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What does a Graphic Designer do?

By R. Kayne
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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A graphic designer or graphic artist conveys information through visual solutions that promote or enhance a service, product, philosophy or entity. Graphic design is a professional umbrella term for a skill set that can be applied to a wide range of positions. A good designer has strong interpersonal and marketing skills, in addition to a keen eye and an adept knowledge of electronic media packages.

Graphic artists work with a variety of materials, including film media, animation, sound, images, illustration, type, color, and “white space.” The first step of any project is to identify the needs of the client. The designer must also consider the target market, taking social or cultural considerations into account. The process normally starts with a hand-drawn or electronic sketch of the layout, followed by a mockup presented for approval. A mockup that is attractive but fails to convey the proper message or serve the needs of the product in some way will be rejected.

In a small “Mom and Pop” business, duties of might be limited to designing flyers, informational pamphlets, product catalogs and advertisements. Creating a distinctive logo would also fall to the graphic designer. A designer in a large company normally meets with department heads or clients to get a complete understanding of the expectations associated with any assigned project. He or she will also commonly consult with printers or publishers to identify the best choice of paper, cover stocks, and printing processes.

Another type of graphic designer known as a webmaster designs websites. This position requires knowledge of scripting languages and an active interest in staying abreast of the newest Web design technologies. In the film industry, a graphic designer is responsible for producing opening and closing credits. This position also requires specialized knowledge of industry software packages. Newspapers and magazines also employ graphic artists to layout their publications.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, these jobs will steadily grow at the national average through 2014, with Web design an especially strong field. A bachelor’s degree is commonly required for entry-level positions, but an associate’s degree might also be acceptable. In highly technical fields, experience might supersede educational requirements, and in all cases a portfolio weighs heavily in the job hiring process.

A graphic designer is a salaried position with normal hours, except in the case of a deadline which might require extended or weekend hours. A new hire receives on-the-job training for the first 12 – 36 months, after which advanced positions might be attainable. Salaries vary widely from about $25,000 US Dollars (USD) annually for an entry level position, to $90,000 for experienced designers working at high-profile advertising firms. The average salary for a graphic designer is about $40,000 in the U.S. Many graphic artists also work as independent contractors.

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Discussion Comments

By pleonasm — On Jan 19, 2013

Honestly, I wouldn't encourage someone to go into graphic design unless they know they absolutely want to work in that field and they are committed to it. One of my best friends studied it in college and it made a wreck out of her.

They work very long hours, lots of rushing for every project because they were never given enough time for them. At one point I joked to her that at least once it was done the long nights and panic would be behind her and she told me that they make the course like that because that's what the jobs are like. You get given a project and have to complete it to a deadline and often that involves working 16 hour days.

So, if you don't nurture an absolute need in your soul to have a graphic design career, I wouldn't go into it. It's definitely nothing that would interest me.

By KoiwiGal — On Jan 18, 2013

@fma - Being a graphic designer doesn't have to have anything to do with engineering. There are people who work as graphic designers who create mock-ups of architectural designs but I think that's quite a specialized area and related to drafting.

I had a bunch of friends go through a graphic design course at university and it took them three to four years and they mostly seemed to be doing art projects, things with fonts and websites and pictures.

Basically, though, you should look at whatever university you want to go to and see what their requirements are. A degree in graphic design is generally something with set expectations for what classes you need to take and all that will be spelled out in their website.

By Ana1234 — On Jan 17, 2013

@anon49624 - It depends on what you want to do. To some extent I think even teenagers can call themselves graphic artists and do some work, particularly in this day and age where a lot of graphic artists are contracted over the internet and the finished product is all that matters.

With that said, most companies are going to want to hire you properly, and they might not be able to if you are too young to work in your country.

However, there are plenty of ways to work as an artist online without having a "real" graphic designer job. For one thing, a lot of people sell "skins" for websites that people can pick up and use on their blogs, or they sell vector designs for software or whatever.

At any rate, you'll be judged by your work, so if you are young, you should be putting as much practice into your design skills as you can.

By anon280008 — On Jul 15, 2012

How many years does a graphic designer have to do in college?

By anon271453 — On May 26, 2012

What happens if your designs are famous, but you won't appear in the newspapers because of the press taking photos of your face? what would you do to continue your designs but keeping yourself sort of anonymous?

By anon258774 — On Apr 03, 2012

Who and where do you work for? Because I would like to get into this type of career but is the salary good and a job easy to get in this type of field?

By anon245361 — On Feb 05, 2012

In Italy, a graphic designer junior makea about 800 € per month, without taxes, and after four or five years, about 1.200€, and makes a career high of about 1500 € maximum.

By anon140677 — On Jan 08, 2011

#21 People who draft houses, bridges etc. are called drafters. Many community colleges have an associates for architectural or engineering drafting. You will work for an architect, an engineer, a contractor, etc. to produce these drawings.

By anon105846 — On Aug 23, 2010

I would like to know if people who do designs while on the computer, are they considered as graphic designers? --*Curious Cat*

By anon105619 — On Aug 21, 2010

I would like to know:

What type of designer is the one who drafts houses, buildings, bridges and all that stuff, because I would love to be that one. I'm almost done with my criminal investigator career but I don't want it anymore, so I was thinking about this one too. Thanks for any advice.

By anon92891 — On Jun 30, 2010

if you want to be a graphic designer you can either get an associate's degree or bachelor's, which is either two years or a four-year degree.

I'm a graphic design student presently and I've never heard of it having to do with engineering, but I guess it really all depends of which type of engineer. There are several types.

And for the others that think that graphic design is so easy, go right ahead. There is way more to it than you would've ever thought!

By anon92889 — On Jun 30, 2010

to comment #11: that's why I know I'm going to make it very well, even with my associate's degree in graphic design (just waiting to graduate) It's based on talent, knowledge and talent with the software as well. i can work my magic already and I'm not even finished with school yet. and I'm only in a career college for an associate's.

By anon84249 — On May 14, 2010

What are the different types of duties this job needs to do?

By anon84247 — On May 14, 2010

What fields of education are recommended to become a Graphic artist?

By anon78094 — On Apr 16, 2010

I would like to know more about graphic design

if anyone is in that field please give me more information about it because I am really interested in graphic design. My name is N'Talia.

By anon73940 — On Mar 30, 2010

I'm not a genius but all your questions are in the article. basically your average starting pay is going to be 25,000 to 35,000, and you only have to be talented in imagining and drawing skills and believe in yourself and have confidence in yourself/work.

Some colleges let you in if you finish grade 10 and others make you finish grade 12. The only way to find out you have to go to the college site.

By fma — On Mar 25, 2010

please i need help. people told me that graphic design is related somehow into engineering. is that right?

and how many years do i have to study in university to be a graphic designer? i don't know what to do. do i have to study building engineering or graphic design? people, i need your help.

By anon64250 — On Feb 06, 2010

I think it's so funny how many graphic designers worry about how much they're going to make. The nice thing about design is it's one profession where your salary reflects your talent and/or your success. Much like being a movie star (for lack of a better metaphor): if you star in infomercials, you won't make much, but if you have a passion for your work and you star in blockbusters, then you'll make plenty of money.

So that's my advice, be passionate and always strive to be the best designer you can be, and the money will follow. I've been doing this for 12 years, and my graphic design firm that is in California creates designs worldwide. The point is, I still think it's the best career in the world.

By anon61743 — On Jan 22, 2010

you make more as a truck driver!

By anon60123 — On Jan 12, 2010

how much does a graphic artist make a year?

By anon52869 — On Nov 17, 2009

do you have to be mathematically strong in any way?

By anon49624 — On Oct 21, 2009

how old do you have to be to be a graphic artist?

By anon47850 — On Oct 07, 2009

when do graphic design artists retire?

By anon7702 — On Feb 01, 2008

How much does a graphic artist make a year?

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