Graphic Design


Quick Facts: Graphic Designers
2017 Median Pay $48,700 per year 
$23.41 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Bachelor's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2016 266,300
Job Outlook, 2016-26 4% (Slower than average)
Employment Change, 2016-26 11,100

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Graphic Design Career, Salary, and Education Information

What GRAPHIC DESIGNERS Do

Graphic designers create visual concepts, using computer software or by hand, to communicate ideas that inspire, inform, and captivate consumers. They develop the overall layout and production design for various applications such as advertisements, brochures, magazines, and corporate reports.

Graphic Design

Duties of graphic designers

Graphic designers typically do the following:

  • Meet with clients or the art director to determine the scope of a project

  • Use digital illustration, photo editing software, and layout software to create designs

  • Create visual elements such as logos, original images, and illustrations that help deliver a desired message

  • Design layouts and select colors, images, and typefaces to use

  • Present design concepts to clients or art directors

  • Incorporate changes recommended by clients or art directors into final designs

  • Review designs for errors before printing or publishing them

Graphic designers combine art and technology to communicate ideas through images and the layout of websites and printed pages. They may use a variety of design elements to achieve artistic or decorative effects.

Graphic designers work with both text and images. They often select the type, font, size, color, and line length of headlines, headings, and text. Graphic designers also decide how images and text will go together on a print or webpage, including how much space each will have. When using text in layouts, graphic designers collaborate closely with writers, who choose the words and decide whether the words will be put into paragraphs, lists, or tables. Through the use of images, text, and color, graphic designers can transform statistical data into visual graphics and diagrams, which can make complex ideas more accessible.

Graphic design is important to marketing and selling products, and is a critical component of brochures and logos. Therefore, graphic designers, also referred to as graphic artists or communication designers, often work closely with people in advertising and promotions, public relations, and marketing.

Frequently, designers specialize in a particular category or type of client. For example, some create the graphics used on retail products packaging, and others may work on the visual designs used on book jackets.

Graphic designers need to keep up to date with the latest software and computer technologies in order to remain competitive.

Some individuals with a background in graphic design become postsecondary teachers and teach in design schools, colleges, and universities.

Some graphic designers may specialize in the field of experiential graphic design. These designers work with architectsindustrial designerslandscape architects, and interior designers to create interactive design environments, such as museum exhibitions, public arts exhibits, and retail spaces.


Work Environment for graphic designerS

Graphic designers hold about 266,300 jobs. The largest employers of graphic designers are as follows:

Self-employed workers: 18%

Specialized design services: 11%

Advertising, public relations, and related services: 8%

Printing and related support activities: 7%

Newspaper, periodical, book, and directory publishers: 6%

Graphic designers generally work in studios, where they have access to drafting tables, computers, and the software necessary to create their designs. Although many graphic designers work independently, those who work for specialized graphic design firms often work as part of a design team. Many graphic designers collaborate with colleagues or work with clients on projects.

Work Schedules

Graphic designers' schedules can vary depending on workloads and deadlines.

Those who are self-employed may need to adjust their workday to meet with clients in the evenings or on weekends. In addition, they may spend some of their time looking for new projects or competing with other designers for contracts.


How to Become a GRAPHIC DESIGNER

Graphic designers usually need a bachelor’s degree in graphic design or a related field. Candidates for graphic design positions should demonstrate their creativity and originality through a professional portfolio that features their best designs.

Education

A bachelor’s degree in graphic design or a related field is usually required. However, individuals with a bachelor’s degree in another field may pursue technical training in graphic design to meet most hiring qualifications.

The National Association of Schools of Art and Design accredits about 350 postsecondary colleges, universities, and independent institutes with programs in art and design. Most programs include courses in studio art, principles of design, computerized design, commercial graphics production, printing techniques, and website design. In addition, students should consider courses in writing, marketing, and business, all of which are useful in helping designers work effectively on project teams.

High school students interested in graphic design should take basic art and design courses in high school, if the courses are available. Many bachelor’s degree programs require students to complete a year of basic art and design courses before being admitted to a formal degree program. Some schools require applicants to submit sketches and other examples of their artistic ability.

Many programs provide students with the opportunity to build a professional portfolio of their designs. For many artists, including graphic designers, developing a portfolio—a collection of completed works that demonstrates their styles and abilities—is essential because employers rely heavily on a designer’s portfolio in deciding whether to hire the individual.

Graphic designers must keep up with new and updated computer graphics and design software, either on their own or through formal software training programs. Professional associations that specialize in graphic design, such as AIGA, offer courses intended to keep the skills of their members up to date.

Other Experience

Graphic designers often gain their initial experience through internships. Internships provide aspiring graphic designers an opportunity to work with designers and to experience the design process from concept to completion, in some cases while completing a design program.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Certification programs are generally available through software product vendors. Certification in graphic design software can demonstrate a level of competence and may provide a jobseeker with a competitive advantage.

Advancement

Experienced graphic designers may advance to chief designer, art director, or other supervisory positions.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Graphic designers must be able to look at their work from the point of view of their consumers and examine how the designs they develop will be perceived by consumers to ensure they convey the client’s desired message.

Artistic ability. Graphic designers must be able to create designs that are artistically interesting and appealing to clients and consumers. They produce rough illustrations of design ideas, either by hand sketching or by using computer programs.

Communication skills. Graphic designers must communicate with clients, customers, and other designers to ensure that their designs accurately reflect the desired message and effectively express information.

Computer skills. Most graphic designers use specialized graphic design software to prepare their designs.

Creativity. Graphic designers must be able to think of new approaches to communicating ideas to consumers. They develop unique designs that convey a certain message on behalf of their clients.

Time-management skills. Graphic designers often work on multiple projects at the same time, each with a different deadline.


salaries for Graphic Designers

The median annual wage for graphic designers was $48,700 in May 2017. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $28,560, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $83,140.

 

In May 2017, the median annual wages for graphic designers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Advertising, public relations, and related services: $49,530

Specialized design services: $48,360

Newspaper, periodical, book, and directory publishers: $42,180

Printing and related support activities: $39,210

Graphic designers’ schedules can vary depending on workload and deadlines.

Those who are self-employed may need to adjust their workday to meet with clients in the evenings or on weekends. In addition, they may spend some of their time looking for new projects or competing with other designers for contracts.


Job Outlook for Graphic Designers

Employment of graphic designers is projected to grow 5 percent over the next ten years, about as fast as the average for all occupations. The work of graphic designers will continue to be important in the marketing of products throughout the economy.

The projected change in employment of graphic designers over the next ten years varies by industry. For example, employment of graphic designers in newspaper, periodical, book, and directory publishers is projected to decline 22 percent over the next ten years. However, employment of graphic designers in computer systems design and related services is projected to grow 20 percent over the same period. Companies are continuing to increase their digital presence, requiring graphic designers to help create visually appealing and effective layouts of websites.

Job Prospects 

Graphic designers are expected to face strong competition for available positions. Many talented individuals are attracted to careers as graphic designers. Prospects will be better for applicants who keep up with the latest design trends, technologies, and techniques.

Employment projections data for Graphic Designers, 2016-26

Employment, 2016 : 266,300

Projected Employment, 2026: 278,800

Change, 2016-26: +5%, +12,500


Careers Related to Graphic Designers

Art Directors

Art directors are responsible for the visual style and images in magazines, newspapers, product packaging, and movie and television productions. They create the overall design of a project and direct others who develop artwork and layouts.

Craft and Fine Artists

Craft and fine artists use a variety of materials and techniques to create art for sale and exhibition. Craft artists create handmade objects, such as pottery, glassware, textiles, and other objects that are designed to be functional. Fine artists, including painters, sculptors, and illustrators, create original works of art for their aesthetic value, rather than for a functional one.

Desktop Publishers

Desktop publishers use computer software to design page layouts for newspapers, books, brochures, and other items that are printed or published online.

Drafters

Drafters use software to convert the designs of engineers and architects into technical drawings. Most workers specialize in architectural, civil, electrical, or mechanical drafting and use technical drawings to help design everything from microchips to skyscrapers.

Industrial Designers

Industrial designers develop the concepts for manufactured products, such as cars, home appliances, and toys. They combine art, business, and engineering to make products that people use every day. Industrial designers consider the function, aesthetics, production costs, and usability of products when developing new product concepts.

Multimedia Artists and Animators

Multimedia artists and animators create animation and visual effects for television, movies, video games, and other forms of media.

Technical Writers

Technical writers, also called technical communicators, prepare instruction manuals, how-to guides, journal articles, and other supporting documents to communicate complex and technical information more easily. They also develop, gather, and disseminate technical information through an organization's communications channels.

Web Developers

Web developers design and create websites. They are responsible for the look of the site. They are also responsible for the site's technical aspects, such as its performance and capacity, which are measures of a website's speed and how much traffic the site can handle. In addition, web developers may create content for the site.

OccupationENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION2017 MEDIAN PAY
Art DirectorsBachelor's degree$92,500
Craft and Fine Artists$49,160
Desktop PublishersAssociate's degree$42,350
DraftersAssociate's degree$54,170
Industrial DesignersBachelor's degree$65,970
Multimedia Artists and AnimatorsBachelor's degree$70,530
Technical WritersBachelor's degree$70,930
Web DevelopersAssociate's degree$67,990

Citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Graphic Designers,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/graphic-designers.htm