How to Become a Graphic Designer

graphic designer

Although the IT world is taking over, there is still a space for those of us with an artistic flair. If you have always had a talent for art and/or drawing then you may be wondering what job you could get in an IT dominated world. Well, the good news is that there is actually a great place for you to fit in by becoming a Graphic Designer. You may not think it at first but graphic designers are needed everywhere, especially where business is concerned. Using modern tools adverts, banners, websites, anything visual in fact, is usually created by a graphic designer. As this is quite a hot job in this new IT age, this guide will show you the best way to make your dream career a reality.

What Do Graphic Designers Do?

A graphic designer is actually an extremely diverse role and can encompass many different activities. What you do can depend on where you choose to focus on. Most graphic designers will have a very varied career and perform most tasks at some point either for the same company or for different ones. What is important is that graphic designers are in charge of all forms of visual communication from a business. There is nothing more important than visual communication no matter what form it takes. They advise and collaborate with many other departments such as marketing, media and web development because they have to create or at least design the visual element of most of their products. Here is a list of common day-to-day activities that a graphic designer may perform:

  • Discussing requirements for projects with management and members of other departments.
  • Sketching by hand mock-ups or rough ideas of other people’s and their own ideas to be used on projects.
  • Using specialist design software such as Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop to create the project or a first draft of the project.
  • Adding and researching the correct font and typeface to projects.
  • Making sure that designs are on time and in line with the requirements agreed upon in the meeting.
  • Creating brochures with Adobe InDesign.
  • Creating a new business card design.
  • Studying other people’s designs and learning keeping track of the changing trends in design, so that you have an up to date look and feel to your designs.
  • Redesigning old and legacy designs by you or other people.
  • Creating a new business card design.
  • Studying other people’s designs and learning keeping track of the changing trends in design, so that you have an up to date look and feel to your designs.
  • Redesigning old and legacy designs by you or other people.


Entry level

 £14,000 and £20,000 can be higher


£18,000 – 35,000 can be higher

Senior Designers

£30,000 – 60,000 can be higher

As with anything, your salary is largely due to talent, experience, geographical location and also what you’re company or client can afford.

What Qualifications are Needed?

Graphic design is an interesting area because it is an area which values skill and experience over qualifications. If you can convince a company that you have the necessary skills and perhaps experience then you may get the jobs, even if you don’t have the academic qualifications to back it up. After all, what they are looking for is a really good designer, not someone who can score highly on tests; it is all about visual communication. The tracks to getting knowledge academically and on your own are roughly similar.

If you want to be a graphic designer, you need to be a ninja with Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop. These two tools are the bread and butter of the industry. Adobe Illustrator is used to draw and Photoshop edit images. Both are quite complicated programmes so your best bet is to start learning early and keep practicing. The great thing now of course is that you can download old but relatively new free copies of both pieces of software legally. You can download previous Photoshop versions such as CS2 or CS6 or find download CC on a trial basis. The interface has not changed much and all the same main tools are there for you to grasp all of the basic concepts and learn the fundamentals legally. It will allow you to build up a portfolio of work, which is what will get you a job, a client, or internship. This is a list of all the skills which you should have in order to be a successful graphic designer.

  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Adobe Illustrator
  • Adobe InDesign
  • Basic knowledge of HTML and CSS
  • Typography
  • Drawing, creativity, and imagination
  • Awareness of Branding
  • Printing techniques

Most of these skills can be learned through an academic or qualification or apprenticeship in graphic design, however, you can also learn them all through self-study and books. The amount of free tutorials available online now has made it easy for anyone willing to invest a bit of time and energy to become a ninja in complicated programs without the need for specialist training.

If you choose to take the higher education route then you will probably be reading a lot of the same books as those who don’t and perhaps even using the same tutorials if you find the course notes somewhat lacking. However, you are probably better off learning how to use Photoshop and Illustrator effectively before you start the course as it means you will find the course a lot easier. A degree or HND in one of the following subjects is probably necessary for the academic route:

  • Fine Art
  • Web Design
  • Graphic Design
  • Visual Communication
  • Multimedia
  • Art
  • Illustration
  • 3D design
  • Visual art
  • Photography
  • Film/television
  • Communication design

Career Prospects

If you have the talent, skills and experience, then you have relatively good job prospects as a graphic designer. While there are not as many jobs available as a programmer or software tester, it is still an area that is much in demand. With so many new businesses requiring some form of visual communication, prospects are always good. You can move up through the ranks relatively quickly if you are a talented graphic designer.

However, now that we are well into 2016 and the business world is constantly changing, improving and slowly becoming more technologically advanced, you may find that setting up your own freelance graphic design business is the best way to go. You will find that there are several great websites out there to help you get started – like 99designs. Pamela Webber, 99designs’ CMO, says it’s “the world’s largest on-demand graphic design marketplace, connecting a global community of freelance designers with businesses of all sizes to complete their design needs.”

Going freelance as a talented graphic designer provides you with a great opportunity to access a global clientele, earn income, be flexible in your schedule and location, build and develop new skills, and create a professional portfolio. So, even though it might be difficult for new graphic designers to find a full-time job, if you slowly build on a number of clients online, then it can become a very lucrative business for you.

Have you ever thought of becoming a graphic designer? Or, are you a graphic designer?  Do you have any tips for our aspiring designers? Share them below…

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