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Graphic Design and How You Can Become a Graphic Designer

Updated on March 3, 2015
Graphic design can be a career filled with inspiration, color and art.
Graphic design can be a career filled with inspiration, color and art. | Source


If you're a creative person with an understanding of how to visually communicate ideas, businesses and brands then graphic design could be the profession for you. Businesses often need good graphic designers to help them develop a unique and engaging approach that attracts and retains customers.

It's a great career choice for people with creative flair, technical skills and the ability to work closely with clients. This article explores the basic principles behind graphic design, how the design process works, the qualities of a good designer and the skills that can help someone move into this exciting vocation. We'll look at:

  • What is graphic design?
  • What are the main areas that graphic design is used for?
  • What are the main qualities of a good graphic designer?
  • How can someone become a graphic designer?
  • Getting a job as a graphic designer

What is graphic design?

Simply put, graphic design is a visual art and science that communicates ideas and messages through the use of images, colors and other design features. The process normally works as follows:

  1. A client contacts the graphic designer and gives a broad outline of what they need.
  2. The graphic designer consults with the client to get a better understanding of their requirements.
  3. The client and the designer prepare a 'brief' that outlines the work that will be completed.
  4. The designer works to this brief, using their skills, experience and expertise to create graphic designs.
  5. They share the designs with the client.
  6. A feedback and revision process takes place where the designs are tweaked and refined to meet the client's exact needs.
  7. The design is finalized and sent to the client.

What are the main areas that graphic design is used for?

There are several key areas where graphic design can be extremely helpful to a business, these include:

  • Branding - Helping a client develop a visual brand and identity across all of their products, services, websites, marketing materials and more.
  • Logo design - Creating the main logo for a business, capturing the organization's essential principles, approach and identity.
  • Flyers and brochures - Developing marketing materials that promote the business's products and services in an engaging way.
  • Marketing and advertising - Creating and supporting marketing and advertising messages with powerful, compelling visual design.
  • Websites - Developing the overall look, feel, theme and approach of the organization's website.
  • Other areas - Creating designs in areas including menus, manuals, trade booths, business cards or any other visual content that a client might need.

Graphic design is useful for many different areas of business
Graphic design is useful for many different areas of business | Source
Graphic design brings together your expertise, a client's needs and an eye for putting ideas across.
Graphic design brings together your expertise, a client's needs and an eye for putting ideas across. | Source

What are the main qualities of a good graphic designer?

There's a lot of competition in the graphic design field, and it's important to distinguish yourself from your competition. Some of the qualities that businesses look for in a good graphic designer or design company include:

  • Understanding client needs - It's vital that a graphic designer understands what the client needs from them. This involves carefully listening to what the client wants, consulting closely with them and developing a brief that captures all of the relevant information.
  • Providing a distinct, unique approach - A good graphic designer balances the needs of their client with their own ideas for creating an engaging approach for the visual identity of a business. Ultimately, a client is hiring a designer for their skills, expertise and experience.
  • Keeping your promises and delivering to deadlines - Reliability is critical in business. Communicating with clients, keeping your promises and meeting their deadlines will help to build trust with your clients.
  • Flexible and reactive to feedback - An essential part of graphic design is making changes according to a client's feedback. Reacting appropriately to their suggestions and refining designs accordingly is an important part of the client-supplier relationship.
  • Delivering a high-quality outcome - Graphic design is a professional service that businesses can pay between $50 and $150 an hour for. This means that clients expect to get good outcomes in return for their investment.
  • Providing value for money - Because graphic design is a competitive field, there's lots of competition around pricing and value for money. Although you don't always have to compete on price, it should be clear to a client the extra value that they are getting when they use your graphic design services.

There are several different routes into being a graphic designer
There are several different routes into being a graphic designer | Source

How can someone become a graphic designer?

If you're interested in becoming a graphic designer, there are several things that you can do that will improve your chances:

  • Get a degree in visual design - Many colleges and universities provide degrees in visual and graphic design. These will provide an excellent foundation for a career in the field.
  • Take other graphic design courses and tutorials - There are many online courses available in graphic and visual design that can help you to develop and refine your skills and expertise.
  • Learn to use graphic design software - Almost all of a graphic designer's time will be spent using various software applications. Developing expertise in applications like Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign will be extremely helpful.

Getting a job as a graphic designer

Once you have the right skills to be a graphic designer, you have several options when it comes to finding work:

  • Join a graphic design agency - For many designers that are starting out, joining an established graphic design agency will be the right thing to do. Research the different agencies in your area and apply for jobs there. You may need to start as an unpaid intern and work your way up in the business, but once you're established you'll have the security of a monthly salary.
  • Setup as a freelancer - If you don't want to join another agency or work for someone else, you can set up as an independent freelancer. Freelancing sites such as Elance, oDesk and Freelancer provide large marketplaces where you can share your skills and bid on jobs for clients.
  • Create your own graphic design business - If you're a natural entrepreneur, you might want to look into setting up your own graphic design business. This will help you to cultivate your own clients and develop a reputation as a trustworthy and reliable graphic design agency. Be aware though that running your own business requires lots of time, energy and dedication!

A day in the life of a graphic designer

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In closing

Graphic design can be a very creative and rewarding vocation. If you have the right approach and dedication, you can earn a good living as a graphic designer, doing something that you love.


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