Bureau of Labor Statistics

Graphic Designers

graphic designers image
Graphic designers combine art and technology to develop graphics for product illustrations, logos, and websites.
Quick Facts: Graphic Designers
2019 Median Pay $52,110 per year
$25.05 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Bachelor's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2019 281,500
Job Outlook, 2019-29 -4% (Decline)
Employment Change, 2019-29 -10,700

Summary

What Graphic Designers Do

Graphic designers create visual concepts, using computer software or by hand, to communicate ideas that inspire, inform, and captivate consumers.

Work Environment

Many of these workers are employed in specialized design services, publishing, or advertising, public relations, and related services industries. 

How to Become a Graphic Designer

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.

Pay

The median annual wage for graphic designers was $52,110 in May 2019.

Job Outlook

Employment of graphic designers is projected to decline 4 percent from 2019 to 2029. Graphic designers are expected to face strong competition for available positions.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for graphic designers.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of graphic designers with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about graphic designers by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Graphic Designers Do

Graphic designers
Graphic designers create designs either by hand or using computer software packages.

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 applications such as advertisements, brochures, magazines, and reports.

Duties

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 to help deliver a message
  • Design layouts, including selection of colors, images, and typefaces
  • 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, also referred to as graphic artists or communication 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 in print or on a webpage, including how much space each will have. When using text in layouts, graphic designers collaborate 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 may transform data into visual graphics and diagrams to make complex ideas more accessible.

Graphic design is important to market and sell products, and it is a critical component of brochures and logos. Therefore, graphic 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 designers create the graphics used on product packaging, and others may work on the visual designs used on book jackets.

Graphic designers need to keep up to date with software and computer technologies in order to remain competitive.

Some individuals with a background in graphic design become postsecondary teachers and teach in design schools, colleges, and universities.

Some graphic designers specialize in experiential graphic design. These designers work with architects, industrial designers, landscape architects, and interior designers to create interactive design environments, such as museum exhibitions, public arts exhibits, and retail spaces.

Work Environment

Graphic designers
Graphic designers generally work in a studio where they have access to drafting tables and computers.

Graphic designers held about 281,500 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of graphic designers were as follows:

Self-employed workers 21%
Specialized design services 10
Advertising, public relations, and related services 8
Printing and related support activities 7
Newspaper, periodical, book, and directory publishers 5

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

Work Schedules

Graphic designers’ schedules vary depending on workloads and deadlines.

Those 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

Graphic designers
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.

Education

A bachelor’s degree in graphic design or a related field is usually required. However, 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.

Other Experience

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.

Advancement

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

Important Qualities

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.

Pay

Graphic Designers

Median annual wages, May 2019

Graphic designers

$52,110

Art and design workers

$48,130

Total, all occupations

$39,810

 

The median annual wage for graphic designers was $52,110 in May 2019. 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 $30,810, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $89,210.

In May 2019, the median annual wages for graphic designers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Advertising, public relations, and related services $54,320
Specialized design services 54,150
Newspaper, periodical, book, and directory publishers 43,950
Printing and related support activities 41,290

Graphic designers’ schedules vary depending on workload and deadlines.

Those 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

Graphic Designers

Percent change in employment, projected 2019-29

Total, all occupations

4%

Art and design workers

-4%

Graphic designers

-4%

 

Employment of graphic designers is projected to decline 4 percent from 2019 to 2029.

While overall employment in this occupation is expected to go down, specific projections vary by industry. For example, employment of graphic designers in newspaper, periodical, book, and directory publishers is projected to decline significantly. In contrast, employment of graphic designers in computer systems design and related services is projected to grow. Companies are continuing to increase their digital presence, which sometimes requires graphic designers to help create visually appealing and effective layouts of websites.

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 best for applicants who keep up with the latest design trends, technologies, and techniques.

Employment projections data for graphic designers, 2019-29

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Occupational Title

Graphic designers

SOC Code27-1024
Employment, 2019281,500
Projected Employment, 2029270,800
Percent Change, 2019-29-4
Numeric Change, 2019-29-10,700
Employment by IndustryGet data

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of graphic designers.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2019 MEDIAN PAY
Art directors

Art Directors

Art directors are responsible for the visual style and images in magazines, newspapers, product packaging, and movie and television productions.

Bachelor's degree $94,220
Craft and fine artists

Craft and Fine Artists

Craft and fine artists use a variety of materials and techniques to create art for sale and exhibition.

See How to Become One $48,760
Desktop publishers

Desktop Publishers

Desktop publishers use computer software to design page layouts for items that are printed or published online.

Associate's degree $45,390
Drafters

Drafters

Drafters use software to convert the designs of engineers and architects into technical drawings.

Associate's degree $56,830
Industrial designers

Industrial Designers

Industrial designers combine art, business, and engineering to develop the concepts for manufactured products.

Bachelor's degree $68,890
Multimedia artists and animators

Multimedia Artists and Animators

Multimedia artists and animators create images that appear to move and visual effects for various forms of media and entertainment.

Bachelor's degree $75,270
Technical writers

Technical Writers

Technical writers prepare instruction manuals, how-to guides, journal articles, and other supporting documents to communicate complex and technical information more easily.

Bachelor's degree $72,850
Web developers

Web Developers

Web developers design and create websites.

Associate's degree $73,760

Contacts for More Info

Last Modified Date: Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Graphic Designers,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/graphic-designers.htm (visited September 28, 2020).

Telephone: 1-202-691-5700 www.bls.gov/ooh Contact OOH

View this page on regular www.bls.gov

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