Careers in graphic design are popular among creative people, as they allow you to use this creativity daily and collaborate with likeminded people to produce innovative designs. There is also a lot of satisfaction in seeing your work published, whether that is in print, online, or at an exhibition or event.
Learn more about graphic design jobs, the skills you need to become a graphic designer and the qualifications that help.
- Why work in graphic design?
- What careers are available in graphic design?
- What skills are needed to work in graphic design?
- What degrees help with a career in graphic design?
Why work in graphic design?
Put your creativity into practice
A graphic design career will enable you to use your creativity in a practical way. Not only is it fulfilling to be able to be creative as part of your job, but it can also be very rewarding to see a physical result from your hard work.
Work for yourself
Freelance graphic designers enjoy a lot of freedom around their working hours, the kind of design work they do and the clients they work for. However, before making any decisions it’s important to know that freelancing can come with instability. There may be times where you are very busy, followed by periods where you don’t have much work on and therefore are earning less.
Do what you love
It sounds like a cliché, but enjoying what you do for a living shouldn’t be taken for granted. Studying graphic design will give you a good idea of which elements of design work you really enjoy, and you can then aim for a job that will enable you to do those things every day.
What careers are available in graphic design?
- Graphic designer – this is a broad role which could see you design printed materials like flyers or posters, as well as digital designs, videos, illustrations, websites and more.
- Animator – create a range of animations, including 2D, 3D and stop-motion.
- Illustrator – design images and drawings that work alongside text in newspapers, magazines, books and more, in order to further enhance the story being told.
- Artworker – take designs that have been produced by a graphic designer and ensure they’re ready for production. For example, retouching images, checking colour balances and resizing documents.
- Concept artist – create the initial designs for a project, for example sketching out how you imagine a character, setting or building to look.
- Exhibition designer – produce displays for art galleries, museums, shows and events.
- Art director – as you work your way up the ladder, you could land a job as an art director. Here you would have overall responsibility for the visuals that are produced as part of a project and manage the team that makes those visuals.
A graphic design career could also see you go into more IT-related roles, such as:
- User experience (UX) designer – responsible for the look and feel of a product as well as making sure it’s functional and easy to use.
- Web and user interface (UI) designer – design websites and apps, ensuring they are visually pleasing as well as simple to use.
Graphic design is also a good route into the media industry:
- Creative director – like an art director, but rather than being responsible for the visuals only, you would manage the overall direction of a campaign and work with a range of teams to execute a creative project.
- Marketing roles – you could go into marketing, communications, PR or advertising with a degree in graphic design.
Discover the careers available in the media industry.
What skills are needed to work in graphic design?
There are a few skills that will help you to succeed in a career in graphic design:
- Technical skills – graphic designers use a range of design tools, such as Adobe Photoshop or InDesign, in order to produce designs
- Creative thinking and innovation – coming up with new and creative ways to fulfil a design brief
- Attention to detail – adhering to a company’s brand guidelines and ensuring your designs are optimised for where they are being published, whether that is in print or online
- Communication and teamwork – whether you’re a freelancer or work for a company, collaboration with clients and colleagues is key to any design role
- Timekeeping and workload management – prioritising your workload and keeping to deadlines
- Research – looking at what competitors are doing, staying on top of design trends and being up to date with the industry or sector you are working in
If you are interested in a specific field or job role within graphic design, it’s a good idea to find adverts for those roles and look at the job description and person specification. Here you can identify the skills and experience you already have and where you need to improve in order to meet the essential criteria for the role.
Take a look at the graduate skills that employers are looking for.
What degrees help with a career in graphic design?
A degree in the following subjects would be useful for a career in graphic design:
- Graphic design
- Art and design
You could study for an undergraduate degree or foundation degree, as both would give you a good set of skills to secure a junior graphic design role. You could go on to study a masters degree in a subject related to graphic design too, however this isn’t necessary to get a job in graphic design.
If you are unsure about studying for a degree, you could study a Level 2 Higher National Diploma (HND) in graphic design. This is equivalent to two years of university and are often seen as more beneficial for practical careers like graphic design. After completion, you will have the skills needed for landing your first graphic design job, or you could go on to complete an undergraduate degree in graphic design.
If you would prefer to go straight into the world of work and learn on the job, we would suggest looking into an apprenticeship in graphic design.
Last updated on 22 March 2023Share this article