Graphic designers use photographs, computer-aided design (CAD) tools and software applications like Photoshop and Flash to create aesthetically pleasing images and graphics.
These guys don’t just make graphics for fun; indeed, this profession is not all about creating art for art’s sake. The designs that graphic designers produce have a range of commercial applications.
The skills and expertise that graphic designers bring to the table can be used across a wide range of industries, including: advertising, marketing, retail, e-commerce, packaging, printing, publishing, corporate communications and brand management.
To build a successful career, a graphic designer needs to have bags of creativity, oodles of imagination, tonnes of technical flair and an expert knowledge of the latest technologies and software packages used in their profession. They also need to be able to interact with a variety of clients and articulate client requirements in non-technical language.
Graphic designers are primarily employed in the advertising, marketing and PR industries, where visual graphics are part of the full promotional cycle. However, alternative employers include publishing houses, media companies, games developers and web design consultancies.
If you enter this profession, you’ll be liaising with your clients to understand and interpret design briefs, conducting research and then creating designs using all kinds of new-fangled tools like Photoshop, Illustrator, Quark Xpress and Flash.
You’ll be presenting samples of your designs to your clients throughout the project lifecycle, making tweaks where necessary before finalising the design. Once your final design is complete, you’ll be presenting the finished product to the client.
Salary & benefits
Entry-level graphic designers who receive permanent salaries can earn between £15,000 and £25,000 per annum, while experienced designers can earn up to £70,000.
A significant number of graphic designers work on a freelance basis. Their hourly charges range from around £15 to £80, or more for designers with a well-established reputation.
Alternatively, if you undertake freelance projects, you may be paid a lump sum for the commissioned work that you produce. The amount you receive, however, depends on the size and importance of the project.
Working schedules are fairly flexible. However, working in the advertising, marketing and publishing industries is deadline-driven, meaning that you may have to work extra hours in the evenings and over weekends from time to time.
The work is mainly office-based, but senior graphic designers may also be included in multi-disciplinary teams that pitch ideas and designs to new clients in meetings outside of the comfort of the design studio.
It is possible to break into this line of work without getting a relevant degree, foundation degree or diploma. However, a qualification in graphic design, illustration, fine art, web design, games design or photography may boost your skills and your chances of finding gainful employment.
It’s of the upmost importance that you develop a prolific graphic design portfolio and gain relevant work experience through internships and placements. You should perhaps even consider building a website that exhibits examples of your work.
Training & progression
Most employers provide some initial on-the-job training. However, technical skills must be obtained before applying for these positions.
It’s vital that you develop a working knowledge of software packages such as Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver and Flash. To develop these skills further, you could even take professional courses and attend seminars offered by organisations like the Chartered Society of Designers (CSD).
Career progression is mainly dependent on your portfolio, specialist expertise and overall industry experience. If you’ve got the talent, passion and determination, it’s possible to progress into a senior graphic designer role quite quickly.
Specialising in software applications for niche segments such as gaming, special effects and web design increases the number of opportunities for experienced professionals.
Moving out of salaried professions and focusing your efforts on freelance work is also a common step that many graphic designers choose to take.