- Among the five design occupations, graphic designers are expected
to have the most new jobs through 2014; however, job seekers
are expected to face keen competition for available positions.
- Graphic designers with Web site design and animation experience
will have the best opportunities.
- A bachelor’s degree is required for most entry-level positions;
however, an associate degree may be sufficient for technical
- About 3 out of 10 designers are self-employed; many do freelance
work in addition to holding a salaried job in design or in another
Graphic designers—or graphic artists—plan, analyze, and create
visual solutions to communications problems. They decide the most
effective way of getting a message across in print, electronic,
and film media using a variety of methods such as color, type,
illustration, photography, animation, and various print and layout
techniques. Graphic designers develop the overall layout and production
design of magazines, newspapers, journals, corporate reports,
and other publications. They also produce promotional displays,
packaging, and marketing brochures for products and services,
design distinctive logos for products and businesses, and develop
signs and signage systems—called environmental graphics—for business
and government. An increasing number of graphic designers also
are developing material for Internet Web pages, interactive media,
and multimedia projects. Graphic designers also may produce the
credits that appear before and after television programs and movies.
The first step in developing a new graphic design is to determine
the needs of the client, the message the design should portray,
and its appeal to customers or users. Graphic designers consider
cognitive, cultural, physical, and social factors in planning
and executing designs for the target audience. Designers gather
relevant information by meeting with clients, creative or art
directors, and by performing their own research. Identifying the
needs of consumers is becoming increasingly important for graphic
designers as the scope of their work continues to focus on creating
corporate communication strategies in addition to technical design
and layout work.
Graphic designers prepare sketches or layouts—by hand or with
the aid of a computer—to illustrate the vision for the design.
They select colors, sound, artwork, photography, animation, style
of type, and other visual elements for the design. Designers also
select the size and arrangement of the different elements on the
page or screen. They also may create graphs and charts from data
for use in publications, and often consult with copywriters on
any text that may accompany the visual part of the design. Designers
then present the completed design to their clients or art or creative
director for approval. In printing and publishing firms, graphic
designers also may assist the printers by selecting the type of
paper and ink for the publication and reviewing the mock-up design
for errors before final publication.
Graphic designers use a variety of graphics and layout computer
software to assist in their designs. Designers creating Web pages
or other interactive media designs also will use computer animation
and programming packages. Computer software programs allow ease
and flexibility in exploring a greater number of design alternatives,
thus reducing design costs and cutting the time it takes to deliver
a product to market.
Graphic designers sometimes supervise assistants who carry out
their creations. Designers who run their own businesses also may
devote a considerable amount of time to developing new business
contacts, examining equipment and space needs, and performing
administrative tasks, such as reviewing catalogues and ordering
samples. The need for up-to-date computer and communications equipment
is an ongoing consideration for graphic designers.
Working conditions and places of employment vary. Graphic designers
employed by large advertising, publishing, or design firms generally
work regular hours in well-lighted and comfortable settings. Designers
in smaller design consulting firms, or those who freelance, generally
work on a contract, or job, basis. They frequently adjust their
workday to suit their clients’ schedules and deadlines. Consultants
and self-employed designers tend to work longer hours and in smaller,
more congested, environments.
Designers may transact business in their own offices or studios
or in clients’ offices. Designers who are paid by the assignment
are under pressure to please clients and to find new ones in order
to maintain a steady income. All designers sometimes face frustration
when their designs are rejected or when their work is not as creative
as they wish. Graphic designers may work evenings or weekends
to meet production schedules, especially in the printing and publishing
industries where deadlines are shorter and more frequent.
|Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement
A bachelor’s degree is required for most entry-level and advanced
graphic design positions; although some entry-level technical
positions may only require an associate degree. In addition to
postsecondary training in graphic design, creativity, and communication
and problem-solving skills are crucial. Graphic designers also
need to be familiar with computer graphics and design software.
A good portfolio—a collection of examples of a person’s best work—often
is the deciding factor in getting a job.
Bachelor’s of fine arts degree programs in graphic design are
offered at many colleges, universities, and private design schools.
The curriculum includes studio art, principles of design, computerized
design, commercial graphics production, printing techniques, and
Web site design. In addition to design courses, a liberal arts
education or a program that includes courses in art history, writing,
psychology, sociology, foreign languages and cultural studies,
marketing, and business are useful in helping designers work effectively
with the content of their work. Graphic designers must effectively
communicate complex subjects to a variety of audiences. Increasingly,
clients rely on graphic designers to develop the content and the
context of the message in addition to performing technical layout
Associate degrees and certificates in graphic design also are
available from 2- and 3-year professional schools. These programs
usually focus on the technical aspects of graphic design and include
very few liberal arts courses. Graduates of 2-year programs normally
qualify as assistants to graphic designers or for positions requiring
technical skills only. Individuals who wish to pursue a career
in graphic design—and who already possess a bachelor’s degree
in another field—can complete a 2-year or 3-year program in graphic
design to learn the technical requirements.
The National Association of Schools of Art and Design accredits
about 250 postsecondary institutions with programs in art and
design. Most of these schools award a degree in graphic design.
Many schools do not allow formal entry into a bachelor’s degree
program until a student has successfully finished a year of basic
art and design courses. Applicants may be required to submit sketches
and other examples of their artistic ability.
Increasingly, employers expect new graphic designers to be familiar
with computer graphics and design software. Graphic designers
must continually keep up to date with the development of new and
updated software, usually either on their own or through software
Graphic designers also must be creative and able to communicate
their ideas in writing, visually, and verbally. Because consumer
tastes can change quickly, designers need to be well read, open
to new ideas and influences, and quick to react to changing trends.
Problem-solving skills, paying attention to detail, and the ability
to work independently and under pressure also are important traits.
People in this field need self-discipline to start projects on
their own, to budget their time, and to meet deadlines and production
schedules. Good business sense and sales ability also are important,
especially for those who freelance or run their own business.
Beginning graphic designers usually receive on-the-job training
and normally need 1 to 3 years of training before they can advance
to higher level positions. Experienced graphic designers in large
firms may advance to chief designer, art or creative director,
or other supervisory positions. Some designers leave the occupation
to become teachers in design schools or in colleges and universities.
Many faculty members continue to consult privately or operate
small design studios to complement their classroom activities.
Some experienced designers open their own firms or choose to specialize
in one area of graphic design.
Graphic designers held about 228,000 jobs in 2004. About 7 out
of 10 were wage and salary designers. Most worked in specialized
design services; advertising and related services; printing and
related support activities; or newspaper, periodical, book, and
directory publishers. Other graphic designers produced computer
graphics for computer systems design firms or motion picture production
firms. A small number of designers also worked in engineering
services or for management, scientific, and technical consulting
About 3 out of 10 designers were self-employed. Many did freelance
work—full time or part time—in addition to holding a salaried
job in design or in another occupation.
Employment of graphic designers is expected to grow about as
fast as average for all occupations through the year 2014, as
demand for graphic design continues to increase from advertisers,
publishers, and computer design firms. Among the five different
design occupations, graphic designers will have the most new jobs.
However, graphic designers are expected to face keen competition
for available positions. Many talented individuals are attracted
to careers as graphic designers. Individuals with a bachelor’s
degree and knowledge of computer design software, particularly
those with Web site design and animation experience, will have
the best opportunities.
Demand for graphic designers should increase because of the rapidly
expanding market for Web-based information and expansion of the
video entertainment market, including television, movies, video,
and made-for-Internet outlets. Graphic designers with Web site
design and animation experience will especially be needed as demand
for design projects increase for interactive media—Web sites,
video games, cellular telephones, personal digital assistants
(PDAs), and other technology. Demand for graphic designers also
will increase as advertising firms create print and Web marketing
and promotional materials for a growing number of products and
In recent years, some computer, printing, and publishing firms
have outsourced basic layout and design work to design firms overseas.
This trend is expected to continue and may have a negative impact
on employment growth for lower level, technical graphic design
workers. However, most higher-level graphic design jobs will remain
in the U.S. and will focus on developing communication strategies,
called strategic design, for clients and firms in order for them
to gain competitive advantages in the market. Strategic design
work requires close proximity to the consumer in order to identify
and target their needs and interests. Graphic designers with a
broad liberal arts education and experience in marketing and business
management will be best suited for these positions.
Median annual earnings for graphic designers were $38,030 in
May 2004. The middle 50 percent earned between $29,360 and $50,840.
The lowest 10 percent earned less than $23,220, and the highest
10 percent earned more than $65,940. Median annual earnings in
the industries employing the largest numbers of graphic designers
|Architectural, engineering, and related
|Specialized design services
|Advertising and related services
|Printing and related support activities
|Newspaper, periodical, book, and directory
The American Institute of Graphic Arts reported 2005 median annual
total cash compensation for graphic designers according to level
of responsibility. Entry-level designers earned a median salary
of $32,000 in 2005, while staff-level graphic designers earned
$42,500. Senior designers, who may supervise junior staff or have
some decision-making authority that reflects their knowledge of
graphic design, earned $56,000. Solo designers, who freelanced
or worked under contract to another company, reported median earnings
of $60,000. Design directors, the creative heads of design firms
or in-house corporate design departments, earned $90,000. Graphic
designers with ownership or partnership interests in a firm or
who were principals of the firm in some other capacity earned
Workers in other occupations in the art and design field include
artists and related workers; commercial and industrial designers;
fashion designers; floral designers; and interior designers. Other
occupations that require computer-aided design skills include
computer software engineers, drafters, and desktop publishers.
Other occupations involved in the design, layout, and copy of
publications include advertising, marketing, promotions, public
relations, and sales managers; photographers; writers and editors;
and prepress technicians and workers. See the Career
Database to read about these careers.
|Sources of Additional Information
For general information about art and design and a list of accredited
college-level programs, contact:
For information about graphic, communication, or interaction
design careers, contact:
- American Institute of Graphic Arts, 164 Fifth Ave., New York,
NY 10010. Internet: http://www.aiga.org/
For information on workshops, scholarships, internships, and
competitions for graphic design students interested in advertising
Source: Bureau of Labor
Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational
Outlook Handbook, 2006-07 Edition,