How to Become a Graphic Designer in 5 Steps

Research what it takes to become a graphic designer. Learn about education requirements, job duties, median wages and job outlook to determine if this is the career for you. Schools offering Graphic Design degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is A Graphic Designer?

Graphic designers use artistic and computer skills to create visual concepts. These images may be used to brand an item or business, to promote products, or for other purposes. Graphic designers also create the layout and design for printed materials such as magazines, reports and advertisements. They need to have artistic and computer skills, understand how to use color and shapes effectively, and the ability to work with images and text. Graphic designers may also meet with clients as their work progresses to ensure that the final product meets their clients' expectations.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Studio art, principles of design, commercial graphics production, computerized design
Key Skills Analytical, communication, computer, and time management skills
Job Growth (2014-2024) 1% for all graphic designers*
Median Salary (2015) $46,900 for all graphic designers*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Figures from O*Net OnLine show that around 62% of graphic designers have a bachelor's degree (www.onetonline.org). Bachelor's degree programs in graphic design teach you how to manipulate proportion, spacing, shape, color and other visual elements to achieve a desired effect, as well as training you in the use of popular graphic design software programs. Courses may also include drawing, digital photography, communications fundamentals and marketing concepts. Some programs require you to complete an internship.

Step 2: Stay Abreast of Design Trends

Graphic design is a constantly evolving field. You'll want to be familiar with design trends and be capable of duplicating as many styles as possible. Study the differences between online ads and print ads in magazines and newspapers. Joining and participating in online designer forums can also help you keep current.

Step 3: Develop Your Portfolio

A portfolio is one of the key ways that you can demonstrate your design capabilities to employers. Make sure your portfolio includes a variety of different projects in a variety of styles to emphasize the range of your talent and skill-set. However, make sure the projects you include are also of high quality. If you're not sure, obtain feedback from someone whose design judgment you trust. Finally, arrange to store and distribute copies of your portfolio via print, CD or DVD and online media, such as on a personal website. Inspect sample portfolios to see how others have displayed their work.

Step 4: Obtain Work

Newspapers and magazines, publishing houses, TV and movie studios, ad agencies, printing companies and service bureaus are among your potential employers. You could also freelance. In 2014, approximately 261,600 people worked as graphic designers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). From 2014 to 2024, employment of graphic designers was projected to grow by 1% to around 265,200. Demand for your services will be driven by growth in interactive, online and mobile media and growth in the number of products and services that need marketing support, partially offset by a decline in print publishing. As of May 2015, graphic designers earned a median annual salary of $46,900, as reported by the BLS.

Step 5: Advance Your Career

You usually need to work as an entry-level designer for 1-3 years before you can advance in this field. Typeface designer, environmental designer or identity designer are possible intermediate steps you might go through on the way to becoming a chief designer, art director or production director. With enough years of experience, you could consider opening your own design studio or transitioning into teaching design at a postsecondary school, while freelancing on the side.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Desktop publishers perform many tasks that are comparable to those of a graphic artist. They need computer skills and a good eye for design to create layouts for printed items such as books, newspapers or brochures. Desktop publishers are required to have an associate's degree. Industrial designers are required to have a bachelor's degree, and they use their artistic and computer skills to design products, such as toys, appliances or automobiles. Multimedia artists also utilize artistic and computer skills and create effects for video games, films and television. A bachelor's degree is required to become a multimedia artist.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:

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  • Full Sail University

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  • Southern New Hampshire University

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    • Anywhere: Edmonton, Montreal, Point Claire
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    • Florida: Gainesville