how to become a graphic designer (2024 Guide)

How Long Does It Take To Become a Graphic Designer?

BrainStation’s Graphic Designer career guide is intended to help you take the first steps toward a career in graphic design. Read on for an overview of how long you can expect it to take to learn graphic design and become a Graphic Designer.

Become a Graphic Designer

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The time it takes to become a Graphic Designer can vary depending on the person’s education and experience. A typical university program can take four years, while a graphic design course or UX design bootcamp can range between a few weeks to a few months. Once a Designer has the foundational skills and knowledge of design, as well as a strong portfolio, they can begin freelancing. The time it takes for a Graphic Designer to land their first design job can vary, but their chances will be improved by networking and connecting with other Designers.

How Do You Find Your Speciality?

There are a variety of specialties in graphic design, and finding the right one will depend on your goals, interests, and passions. Consider some of these questions as you work to find your speciality.

  • Who do you want to interact with? 
    This includes the people you will be working with, as well as the people who will see your design.
  • What are your passions? 
    As you work on different designs, think about what projects you are most passionate about or what work you most enjoy doing.
  • What are your goals? 
    What do you want to accomplish as a Graphic Designer? Consider your career goals and what you hope to achieve as you continue in your career.

While specializations can certainly help you stand out, it’s important to note that you don’t need to find your specialty right away. When you are starting out in graphic design, consider experimenting with various types of design. Try and practice different design areas to see what works for you.

Is Graphic Design Hard to Learn?

Learning graphic design is not hard, but it does require creative thinking, an aptitude towards art and design, and time and dedication. Graphic design requires learning the necessary tools, as well as understanding and applying the principles and theories of design.

Graphic Designers need to constantly be practicing and improving their design skills, which takes time and effort. In addition, they will need to stay up-to-date with design trends and technologies. While all of this can be learned, it will require hard work and a passion for the craft.

Do You Need a Degree to Become a Graphic Designer?

You do not need a degree in graphic design to become a Graphic Designer. Some companies may require a degree, diploma, or certification for you to be considered for a role, but most employers are more focused on a Designer’s portfolio and skills. Experience is also essential. Graphic Designers need to always be practicing their craft and working on personal projects to give themselves a leg up on the job market.

Where Education Do You Need to Become a Graphic Designer?

Graphic Designers come with different educational and professional experiences, with some possessing a four-year bachelor’s degree in graphic design or communication design and others succeeding despite having no formal training in graphic design.

There are plenty of bachelor’s degree programs and even master’s degree programs in graphic design, digital media design, and communication design. AIGA, the professional association for design, issued a joint statement with the National Association of Schools of Art and Design stating graphic design students should “make informed decisions about the match between their own educational goals and what programs deliver in actual preparation for performance in the field.”

The statement continued that someone who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in communication design should be qualified – although there are no guarantees – for many entry-level positions in the field of graphic design. However, the statement continued that one with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts or liberal arts would not be considered ready for entry and later upward mobility within graphic design.

There are also plenty of online certificate courses teaching graphic design skills that require varying degrees of commitment to complete. These certificate courses are a great idea even for established Graphic Designers, who would benefit from polishing their skills and learning new graphic design software.

What Makes a Good Graphic Designer?

Great Graphic Designers have more in common than a knack for creating compelling visuals.

Here are the characteristics that make a good Graphic Designer.

1. They Know How to Get a Message Across

It’s the job of a Graphic Designer to communicate a client’s story and brand identity. It takes a real knack for communication and an understanding of what makes humans tick to be able to create a design that conveys those complex ideas and emotions. That’s a skill Graphic Designers need.

Before they can communicate ideas and information through their design, Graphic Designers also have to be talented communicators to secure that work. To present, persuade and negotiate in professional situations, a Graphic Designer must be able to communicate ideas with confidence and authority while listening carefully (and actively) to the needs of the client.

Further, a Graphic Designer creates and works with a wide variety of stakeholders including experts in web design, user experience (UX) design, web development, public relations, sales and marketing, product and information technology, and navigating all of those interactions smoothly will again require having a way with words.

2. They Have a Genuine Love of Design

Graphic design is a creative industry, and you need passion to thrive in a creative industry. Great Graphic Designers have a love of art and an interest in beauty wherever it can be found. Graphic Designers take time to gather inspiration from great design whether it’s found on social media, an art gallery, or a subway platform.

That passion sees good Graphic Designers through the trying times when they might be clocking long hours, trying to pull off a big edit, or working through design elements for a tricky client. A good Graphic Designer will eventually develop the time management skills necessary to carry a balanced workload, but especially early on in a graphic design career, you might rely on that passion to see you through.

That passion should come through in a Graphic Designer’s portfolio. A stellar portfolio will cause employers to potentially overlook a lack of experience or not having exactly the right educational background. Conversely, a portfolio that doesn’t show a Graphic Designer’s versatility and talent could prompt employers to pass on an otherwise strong candidate.

3. Openness to Ideas and Criticism

To be an innovative Graphic Designer capable of crafting fresh and eye-popping designs, you’ve got to be open-minded. This means both that you don’t fall into a rut by repeating the same design ideas because they’ve worked in the past, and it also means trying out different tools, graphic design software, photo editing software, and layout software constantly to see if it’s possible for computer software to take your design game to the next level.

It’s also crucial that Graphic Designers learn how to take criticism, whether it’s constructive or not. It’s easy for a Graphic Designer to feel attacked when people point out flaws in their designs, but it’s a necessary part of life in a graphic design career.

Try to grow a thick skin and learn how to use criticism from colleagues and clients to your advantage. If you can put your pride aside, you’ll likely learn something from the information they provide you, which will really improve your designs.

4. They Never Stop Learning

Further to the point about learning new computer software, good Graphic Designers understand that thriving in design requires that one become a lifelong student.

That education can come in plenty of different shapes. Most Graphic Designers picked upon design concepts and fundamentals like color theory in school, so as professionals, they make a routine out of making sure their skills are adequately sharp by watching YouTube tutorials, reading graphic design blogs, or listening to graphic design podcasts. Other Graphic Designers use online courses to brush up on their graphic design skills. There are plenty of ways to take in new information about graphic design.

Other great Graphic Designers step out of their comfort zone and attend a coding bootcamp or part-time course in a different but related field – user experience (UX) design or web design, for instance – to make their design skills more well-rounded.

Whichever way they pursue it, continuing education is a way of life for a top Graphic Designer.

5. Clients Can Count On Them

Whether Graphic Designers are working or consulting on a self-employed, freelance basis, or they work as part of a larger company or design agency, it’s crucial to be consistent, sturdy, and reliable.

Good Graphic Designers must prove themselves to be trustworthy by consistently meeting (and managing) client expectations and delivering quality work on time and on budget.

For freelance Graphic Designers who are self-employed, this means having the business side of your work in order. It’s important that freelance Graphic Designers create a diligent routine that clients can rely on. Making sure that you are billing on time and managing your schedule so that your workload is manageable will help ensure that you never let any client down.