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 have a portfolio that demonstrates their creativity and originality.
Graphic designers typically need a bachelor's degree in graphic design, fine arts, or a related field, such as communications technology. People who have a bachelor’s degree in another field may complete technical training in graphic design to meet most hiring qualifications.
The National Association of Schools of Art and Design accredits more than 360 postsecondary colleges, universities, and independent institutes with programs in art and design. Most programs include courses in 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, if 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 portfolio—a collection of completed works that demonstrates an artist’s styles and abilities. For many artists, including graphic designers, developing a portfolio is essential because employers rely on portfolios in making hiring decisions.
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.
Graphic designers often gain experience through internships, which they may undertake while enrolled in a design program. Internships allow aspiring graphic designers to work with designers and to experience the design process from concept to completion.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Certification programs are generally available through software product vendors. Certification in graphic design software demonstrates competence and may provide jobseekers with a competitive advantage.
Experienced graphic designers may advance to chief designer, art director, or other supervisory positions.
Analytical skills. Graphic designers must be able to perceive their work from their consumers’ point of view to ensure that the designs convey the client’s 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 and effectively convey 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 their client’s message.
Time-management skills. Graphic designers often work simultaneously on multiple projects, each with a different deadline.