What Is a Graphic Designer? Job Description, Salary, Skills, & More!

Updated December 2023

At its core, graphic design is a form of visual communication at the intersection of art and technology. Graphic designers use images, colors, layouts, and fonts to convey information and evoke emotions.

There isn’t a singular graphic design definition. It encompasses a broad range of skills and specialties. Some designers may focus on a specific area, like designing for print, websites, branding, UX design, or ads, while others work on various projects.

Read on to learn more about what graphic designers do and the path to becoming one.

What Do Graphic Designers Do?

The field of graphic design includes several overlapping sub-disciplines. While all types of graphic design use technology and design principles to communicate information, solve problems, and inspire your audience to interact with your brand, these sub-disciplines use different software programs or have distinct best practices.

The field has many career paths, and aspiring graphic designers typically develop experience in several disciplines. Here are five overlapping sub-disciplines you can explore as a graphic designer.

1. Web Design

When working on web design, graphic designers create images, icons, and interactive elements that are legible on large and small screens. These creation also have to load quickly to support optimal website speed. Most often, graphic designers are working with web developers to bring the web design to life.

2. Advertising & Marketing Design

Advertising and marketing design includes creating ads for online or print publications. In the sub-discipline, graphic designers adhere to consistent branding guidelines while creating designs that impact a target audience.

3. Packaging Design

The packaging design field involves creating striking designs to fit seamlessly on packages of different sizes and shapes. Manufacturers rely on graphic designers to troubleshoot how a design best translates onto the packaging material. A package designer integrates the creativity and branding strategies essential to advertising alongside the technical aspects of printing, manufacturing, and 3D mockups.

4. UI and Interactive Design

Whenever you use an app on your phone, you see someone’s user interface (UI) or interactive design. UI design experts facilitate the user’s visual experience across a digital platform, including icons and overall layout. This type of graphic design makes the complex software developed by programmers visually pleasing for users.

5. Brand Design

Whereas marketing and advertising designers bring a brand public, brand designers help establish a foundation for the brand, including design, logo, colors, and design elements. They create the visual identity of a specific brand.

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As you can see, graphic designers work across various industries and specialty areas. Other possible graphic design work may include creating signs for businesses and events, curating covers for books, magazines, and other publications, and working on TV commercials. Some graphic designers also work on video games.

Why Hire a Graphic Designer?

Graphic designers are essential to business success in today’s highly digital world. Graphic design helps optimize customer communication through a visual medium, whether a website, mobile app, product packaging, unique logo, or printed advertisement. A great graphic designer can make a new brand stand out in a crowded industry. Plus, their aptitude for consistent visual details helps develop a loyal customer base.

To be successful, graphic designers are always on the lookout for the latest trends and creative ideas. With this perspective, graphic designers can help refresh an older product and develop new strategies for expanding a consumer audience. Overall, an experienced graphic designer can save time and increase profits.

Graphic Designer Job Description

Graphic designer job descriptions will vary based on the design services a company needs. If you are looking for a job as a graphic designer, read through each description carefully to ensure your skills and aptitudes align with the company’s needs.

Generally, a graphic designer job description might include the following:

  • Work with team members, stakeholders, and clients to produce content.
  • Create or abide by brand design guidelines.
  • Help develop ideas and make design choices for all company content.
  • Execute creative initiatives for tactical marketing across social, web, e-mail, and print channels.
  • Study design briefs and conceptualize visuals.
  • Develop graphics, images, videos, and designs using Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, or other design software.
  • Prepare rough concept presentations to share with the team for feedback.
  • Incorporate feedback and amend designs.
  • Work with copywriters, project managers, the marketing team, the creative director, and stakeholders to produce final designs.
  • Test graphics across various media.
  • Meet project deadlines.

Where Do Graphic Designers Work?

Graphic design is relevant to any industry that relies on marketing and advertising. However, due to the field’s creative nature and technical demands, graphic designers don’t always work in a traditional office setting. They often prefer to work independently in open studio spaces with drafting tables and specialized design software.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about one-fifth of graphic designers are self-employed and thus can work from anywhere. Other top industries hiring graphic designers include advertising and public relations, specialized design services, printing, and publishing.

How Much Does A Graphic Designer Make?

A graphic designer’s salary depends on their experience level, their company, and other factors like industry and specific skills.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, an entry-level graphic designer can expect annual pay of around $35,000 to $45,000, while an experienced designer can make over $100,000. The median income for a designer is about $31 an hour or $64,000 a year.

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What Qualifications Are Needed to Become A Graphic Designer?

Just as there is more than one graphic design definition, there is more than one path to becoming a qualified designer. Most graphic designers earn a bachelor’s degree in graphic design or a related field. To find employment, you will need to develop the required skills, knowledge, and software experience and have a portfolio to demonstrate your work.

Hard Skills for Graphic Designers

You don’t need all the following hard skills to start as a graphic designer. This list is designed to give you a picture of the skills employers want.

  • Typography
  • Understanding of core design principles
  • Color theory
  • Logo and visual identity
  • Motion graphics
  • Adobe Photoshop, Acrobat, Illustrator
  • InDesign
  • CorelDRAW
  • Spatial dynamics (layout)
  • CSS (for web only)
  • CAD software (for 3D design)

Soft Skills for Graphic Designers

  • Attention to detail
  • Creativity
  • Problem-solving
  • Written, verbal, and visual communication skills
  • Ability to take feedback and adapt a design
  • Organization
  • Persistence
  • Time management
  • Teamwork

Are You Trying to Become a Graphic Designer?

Graphic design is a dynamic career with ongoing opportunities for learning, growth, and expansion. It is an ideal career for creative thinkers who enjoy visual art, communications, technology, and teamwork.

If you are ready to apply for jobs in this field, Insight Global’s job board has up-to-date listings, including remote or in-person work opportunities. Whether switching careers or getting your first job, we are here to help you find a position that suits your skill level and industry preferences.

If you’re a hiring manager interested in recruiting a top graphic designer, our experts can assist you with drafting a job description and accessing a list of competitive candidates in record time. Connect with Insight Global today and get ready to transform your brand.