How to Become a Graphic Designer
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 demonstrate their creativity and originality through a professional portfolio that features their best designs.
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 300 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.
Many programs provide students with the opportunity to build a professional portfolio of their designs. This means collecting examples of their designs from classroom projects, internships, or other experiences. Students can use these examples of their work to demonstrate their design skills when applying for jobs and bidding on projects. A good portfolio often is the deciding factor in getting a job.
Students interested in graphic design programs 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.
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 and the Graphic Artists Guild, offer courses intended to keep the skills of their members up to date.
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.
Beginning graphic designers usually need 1 to 3 years of work experience before they can advance to higher positions. Experienced graphic designers may advance to chief designer, art or creative director, or other supervisory positions.
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 the consumer 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 a computer program.
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.