What does a graphic designer do? A graphic designer visually communicates ideas by arranging text and images in user-friendly layouts. They work with art directors and clients to create advertisements, product packaging, and other designs.
“A graphic designer does a range of things, depending on the type of company [she works] for,” says Kaitlin Mendoza, a graphic designer for Stampington & Company in Laguna Hills, California. Mendoza has her hands full editing photos, laying out copy and choosing fonts for title treatments for the various magazines she works on. But she loves every minute of it. “I’m never bored at my job,” she says.
What skills are required?
The ability to design eye-catching visuals that are easily understood without a lot of thinking is essential, says multimedia designer Alan Tabish, who designs and produces training materials as a graphic designer for management and technology consultancy Booz Allen Hamilton. Experience with typography, color theory and Web design are also helpful, he says.
Flexibility is important too, adds Mendoza. If the client’s vision doesn’t align with yours, you have to make the necessary adjustments. And you have to be able to take criticism: Clients are vocal and sometimes indecisive.
And you should be familiar with design software, especially Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign.
Where do graphic designers work?
There are three main settings that most graphic designers will find themselves working in: In-house, agency or freelance. An in-house designer is employed by a company to produce creative materials for them specifically.
An agency designer will work on a project-by-project basis for a company who provides creative services for a variety of clients. A freelance designer is self-employed and manages their own workload and clientele.
Each work environment comes with its own advantages and disadvantages, and there are certain qualities and characteristics that are ideal in each setting. It’s important for graphic designers to weigh their options and decide which employment situation suits their needs best.
“The first graphic designer I hired was a freelancer,” Churchill says. “She designed new illustrated character graphics for a cartoon-character line up. To do this, she had to adapt to an existing visual style, but nevertheless enjoyed putting a lot of personality into the work.
She did most of it in-between other jobs—in the cafe, at home, wherever. It’s a good way to boost income and build up a client base.”
Agency and in-house jobs might be a little more traditional, but they offer the stability and predictability that some designers desire. Both environments will likely involve more collaboration, as they are often part of a group supervised by an art director or account manager who serves as a liaison between the project owner and the design team.