What does a graphic designer do, and how do you know if it’s the right career path?
These are some of the most common questions people ask. They wonder if they have what it takes to be a designer.
Design is an art form that takes continuous practice and attention to detail to master. If you think creatively and create something from your imagination, the graphic designer career path may be right for you.
However, graphic design requires discipline and a willingness to step out of your comfort zone. Graphic design isn’t one straight shot down a career path, either. There are various routes you can take as a designer, and no limits to what you can accomplish.
If you find you have an interest in going down a graphic designer’s career path, here’s what it looks like and how to tell if it’s right for you.
What Does a Graphic Designer’s Career Path Look Like?
Graphic design offers various career paths. For instance, you can choose to work at an organization, an agency or seek work on your own in the freelance world.
But what are the differences between these three opportunities? Here is a quick overview below:
- In-house: Graphic designers work for large companies in various industries. Typically, they can expect higher salaries. However, working for a large organization requires less creative freedom in general.
- Agency: This setting is for those that seek to serve a wide variety of clients. Agencies may specialize in areas such as advertising, branding and more. Yet, working for an agency may come with a lower salary, but the work is more varied.
- Freelance: Freelancing is similar to agency work. However, you have the freedom to work on jobs that interest you and earn as much as you desire.
When you go down a graphic designer career path, you can expect to work up to various roles. Below is a closer look at what each role entails.
Junior Graphic Designer
This role focuses on the fundamentals of design, including layouts, logo drawing, correcting typefaces and color corrections. Generally, this role isn’t always creative, and it’s lower pay.
For instance, you may start in the salary range that’s on the lower end. The lowest 10% that graphic designers make on average is $31,310 annually.
Despite these slight disadvantages, there may be moments when you can brainstorm ideas and design new mockups. Plus, you would be working under the supervision of the senior designer — allowing you to learn and develop your skills further.
The graphic designer’s role is broader and focuses on design processes — from concept to design, layout, and finalizations. It typically involves working directly with clients, and you would have greater control over the creative aspect.
This role is highly creative, and you work on various projects. However, the downside is that the job can be stressful since clients are unfamiliar with the design process and expect quick turnovers.
With that in mind, you may receive many rejections for your design ideas.
Senior Graphic Designer
The senior graphic designer role is complex as it comes with higher responsibilities. These can range from meeting with clients to taking over advertising campaigns. The work involves conceptualizing and designing from beginning to end.
While the company directors oversee the work, you would have greater creative freedom. Plus, you would direct the other designers below you to complete projects on time.
The art director has the most seniority in a graphic design firm. This role doesn’t require as much focus on the actual design. Rather, it shifts over to working directly with people.
The art director will meet with clients to discuss their needs. Then, they work with the senior design staff to ensure they meet the client’s needs.
The Opportunities That Come With a Graphic Design Career
Many people pursue a graphic designer career path for various reasons. Some might think there’s not much room for growth. However, there are different career paths you can choose in graphic design.
The opportunities are endless. With this in mind, here are the top reasons why this career path is a good investment for your career.
In graphic design, you never stop evolving and improving your skills. You will always have daily challenges to overcome and succeed.
Graphic design doesn’t only come with a set of rules. You can use your creativity and learn how to break them without going way off the charts. That’s because learning new techniques and technologies is always a chance to grow.
Design is always changing, and it could be exciting for you to stay on top of the latest trends.
Collaborate With Other Creatives
Graphic designers rarely work alone. Often, they’re a part of a creative team and work together to create the best solution. You’ll most likely work with marketers, copywriters, PR professionals, advertisers, senior management and company directors.
Carrying varied business relationships allows you to gain inspiration from others and boost your skills.
However, you won’t be spending all your time communicating and collaborating with other team members. You’ll have enough “quiet time” to recharge and focus on your tasks.
Your Work Is Always in Demand
While we live in the age of automation, the thought of robots taking over our jobs can be daunting. But rest assured, graphic design will always require creativity and human thinking. These are the two essential components of branding and business.
Though some automate simple designs, it requires a graphic designer to develop a holistic brand and communicate cleverly to a unique audience.
5 Signs the Graphic Designer Career Path Is For You
1. You Realize Fonts Have Different Personalities
You recognize that font choice matters. With a vast amount of typefaces available, you know how important it is to choose the one that’s complementary to the design.
Designers are quick to tell which fonts work and which don’t. So, if you cringe at Papyrus — but love a good serif font — then graphic design might be the right choice for you.
2. You Enjoy Purchasing Items Because of the Packaging
Do you buy items because of their unique label? Walking down the aisles, you get a glimpse of something that catches your eye. Once you’ve brought it home, you find yourself admiring it because of how the design makes you feel.
Possessing an appreciation for packaging design signifies that graphic design may be a good career for you.
3. You Have an Eye for Color
You know which colors are trending, and you like to coordinate everything by color. Color choice is an integral part of design and color theory and requires a keen eye for perfection.
4. You Download Apps to Look at the Design
Designers play a large role in building well-designed digital products. Maybe your phone has a ton of apps that you barely use. Yet, you can’t bear to delete them because you like the design.
This characteristic of yourself gives you a head start in User Experience design, and you likely think of ways to improve it.
5. You Care for the Aesthetics of Your Everyday Surroundings
Do the picture frames on your wall perfectly align? Do you organize your throw pillows by color or size?
If so, you know how important it is to have visual clarity. You understand hierarchy, balance, repetition, contrast and alignment. These five design principles are the foundation of graphic design education.
Enjoy Working in a Career That Fulfills You
Knowing what a graphic design career path entails — you might find it’s the right one for you. Of course, not everyone is fit for design. But if you are willing to learn, have an eye for design and communicate well with others — this opportunity awaits you.
About The Author
Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine, an online publication dedicated to providing in-depth content from the design and marketing industries. When she's not designing or writing code, you can find her re-reading the Harry Potter series, burning calories at a local Zumba class, or hanging out with her dogs, Bear and Lucy.