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Become An Artist/Illustrator

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Working As An Artist/Illustrator

  • Thinking Creatively
  • Interacting With Computers
  • Getting Information
  • Making Decisions and Solving Problems
  • Communicating with Persons Outside Organization
  • Mostly Sitting

  • Repetitive

  • Stressful

  • $64,000

    Average Salary

What Does An Artist/Illustrator Do

Graphic designers create visual concepts, using computer software or by hand, to communicate ideas that inspire, inform, and captivate consumers. They develop the overall layout and production design for various applications such as for advertisements, brochures, magazines, and corporate reports.

Duties

Graphic designers typically do the following: 

  • Meet with clients or the art director to determine the scope of a project
  • Use digital illustration, photo-editing software, and layout software to create designs
  • Create visual elements such as logos, original images, and illustrations that help deliver a desired message
  • Design layouts and select colors, images, and typefaces to use
  • Present design concepts to clients or art directors
  • Incorporate changes recommended by clients or art directors into final designs
  • Review designs for errors before printing or publishing them

Graphic designers combine art and technology to communicate ideas through images and the layout of websites and printed pages. They may use a variety of design elements to achieve artistic or decorative effects.

Graphic designers work with both text and images. They often select the type, font, size, color, and line length of headlines, headings, and text. Graphic designers also decide how images and text will go together on a print or webpage, including how much space each will have. When using text in layouts, graphic designers collaborate closely with writers who choose the words and decide whether the words will be put into paragraphs, lists, or tables. Through the use of images, text, and color, graphic designers can transform statistical data into visual graphics and diagrams, which can make complex ideas more accessible.

Graphic design is important to marketing and selling products, and is a critical component of brochures and logos. Therefore, graphic designers, also referred to as graphic artists or communication designers, often work closely with people in advertising and promotions, public relations, and marketing.

Frequently, designers specialize in a particular category or type of client. For example, some create the graphics used on retail products packaging, still others may work on the visual designs used on book jackets.

Graphic designers need to keep up to date with the latest software and computer technologies to remain competitive.

Some individuals with a background in graphic design teach in design schools, colleges, and universities. For more information, see the profile on postsecondary teachers.

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How To Become An Artist/Illustrator

Graphic designers usually need a bachelor’s degree in graphic design or a related field. Candidates for graphic design positions should demonstrate their creativity and originality through a professional portfolio that features their best designs.

Education

A bachelor’s degree in graphic design or a related field is usually required. However, those with a bachelor’s degree in another field may pursue technical training in graphic design to meet most hiring qualifications.

The National Association of Schools of Art and Design accredits about 320 postsecondary colleges, universities, and independent institutes with programs in art and design. Most schools include studio art, principles of design, computerized design, commercial graphics production, printing techniques, and website design. In addition, students should consider courses in writing, marketing, and business, all of which are useful in helping designers work effectively on project teams.

High school students interested in graphic design should take basic art and design courses in high school, if the courses are available. Many bachelor's degree programs require students to complete 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.

Many programs provide students with the opportunity to build a professional portfolio of their designs. For many artists, including graphic designers, developing a portfolio—a collection of design ideas that demonstrates their styles and abilities—is essential because employers rely heavily on a designer’s portfolio in deciding whether to hire the individual.

Graphic designers must keep up with new and updated computer graphics and design software, either on their own or through formal software training programs. Professional associations that specialize in graphic design, such as AIGA, offer courses intended to keep the skills of their members up to date.

Other Experience

Graphic designers often gain their initial experience through internships. It provides aspiring graphic designers an opportunity to work with designers and experience the design process from concept to completion while completing a design program.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Certification programs are generally available through software product vendors. Certification in graphic design software can demonstrate a level of competence and may provide a jobseeker with a competitive advantage.

Advancement

Experienced graphic designers may advance to chief designer, art director, or other supervisory positions.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Graphic designers must be able to look at their work from the point of view of their consumers and examine how the designs they develop will be perceived by consumers to ensure they convey the client’s desired message.

Artistic ability. Graphic designers must be able to create designs that are artistically interesting and appealing to clients and consumers. They produce rough illustrations of design ideas, either by hand sketching or by using computer programs.

Communication skills. Graphic designers must communicate with clients, customers, and other designers to ensure that their designs accurately reflect the desired message and effectively express information.

Computer skills. Most graphic designers use specialized graphic design software to prepare their designs.

Creativity. Graphic designers must be able to think of new approaches to communicating ideas to consumers. They develop unique designs that convey a recognizable meaning on behalf of their clients.

Time-management skills. Graphic designers often work on multiple projects at the same time, each with a different deadline.

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Artist/Illustrator Career Paths

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Average Length of Employment
Commercial Artist 6.1 years
Graphic Artist 4.4 years
Designer/Artist 4.3 years
Artist/Illustrator 4.0 years
Computer Artist 3.9 years
Multimedia Artist 3.4 years
Graphic Designer 3.1 years
Production Artist 3.0 years
Freelance Designer 2.5 years
Top Careers Before Artist/Illustrator
Artist 15.6%
Internship 6.5%
Cashier 4.4%
Volunteer 3.4%
Designer 3.1%
Instructor 3.1%
Manager 2.5%
Top Careers After Artist/Illustrator
Artist 13.7%
Instructor 4.0%
Designer 3.3%
Chef 2.7%

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Top Skills for An Artist/Illustrator

  1. K-Mart
  2. Company Logos
  3. Adobe Photoshop
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Worked on the Sear's, K-mart, and Boise accounts.
  • Develop graphics and layouts for product illustrations and company logos.
  • Observed basic autopsy procedures and illustrated the processes in Adobe Photoshop for the training process of new employees.
  • Illustrated a comic series and editorial illustrations for Rookie Mag
  • Designed and created concept art and in-game tile art for furniture and other props, for a player housing system.

Artist/Illustrator Demographics

Gender

Male

44.1%

Female

42.4%

Unknown

13.5%
Ethnicity

White

61.9%

Hispanic or Latino

16.3%

Black or African American

9.9%

Asian

8.1%

Unknown

3.8%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

50.0%

Chinese

10.0%

German

10.0%

French

10.0%

Mandarin

10.0%

Thai

10.0%
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Artist/Illustrator Education

Schools

Savannah College of Art and Design

12.5%

Academy of Art University

11.5%

Art Institute of Pittsburgh

8.3%

School of Visual Arts

6.3%

Syracuse University

5.2%

Columbia College Chicago

5.2%

Ringling College of Art and Design

5.2%

Art Institute of California - Inland

4.2%

Rochester Institute of Technology

4.2%

Columbus College of Art and Design

4.2%

University of Arizona

4.2%

University of Kansas

4.2%

Virginia Commonwealth University

3.1%

University of California - Los Angeles

3.1%

Wayne State University

3.1%

Robert Morris University

3.1%

Brigham Young University

3.1%

Art Center College of Design

3.1%

University of North Texas

3.1%

Fashion Institute of Technology

3.1%
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Majors

Graphic Design

36.4%

Fine Arts

28.0%

Animation

6.0%

Design And Visual Communication

3.9%

Computer Applications

3.9%

Photography

2.4%

Business

2.1%

Education

2.1%

Psychology

1.8%

English

1.8%

Liberal Arts

1.5%

Audiovisual Communications Technologies

1.5%

Communication

1.5%

Digital Media

1.2%

Computer Science

1.2%

Entertainment Business

0.9%

General Education, Specific Areas

0.9%

Political Science

0.9%

School Counseling

0.9%

Marketing

0.9%
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Degrees

Bachelors

53.4%

Other

19.8%

Masters

11.6%

Associate

8.7%

Certificate

5.1%

Diploma

1.2%

Doctorate

0.2%
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