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What Graphic Designers Do About this section

Graphic designers
Graphic designers create designs either by hand or using computer software packages.

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 applications such as advertisements, brochures, magazines, and reports.

Duties

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 to help deliver a message
  • Design layouts, including selection of colors, images, and typefaces
  • 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, also referred to as graphic artists or communication 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 in print or on a webpage, including how much space each will have. When using text in layouts, graphic designers collaborate 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 may transform data into visual graphics and diagrams to make complex ideas more accessible.

Graphic design is important to market and sell products, and it is a critical component of brochures and logos. Therefore, graphic 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 designers create the graphics used on product packaging, and others may work on the visual designs used on book jackets.

Graphic designers need to keep up to date with 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 specialize in experiential graphic design. These designers work with architects, industrial designers, landscape architects, and interior designers to create interactive design environments, such as museum exhibitions, public arts exhibits, and retail spaces.

Work Environment About this section

Graphic designers
Graphic designers generally work in a studio where they have access to drafting tables and computers.

Graphic designers held about 254,100 jobs in 2020. The largest employers of graphic designers were as follows:

Self-employed workers 19%
Specialized design services 9
Advertising, public relations, and related services 8
Printing and related support activities 7
Newspaper, periodical, book, and directory publishers 4

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

Work Schedules

Graphic designers’ schedules 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 About this section

Graphic designers
Graphic designers should demonstrate their creativity and originality through a professional portfolio.

Graphic designers usually need a bachelor’s degree in graphic design or a related field. Candidates for graphic design positions should have a portfolio that demonstrates their creativity and originality.

Education

Graphic designers typically need a bachelor's degree in graphic design or a related fine arts field. People who have a bachelor’s degree in another field may complete technical training in graphic design to meet most hiring qualifications.

The National Association of Schools of Art and Design accredits more than 360 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, if 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 portfolio—a collection of completed works that demonstrates an artist’s styles and abilities. For many artists, including graphic designers, developing a portfolio is essential because employers rely on portfolios in making hiring decisions.

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 experience through internships, which they may undertake while enrolled in a design program. Internships allow aspiring graphic designers to work with designers and to experience the design process from concept to completion.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Certification programs are generally available through software product vendors. Certification in graphic design software demonstrates competence and may provide jobseekers 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 perceive their work from their consumers’ point of view to ensure that the designs convey the client’s 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 and effectively convey 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 their client’s message.

Time-management skills. Graphic designers often work simultaneously on multiple projects, each with a different deadline.

Pay About this section

Graphic Designers

Median annual wages, May 2021

Graphic designers

$50,710

Art and design workers

$48,220

Total, all occupations

$45,760

 

The median annual wage for graphic designers was $50,710 in May 2021. 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 $31,310, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $98,260.

In May 2021, the median annual wages for graphic designers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Specialized design services $58,610
Advertising, public relations, and related services 52,050
Newspaper, periodical, book, and directory publishers 44,540
Printing and related support activities 39,090

Graphic designers’ schedules 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 About this section

Graphic Designers

Percent change in employment, projected 2020-30

Total, all occupations

8%

Art and design workers

4%

Graphic designers

3%

 

Employment of graphic designers is projected to grow 3 percent from 2020 to 2030, slower than the average for all occupations.

Despite limited employment growth, about 23,900 openings for graphic designers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Most of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

As companies continue to increase their digital presence, graphic designers may be needed to help create visually appealing and effective layouts of websites.

Employment projections data for graphic designers, 2020-30
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2020 Projected Employment, 2030 Change, 2020-30 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Graphic designers

27-1024 254,100 261,400 3 7,300 Get data

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about graphic design, visit

AIGA

Graphic Artists Guild

Society for Experiential Graphic Design

For more information about art and design and a list of accredited college-level programs, visit

National Association of Schools of Art and Design

Related BLS articles

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