Unlike other forms of artistic expression, graphic design may not be the will of an artist imposed upon the canvas; graphic design, more often, is collaborative and goal oriented. Designs may go through a drafting and editorial process much like published written work. The design process can also involve many graphic designers contributing to one piece of work, not just one artist working on a concept from start to end. The design also may have an end goal going beyond just being "art". A resulting product can be professional, yet artistic; and convey information while also retaining visual appeal.
Yet, graphic design is still artistic work and, as a result, graphic design schools may require completion of artistic programs or experience prior to enrollment. Applicants may be able to complete these requirements through art classes in high school, community colleges, four-year institutions, or through applicable portfolio experience. Available degree programs in graphic design may range from an Associate of Arts degree to a Master of Fine Arts. However, master's degrees in graphic design typically do require prior completion of a bachelor's degree.
Skills and tools helpful to success in graphic design
Graphic designers continue to be important in the marketing of products and services and computers and digital imaging are being used in the field to a greater extent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that graphic designers in the field may benefit by possessing skills like the following (BLS.gov/ooh, 2012):
- Artistic Skill − Graphic design is based in artistic design and as such, requires artistic skill. The level of skill may not be the same as what is needed to paint a mural but students should expect to understand the principles of artistic allure.
- Communication skills − Graphic designers may be required to work with other graphic designers, chief designers, marketing analysts, sales managers and computer programmers depending on their line of work and will need to be able to communicate effectively across professional barriers.
- Computer Skills − Graphic design is increasingly relying upon computer software to create, edit and polish images and designs. Graphic designers may need to understand graphic manipulation software and stay up to date with emerging technology.
- Time-management skills − As graphic designers often work on multiple projects at a time, they may benefit from having strong time-management skills and the ability to keep track of multiple projects at once.
In addition to possessing or strengthening the above skills, graphic designers might also benefit from having familiarity with the following graphic design tools, which can allow designers to collaborate, edit images, create images and after effects, and design fonts and lettering.
- Adobe Illustrator − Part of the Adobe creative suite, the most popular graphic design software on the market according to Top Ten Reviews (toptenreviews.com, 2013), Illustrator provides multiple design tools graphic artists may need.
- Adobe After Effects − A powerful graphic design tool that allows designers to also work with video.
- Xara Designer − This program provides greater designing power for web-based graphics.
- CorelDraw Graphics − A design suite which compiles multiple graphic design tools into one place.
- Inkscape − This open source graphic design suite provides graphic designers with all the tools they may need for free.
- Font Forge − This outline editors provides graphic designers with the ability to create their own fonts for projects or clients.
Career outlook for graphic design graduates
According to the BLS, graphic designers can work in marketing, web design, sales, and publications (BLS.gov/ooh, 2012). In addition, according to the BLS, many employers require graphic designers to have earned a bachelor's degree, but some employers may only require graphic designers to have an associate degree. However, depending on the level of work required by the graphic designer, a master's of fine art may be preferred (BLS.gov/ooh, 2012). In general, opportunities in the field for graphic designers are expected to grow up to 13 percent nationwide from 2010 to 2020, almost as fast as all other occupations (BLS.gov/ooh, 2012).
The BLS indicates that graphic designers may be expected to take on increasingly important roles in the marketing of products, such as websites, mobile phones and technology. As of 2010, 29 percent of graphic designers were self employed, many working for their own design enterprises (BLS.gov/ooh, 2012). As of May 2012, the national median annual wage of graphic designers was $44,150 with the highest and lowest 10 percent earning $77,490 and $26,250, respectively.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Graphic Designers -http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Arts-and-Design/Graphic-designers.htm#tab-1
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Information Security Analysts, Web Developers, and Computer Network Architects - http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/information-security-analysts-web-developers-and-computer-network-architects.htm#tab-4
University of California Berkeley Extension, Specialized Programs of Study, Graphic Design - http://extension.berkeley.edu/spos/graphicps.html
Top Ten Reviews, Graphic Design Software Review, 2013 Best Graphic Design Software - http://graphic-design-software-review.toptenreviews.com/
The Academy of Art University, School of Graphic Design - http://www.academyart.edu/graphic-design-school/index.html