What does a Graphic Designer do?

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Graphic designers combine art and technology to communicate ideas through images and the layout of web screens and printed pages. They may use a variety of design elements to achieve artistic or decorative effects. They develop the overall layout and production design for advertisements, brochures, magazines, and corporate reports. Graphic designers work with both text and images. They often select the type, font, size, colour, and line length of headlines, headings, and text. Graphic designers also decide how images and text will go together on a page or screen, including how much space each will have. When using text in layouts, they collaborate closely with writers who choose the words and decide whether the words will be put into paragraphs, lists, or tables. Their work typically involves the following:

  • Meet with clients or the art director to determine the scope of a project
  • Advise clients on strategies to reach a particular audience
  • Determine the message the design should portray
  • Create images that identify a product or convey a message
  • Develop graphics and visual or audio images for product illustrations, logos, and websites
  • Create designs either by hand or by using computer software packages
  • Select colours, images, text style, and layout
  • Present the design to clients or the art director
  • Incorporate changes recommended by the clients into the final design
  • Review designs for errors before printing or publishing them

Graphic design is becoming increasingly important in the sales and marketing of products. Therefore, graphic designers, also referred to as 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 credits for motion pictures, while others work with print media and create signs or posters.

Graphic designers must keep up with new and updated computer graphics and design software, either on their own or through formal software training programs. They 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 a computer program.

Graphic designers must communicate with clients, customers, and other designers to ensure that their designs accurately reflect the desired message and effectively express information. Most use specialized graphic design software to prepare their designs. They 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.

Graphic designers often work on projects with other graphic designers and marketers, business analysts, writers, and programmers. They must collaborate to produce successful websites, publications, and other products. Some individuals with a background in graphic design teach in design schools, colleges, and universities.

What is the workplace of a Graphic Designer like?

Graphic designers generally work in studios where they have access to drafting tables, computers, and the software necessary to create their designs. Although many work independently, those who work for specialized graphic design firms often work as part of a team. Some designers telecommute. Many graphic designers collaborate with colleagues on projects or work with clients located around the world.

Most graphic designers work full time, but schedules can vary depending on workload and deadlines. In 2010, about 29% of graphic designers were self-employed. These individuals may need to adjust their workday to meet with clients in the evenings or on weekends. In addition, they may spend some of their time looking for new projects or competing with other designers for contracts.

Do graphic designers need to have the ability to draw?

Now that computer-based tools are available, the ability to draw is not as important as a good sense of design. You don't have to be an amazing artist in order to be a graphic designer, but you do have to be able to make basic sketches and drawings on paper. Your sketches and drawings should be able to convey your ideas to someone else, most likely your boss or a client. If you feel uncomfortable with your drawing skills, find some tutorials on drawing and sketching. Don't worry or get frustrated, since the more you practice, the more you will get comfortable and gain confidence.

Where can one find graphic design inspiration?

Sometimes it's hard to find the inspiration to create a unique work of art for a client. One thing that you can do to help open up your creative mind is to put yourself in the customer's shoes. What would persuade you (as a customer) to buy the service or product? Why are you buying it (is it a need or a want)? The one and only mission that a graphic design has is to sell the client's service or product (they act like visual salesmen). So if you can come up with an idea which would compel you (yourself) to buy, then you are definitely on the right track.

You can also look at how past graphic designers have dealt with similar products or services, and their creative work may spark some new ideas in you. Doodle design ideas over and over again until a solid design starts to show itself.

What is the difference between a graphic designer and an illustrator?

Both graphic designers and illustrators do design-type work.

Graphic designers will work on design elements and structures, providing a visual message/brand for a company in order to sell a product or service.

Illustrators, on the other hand, will typically do commercial work for companies like comic book houses, publishing houses and advertising agencies. They do a lot more drawing, designing of product packaging, working on book illustrations, creating company logos, and graphic novels.

Graphic design degrees require a concentration in product design, website design, and publication design. Illustration students have some graphic design training, but most of their coursework includes art history, drawing, and painting. The illustrator doesn't have the advanced knowledge of a graphic designer.

If you like to draw and illustrate concepts, illustration would be a good fit. If you prefer to code, make websites, and do detail-type work, then graphic design might suit you better.

Also relevant for Illustrator

What is some good advice for graphic design students?

It's important to love the whole design process, from beginning to end. Make sure to keep updated with any changes in the industry; it moves at a fast pace. Having said that, don't blindly follow trends leaving great ideas behind. Doing design for the sake of design is not the way to go.

Sometimes you'll become overly invested in a design you're working on, so much so that you become defensive if it's criticized. Don't get overly sensitive about criticism - keep your mind open to suggestions. Just because someone doesn't like your work doesn't mean you are a bad designer.

Invest in your portfolio, and be selective in what goes in it. Focus on your best pieces, and make them as impressive as you can make them. Employers will often ask you to explain what's in your portfolio and why it's in there, so make sure you can explain why you included each piece.

What is it like being a graphic designer?

Working as a graphic designer is not as glorified as many would think. It can be a stressful, cutting edge career, where one has to wear many different hats and face challenges daily. The industry technically and creatively evolves faster than almost any other industry, so graphic designers have to constantly stay on top of trends, learn new software, consistently stay creative, and come up with intriguing concepts and designs that will capture the minds and emotions of those who view the work.

A huge part of a graphic designer's job is being intuitive and attentive to the client's needs; being able to see through what they are saying vs what they are really saying (or meaning). It takes more than artistic ability to be a good designer; it takes excellent communication skills to understand and manage the client's expectations and criticisms. Developing client-related skills, and making the design process about them and their product (and keeping your ego out of your work) will set you above many other graphic designers.