A graphic designer is a creative expert who is in the field of creating concepts and ideas in the form of design using graphic design tools. They use various elements of design such as typography, color, images, or motion, amongst others, to bring a design to life. In other words, they use graphic design tools to bring elements of art to reality.
They specialize in various fields in the graphic design industry which could be;
Brand Identity Designers: They are graphic designers in charge of setting the brand tone of a business. They are in charge of creating logos unique to the brand, the colors associated with a brand, and every other personalized or customized business item which is unique to a brand.
Layout and print designers: They are graphic designers involved in creating aesthetically pleasing designs in magazines, books, brochures, posters, and other printed materials. They pay close attention to the arrangement of images as well as the choice of font and typeface, especially when dealing with a lot of text. Success in this field also requires an understanding of printing production and the techniques involved.
Web and mobile designers: They are graphic designers responsible for the design of web pages and other layouts for mobile and web applications or websites. They work hand-in-hand with developers to create applications or websites that are user-friendly and easy to navigate.
Generally, the duties of a graphic designer range from the conceptualization of designs, creating the design with a graphic design tool, to testing the design across various media outputs. They could also design logos, create posters, bus wraps, billboards, and other marketing materials.
However, these designs are not specific. They could be meant for print purposes, web, or mobile purposes.
The career outlook of graphic design is positive, making it a good career option. However, this also makes it a highly competitive field. And to be on top of the game in the graphic design industry, one must be highly skilled.
The skill set necessary to thrive as a graphic designer can be broadly classified into two categories, which are Hard skills and Soft skills. Both hard and soft skills play a major role in the success of a graphic designer.
Hard skills are also known as technical skills. They are the skills needed to succeed as a graphic designer and refer to the learned abilities developed and improved through practice and education, some of which include:
The use of graphic design software such as the Adobe creative apps and other design software. The use of these software to create design takes learning and constant practice.
A solid grasp of the elements of design such as typography, color, iconography, and imagery. These elements when put together make up the visual aspect of a design. Having a solid command of these elements is a skill every graphic designer must have.
Strong presentation skills. Presentation delivery is a key skill that helps to showcase designs. Knowing several ways to deliver presentations of designs is an added skill with great advantage to a designer.
Branding. This is an essential skill, especially for brand identity designers. Branding entails creating a unique identity for a business so that it can stand out.
Designing for print. This is an essential skill, especially for layout and print designers. Success in this field requires an understanding of printing production and the techniques involved.
Ideation skills can entail putting together mood boards to capture what best represents a business need or diagramming to put together pieces of thoughts to derive ideas.
A sound understanding and application of design principles. Design principles are the guidelines and design considerations that a designer must apply with discretion to create designs. They include alignment, repetition, contrast, hierarchy, balance, proportion, white space, emphasis, movement, rhythm, and pattern. When design principles are applied, they help to create designs with a great visual balance.
Soft skills needed to succeed as a graphic designer refers to the interpersonal skills and character in the workplace which have a large impact on how coworkers perceive an individual. Some soft skills include:
Excellent communication skills. Communication skills are very pertinent to every field. Graphic designers need to communicate with stakeholders during the ideation process, brainstorming, and during the entire design process, hence, good communication skills help to clearly convey the right messages. Depending on the job, a graphic designer may also have to work with a team of other designers. Having good communication skills helps to ensure that all the designers are on the same page.
An active imagination and a high level of curiosity. Having an active imagination helps to get the ideas of stakeholders quickly, thereby making it a must-have skill for every designer. A high level of curiosity is necessary if one wants to succeed in this field. High curiosity makes a designer want to know how designs can become better and what steps to take to improve on them.
Creativity. This is arguably the most important soft skill every graphic designer must have. Getting the creative juices flowing when working on a design comes almost naturally to graphic designers and this is expected as different ideas come in when trying to solve a design problem.
Problem-solving skills. Graphic designers are problem solvers. They solve design problems relating to presentations on print materials, web, or mobile devices. Hence, problem-solving is a soft skill every graphic designer must have.
Some of the top tools used by graphic designers include;
The Adobe Creative apps such as :
Adobe XD : Used especially by web and mobile designers.
Sketch : Which is used most especially by web and mobile designers.
Figma : This software has gained popularity amongst web and mobile developers. This is partly due to the fact that it is pretty easy to learn and the fact that it is free.
The following tips, while not exhaustive, can be very useful for gaining a foothold in the graphic design industry both by those starting their careers and experts in the field.
This is a critical action that contributes to the growth of a graphic designer. Learning and practicing with graphic design tools helps a designer to become better and more efficient at using them, thereby setting the pace for creating professional designs. A command of design tools sets a professional apart from an amateur. Behance and dribbble are great places to get inspiration from. Try and replicate some of the designs using the skills acquired with using a design tool and create some new designs with practice. And in no time, become a pro designer.
Having strong portfolio management sets a graphic designer apart from the pool of other designers who don’t. A strong portfolio that is well laid out, organized, and clearly communicates the abilities of a graphics designer always wins.
Having this skill helps a designer to set up a portfolio using the necessary language, colors that are not distracting the viewers from the main content, and designing a portfolio that tells a story - which is what most recruiters look for.
Having a mentor in the graphic design field who does reviews on portfolio projects and designs in addition to providing constructive feedback on how designs can be improved goes a long way in the success of a graphic designer. This helps a designer avoid mistakes made by the experts in the field when they were also in their early years.
This could be through internships or volunteering opportunities. While they could be paid or unpaid, they are great for early career starters who want to gain exposure to how graphic design works in the real world. Also, it is a great place for networking with senior colleagues in the field who could provide recommendations for future opportunities.
The experiences gathered from internships and volunteering and other personal projects could be put together into a resume, as well as other design skills acquired over time.
Having a brand identity helps designers when sourcing for clients or looking for job opportunities by creating a visual representation of what a designer stands for or has an inclination towards.
As the saying goes, “The best way to learn a thing is to teach it”. Constantly sharing your ideas with people goes a long way in reinforcing what a designer already knows. Simply providing answers to questions on design challenges, be it on social media or popular design blogs, not only earns a designer knowledge but credits and recognition as well.
Reading design articles and watching videos helps designers stay in touch with the latest trends in the design industry.
Being in a network of like-minded professionals also promotes the success of a designer.