Graphic Designers are an employable bunch, especially in the modern era of tech companies and the increasing value companies place on maintaining a strong web presence.
From designing logos and creating graphics to helping design websites and apps, Graphic Designers are needed in a variety of different contexts, and work for a designer can pour in from almost anywhere. But with so many ways that graphic design can be applied to different industries, it can be tough to decide just how a person with this major should apply their talents.
Well, that's where we come in. We literally created a map, just for Graphic Design Majors such as yourself, to navigate your way through the choppy waters of recent graduation.
Feel free to focus on the map alone -- it's pretty cool, if we do say so ourselves. But for those of you who prefer step by step navigation on your path, keep reading. We'll give you the rundown on:
First thing's first: what skills you'll need to get started.
One way or another, skills for Graphic Designers revolve around the effective use of computers. Hard skills for Graphic Design Majors are very technical, including artistic techniques as well as knowledge of relevant software, or even programming languages.
Soft skills tend to be more about time-management and organization skills -- you'll rarely be working at your own pace with no disturbances, and your ability to work quickly and effectively while also communicating with your team and clients will help you succeed in the long run.
Let's take a closer look at what this means for Graphic Design in particular:
Graphic Design work is project-based, and that means long hours can frequently occur when a team is in a crunch. Good time management is useful in order for a designer to keep from being overwhelmed even when work is at a normal state, and it's a necessity when work ramps up.
Graphic Design work occurs almost entirely on the computer, so computer skills are a must. Understanding graphic design programs inside and out is essential for being able to create effectively while using them, and programming knowledge is required for certain positions as well.
Some are born with this innately, while others have to learn it. Designers should have artistic ability and a good understanding of color, texture, and light. However, they may be able to compensate for artistic shortcomings with better technical skills.
Internships are an excellent way to start accumulating experience in any discipline, gaining valuable resume cache while also helping you start your network of industry contacts.
In Graphic Design, internships are usually found with some of the larger graphic design firms, but they can also be found at advertising agencies or design studios. Many companies that do graphic design in-house have some sort of dedicated department that you'll be able to find and offer your services to.
When you're not rushing to get coffee for an office full of techie artists, your duties might include assisting with web design, brainstorming, developing prototypes, and learning to use some of the more advanced industry-specific rendering technologies used by the company.
Before you settle on an internship or placement, though, you'll want to make sure it's the right fit for you. Ask yourself these questions:
Graphic Designers often work in one of two ways -- either as freelancers, or employed by a larger firm.
However, their work is used in many different forms of products and media, and big companies may keep a firm on retainer for all their graphic design needs. Others might even employ their own art department, keeping all of their design in-house rather than paying others to do so for them.
No matter how a graphic designer is employed, their duties can vary dramatically depending on their specializations and individual project demands.
With our map, you can click the Job Titles and learn more specific information for each position (what their responsibilities are, how much they get paid, etc.) But here, we wanted to call out some of the most common jobs for recent Graphic Design Major grads.
Here are a few of the most interesting jobs for recent grads such as yourself:
Web Designers use their graphic design knowledge combined with a strong command of HTML (and other programming languages) to design and build websites, typically focused on improving the ability of users to find and access the various parts of the website as quickly and easily as possible.
Art Directors are responsible for the visual style of a publication or product, such as a newspaper, magazine, product packaging, or movie. They create the overall design by working with and directing other creative workers to help them carry out their vision.
Using drawing and rendering programs, Multimedia Artists create two- and three-dimensional models, animation, and visual effects for television, movies, video games, and other forms of media.
As early and as often as you can, you should start freelancing in graphic design. Doing so will help you build out your portfolio with every new project you undertake, and, if you're lucky, you might even find yourself making a good amount of money doing so.
Start by putting your portfolio together and making it look as professional as possible. If you've got the know-how, make yourself a website displaying your work that could be found by anyone who happens to Google your name. Then find an easy freelancing job to start on -- design a new logo for a company, or help a small business design their menu or website.
Keep track of your work as you go along, and keep some sort of measure of your skills. When asked, you should be able to tell a potential employer all the things you know how to do in Graphic Design at the drop of a hat.
Look Out for Big Firms
You can make a lot of money freelancing, and it comes with the benefits of being your own boss and setting your own hours. But there are downsides as well, and if it's consistent work you're looking for, a big Graphic Design firm is the way to go.
In addition to taking on individual projects from clients, these firms are often kept on retainer by large companies who need specialty work done regularly and consistently. For you, that means a constant stream of projects and rarely having to worry about when the next paycheck is coming in. Of course, there's also the potential for a bit of a monkey's paw situation in which you have more work than you can handle, and you're now answerable to a boss who might not be as lax as you would have been with yourself.
But for a lot of people, the benefits outweigh the risks, and big firms remain one of the most popular ways that Graphic Designers are employed.
Obtaining a graduate degree in your course of study can serve as an excellent way to separate you from the herd - but you must first decide whether it's worth your time.
Master's degrees in Graphic Design are offered in certain places, typically when students need a chance to dig a little deeper into some particular aspect of Graphic Design that is of interest to them. However, the more competitive and typically more useful degree to achieve in Graphic Design is the MFA. While the process for achieving the MFA is longer and more intense, it is also the accepted terminal degree for teaching Graphic Design, as it values both practice as well as research.
The PhD in Graphic Design, while still useful, takes a considerable amount of time and focuses primarily on research with almost no practice involved, with the primary aim of the PhD being to expand scholarship in the Graphic Design field.
Here are common advanced degrees that people with [blank] degree normally consider:
Master's in Graphic Design
MFA (Master of Fine Arts in Graphic Design)
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy in Graphic Design)
If you're still not sure what to do with your degree here are some external sites, to help you with your decision:
A professional organization for graphic design, AIGA provides conferences, publications, local chapter meetings, continuing education, and other membership benefits. The organization's name AIGA previously stood for the American Institute of Graphic Arts, but it has since been shorted to the initials themselves.
The Freelancer's Union is a professional organization for independent workers in the graphic design industry specifically.
Enter "[blank]" into the search bar and you can get a sense of what kind of government jobs are available to Visual and Performing Arts Majors. Find a job title you like and come back here to learn more about it.
The BLS offers detailed data on pay, location, and availability of different kinds of jobs across the country.
In fact, we draw a lot of our research on the best places for jobs from the information provided on the site.
And if this all seems like a lot - don't worry - the hard part (getting your degree!) is already over.