How to Become a Graphic Designer

HBAG01Graphic designers are responsible for creating printed materials, advertisements, website designs and packaging layouts for commercial businesses and organizations. Graphic design requires creativity within the scope of the business needs. Understanding current digital marketing techniques, as well as business advertising approaches, is a valuable quality found in a good commercial artist.



Education Requirements

Graphic design is a technical art field and knowledge of computer programs, print processes, and advertising techniques are needed. Commercial artists must have a firm grasp of typeology and layout. A degree in graphic design or communication arts is required to show that you have the needed experience and knowledge.

A company hiring a graphic designer won’t even consider a candidate without a degree. A degree from a good graphic design programs ensures that you have at least a basic understanding of the tools used and a thorough understanding of design. Companies looking to hire a graphic design artist also look closely at their resume and portfolio to determine whether or not the artist will be a good fit for their business.

On the Job

Some graphic design artists work freelance, but the majority work in-house or for a graphic design firm. Working in-house for a company means producing only their advertisement and print needs. Often your boss at an in-house job will not be an artist but a director of some kind in the company. A graphic design agency works for many clients, so being a graphic design artist there will most likely mean constantly designing for new clients who walk in the door and updating for old clients.

Getting Started

If you are in the process of getting your degree (or if you already have it) these five tips are things you will want to do to further your chances of getting a great graphic design job:

  1. Examine printed materials—bottle labels, cereal boxes, magazine ads, articles, business cards, mailers—these are all created by graphic designers. Get to know what’s out there. Become familiar with what’s good work and what’s not.
  2. Expand your portfolio—use the printed materials you find that are poorly done and re-do them. You don’t have to be hired to do a hypothetical ad. Companies that see what you’ve come up with as a better solution will be interested in hiring you.
  3. Get to know your tools. You have to have a good grasp of Adobe Illustrator, InDesign and Photoshop for a start. But what about Flash? What about  learning HTML code or Java script? Know what tools will  make you stand out on your resume and become very fluent with them.
  4. Write and rewrite your resume. Your resume is what a company will be judging you on.      Make sure the layout and design of your resume is creative and expresses you.
  5. Enter competitions. Addy awards and magazine competitions are available for students or professionals to enter. Getting your work acknowledged  will also be great for putting on your resume—and in your portfolio!

Job Outlook and Income

According to the US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment rate of graphic designers will grow at 13 percent. This is as fast as the average job growth. The typical high turnover rate for graphic designers means positions open up often. However, competition for these positions is very strong, so be sure to find ways to set yourself apart in your education, portfolio and resume.

  • The BLS reported 191,440 graphic designers in 2011 with an average pay of $48,730 a year.
  • The largest graphic design industry was Specialized Design Services with 25,140 hired designers and an average annual salary of $51,300.
  • The highest paying industry was the Federal Executive Branch (OES Designation) with an average salary of $76,040 and 1,650 graphic design artists employed.


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