NOTE: So You Want to be a Graphic Designer was written for a high school career fair.
What does a graphic designer do?
Along with writers, clients, and other creative people who decide on what the content or message should be, graphic designers make the content look appealing to the client’s audience. Graphic designers are the people who design the magazines, product labels, shopping bags, websites, cereal boxes, newspapers, logos, stationery, books, movie posters, billboards, and millions of other things that we see many times every day.
Is graphic design fun?
Absolutely. If you’re good at art, and like working with computers, words, type, illustrations or images, you’ll probably enjoy graphic design.
Graphic design is work, so is it always fun? Not always. The work can be tedious (like when you have to create 45 charts in Adobe Illustrator). Plus, if you are getting paid, you are working for someone else and it’s your job to keep your boss or client happy. That means that most clients and bosses will want to have some say in what the project looks like. Here’s a great video showing a somewhat extreme example. Thanks to YouTube poster, TheMimeographer.
What qualifications do I need to be a graphic designer?
Most graphic designers have a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Graphic Design (BFA/GD). This is a four-year program available at many colleges and universities. There are two-year and certificate programs, but most employers will expect a BFA/GD.
You should enjoy creating things and be good in Art, “have a good eye.” Plus, attention to detail and being good in grammar and spelling are huge assets.
What software do graphic designers use?
Being a good software user is important, but it’s not as important as being a creative thinker. That said, the most common software used in the graphic design industry is listed below. There are applications other than the ones below, but these are the industry standards.
Page Layout – For creating brochures, flyers, books, reports, etc. These two applications are in direct competition with each other. Quark came first but the industry favorite has become InDesign. InDesign is my strong preference.
Illustration – For creating logos, charts, icons, or almost any kind of vector-based illustration.
Photos and Images – For working with any kind of pixel-based image like photos or scanned hand-drawn artwork.
Website Design – For creating and working with websites.
Mac or PC?
Simple answer, Mac.
Who does a graphic designer work for?
Graphic designers usually work one of three ways:
- Graphic designers can work for themselves and find their own clients. This is a freelance graphic designer. Freelance graphic designers may rent office space, or most often, work from a room in their home. Many freelance designers specialize in one area such as real estate or health care. Others are generalists and have many different types of clients.
- Some graphic designers work for a company that has quite a bit of graphic design needs, but not so much that they would need an army of designers. This is an in-house graphic designer. An in-house designer might work for a company that makes lighting fixtures. So the designer spends all of his or her time designing projects about the company’s lighting fixtures.
- Other graphic designers work for a graphic design firm. A graphic design firm may employ just a few designers or many designers. This kind of job is a good place to start out because the environment is usually creative and stimulating, you don’t have to worry about getting your own clients, and you can learn a lot.
Associations and Resources
There are many local, regional and national organizations for graphic designers, many have a level especially for students. Below are three large national associations.
American Institute of Graphic Artists (AIGA) – A wonderful organization with tons of resources ranging from technical to inspirational, student to business owner. The AIGA has 66 chapters and more than 20,000 members and holds annual conferences and competitions around the country. Visit the especially useful section for students on the AIGA website.
Art Directors Club (ADC) – The ADC is the premier organization for integrated media and the first international creative collective of its kind. Founded in New York in 1920, the ADC is a self-funding, not-for-profit membership organization that celebrates and inspires creative excellence, connecting creative visual communications professionals from around the world.
Graphic Artists Guild – The Graphic Artists Guild is a national union of illustrators, designers, web creators, production artists, surface designers and other creatives who have come together to pursue common goals, share their experience, raise industry standards, and improve the ability of visual creators to achieve satisfying and rewarding careers.
Finally, another excellent resource is London-based graphic designer Jason Miller’s article about what a graphic designer actually does.
Although nature, aptitude, and skills are required for designing, designing with the blend of required qualifications adds more to your creativity and design development.
Um, being a graphic designer, myself, I couldn’t help but notice in your third sentence of “What qualifications do I need to be a graphic designer?” section, there’s a typo. Haha. Pretty funny that it happened right where “attention to detail” and “grammar” are being considered as a huge asset.
Aliceson, thanks for bringing that to my attention. Looks like I was writing too fast and didn’t proof it well enough. Oh well, nobody’s perfect.
This website really helps me alot. I plan on being a graphic designer and this information is a big help to me. Thanks.
I am considering being a Graphic Designer and I was wondering if you can get into a Graphic Design Master’s program if your Bachelor’s degree is not in the same field. For example, I’ll be graduating in 2014 with a degree in Psychology with minors in Criminal Justice and Art. So would I be able to get into a Master’s program with that type of Bachelor’s?
Ann, I really don’t know. My guess is you’d need a Bachelor of Fine Arts or similar to qualify for a Master’s program. I’m sure the programs you’re interested in would have that info.
It depends on the school and the quality of your previous work.
if you have an impressive collection of designs and illustrations or have been working as a designer for years, they may accept you. The university may also accept you on the condition that you take a prescribed number of undergraduate courses dealing with design before being formally accepted into the Masters Program.
Plus, don’t underestimate your other degree. Psychology is a big part of design research. We deal a lot with “target audiences”, their perceptions of designs, their buying motivations, and others.
I would also ask that you self-explore your change in majors. Its only 2013, and you’re already thinking of changing your career. Why the change? and why are you now choosing graphic design? the field is crowded with artists and designers, so the competition can be steep. graphic designers do it for the love of art – not for the money.
I am an artist that likes to draw by hand , is there any design colleges for art that isn’t all done on the computer ? Because I hate using the computer because you don’t physically make the art . The computer does it
Fine Art programs in areas like painting and drawing might be right up your alley. Most colleges and universities have programs for the visual arts, including painting and drawing. The graphic design world, though, lives on computers.
Hi i was wondering what you might need (requirements) before starting a bachelor of fine arts?
Please check with the colleges/universities you might be interested in. I’m sure they’ll have the info you’re looking for.
I didnt take Art GCSE and I’m “quite” good at art and I want to do Graphic Design. Do you think this will have an affect for me on this Job? Do I need to be really artistic to be a Graphic Designer?
In this country you pretty much need college degree to get a job as a graphic designer. I don’t know if that’s true in the UK or not. Some printers and digital output firms hire people who are good at graphic design software and have a good eye to do production jobs.
Hi, I’m from Australia NSW, i am currently in year 10 wanting to be a Graphic Designer. The uni i want to get into is (UOW) University Of Wollongong. I found a Course thats for the Bachelor of Creative Arts – Bachelor of Arts. Link: http://coursefinder.uow.edu.au/coursefinder/4YTPTP7
I have wanted to be a Graphic Designer since year 9, i have looked at this website a few times and also at the course in UOW website. The high school i go to has many electives i am doing Visual Design and Food Technology, but what i was really wondering is that would Visual Design Help me along the line into doing Design and Technology or Visual Arts in year 11 and 12? Because the domestic entry requirements for UOW are:
Assumed Knowledge: Any 2 units of English.
Recommended Studie: English Advanced, and Design and Technology, or Visual Arts, or Drama.
And a ATAR of 75 is required also. Could you help me figure this out?
i am from Ghana and have always love to be a great graphic designer i have all the qualities but no help from nowhere that is i have come to this far to get help from somewhere …
I live in New Zealand, and one of the credited universities, Auckland Univeristy does not offer a Graphics Design course. However, it does offer a Fine Arts course. Will graphic design employers prefer people that have done a Graphics Design course rather than a Fine Arts course?
I don’t know about what NZ graphic design firms are looking for. We look for a solid portfolio, proof of technical and communications skills and usually, but not always, graphic design university courses.
Can age be a factor for Graphic Designers to get hired? I am 31 years old looking into a change in career, and am considering to pursue Graphic Design. However, I am worried that by the time I finish the course I might be too old to get hired. Do you have any recommendations for a path to take?
I think prospective employers care mostly about the quality of your work, as long as your salary requirements aren’t more than they are willing or able to pay.
can i ask? … i am a graduate of 2yrs course in Computer Science …. currently working as a Part time Graphic/Layout Designer in a Publishing Company in the Philippines… im planning to work somewhere out of my country hoping to find a higher paying job that has a relation to my skills in a Graphic designing? although i have a portfolio to show up.. does it really require to have a degree in Fine Arts major in GD? (sorry for bad english) hope to hear you soon!
I’m an engineering student.is there any way i can do a course in gd masters?
You should check with the universities you are interested in attending. My guess is you would need a BFA in graphic design.
I am not a graduate in the field of graphic design, but i’m intrested to be a graphic designer due to person study on graphic, and i need a certificate on it
Hello, I am wanting to attend a college my selected university has a graphic design degree but I want to learn HTML and website design to to further my opertunitys what I’m asking is will I learn these skills if not how would I go about learning them? Thank you!
The first thing you need to do before anything else is to get yourself a domain name. A domain name is the name you want to give to your website. For example, the domain name of the website you’re reading is “thesitewizard.com”. To get a domain name, you have to pay an annual fee to a registrar for the right to use that name. Getting a name does not get you a website or anything like that. It’s just a name. It’s sort of like registering a business name in the brick-and-mortar world; having that business name does not mean that you also have the shop premises to go with the name.”
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I am a senior in high school and I am going to be a graphic designer, but I don’t think that I am good at art. I wonder if art skill is a necessary skill of graphic designers. please, give me an advice.
Graphic Design is basically CREATING artwork. I’m thinking that you have to be good at art.
I am currently in G.D. school. Most artists are humble or modest about what they create and most of us NEVER think our work is any good. Remember art is a skill not a talent. You have to practice at what you do in order to be good. Also, not all artists have the same style. some of us paint, draw, sculpt, etc… G.D. is mostly about adobe software, photoshop, illustrator, dreamweaver, Indesign, etc… making logos, websites, different design things. to answer your question, art skill is NECESSARY. if you want to have a list of the kinds of courses I take you can email me at and I will give you a list of classes I take. you can do the research on the classes to have an idea of what to expect
I’m currently a Junior Graphic Designer at KIPP Foundation. I always considered myself an artist which is a big reason why I went into design but art is a skill, which has already been said, you will strengthen it with time. It’s much more important to be creative and objective in order to be successful.
Honestly, most of my design tasks are not the most creative projects, its about giving the client what they want while trying to guide them creatively as much as they will allow.
If your into graphic design — go for it, I love my job!
Will completing a Diploma of Graphic Design in Tafe get you anywhere? Im looking to hopefully branch in to Web Design and maybe work with some magazines in the future.
That is so Not true, I work as graphic designer whole my life for 20 years, most of people leaving the field. Work long hours and deadline is true, But money and freedom is Not true. Too many people want to be art directors and boss, and just using their mouths. and not many actual draw and using skill to create. and need to please everybody and way way way too much changes. there is no your creation anymore. So most of people end up leaving the field.
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Designer | Graphic Design. Website Design | River Graphics” the very best.
Hi! I’m currently in grad school studying psychology, but I’m thinking of pursuing graphic design instead. I’m not sure about the level of degree I should pursue. Do employers expect at the very least a BAF in graphic design, or would an associate’s degree in graphic design be adequate?
I’ve been reading mix opinions online. Some people claim that it really all boils down to the portfolio and the level of degree does not matter as much, though I do understand that learning more in school would bolster one’s portfolio as well.
It’d be helpful if you could give me your perspective on this matter. Thank you!
Students interested in graphic design programs should take basic art and design courses in high school, if the courses are available. Many bachelor’s degree programs require students to have had 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.
Graphic designers must keep up with new and updated computer graphics and design software, either on their own or through formal software training programs.
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Hi there, I too am from New Zealand and am currently finishing my last year in high school. Graphic Design is definitely the path way that I want to go down. I have been researching about the pros and cons of it all and have heard that technology universities teach more on the computer side of it (hence the word technology). From that it has been said that if you wanted to get into graphic design, going to an art school would be the better option as they focus more on the creativity side. I think both are important but what would you say about this? I’ve had my mind set on the university for a while but I’m just needing more guidance and reassurance into what would be the better option. Thanks
Hey There..I’m Currently Studying Graphic Designing & Wanted To Know If Logo,Magazine,Label Designs Are Hard To Do On Computers?
Projects like logos are usually done with Adobe Illustrator. Magazines and other text-heavy documents are usually done with Adobe InDesign or Quark Xpress. Are they difficult to do? I would say that completely depends on your creative skills as well as your skill level with the applications.
Hey thanks for sharing this useful information. I m Studying Graphic Design and i hope these useful information will help me in school and in the future.Bookmarked this post to get more useful information. :)
I’m 16 years old with a decent desktop and have taken the time to learn almost all of the Adobe programs and more. I find that Graphic Designing is one of my few passions. The only problem is that I have been in trouble and have been kicked out of school. I’m great at what I do I just don’t know if it is too late? I plan on going back to school but I was wondering if this is going to effect anything in my future?
Clearly not finishing school will affect your future. For young people today, it’s difficult enough to get work with a degree. I’m sure it’s even more difficult without one. My advice, get back to school. Best of luck to you.
Is Photoshop, GIMP, Inkscape popular to work with in the graphic design industry? Especially new ones?
Most graphic designers use the Adobe Creative Suite products. I use InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop all day every day. And for web work I mostly use Dreamweaver.
Hi I’m a secondary school student from the UK, looking a careers that I could take on when I’m older. I would like some advice on two things:
1.) I’m choosing my school options soon and do not know what to take to help me if I want to go into graphic design. Would Media and Photography be useful as well as computing or ICT?
2.) I am supposed to be getting a laptop for my birthday and a graphics tablet to help me with my creative ideas. I was wonder which software from your own experiences is suitable to help me with creating images and 3D structures.
Take all of the art classes you can. Computer skills are also very useful. The more comfortable you are with the graphic design software the better.
The graphic design business mostly use Macs. The new iMacs are wonderful, a big screen is very helpful. One of our clients is a university magazine. They use MacBook laptops attached to big monitors.
The industry standard software is the Adobe Creative Suite. That’s InDesign for page layout, Illustrator for logos, graphs and illustrations, and Photoshop for images.
3D is a great thing to learn. I don’t do that so I’m not familiar with the software.
Best of luck.
I just got accepted into Uni for a Graphic Design double major and I desperately need a new computer, I’ve been looking at the apple iMacs and i’m pretty confident that’s what I need but do you have any idea what size i should be looking for? I don’t really wanna get the best of the best but i also don’t want to have to upgrade at least until i graduate..?
The first thing I would do is check with the Graphic Design program people at the University. They’ll almost certainly recommend a Mac. If they don’t have a recommendation, you might consider a MacBook Pro. You can always add an external monitor if the 13″ or 15″ screen is too small. That way you’ll have something you can carry to class or the coffee shop. Everyone at a magazine we work with, including the graphic designer and web editor, works on MacBook Pros. They plug them into large screens at the office and can take them home or to meetings when they need to. iMacs are great, the bigger the better, but they aren’t portable.
Good luck and enjoy school!
I am from the UK and I am studying in computing field – IT. I was wondering if there is a necessity of a proper qualification for being a GD. I am good at art and I work well with ideas and fusing them together and all, as a designer does.
The catch is that, I don’t particularly want to study Graphics but I would like to have experience of it by having a job as a GD. I am exploring every possible software a GD could use to get the job done so that it could support me in case I actually get a GD job or at least a junior or volunteer.
I haven’t done school in the UK because I moved from another country so, would not having taken any art classes at school but having a portfolio make any difference? If so, what are the ways I can fill the gap?
Thank you in advance :)
Not having a degree in graphic design could limit your job prospects. However, there are two things that come to mind you could do. One is try to get an entry-level digital production or pre-press job at a printer or other similar business. Of course you’d need to be able to demonstrate good skill in at least Quark, InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop. Secondly, you could strike out on your own part time. Try to build a portfolio by getting a few jobs from friends, family, local business and associations. It always starts with your first job. But don’t quit your day job yet.
The info that you have gave is useful Thanks. I am in 12 grade and I’m planning on going into graphic design and i don’t really know the step to take and what should i planning on taking in collage and things i should or can look into and learn somethings about graphic design? i have taken a media design class in Bridger-land Applied Technology College and i got a fell of adobe programs and i plan on finishing up there getting a certificate in media design. i have taken Marketing #1, and i’m right now taking Design Visual Communications and Art in high school. so i’m just wandering on what should i do now and in the future to become a good graphic designer?
I was wondering if you have any links to information that I can find that talks about typesetting and design for the print industry. I am working as an in-house graphic artist for a small print shop, and apparently my college didn’t teach us the standards and such that I needed to know for this job. I’m slowly figuring out spot colors and such… but I just need just some basic guides to read over that teach everything about typesetting, margins, color, etc etc so that I can produce better work for our firm.
Are there any ways to become a graphic designer through an apprenticeship other than a sign/resin maker? If so could you direct me to good websites and sources for obtaining one please. I’m from the UK
I’m no expert but if you live in the uk there are several places that offer skills building courses such as creative studios in Derbyshire, they offer full adobe skill building courses in photoshop, indesign ect. this could be a good place to start if you have no previous experience in this sort of software, in the way of graphic design courses I’ve looked and couldn’t find any.
I am from India and very much interested in pursuing a career in Graphic designing. The only basic skill I have is being creative and having a good eye!
I am going to take a two month course for Graphic Designing.
I did some research work and found that syllabus of many institutes of graphic designing includes Photography as one of the subjects. Whereas institute which I have opted for has not included this, saying its not relevant.
Please suggest whether Photography is ‘necessary’ or not?
Secondly the institute is saying to go for two courses simultaneously – Graphic designing + Printing technology. As it would be very much required and helpful.
Is it so?
Your reply would be really helpful. Thanks.
i am looking for graphic design course . where it is in karnataka . & how much fees & how class duration hrs
I am a freelance content writer by profession. But having a lot of clients from advertisement industry, I regular get inquires regarding brochure design, business card design, logo design and all. Also, I work in close association with many designers and assist them with my ideas. I surely have creative ideas in designing. All I want to know is that, for someone having baby steps in designing, what is the ideal software to start with.. Please do help.
Hello, I have a quick question.
So I am a traditional artist and a digital artist. My Bachelor’s degree is in Studio Art (emphasizing in oil painting) and I have a Masters of Science Degree in Digital Art. With my Masters degree, I studied graphic design and video editing.
So my question is, What type of Graphic Designer utilizes both their fine artistic abilities and digital artistic skills? I am more interested in creating promotional materials like; movie posters, flyers, or even logos as a full time staff designer. My portfolio is kind of all over the place, so I was trying to seek help with focusing in on a particular type of Graphic Designer position.
Thank you so much in advance for your help.
Male, 17, UK.
I’m currently in an IT Apprentice and want to go into graphic design, I’ve previously studied Art and Media in secondary school and have an above average knowledge in Photoshop, however my skills with indesign and quark and are limited, I make some graphic artwork for the company I’m with now and there happy enough with it, I’m torn however between staying here and trying to become the in house graphic designer or leaving and studying graphic design at uni.
Any suggestions or help would be greatly appreciated.
I am a senior in high school and wanted to know;
1. What degree would I be earning to be a graphic artist bachelors or masters? 2. Do universities require SAT and ACT scores, if so does it matter if they are not above average? 3. What if you are not adequately familiar with the software when going into your first year of college?
Thank you ever so much
What’s about personal skills must man has in this career ? Have a creative spirit, is it enough for get successful in this career ?
Thanks in advance
I am Thirteen Years of age! From England. Parents are African. I’m not quite sure if this is an American,website but there’s lots of interesting information I must say!
I am in Year 8 and I want to doing Graphic Design in the future! What do I have to do in my school to,exceed in my targets in life!? Like practicing at home, staying at school to do photoshop?
This is an American website and I know our educations systems are a bit different. In the US, students who want to be graphic designers usually have a few options. One is get a university degree in graphic design. Employers at the highest paid graphic design jobs will expect a university degree in graphic design. Another option is a two-year degree. Here it’s call an associate degree. Students with this type of degree can get work doing production work at digital and offset print shops, sign shops or for firms who need people that a good at using graphic design software like Adobe InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop. The third option is to get good at using graphic design software on your own and apply for jobs. All of the above might qualify you for doing freelance work as well.
In any case, at some point you should become adept at using graphic design software. Photoshop is excellent to know, but I think it would be good to be comfortable with InDesgin and Illustrator too.
I hope this helps.
I, too, am from England, I am currently studying animation at University, but I can answer your question. If you want to get into Graphic Design in the UK, now is the perfect time to start. When it comes to picking your GCSEs, do Art. It doesn’t matter what else you do, aslong as you do well in Maths, English and Art. Build up a nice collection of quality artwork (both in school and out of school), comprising mostly of the sort of things you would like to do: character design, typography, ect.
Research local Colleges and see if any of them offer a course in Graphic Design/Visual Communication, then start applying when it comes to the end of Year 11. They will want to see some of your artwork, so that little collection of drawings you’ve kept for years? Pick and choose all of your best ones and bring them with you, aswell as one or two of your best sketchbooks from school. The more you have, the better you look.
During those two years, you will have to decide whether you want to do a Foundation year, or go straight to University. A Foundation year is just a bridge year to prepare you for the change between College/Sixth Form and University. It also exists as a plan B if you don’t get the grades required to go to University.
Personally, when I finished my Graphics Diploma, I went straight to University to study Animation, but it is all down to personal choice.
Once you’ve decided, you do the same process again, you apply to your chosen Universities and build up a portfolio of your best work, although most Universities will request certain things to be put in your portfolio: character designs, life drawings, backgrounds ect.
Don’t worry though, through all of this you’ll have people working at your School and College who are paid to help you with all of this and can guide you with whatever you need.
Best of luck for the future!
(PS, you can contact me at if you have any questions, and you can find some of my artwork at http://jakejopling.deviantart.com/ )
I want to study graphic designer in school what are the subject i should includ in my wasce..
I suggest you look at the requirements of the schools you would like to attend to see what course they expect you to have. I would think that visual art classes are important and they will probably expect you to have show them a portfolio of your art.
I really like this article, let me know what you think of my own blog post at: graphic designer services I’ve tried to cover the many overlapping discplines here, but have pointed out there is a place for a dedicated expert rather than jack of all trades!
Hello, I’ve been looking to go into graphic design, and I wanted to know which subjects/courses that you recommend I should take. Thanks in advance if you reply :)
Are you in high school or the equivalent if you do not live in the US? You should take a look at the course requirements at the college or university you would like to attend. If you’re still a high school student you should take art and photography and whatever else your school offers in visual arts.
I hope this helps.
Hi, thanks for the wonderful post.
I am really interested in creating logos for all industries. And I want to create unique and best logos. What should I learn? is learning only Adobe illustrator enough or I need to learn fine arts? Please give me an advise. Thank you.
Adobe Illustrator is an important tool, but it’s what you do with the tool that counts. One can buy a fancy expensive camera, but that does not him or her a good photographer. So to answer your question, I would say, yes, it’s good to know how to draw and something about color at least.
Hello, am from Nigeria and so intrigued by graphic design, logo design and website design. Am a very fast learner on designs like this, I trained my self on cs5 Photoshop on the basics and I know there is still much to learn. My question is ” is it possible to learn graphic design, logo design and website design”.
I want to become a graphic designer and gonna study for B.Sc in grphc designer. Is it necessary to have BFA? B.Sc is top or lowest course to BFA? Plz replay by mail too
I m a graduate in B.A from India ( Mumbai), I m planning to pursue a short 6 months computer training in graphic design including softwares like Photoshop, illustrator, coreldraw & indesign.
Is this correct, & what would be the scope for after completing this course ?
Hi Yasmin, you can start as a freelancer and build your portfolio. First, try to do some work for FREE or at a cheap offer price. Then, once you stabilize with a good review, then think of revising your prices. Have a website of your own so that you can show and tell anyone about your work. This will help u if you search for a regular job as well.