how to become a graphic designer (2024 Guide)

Is Graphic Design a Good Career?

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 the career outlook for Graphic Designers as well as different roles in the graphic design field.

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Graphic design is a great career for people who are creative thinkers and enjoy art, technology, and communication. There are design needs across every industry, so Graphic Designers have many opportunities to take on a range of new and exciting projects. It can also be a very fulfilling career, as Graphic Designers can see the real-world impact of their work.

What Is the Career Outlook for Graphic Designers?

Graphic design is an important marketing tool, so a Designer can add value to many workplaces. However, the demand for Graphic Designers does vary depending on the industry. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employment opportunities for Graphic Designers in the publishing industry is declining. In computer systems design and related services, however, the need for Graphic Designers is expected to grow as more companies continue to increase their digital presence.

There are also many opportunities for Graphic Designers to branch out into other design fields. Graphic Designers have many transferable skills, which can help them transition into related professions, such as UX/UI design or web development.

Do You Need Experience to Become a Graphic Designer?

Many companies are looking for Graphic Designers with some real-world experience. There are several ways you can gain this experience. While relevant work experience is preferable for many employers, personal projects, volunteer projects, and internships can all showcase your skills.

Most graphic design jobs will require a minimum of one year of experience, though smaller companies tend to be more lenient. If you do not have much experience, a strong portfolio with a range of personal projects can help interest employers. Even as you apply for graphic design jobs, you can start freelancing right away to further build your portfolio.

What Are the Most In-Demand Graphic Design Jobs?

In a survey of more than 17,000 design professionals, the Dribble Global Design Survey found that the most in-demand graphic design jobs in 2019 were Product Designer, Graphic Designer, UX Designer, Illustrator, and Motion Designer.

What Is the Average Salary for a Graphic Designer?

The average Graphic Designer salary can range between $55,000 to $83,250. For those starting in graphic design, the average salary is between $40,000 and $49,000 per year. After more than five years of experience, this range increases to $51,000 to $71,000 per year. Art Directors average $76,600 and Creative Directors average around $110,000 a year.

The average salary also depends on specialization. For example, Web Designers average around $62,000 per year, UI Specialists can make around $81,000 per year and UX Designers earn around $89,000 per year.

Read more about Graphic Designer salaries.

How Do You Transition From Graphic Design to UX and UI Design?

To transition from graphic design to UX and UI design, you need to supplement your relevant design skills with UX and UI-specific skills, apply those skills, build a portfolio, and start networking.

A background in graphic design has many transferable skills—for example, attention to detail, creative thinking and problem solving are all useful in UX and UI design as well. To successfully transition to UX and UI design, there are a few steps that Graphic Designers can take.

Learn the necessary skills and tools

While Graphic Designers are already equipped with a strong design background, UI and UX roles require additional skills, such as wireframing, responsive design, and interaction design. You will also want to become familiar with essential tools, like Sketch and InVision.There are many options available to learn UX and UI, such as BrainStation’s UX design bootcamp and certificate programs.

Practice applying your new skills

Once you have the fundamentals, start working on UX and UI projects. Reimagine existing websites and apps, think about how you would make it better and put together a prototype. Consider also working on volunteer projects, which can give you valuable experience and networking opportunities. If you are currently employed as a Graphic Designer, consider taking an active part in the UI and UX design process at work and learn from your colleagues.

Build your portfolio

Similar to graphic design, a portfolio is essential when applying for UX and UI jobs. Employers want to see evidence of a job candidate’s skills. Work on personal and volunteer projects to grow your portfolio. You may also want to include your graphic design work to show your range of skills.

Connect and network

Start making connections as soon as possible. Your network may lead to future opportunities in UX and UI. Get involved in your local UX and UI community, and participate in hackathons to practice your skills and work with other Designers and Developers.

Graphic Designer Career Paths

Graphic Designers tend to have a variety of career paths given the breadth of applications for visual design skills.

A linear graphic design career path might see someone eventually achieve a more senior title like Art Director, Brand Manager, or Creative Director.

Those with an interest in web development might apply their graphic design skills and follow the web development career branch. Depending on their specific skills, someone with a background in Graphic Designer jobs could lean more heavily on the design side and apply for jobs as a Web Designer or UX/UI Designer, or if they have programming skills, pursue a job as a Developer (likely focused on the front end).

Graphic design skills might also be coveted in jobs relating more closely to product development or software development.

What Are Some Related Roles to a Graphic Designer?

If you’re considering a career in graphic design but aren’t sure it’s the exact discipline for you, here are some other roles similar to a Graphic Designer:

User Experience (UX) Designer

UX Designers are focused on creating the best possible user experience by ensuring products are usable, intuitive, and accessible. These insights are fueled by the user research UX Designers conduct, as well as the extensive testing UX Designers put every product through. UX Designers might work as part of a full UX design team or they might be the sole UX expert on a larger product team. Ultimately, UX design is about understanding people and putting the user first. UX design and web design roles go hand in hand.

User Interface (UI) Designer

UI and UX design are commonly confused. UI design follows many of the same principles and ideas that define UX design – putting people first, in other words – but applies those concepts to a website or product’s interface (a sitemap, layout, or menu, to name a few examples). UI Designers are also typically tasked with making sure products are responsive, accessible, and inclusive. A UI Designer tends to work closely with UX Designers and sometimes one role will span both UI and UX design.

Web Designer

A Web Designer is also about designing great-looking websites that function well, but web design might be more focused on the eye-catching visual properties of the website or app, and a Web Designer might not be as focused on either the code making the website work or the usability of the site.

Front-End Developer

Front-End Web Developers also work on the client-side of a website, but with more of a focus on the code. Sometimes, a Front-End Web Developer might simply implement what Web Designers have designed.

Art Director

Art Directors lead a creative team producing work to be displayed on TV, billboards, the Internet, or in magazines. These jobs blur the lines between advertising, marketing, and graphic design. A creative team usually consists of Graphic Designers, artists, photographers, copywriters, videographers, and production staff. Art Directors lead projects, create visual concepts and make sure work is finished on time and on budget to a client’s satisfaction.

Who Do Graphic Designers Work With?

Graphic Designers work in design teams, alongside photographers, content writers, videographers, and other creative people.

But a Graphic Designer could potentially work with many other levels of an organization. Depending on the company and role, a Graphic Designer could collaborate with experts in web design, user experience (UX) design, public relations, sales, marketing, and information technology — it all depends on the work environment.