Is it often asked by customers and aspiring designers - what does a graphic designer do exactly? We decided to interview our very own, Jessica Ventura, to introduce you to the world of graphic design and how to niche down and become one.
What exactly does a graphic designer do?
Graphic designers create artwork for a huge range of printed and web products. Whether or not you realize it, graphic designers have their stamp on nearly every asset in your life. The billboards your pass on your way to work, the apps on your phone, every food label in a grocery store, every company vehicle wrap, and of course brochures, flyers, and posters all bear testament to the fact that the work graphic designers flood our world.
What skills are required?
In general, graphic designers need to be fluent with computers and design software – usually the Adobe Creative Suite. They also need to have a strong understanding of typography and color theory. Usually, they will also learn some of the basics of print as designers often work closely with printers, or of web design as they will often work with programmers. As a rule most designers learn their skills at a school of visual art and design and graduate with a bachelors degree in graphic design. But, there are always exceptions. Many designers are ones who had a natural talent for art and design and self-taught themselves the physical tools needed to enter into their trade.
Are graphic designers’ skills and job responsibilities the same across the board, or do they vary according to industry?
Skills and job responsibilities totally vary according to industry and company. They will also vary depending on which niche you work in. Graphic designers who specialize in website design will work hand in hand with programmers. These designers will need to have an understanding of web space and create templates that easily translate to coders.
Graphic Designers who work at a print shop, will usually specialize in print design and work closely with printers. They’ll need to understand bleed space, trim lines, paper setup and typography for print to name a few.
Graphic Designers can even specialize in apparel design and work with companies who create artwork for clothing. These setups are completely different from both web and print design.
There are so many niches within the world of graphic design, and though they may each have similarities on the drawing board, they each definitely require specific industry knowledge and skill to get the design from the drawing board to its final product.
Who is a graphic designer’s boss?
Oh man. Well if you freelance or own your own company like I do, we’re our own bosses! Haha. But, ultimately, whether in freelance or in working for a design firm, I would almost venture to say that each client is our boss. Each client is bringing a specific task to you to accomplish, and you as the designer have the role of completing that task to their satisfaction. Ultimately that’s what we are getting paid to do – to deliver a visual product the client can now use. As designers we may offer advice and guide the client towards ideas that aesthetically make sense to consumers, but ultimately the may disagree with us and in that case what they say, goes. So for that reason, I tend to identify each client as “the boss.”
Are there other titles with similar responsibilities?
Page layout workers (think book and magazine design), fashion designers, interior designers, and website designers are a few that come to mind. We are all “design minded” and “art savvy,” but we all have a specialized skill and niche in the market. I could design a magazine, and create t-shirt artwork, but I’m not going to know layout theory for magazines, and I definitely don’t have “fashion sense” to work in the fashion industry. So while some of these titles may have similarities and may crossover from time to time, they’re all very different.
What do I need to get ahead in this position?
The number one thing you need to have is a strong portfolio. And in that portfolio, have a niche. What are you good at? What is your style? Both of those things should be obvious when someone looks through your portfolio.
It’s super hard to get started in design, whether freelance or getting hired. People want to see what you can do, and starting out you don’t have much to show. This is why most designers tend to spend a lot of their free designing fake brands, fake websites, and fake designs when they start out. They want to have something in their portfolio even if it’s for fictional companies.
How can I get my foot in the door?
Refer to the above. BUILD THAT PORTFOLIO! Get your feet underneath you and design pieces that show off your skill set. I would also strongly recommend putting together some kind of website that gives people easy access to your work.
With your portfolio, website, and enthusiasm in hand, just get out there and go get it! Whether that means applying at big firms, or door knocking at all the local businesses in your area offering your graphic design services, there is work to be found out there. And don’t get discouraged with rejection! It may take 2 or 3 years to build the base you need in order to thrive, but you’ll get there!