Do you have a love for art and using technology?
Working as a graphic designer allows you to combine these two talents and make a good salary. Graphic designers are always in demand, and there is plenty of work for people who have skill and ambition.
However, it takes practice and dedication to make a name for yourself as a graphic designer. This can be a very competitive industry, and it is essential to find ways to stand out from the crowd.
So, let’s take an in-depth look at how to become a graphic designer to find out more about this career.
What Do Graphic Designers Do?
This job involves translating ideas and demands from clients into detailed and expressive images. These images can be used for logos, brochures, communication materials, and a wide range of other types of advertising. These designers use dedicated software and computers to create different types of digital images.
Digital and print designers use complex graphics tools to manipulate images, text, animation, and colors. The job often involves working as part of a team for an advertising agency or another type of corporation. However, it is possible to work in a freelance capacity and even develop and run an independent business.
The Average Salary
The average salary for this role in the United States is around $44,000 per year. However, once you have gained experience, the salary can rise considerably. After working in the industry for around fifteen years, your salary could reach up to $62,000 per year.
Specializing in a particular area can also boost your salary. However, if you truly want to rake in the big bucks, you need to make a name for yourself as a freelancer. While there is a lot of competition, the sky is the limit for talented designers who know how to win high-profile clients.
The Career Steps
It can take time to become a fully qualified and experienced graphic designer. It all starts with a passion for art and an appreciation of different artistic styles. Here are the main steps you should take if you want to do this job for a living.
Develop an artistic eye
As a graphic designer, you need to have a good understanding of art, especially modern art. Clients will often describe to you what they want in very vague terms. Being able to refer to different artists and techniques can help you relate to the client. This will also help to make sure you are both on the same page.
Learn the principles of graphic design
Like with other types of art, the foundation of good design is planning. You need to understand the different elements such as color, shape, line, texture, and harmony. Each of these principles needs to be applied in a certain way and influences the overall design.
Enroll in a course
Taking a professional course is the best way to learn the different principles of design. At the end of the course, you will also receive a qualification. This will show potential employers that you have the necessary skills to do the job.
There are lots of different types of courses that you can enroll in. Taking a basic online course is a good way to discover if you have the talent and commitment for this job. Enrolling in a structured academic course will teach you the full range of principles and comes with special certification.
Learn the essential tools
Once you understand the principles of art, you need to learn the tools of the trade. One of the first digital tools you need to become familiar with is Adobe Creative Suite. Other tools you need to master to do your job well include PhotoShop, Illustrator, and InDesign.
Most of these tools are available through Adobe Creative Suite, and there are free trials to help you get started. Adobe also offers a series of tutorials to help you get to grips with these special tools. You can also find special user guides and training resources to teach you the basics as well as special skills.
Work on your own projects
Once you have mastered the basics, it’s time to start practicing. Working on personal projects that you are passionate about is a good way to master different types of software. You can start by taking traditional ads and logos and adding your own artistic touches to transform them.
Offering your services to friends and family members is a good way to gain extra experience. You will quickly discover which areas of design you prefer and where your talents lie. Ask friends and family members for critical feedback that will help you learn and grow.
Develop your portfolio
Any type of artist needs to have a strong portfolio that perfectly showcases their skills. You can include pieces from your personal projects and projects you worked on during a course. Try to make your portfolio as diverse as possible to show your full range of skills. You can always edit your portfolio to appeal to particular clients when you are granted a meeting.
The Different Types Of Graphic Designers
If you decide that you want to be a professional designer, you need to figure out your working style. It is possible to work for a single company, for an agency, or yourself. Each of these working styles requires a different discipline and can lead to different types of opportunities.
If you choose this route, you would be employed full-time by a single company or an established brand. You would need to have a range of design skills that meet the diverse needs of the company. The tasks you would be charged with range from designing special marketing campaigns to creating new and impactful logos.
If the company you work for is large, you would usually work with a team of other designers. It is important to be able to work closely with other designers, marketing professionals, and advertisers to meet tight deadlines. You will develop an in-depth understanding of the company and/or brand and deliver continuous design improvements.
Working for an agency allows you to work closely with a wide range of clients and brands. You often work on shorter and more impactful projects that run for just a few weeks or months. This allows designers to meet a wide range of people and enjoy the variation in their work.
Working for an agency still provides job security as the agency is charged with finding you clients and projects. In some cases, you are likely to work on several projects at the same time. It is essential to be very organized and be able to manage your workload to meet tight deadlines.
If you choose this route, you will be self-employed and responsible for running every aspect of your own business. This gives you the chance to choose your own clients and projects and work on your terms. This is a good option for people who have already made strong connections and are good at working independently.
You need to have a good head for business to become a freelance designer. It can be difficult to find clients at first and convince them that you are reliable. However, freelance designers who have strong skills have the opportunity to set their own rates.
Like with any career, it can be difficult to get started as a designer. It can take time to make a name for yourself and be awarded large and lucrative projects. Here are some ways to gain the experience you need to make potential employers sit up and take notice.
Many large companies offer summer internships to college students. This gives you the opportunity to work alongside experienced designers and learn from them. Many companies pay their interns a basic salary and offer full-time positions to those who excel after they graduate.
This is a great way to give back to the community while showing people what you can do. Creating flyers and posters for charitable events will get your work seen by large numbers of people. This also helps you to build connections that could be very valuable in the future.
Build your portfolio
Whenever you work on a project, make sure you keep samples of your work. Your portfolio is an important file that shows potential employers and clients what you can do. Your portfolio should contain the best examples of your work, and it is important to update it regularly.
Contact design agencies
Once you have created a compelling portfolio, make sure you show it to as many people as possible. Agencies are a good place to start, as they work with a wide range of different clients. If an agency likes your work, they are likely to keep you in mind for future projects.
How To Become A Freelance Graphic Designer?
Once you have gained work experience, you may decide to work in a freelance capacity. This allows you to set your hours and choose your clients and projects. However, it can be difficult to get started, especially if you have limited experience. Here are the steps you can take to become a freelancer.
Hone your skills
Even if you are fully qualified, there is always something new to learn. Make sure you stay up to date with new techniques and software. Take the time to practice anything new you learn to make your skills stronger.
Brand and market yourself
The first step is coming up with a memorable and engaging name for your business. You then need to create a website that showcases your work and allows clients to contact you. You can also use social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, to connect with people and market yourself.
This is one of the most important and often most difficult steps for any freelancer. Securing your first clients as quickly as possible will help you to gain confidence in your abilities. You can find clients through family members and friends, previous employers, and freelance job websites.
Always aim to impress
It is not enough to simply fulfill the brief and do the bare minimum when working as a freelancer. You need to aim to deliver exceptional work that will impress clients. Exceeding expectations will help you to gain repeat work and recommendations from previous clients.
Learn the basics of business
There are a lot of different elements that go into running your own business. You need to know how to create proposals, write invoices, do your taxes, and establish timelines for projects. If you work for yourself, it is a good idea to take a basic bookkeeping course.
Accept as much work as possible
The more clients you work for, the higher your chances of gaining future work will be. In the beginning, it is best to say yes to as many projects as you possibly can. Even if you have to accept a lower rate, you will gain experience, material for your portfolio, and industry connections.
Ask for referrals
Once you have impressed a client, make sure you maintain the relationship and follow up with them. Getting a referral from a satisfied client is a great way to gain more work and build up your network. Some clients may also be happy to write a statement that you can add to your website.
Getting Into Graphic Design!
Firstly, to see what the position entails, check out my Graphic Designer Job Description, as well as my Senior Graphic Designer Job Description, or how about my Web Designer Job Description for curiosity’s sake!
Next, let’s take a look at a few handbooks on the matter with Graphic Design Thinking: Beyond Brainstorming, or the informative Identity Designed: The Definitive Guide to Visual Branding, the Meggs’ History of Graphic Design, and of course, The Education of a Graphic Designer all available online in 2023.
For more insight into design and creativity, we recommend the Information Design Workbook, Revised and Updated: Graphic approaches, solutions, and inspiration + 30 case studies, or how about the Research for Designers: A Guide to Methods and Practice, and finally Colour A workshop for artists and designers.
It can take a lot of time and persistence to make a name for yourself as a graphic designer. Even when you have the skills and talent, it can be difficult to market yourself and make the right connections.
Attending networking events is a good way to meet other people in the industry who can recommend you for projects. Developing a specialty is also a good way to stand out from the crowd and get regular work. Some of the most popular specializations include web design, animation, logo design, and typography. Make sure you create a vibrant portfolio of your work to showcase your skills and constantly update them.
All the very best in your new career as a Graphic Designer!