How to become a Graphic Designer. Read through our comprehensive job guide to learn more about this career.
What does a Graphic Designer do?
Graphic designers use images and lettering to get across information and ideas and make an impact. This could be for all kinds of purposes, including advertisements, book covers, magazines and brochures, television graphics and websites.
As a graphic designer, your work would include:
- discussing the project requirements (the ‘brief’) with clients, senior designers or account executives
- providing cost quotations
- choosing the most suitable materials and style
- producing rough sketches or computer visuals to show to the client
- using specialist computer software to prepare designs
- producing a final layout with detailed specifications for typefaces, letter size and colours
- working to budgets and deadlines.
You may also produce 3D (three dimensional) designs for packaging, exhibitions and displays.
You would usually work from 9am to 5pm, but could do longer hours when there are deadlines to meet. Part-time work is sometimes possible.
You would usually be based in a studio or office, but may spend some time visiting clients and printers.
How much does a Graphic Designer earn?
Salary and pay information:
- Starting salaries can be around £17,000 a year.
- Experienced graphic designers can earn between £21,000 and £32,000.
- Senior graphic designers can earn up to, and over, £52,000.
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
You would usually be employed on the strength of your skills rather than your qualifications. However, most professional graphic designers have a BTEC HND, foundation degree or degree in graphic design or another art or design based subject.
To search for HND, foundation degree and degree courses, visit the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service website. Check with the individual providers for their entry requirements.
- Universities and Colleges Admissions Service
You will need a working knowledge of computer design software such as:
- Quark Xpress
- 3D Studio
Courses in these are available at colleges and with private course providers.
Talent and contacts are the key to getting work, and you will need to keep an up-to-date portfolio of your work to show to potential employers.
Unpaid work experience will give you the chance to develop your portfolio, make contacts and impress employers. You could also create a website to showcase your work.
Competition for jobs is strong and not all jobs are advertised, so it is a good idea to network and make contacts within the industry, and to approach companies and agencies directly. Visit the design directory on the British Design Innovation website to search for agencies and contacts. Check the guide networking on the Creative Choices° website for advice.
- British Design Innovation – design directory
- Creative Choices° – guide to networking
To read about the experiences of some successful graphic designers, check the case studies on the Creative Choices° website.
- Creative Choices° – case studies
Training and Development
You will need to keep your skills up to date throughout your career. You may be able to attend short courses, for example in computer packages such as those mentioned in the qualifications and experience section above, but you will also learn new skills on the job to meet the needs of particular projects.
The Chartered Society of Designers (CSD) and D&AD run courses and workshops for members which you may find useful for professional development. For example, D&AD runs Workout, a range of one-day development courses. Visit the CSD and D&AD websites for details.
Joining professional bodies such as CSD and D&AD will also give you the opportunity to make contacts in the industry.
Skills and Knowledge
- creativity and imagination
- IT skills
- drawing ability
- the ability to find practical solutions to problems
- knowledge of printing techniques and photography
- the ability to manage your time, meet deadlines and work within a budget
- an understanding of current trends and styles
- excellent communication skills
- good spelling and grammar
- normal colour vision.
Most graphic designers work for agencies that specialise in advertising or corporate communications, or for in-house design teams in large organisations like retailers, local authorities or banks.
Other employers include multimedia companies, charities and educational establishments.
You may need to change jobs frequently to build up your experience and add to your portfolio. In larger companies you may be able to progress to senior designer and then to management positions.
Alternatively, you could become self-employed, working alone or in partnership.