to more experienced graphic designers, along with a commensurate salary approaching six figures. Of course, many graphic designers choose to teach graphic design in colleges and universities; without such individuals there would be no new graphic designers.


If you are a creative, right-brained individual, a career in graphic design may be right around the corner. This job is one that calls upon individuals who not only have a great work ethic, but are also able to exercise their imagination to come up with creative solutions to problems. This is not for business-minded individuals concerned mainly with the bottom line. If you have the ability to look beyond what is laid before you, graphic design may be the job for you.
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