Graphic designers work with companies to develop the visual components of marketing and communication initiatives, including advertisements, logos, packaging, brochures and websites. These professionals must understand their clients' goals and create designs that impact the target audience.
In order to be successful, graphic designers must be able to communicate with clients, collaborate with other design professionals and deliver unique, effective designs. These tasks require a mix of business savvy and technical design skills. On a given day, a graphic designer might meet with a client, create a communication strategy, design the layout of a Web page and make changes to an existing publication.
Graphic designers use color, typography, photography, artwork, layout and occasionally animation to convey a client's message to its target audience. Most of today's design work is done on the computer, so graphic designers must have a solid understanding of design software like Adobe InDesign, Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Acrobat and Flash.
What's the job outlook for graphic designers?
Graphic design is an evolving field that continues to grow. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects overall employment of graphic designers to grow by 13 percent from 2008 to 2018, in keeping with the national average. Increased demand from advertising and computer design firms will contribute to this growth.
Job prospects, according to the BLS, are expected to be especially strong for graphic designers with animation and website design experience. As print media gives way to interactive sources, it's expected that more and more graphic designers will be responsible for online marketing campaigns. Increased demand for online graphic design will create jobs, though other graphic design jobs will be lost by slowdown in the print publishing industry.
There are many talented individuals vying for jobs in graphic design, but those with interactive media experience and business acumen will have the best prospects, the BLS says. Additionally, the most recent survey of design leaders from AIGA, the professional association for design, showed the highest confidence levels since 2005, which many in the industry believe will lead to increases in hiring.
What is the salary for graphic designers?
According to the BLS, the average annual salary for graphic designers in 2010 was $48,140. This number is consistent with the figure from Indeed.com, a job posting aggregator that reports an average annual salary of $48,000 for graphic designers nationwide. However, salaries of graphic designers vary based on experience, industry and location. The BLS reports that annual salaries of graphic designers ranged from $26,440 (the tenth percentile) to $76,450 (the ninetieth percentile) in 2009.
Graphic design firms employed the largest number of designers in 2009, according to BLS data, and the publishing and advertising industries followed close behind. Of these industries, graphic designers working in publishing earned the least, with average annual salaries of $41,600. Though they employ fewer graphic designers, niche design positions within the federal government and computer manufacturing firms yielded the highest average salaries in 2009.
Location also plays a role in how much graphic designers earn. According to the BLS, Washington, D.C., New York and California had the highest average graphic design salaries in 2010. The San Francisco metropolitan area was the highest-paying city, with an annual mean wage of $76,740.
What training or certification is needed to become a graphic designer?
A bachelor's degree in graphic design is generally required to become a graphic designer. According to the National Association of Schools of Art and Design, there are approximately 300 accredited art and design institutions in the United States, many of which offer a bachelor's degree in graphic design. The bachelor's degree generally requires four years of full-time study and includes a range of coursework:
- Studio art
- Design history
- Corporate identity
- Computer-assisted design
- Print technology
Many design colleges also offer associate's degrees and certificates in graphic design, which take between two and three years to complete. An associate's degree is sufficient for many assistant or purely technical graphic design positions. Those who already have a bachelor's degree can transition into a graphic design career through a two- to three-year certificate program.
In addition to formal training, the most successful graphic designers are likely to have strong communication and problem-solving skills, high attention to detail and creativity. No certification is required to begin working as a graphic designer, though certification in tech tools such as Photoshop is a plus.