How to Become a Graphic Designer Working in the graphic design industry is different from working in the field of fine arts.
A graphic designer is a person who communicates ideas through images and lettering. This visual communication is important for the print media, TV graphics, logos and websites. Working in the graphic design industry is different from working in the field of fine arts. A fine artist may want to inspire the viewer and open discussions of interpretation, but the graphic designer must covey a specific message.
Graphic designers are employed by advertising companies and publishers, and they may have their own freelance business. People can teach themselves the skills required to be a graphic designer, but in most cases, it is considered better to have a bachelor’s degree or an associate’s degree in art or design.
A certificate or an associate’s degree may qualify students for a job as an assistant or technical support to a graphic designer, but most positions require at least a bachelor’s degree. There are about 300 schools in the U.S. that are approved by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design, and some of these schools require the applicant to submit a portfolio of their drawings and other art work to gain admission.
In a four year program, students learn both the technical and artistic skills that are required for entry-level employment. The basic course work includes:
• Drawing • Typography • Computer-assisted design • Advanced graphic design • Photography • Digital media • Book design
People best suited for a graphic design job will have strong visual, verbal and written communication skills along with their technical skills. This means they should also be visual thinkers and able to arrange shapes, colors and fonts in their mind. They should understand how to convey emotions through colors and make an impact. Strong interpersonal skills are important because designers often work on a team. They’ll need to discuss their employer’s requirements and present their designs and ideas in a convincing manner.
It’s also important to learn about the traditions, theory and history of the industry because this will add depth when it comes to making a presentation to a client. The designer needs to be able to explain how and why they did what they did.
College courses will give the student the basics in most forms of design, but it is recommended for the student to choose an area of specialization. However, this isn’t a requirement. The fundamentals are the same for print medial or web media, but there are key difference in color space, resolutions and other things.
A few of the specialties are:
• Web design • Typography • Product packaging • Advertising • Logo design • Book design The top job opportunities are for designers with expertise in interactive media, web design and animation. Employers will want to see a portfolio of the applicant’s work when they are being considered for a job. Students can begin collecting their work in high school and continue to add to their portfolio throughout college.
Along with design and technology skills, students need to understand the business side of the job. This may include:
• Providing the costs for a project • Working within budget • Working within deadlines • Handling invoices • Marketing skills
What to Expect
Graphic designers may not have a nine to five job. They may need to work at all hours and on weekends to finish a project on time. This is useful for freelance designers or people who want to work from home.
• Designers need to be able to receive professional criticism gracefully from colleagues as well as clients. Since graphic design is intended to send a message, all people may not get the message intended. This means there will be discussion of designs and criticism before they are presented to the public. It is considered a highly-competitive and almost ruthless industry in which to work, so the designer shouldn’t let interpersonal relationships come in the way of their creative process.
• The design industry is influenced by trends and is every changing. Technology is also being upgraded at a rapid pace. Designers must keep up with the latest advancements to be successful with clients.
• Graphic design is a service industry. Designers must remember that they need to please their client. Just because they like their own designs, doesn’t mean everyone else will. If the client makes naive or impractical suggestions, the designer must always remain polite and listen. They can then share their professional opinion.
• Researching the target market is considered a major part of the job. This means the designer must have knowledge of what the target demographic will like.
• A good understanding of basic math is required for calculating layout size, budgeting and bookkeeping.
Most of the jobs in the industry today demand proficiency in the following design skills:
• Photoshop • InDesign • Web Site Design • Illustrator • Typesetting • Concept Development
Those who want to attempt to become a designer without getting a degree should focus on these programs and become an expert in the area. They should then develop a portfolio and seek an internship, so they can develop some real-world skills.
The most successful designers are able to handle the stress of deadlines, work within budget and deal with the whims and fancies of clients without losing their creative enthusiasm. It is recommended for people who think they want to pursue a career in graphic design, to get some practical experience before enrolling in a course. They will then get an idea of the real-world in the industry and not have any illusions that the job is all fun and no work.