What Does a Graphic Designer Do?

Graphic designer choosing colors

Graphic design is a dynamic field that blends technical skills with artistic creativity. It is a visual communication art form that relies on imagery, colors, lines, shapes and words to convey ideas. A graphic designer strives to inspire a certain emotion or communicate a specific concept. You have already seen countless examples of graphic design in your daily life. From billboards alongside roadways to logos on websites, graphic design is woven throughout the fabric of everyday life.

Although some of the visual imagery you may have seen appears relatively simple on the surface, the art of graphic design is actually quite complex. In order to master it fully, you will need to earn a graphic design degree.

What Is Graphic Design?

Graphic design encompasses the visual imagery found in both printed materials and digital media. You can find examples of graphic design on menus, business cards, vehicle wraps and trade show signage. Additional examples include websites, social media ads, apps and video game interfaces.

The graphic design field stands at the intersection of communication, visual arts and psychology. It uses visual arts to communicate in order to evoke a psychological response in viewers.

For example, consider the ubiquitous Amazon logo. It looks like a smile, which suggests happiness. The arrow design points from the letter “A” to the letter “Z,” indicating that the website sells everything under the sun. The arrow also signifies forward progress and speed, as in the speed of package delivery. Color also plays a role here. The Amazon logo is black and orange. The black signifies the dominance of the brand, while also conveying a sense of elegance. The orange suggests happiness, playfulness and pride.

What Do Graphic Designers Do?

It is the responsibility of a graphic designer to blend form and function. In other words, graphic designers strive to meet a practical objective while also making the visual imagery as aesthetically pleasing and enticing as possible. Beyond this, graphic designers are responsible for ensuring that the finished product meets the client’s expectations.

Some of their tasks may include the following:

  • Meeting with clients to discuss new projects and their specifications, then meeting with the client’s art director to collaborate on project planning
  • Using digital illustration and layout software, in addition to manual sketching, to develop original designs
  • Selecting typefaces, images and colors appropriate for reflecting the client’s preferred style
  • Presenting the design concepts to the art director and the client
  • Making changes to the design according to feedback from the client and the art director

Are There Different Kinds of Graphic Design Jobs?

One exciting aspect of earning your graphic design degree is that you may have the opportunity to specialize. One popular subfield is brand identity graphic design. In this subfield, graphic designers work closely with a company’s management team to select the typography, colors and other design elements that will represent the brand identity.

Another subfield is marketing and advertising. Graphic designers produce all kinds of marketing materials for companies, ranging from brochures and flyers to web designs.

Some graphic designers specialize solely in printed materials. For example, they may find employment with magazines or newspapers. Designers who love books may choose to specialize in designing book covers for publishing houses and independent authors.

Where Do Graphic Designers Work?

Graphic design jobs are found in all sectors (public, private and nonprofit) and across all industries. They can work in three primary settings.

  • In-house: An in-house graphic designer works in a department of a large corporation, focusing on creating visual imagery for that brand alone. This allows for true mastery of the brand voice and style.
  • Agency: An agency graphic designer works for a marketing agency or a graphic design agency and typically provides design work for multiple clients across different industries.
  • Freelance: Many graphic designers are self-employed. They may work out of their own homes, or they may rent space. Freelancers have the freedom to select the projects they work on. However, they must also attend to all the aspects of running a business, including marketing their work and handling business finances.

What Are the Important Skills and Characteristics of Graphic Designers?

Your graphic design degree will help you acquire the skills you need to be successful in this line of work. In addition to honing your design abilities and learning how to use design software, you will need to demonstrate the following kinds of skills:

  • Communication
  • Time management
  • Problem-solving
  • Teamwork
  • Creativity

It is also helpful to develop thick skin. Graphic designers are often asked to revise their work. This should not be taken personally.

Is It Necessary to Earn a Graphic Design Degree?

It is beneficial to earn at least a bachelor’s degree to begin working in the graphic design field. Your bachelor’s degree will allow you to acquire both technical skills and foundational knowledge in key topics such as color theory, designing with type and design work for advertising.

As important as these topics are, your bachelor’s degree will also provide you with something that is arguably just as valuable: a portfolio. During the course of your studies, you will have numerous opportunities to demonstrate your skills by creating design projects. Your work will comprise your portfolio, which you can use to showcase your skills to potential employers after graduation. Throughout your career, you will continually update your portfolio to reflect the new skills you are acquiring and the existing skills you continue to fine-tune.

You can blend your passion for graphic design with purpose when you apply to Grand Canyon University’s College of Fine Arts and Production. The Bachelor of Arts in Advertising and Graphic Design program instills strong technical skills in students while nurturing their creativity and preparing them to become professionals in their field. With our flexible learning path, you can earn your degree through online or on-campus classes in our supportive learning community in Phoenix. Click on Request Info above to begin your academic journey. 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.