Brands want to be memorable. From the colors and fonts they use to the logos that mark their property, companies use visual elements to stand out.
Think about the unique shade of red and holiday polar bears that represent Coca-Cola. Or the broad use of white space and blue text that are found in Progressive’s advertising.
To create these visuals, companies rely on their graphic designers. If you have an eye for art, you can use your creativity to build a career in graphic design.
What is graphic design?
Graphic design is a method of visual communication. Graphic designers use illustrations, images, typography, colors, and other visual elements to share information or tell a story. This might include creating infographics to convey statistics or building illustrations for a digital ad.
What do graphic designers do?
Graphic designers may work mostly with the marketing department, but they can also create visuals for a variety of purposes. Common graphic design projects include:
- Branding elements (like logos, fonts, colors, and more)
- Web design
- Marketing assets (like ebooks, social media posts, ads, catalogs, and more)
- Product packaging
- Signage for stores or events
- Books and magazines
Three popular career paths for graphic designers
In-house graphic designer
- Work exclusively on projects for one brand
- Aim to meet company’s goals and furthering its success
- Help to create, monitor, and reinforce brand’s visual style guide
Agency graphic designer
- Juggle multiple clients and projects at once
- Create what agency is contracted for—which may vary by client—rather than focusing on a specialty
- Work directly with clients to understand their expectations and walk them through your work
Freelance graphic designer
- May specialize in a type of design (websites, video animations, etc.) and/or a field of work (branding, advertising, etc.)
- Can choose what project or clients to take on
- Set your own rates per project or client
Top graphic design skills that will get you hired
Since graphic designers handle a range of projects, your design toolbox also has to be diverse. Developing the skills below will show potential employers that you can handle their design needs.
1. Proficiency with design software
Even if the final product will be printed or physically built, most design happens on the computer. Therefore, you need to be confident with the software that you’ll be expected to use, including Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign (among others).
Understanding the basics of coding, video editing, and other types of visual mediums is also a plus. Before applying for a job, make sure your portfolio demonstrates your proficiency with the different types of software you can use.
2. Understanding of visual communication
Along with technical skills, graphic designers need to know how to use visuals to communicate effectively. Your work is meant to tell a story, not to just look pretty. So, you must know how colors, patterns, faces, and other factors influence how your audience feels when looking at your designs.
Whether you’re making data easier to understand or communicating your brand’s value, find the best way to share this information visually and make a real impact.
3. Mastery of branding
Graphic designers are artists, even when creating something like a web page. They intentionally pair the right colors, fonts, and other elements to create a beautiful representation of their brand.
These elements include:
In addition to looking good, these elements have to match your brand’s personality. A playful font won’t communicate authority for a bank. Dark colors may not be a good match for a children’s toy company. No matter the medium, your designs have to be attractive, plus reflect consistent branding across all of your work.
4. Awareness of the user experience (UX)
Graphic design also requires an understanding of how users interact with on-page elements.
Where do people’s eyes go first when they land on your webpage? How can you influence visitors to take certain actions? What can you do to include all the content you want to show without cluttering a page, especially on mobile devices?
Aside from developing good instincts, you’ll want to regularly put your theories to the test and see how you can use design to cleverly create good brand experiences.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder
It’s hard to overstate the importance of thoughtful graphic design. With the above tips, you can help your companies look their best in every situation.