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Become A Graphic Designer/Illustrator

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Working As A Graphic Designer/Illustrator

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

  • Repetitive

  • Stressful

  • $46,518

    Average Salary

What Does A Graphic Designer/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 A Graphic Designer/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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Graphic Designer/Illustrator Career Paths

Graphic Designer/Illustrator
Senior Graphic Designer Creative Director
Chief Creative Officer
9 Yearsyrs
Web Graphic Designer Senior Graphic Designer Art Director
Creative Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Senior Graphic Designer Art Director
Creative Services Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Web Graphic Designer Art Director
Design Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Lead Graphic Designer Graphics Specialist Senior Graphic Designer
Designation Marketing Director
5 Yearsyrs
Graphic Design Specialist Marketing Manager Marketing Manager/Project Manager
Digital Project Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Art Director Creative Director Marketing Director
Director Of Communications And Marketing
9 Yearsyrs
Freelance Designer Senior Designer Creative Director
Director Of User Experience
10 Yearsyrs
Senior Art Director Design Manager Project Manager/Design Manager
Interior Designer/Project Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Creative Director Marketing Communications Manager Communications Director
Marketing And Communication Consultant
10 Yearsyrs
Art Director Design Director Creative Director
Marketing And Creative Director
7 Yearsyrs
Creative Director Writer And Editor Social Media Manager
Marketing/Social Media Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Designer/Art Director Design Director Production Director
Media Director
5 Yearsyrs
Senior Art Director Design Consultant Project Manager/Design Manager
Senior Designer/Project Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Freelance Designer User Experience Designer User Experience Architect
User Experience Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Graphic Design Consultant Senior Graphic Designer Web Design/Development
Web Content Manager
5 Yearsyrs
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Do you work as a Graphic Designer/Illustrator?

Help others decide if this is a good career for them

Average Length of Employment
Graphic Artist 4.3 years
Graphic Designer 3.1 years
Freelance Designer 2.6 years
Top Careers Before Graphic Designer/Illustrator
Internship 4.5%
Designer 3.5%
Artist 3.4%
Animator 1.8%
Cashier 1.8%
Volunteer 1.7%
Top Careers After Graphic Designer/Illustrator
Art Director 12.6%
Artist 3.4%
Owner 3.0%
Designer 2.9%

Do you work as a Graphic Designer/Illustrator?

Graphic Designer/Illustrator Demographics

Gender

Male

57.5%

Female

39.6%

Unknown

2.9%
Ethnicity

White

61.5%

Hispanic or Latino

15.6%

Black or African American

10.2%

Asian

9.0%

Unknown

3.7%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

43.2%

French

8.6%

Japanese

6.2%

German

6.2%

Portuguese

4.9%

Chinese

4.9%

Turkish

3.7%

Korean

3.7%

Armenian

2.5%

Russian

2.5%

Italian

2.5%

Swahili

1.2%

Swedish

1.2%

Hindi

1.2%

Mandarin

1.2%

Hawaiian

1.2%

Vietnamese

1.2%

Cantonese

1.2%

Tibetan

1.2%

Finnish

1.2%
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Graphic Designer/Illustrator Education

Schools

Savannah College of Art and Design

22.1%

Art Institute of Pittsburgh

9.1%

Fashion Institute of Technology

5.7%

School of Visual Arts

5.3%

Ringling College of Art and Design

5.3%

Academy of Art University

4.9%

Columbia College Chicago

4.9%

Virginia Commonwealth University

4.9%

Rhode Island School of Design

3.8%

Pratt Institute-Main

3.8%

Kutztown University of Pennsylvania

3.4%

California State University - Fullerton

3.4%

Syracuse University

3.0%

Art Center College of Design

3.0%

Kent State University

3.0%

Art Institute of Atlanta

3.0%

Parsons the New School for Design

3.0%

Columbus College of Art and Design

2.7%

Full Sail University

2.7%

Minneapolis College of Art and Design

2.7%
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Majors

Graphic Design

56.3%

Fine Arts

14.0%

Design And Visual Communication

6.3%

Computer Applications

3.4%

Animation

3.3%

Communication

2.1%

Business

1.7%

Photography

1.6%

Computer Science

1.5%

Graphic Communications

1.5%

Visual And Performing Arts

1.3%

General Education, Specific Areas

1.1%

Liberal Arts

1.0%

Advertising

0.9%

Education

0.8%

Writing

0.8%

Marketing

0.8%

Audiovisual Communications Technologies

0.6%

Public Relations

0.5%

Computer Information Systems

0.5%
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Degrees

Bachelors

57.0%

Other

16.9%

Associate

12.5%

Masters

8.0%

Certificate

4.3%

Diploma

0.9%

License

0.2%

Doctorate

0.1%
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Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary

Real Graphic Designer/Illustrator Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Graphic Designer/Illustrator Google Inc. Mountain View, CA Oct 01, 2015 $125,700
Graphic Designer/Illustrator Google Inc. Mountain View, CA Oct 01, 2012 $104,000
Chinese Culture Graphic Designer and Illustrator Seichou Karate Limited Alexandria, VA Apr 05, 2011 $67,500
Graphic Designer/Illustrator Smartling, Inc. New York, NY Dec 15, 2013 $65,000
Multi-Media Graphic Designer & Illustrator Serum Versus Venom, LLC New York, NY Jan 24, 2011 $65,000
Graphic Designer/Scientific Illustrator Cranium Computing, Inc. Colorado Springs, CO Sep 27, 2010 $62,610
Graphic Designer/Illustrator Info Retail Inc. Atlanta, GA Sep 29, 2012 $50,200
Graphic Designer/Illustrator Bendon Publishing International Inc. San Francisco, CA Jan 19, 2015 $46,197 -
$52,000
Graphic Designer and Illustrator Artistic Studios Limited, LLC San Francisco, CA Sep 27, 2013 $44,741
Graphics Designer Illustrator DRIL-Quip, Inc. Houston, TX Sep 28, 2011 $42,350
Graphic Illustrator/Designer Larose Industries, LLC Randolph, NJ Sep 08, 2014 $41,000
Graphic Designer/Illustrator Astrid Mueller, LLC New York, NY Jan 15, 2010 $37,000
Graphic Design, Illustrator Mirage Industries, Inc. Grand Blanc, MI Jan 03, 2014 $36,523
Graphic Designer & Illustrator Shure Products Inc. Chicago, IL Oct 15, 2009 $36,000
Graphic Designer/Illustrator Special Forces Gear Gardena, CA Sep 10, 2015 $34,039

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Top Skills for A Graphic Designer/Illustrator

  1. Adobe Photoshop
  2. Web Design
  3. Company Website
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Demonstrated proficiency and creativity with Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator.
  • Worked on a variety of projects including advertising, branding, web design and promotional large display graphics.
  • Created design theme and graphics for marketing and sales presentations and company websites.
  • Provide input and guidance concerning quality, effectiveness, completeness, art specifications and ethical standards.
  • Design and illustrate brochures and promotional materials, advertisements, logos, posters, invitations and stationery systems.

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Top 10 Best States for Graphic Designer/Illustrators

  1. District of Columbia
  2. New York
  3. Massachusetts
  4. Washington
  5. Virginia
  6. California
  7. Alaska
  8. Oregon
  9. Connecticut
  10. New Jersey
  • (100 jobs)
  • (833 jobs)
  • (216 jobs)
  • (222 jobs)
  • (319 jobs)
  • (1,168 jobs)
  • (9 jobs)
  • (106 jobs)
  • (60 jobs)
  • (192 jobs)

Top Graphic Designer/Illustrator Employers

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