Graphic Designers

Career, Salary and Education Information

Top 3 graphic designer Jobs

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    Designing and managing all aspects of the LPR visual brand • Collaborating with agency/client teams on creative campaign strategy and execution

  • Junior Graphic Designer - Moshi - San Francisco, CA

    Moshi's

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What Graphic Designers Do[About this section] [To Top]

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 various applications such as for advertisements, brochures, magazines, and corporate reports.

Duties of Graphic Designers

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 that help deliver a desired message
  • Design layouts and select colors, images, and typefaces to use
  • 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 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 on a print or webpage, including how much space each will have. When using text in layouts, graphic designers collaborate closely 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 can transform statistical data into visual graphics and diagrams, which can make complex ideas more accessible.

Graphic design is important to marketing and selling products, and is a critical component of brochures and logos. Therefore, graphic designers, also referred to as graphic artists or communication 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 create the graphics used on retail products packaging, still others may work on the visual designs used on book jackets.

Graphic designers need to keep up to date with the latest software and computer technologies to remain competitive.

Some individuals with a background in graphic design teach in design schools, colleges, and universities. For more information, see the profile on postsecondary teachers.

Work Environment for Graphic Designers[About this section] [To Top]

Graphic designers held about 261,600 jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most graphic designers were as follows:

Specialized design services 10%
Advertising, public relations, and related services 8
Newspaper, periodical, book, and directory publishers 7
Printing and related support activities 7
Wholesale trade 6

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

Graphic Designer Work Schedules

Most graphic designers work full time, but schedules can vary depending on workloads and deadlines.

In 2014, about 1 in 5 graphic designers were self-employed. Graphic designers 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] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Graphic Designers near you!

Graphic designers usually need a bachelor’s degree in graphic design or a related field. Candidates for graphic design positions should demonstrate their creativity and originality through a professional portfolio that features their best designs.

Graphic Designer Education

A bachelor’s degree in graphic design or a related field is usually required. However, those with a bachelor’s degree in another field may pursue technical training in graphic design to meet most hiring qualifications.

The National Association of Schools of Art and Design accredits about 320 postsecondary colleges, universities, and independent institutes with programs in art and design. Most schools include 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 in high school, if the courses are 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 professional portfolio of their designs. For many artists, including graphic designers, developing a portfolio—a collection of design ideas that demonstrates their styles and abilities—is essential because employers rely heavily on a designer’s portfolio in deciding whether to hire the individual.

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 their initial experience through internships. It provides aspiring graphic designers an opportunity to work with designers and experience the design process from concept to completion while completing a design program.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Certification programs are generally available through software product vendors. Certification in graphic design software can demonstrate a level of competence and may provide a jobseeker with a competitive advantage.

Advancement for Graphic Designers

Experienced graphic designers may advance to chief designer, art director, or other supervisory positions.

Important Qualities for Graphic Designers

Analytical skills. Graphic designers must be able to look at their work from the point of view of their consumers and examine how the designs they develop will be perceived by consumers to ensure they convey the client’s desired 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 reflect the desired message and effectively express 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 a recognizable meaning on behalf of their clients.

Time-management skills. Graphic designers often work on multiple projects at the same time, each with a different deadline.


Would a career as a Graphic Designer be a good fit for you? Take our Career Test to find out.

Graphic Designer Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for graphic designers was $45,900 in May 2014. 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 $27,100, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $80,570.

In May 2014, the median annual wages for graphic designers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Specialized design services $48,240
Advertising, public relations, and related services 45,920
Wholesale trade 44,080
Newspaper, periodical, book, and directory publishers 40,720
Printing and related support activities 37,720

Most graphic designers work full time, but schedules can vary depending on workload and deadlines.

In 2014, about 1 in 5 graphic designers were self-employed. Graphic designers 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 for Graphic Designers[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of graphic designers is projected to show little or no change from 2014 to 2024. The work of graphic designers will continue to be important in the marketing of products throughout the economy.

The change in employment of graphic designers from 2014 to 2024 is projected to vary by industry. Employment of graphic designers in newspaper, periodical, book, and directory publishers is projected to decline 35 percent from 2014 to 2024. However, employment of graphic designers in computer systems design and related services is projected to grow 21 percent over the same period. With the increasing use of the Internet, companies are increasing their digital presence and graphic designers will be needed to help create visually appealing and effective layouts of websites.

Graphic Designers Job Prospects

Graphic designers are expected to face strong competition for available positions. Many talented individuals are attracted to careers as graphic designers. Prospects will be better for applicants who work with various types of media, such as websites and print publications.

Employment projections data for Graphic Designers, 2014-24
Occupational Title Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24
Percent Numeric
Graphic designers 261,600 265,200 1 3,600


*Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. Used by permission.

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