What Does a Graphic Designer Do?

a graphic designer working on a project

Graphic design professionals are visual artists who use color, lines, shapes and images to convey complex messages and ideas. They seek to inspire emotion and compel people to take action. Graphic design is used across all industries and sectors. Graphic artists may be employed by marketing agencies, publications, public relations firms and even in-house at major corporations or scrappy young start-ups. Some graphic designers work for themselves as freelancers, empowering them to set their own schedule, travel and work on personal passion projects. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in graphic arts, then you’ll first need to earn a graphic design degree.

Important Skills and Traits for Graphic Designers

A graphic design degree will set you up with the skills and knowledge you need to pursue a career in this field. Designers need to know so much more than software; it’s the “soft skills” that often set excellent designers apart from the rest. These traits include:

  • Creativity: Graphic artists must come up with original ideas that cut through the clutter of everyday life.
  • Communication: Graphic designers must be able to clearly communicate with their audience, their art directors and their clients.
  • Time management: It’s common to juggle multiple projects with competing deadlines and shifting priorities.
  • Problem-solving: Designers need to be able to figure out how to make solutions work within the client’s parameters and budget.
  • Thick skin: “Critical skin” develops over time; designers must be able to accept criticism and revision requests without taking it personally.
  • Collaboration: Excellence rarely happens in a vacuum. The best designers work collaboratively and coordinate their efforts with other specialists such as copywriters, photographers, advertising designers and web developers.

Exploring the Types of Graphic Design Work

There are many subspecialties within the graphic design field. Some people specialize in brand identity development, which is crucial for building connections with customers. A graphic designer collaborates with the company’s management team to identify the color schemes, logos, typography and images that reflect the brand image. This allows for consistent messaging throughout the life of the brand.

Other graphic designers focus on marketing and advertising. They help companies communicate with customers effectively through the use of visual and textual content. For example, a graphic designer may create brochures, ads, posters and postcards that reflect the brand identity.

A new type of marketing in the realm of social media has created a demand for graphic designers who know how to skillfully navigate quickly-changing social platforms. They might specialize in advertising campaigns that don’t look or feel like ads, but rather engage their audiences in a novel or entertaining way.

Print is far from dead! Print designers may work for digital and print magazines, creating the visual elements for the publication. Some professionals specialize further in the book publication niche. They use direction from the author or editor to create visually stunning book covers intended for print or eBook distribution.

Common Job Responsibilities of Graphic Designers

The specific job responsibilities of graphic designers will vary, depending on their employer and particular role. In general, however, these professionals may do any of the following:

  • Meet with clients to establish expectations and collaborate with the art director to plan the project.
  • Sketch manually or use digital illustration and layout software to develop original designs.
  • Present the visual designs to the art director and clients.
  • Revise the designs as needed, incorporating the feedback for a successful result.

Graphic designers will work with both visuals and text. When working with headlines, subheadings and text, graphic designers will select the font, color, size and line length in a way that complements the other visual elements.

Working Toward a Career in Graphic Design

Graphic designers typically need a bachelor’s degree in this area. An undergraduate degree program will teach students everything they need to know to get started in this field, such as the elements and principles of visual design. However, professionals continually refine their skills throughout their careers. Since technology and trends change, this exciting career requires lifelong learning!

If you pursue a graphic design degree, you’ll have opportunities to develop visual designs that showcase your skills and knowledge. These designs will become part of your professional portfolio. A strong portfolio is essential for landing your first job as a graphic designer. Throughout your career, you’ll continually update your portfolio so that it represents your best possible work.

Another effective way to land your first job after college is to pursue an internship while you’re still a student. During your last two years in school, you may have the chance to work part-time in a marketing or graphic design firm, where you can produce professional pieces under the supervision of an established graphic designer. Landing an internship is a good way to build your portfolio, fill out your resume and make professional connections. After you graduate, the same firm might even hire you.

Graphic design can be an exciting career to pursue for students who are artistically inclined. You can build a strong foundation for future success when you become a member of the supportive learning community at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona. Earn your Bachelor of Arts in Advertising and Graphic Design degree with on-campus or online classes, and acquire the artistic and technical skills needed to become an effective graphic designer. The path to a career in graphic design is closer than you might think! Visit our website to learn more about our digital arts programs and get started on your journey to find your purpose.

Loading Form


Scroll back to top