Graphic designers, also known as graphic artists, create visual communications, such as newspapers, magazines, reports, presentations, logos, signs and marketing materials. They manipulate and format text, colors, photos and graphics and utilize a variety of page layout techniques to create eye-catching publications and other print materials. Many graphic designers now also develop material for websites and multimedia projects.
Salaries for graphic designers vary, depending on the industry. The average is $42,400 per year, with those working in the newspaper, printing and publishing industries earning less. Those in the computer systems industry average $47,860. Design directors for design firms or corporate design departments earn the most, up to $95,000 annually.*
Experience level also plays a factor. The average entry-level salary is $35,000. Those at the staff level earn $45,000, with senior or supervisor-level designers earning an average of $60,000. More education and training equates to higher salaries.*
Approximately one-quarter of graphic designers are self-employed as freelancers. The average annual salary for freelancers is $60,000.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Job Description and Outlook
Graphic designers not only create the actual design, but are involved in the planning process. They communicate with clients to determine their needs, the overall message and how to make it appeal to users. Graphic designers perform research and meet with creative or art directors to develop creative strategies.
Once they have a vision for the design, graphic designers may perform sketches or layouts by hand or with the help of a computer. There are various computer software packages they must use to create and edit layouts, graphics, photos and animation. They select text, colors, photos, graphics and other design elements. For interactive or multimedia pieces, they may also select sounds and create animation. Designers may also create graphs and charts for reports. They may write any accompanying text or enlist the help of a copywriter. Once the design is complete, graphic designers then present it to clients or a director for approval.
The graphic design field is expected to grow as fast as average. Since many people are interested in this field, there will be significant competition for jobs. Due to technological advances, those will the most technical skills, especially in web design and animation, will have the best prospects. However, there will be less demand for graphic designers in the printing industry, with print production being replaced by web content.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Training and Education Requirements
Most entry-level positions require a bachelor’s degree in graphic design. Mnay colleges, universties and art schools offer bachelor’s degree programs in graphic design or fine arts. Classes include design principles, computerized design, studio art, graphics production, printing techniques and website design. Many colleges also require students fulfill other requirements, such as classes in art history, psychology, sociology, cultural studies, marketing, writing and business principles.
Students may also obtain an associate degree or certificate in graphic design from an art school or community college. This degree sometimes qualifies students to become assistant graphic designers, although a career in graphic design typically requires at least a bachelor’s degree. Approximately 300 schools are accredited by The National Association of Schools of Art and Design. Most of these schools offer graphic design degrees. Students may be required to include samples of their artistic ability upon admission.
In addition to a bachelor’s degree in graphic design, those who wish to pursue this field must be creative, detail-oriented and have good communication and problem-solving skills. Graphic designers must be computer literate and able to keep current on new and updated graphic design software. They should also keep a portfolio, which highlights the designer’s best work. Employers almost always will request one and is often a major factor in getting a job.
Graphic designers need to keep abreast of current design trends and influences. They need to be open-minded and able to adapt quickly to changes and new ideas. The ability to work under pressure with minimal supervision is very important. Graphic designers also need to aware of deadlines and schedules and prioritize their work accordingly.
Although most professions have a certification process, graphic design is one of the few that does not. Of the main design professions – including interior design, industrial design, engineering and architecture – graphic designers are not required to be certified. Certification is heavily debated, since those who claim to be professionals can steal jobs from highly trained and educated designers and work for much cheaper rates. Other countries require certification, including Canada, Great Britain, Australia, Switzerland, Norway and Denmark.
AIGA, founded in 1914, is a professional association for designers. It is the oldest and largest professional design association. It offer many resources for its members, including e-books, online forums, events and competiitons.
The Graphic Artists Guild offers information, resources and support to those who specialize in graphic design. The association operates as a union and organizes networking events for members so they can learn from each other.