What Does A Graphic Designer Do?

Graphic Designer

The dictionary defines a graphic designer  or graphic artist as one who specializes in the art or profession of visual communication that combines images, words, and ideas to convey information to an audience, especially to produce a specific effect. And while this is a  broad definition of what graphic designers do, I prefer the definition of a graphic designer as a person who specializes in visual communication through a skillful combination of text and pictures in advertisements, magazines, books, etc.for print, the web and other media.

But the most awesome description (in my opinion), was coined by the Walt Disney Company with the term “imagineers“.

According to Wikipedia,  “The term Imagineering, a portmanteau, was popularized in the 1940s by Alcoa to describe its blending of imagination and engineering, and was adopted by Walt Disney a decade later to describe the skill set embodied by the employees of WDI, known as Imagineers.

Imagineering is responsible for designing and building Disney theme parks, resorts, cruise ships, and other entertainment venues at all levels of project development. Imagineers possess a broad range of skills and talents, and thus over 140 different job titles fall under the banner of Imagineering, including illustrators, architects, engineers, lighting designers, show writers, graphic designers, and many more.”

The internet and the computerization of traditional design tools has vastly changed the skill set and job tasks of what a commercial graphic designer traditionally used to do.  The web has opened a whole new field in design that is suited specifically for this medium rather than traditional print media, although both skills sets are still used by many graphic designers.

Where do Graphic Designers work?

While there are specialized graphic design jobs as in silk screen printing and typesetting or other fields most graphic designers can find employment in the following  general industries.  Many work in the creative departments of major advertising agencies producing the ads and print collateral for the marketing and advertising needs of  commercial businesses. Usually, a graphic designer will work in a team setting and will collaborate with copywriters, photographers, marketing specialists, web developers and printers depending on the seniority level of their job position.  Others may work in the newspaper and magazine industry working as mock-up and layout graphic designers and preparing these publications. In addition, there are graphic designers who specialize as web designers who specifically work on designing web pages, web graphics and other rich media that are specifically designed for the web or online marketing.   Furthermore, there are graphic designers that are motion graphics and 3D modeling experts and work in the film industry. They  are usually  responsible for the artwork and titling of motion pictures as well as CGI,  one good example of an employer for this type of skill set is Dreamworks.

What type of education do Graphic Designers need?

Most graphic designers obtain their general design training at either a two year vocational school or four year private or public institution where they are immersed in learning various design principles,  and the software tools in order to design graphic art. An entry level design job will usually require a four year bachelor’s degree, but this is not always a prerequisite.

During their training a graphic designer will usually choose which career path or field in design he or she might like to take after graduation.  While the software packages have varied over the years, most graphic designers are trained on Apple Mac’s and the variety of Adobe Creative Suite software such as Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, Dreamworks, etc.  (although it is important to mention that Corel Draw has recently become a contender in vector illustration) as the industry standard.  Each software package is suited for a specific design task but familiarity  with these software tools is usually the basic industry standard requirement.

Graphic Design

What type of projects or work assignments do Graphic Designers work on?

Depending on the skill level of the individual graphic designer, most will be assigned or work on  developing the concept and design for the following projects. Notice this list organizes the skill set by basic print media design to motion graphics type of work.

  • Logo Design
  • Corporate Identity & Branding
  • Advertising – newspaper and magazines
  • Posters
  • Brochures and other print collateral
  • Product Packaging
  • Book Covers
  • Book Layouts
  • Exhibit Display & signage
  • Large format Signage (such as billboards, trade show displays)
  • Website Design
  • Online graphic design and web graphics
  • Motion Video Graphics
  • TV Commercials

It’s important to note that although a background and training in designing for print media is desirable, a potential graphic designer should include introductory or continuing education in online web design and other interactive media. More and more clients are looking for this type of skill set in their graphic design firms or independent freelance graphic designers.

What are the current and future  job prospects for Graphic Designers?

According to the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics,… Employment of graphic designers is expected to grow 13 percent, as fast as the average for all occupations from 2008 to 2018, as demand for graphic design continues to increase from advertisers and computer design firms.  The explosion of the internet and online marketing has increased the demand for web and online design skills.

Moreover, graphic designers with Web site design and animation experience will especially be needed as demand increases for design projects for interactive media—Web sites, mobile phones, and other technology.  Demand for graphic designers also will increase as advertising firms create print and Web marketing and promotional materials for a growing number of products and services.

What are Graphic Designers likely to earn?

When it comes to what graphic designers earn, there is a wide spectrum in salary range.  Much of the earning potential is dependent on education, proven skill set, job position, years of experience, industry and other factors and design talent.  However, according to the American Institute of Graphic Arts, median annual cash compensation for entry-level designers was $35,000 in 2008. Staff-level graphic designers earned a median of $45,000. Senior designers, who may supervise junior staff or have some decision-making authority that reflects their knowledge of graphic design, earned a median of $60,000.  Solo designers who freelanced or worked under contract to another company reported median earnings of $57,000 .   Design directors, the creative heads of design firms or in-house corporate design departments, earned $95,000.  Graphic designers with ownership or partnership interests in a firm or who were principals of the firm in some other capacity earned $95,000. (Please note all the amounts mentioned above are in US Dollars.)   For further specific information you might want to check out the comprehensive “Graphic Designer” article by the Department of Bureau and Labor Statistics.

The following websites give you industry information for  graphic design salaries:

AIGA -Survey of Design Salaries 2011

This survey is an interactive, well designed and comprehensive graphic design salary survey that also includes comparable freelance graphic design rates.

Bureau of Labor Statistics – Design Salaries

This information is collected by the  United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics and includes additional graphic design salary and work environment information.

Graphic design is an exciting and fulfilling field, ( this is coming from someone who has been in the business for more than 20 years in all aspects of the design field) and has a promising future especially for those graphic designers who are specializing in web design and emerging design technologies.

Related Post:

How Much Does A Graphic Designer Make?

What Does A Video Editor Do?

About richmediadp

I'm a freelance graphic designer working out of Orange County, CA - USA. I work with small and mid sized companies to develop creative solutions for their design problems from print collateral to online graphics.

Posted on September 8, 2011, in Freelance Design and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Very good and meanigful article and worth reading, thanks for sharing articles like this my friend. Keep up the good work

  2. Thanks for the positive feedback! I hope this information is useful, especially, if you are interested in entering the graphic design field. I have also recently updated this article with additional information regarding what graphic designer’s can earn (or charge if you are a freelance designer).

  3. Nuevo B. Buchorno (artesian)

    i`m a freelance graphics designers and i love it usually if you`re earning and someone appreciated my works. I`m hoping that someday i can work in a big company which i can prove my skills in graphic designing and makes people appreciate it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: