How Much Does a Graphic Designer Earn Yearly?
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A graphic designer is responsible for communicating information, like a brand logo, using hand drawn or digitally created images. They have strong artistic skills like traditional artists, however they differ in that they use their skills to fulfill client needs. Their work is found on traditional print media and, increasingly, online.
Their role in advertisements is to make brands memorable and catch people’s attention. They can create content from scratch or take existing images and edit them. Every brand logo, letter font-type, and some animated content was influenced or created by graphic designers.
Design creation is what graphic designers do best, however a lot depends on the client. Brainstorming and pitching ideas is often a large part of the process. A client can give a graphic designer an idea, and the designer will mock up several preliminary designs. A graphic designer will inevitably be faced with a variety of clients, including ones who expect an excessive number of mock-ups to choose from. This process can take multiple rounds between clients and the designer to get the most desirable product.
Graphic designers are responsible for every component of a design. This includes the style of text used, the colors, style, overall feel, and image. Each component requires a different set of skills and requires the designer to make decisions alongside the client’s needs.
Graphic designers use numerous types of software like coding and photo manipulation packages to make their designs a reality. As technology changes, graphic designers are able to interact with these systems in different ways. While coding and typing in commands is a traditional way to create designs, touch screens have allowed designers to easily draw digital designs and create with their hands.
All graphic designers are tasked with building their portfolio, regardless of they work for a company or not. For independent freelancers, their paychecks depend on how well they are able to sell themselves and their abilities. They will often need to showcase their talents directly to clients, as well as sell them on their designs and intellect. This means promoting themselves online as well as in-person at conferences or through various connections.
The scope of work regarding teamwork for a graphic designer will depend on their role within a team of designers as well as within a company. Graphic designers who work amongst a larger team of designers may have little role in the decision-making process, so they might not meet with colleagues or clients. Other designers who are leaders in these teams, who work for smaller companies, or who work independently will have to meet with both clients and with other designers.
Graphic designers are tasked with the creation of images and motion graphics in a variety of domains, including on websites. However, very little of their work deals with organizing or displaying graphics on the website. A web designer will take a graphic designer’s work and figure out the best place to put the images on the site.
They collect the work done by content creators like writers, graphic designers, and video creators and figure out how to organize everything onto a web page. Both graphic designers and web designers may be employed within the same company, or can be independent contractors.
Graphic designers work in a variety of fields depending on how much independence they wish to have. Some designers are employed in-house by large companies such as Apple or Coca-Cola. Others work for graphic design companies, like Pentagram or Landor, which consult for large companies. These jobs often require graphic designers to work in an office with other graphic designers and employees of the company.
While the majority of graphic designers work for an existing company, 18% choose to be self-employed. These designers can work anywhere they want, most often from home or a private studio. Self-employment requires networking, so these individuals may spend time out meeting or recruiting new clients at conferences, network symposiums, or by other means.
Whether courses are taken online, through a university, or a certificate program, students will gain a variety of helpful tools that will help them succeed as a graphic designer. This list does not cover everything learned, and exact skills may be different between programs.
While some graphic designers can build their career from being self-taught, pursuing a degree is highly recommended and will give designers an advantage when searching for a job or building their entrepreneurial career. Graphic designers can pursue a certificate program, associate’s degree, a bachelor of arts, or a bachelor of fine arts degree.
A certificate program lasts about two years and can be taken by students who wish to get a degree quickly without taking general education courses. Some certificate programs can be expensive as they can require students to pay for their own software.
An associate’s degree is another two-year option; however, students will also be taking general education courses like English and math classes, which ultimately takes away from the amount of time spent learning graphic design skills.
The trade-off with a quick 2-year program is that the degree is often slightly less valued compared to a 4 or 5-year degree. A bachelor’s program will give students more time to develop skills, more exposure to different software programs, and more opportunities to begin showcasing their skills. Some universities offer the bachelor of fine arts degree which takes 5 years. This extra year is spent on a senior project where students can spend a dedicated amount of time displaying their knowledge. Either of these degrees will teach students basics in software programs but will also develop business skills and portfolio development.
Some students choose to gain more experience with a masters of fine arts. Often, these degrees will focus on providing internship opportunities to students. Graduate programs are also places where there is more opportunities for one-on-one feedback with instructors.
While many jobs require some sort of work experience before hiring employees, graphic designers will absolutely need to be able to show what they can do before employers will consider hiring them. Just holding a degree is not enough. One poll for 85% of graphic designer jobs require 1 year of experience. But experience begets experience, which often puts designers fresh out of college in a problematic situation.
Graphic designers who have just graduated from a program should already have some evidence of what they can do to present to employers. This might include designs rendered from courses, from a senior project, or a piece they worked on in their own free time. While in college, designers should already be building their portfolio and networking to increase their chances of getting hired immediately out of college. A masters of fine arts will provide more opportunities for building a portfolio.
For designers who wish to work independently finding initial work can be especially challenging. A full -time job at a company will bring clients to the designer, however designers on their own need to find clients. For designers who have particular difficultly landing a first job or client, they can turn to a number of websites online that bring designers together with clients, however often at a financial cost.
There are numerous online programs that offer graphic design degrees. Getting a degree will allow students to gain more in-depth feedback on their work, however many people choose to take online or hybrid courses because of their busy schedules. One large caveat to a purely online degree is the reduced ability to network and meet colleagues.
Online degrees can be taken to gain a certificate in graphic design, an associate’s degree, bachelor’s, or masters of fine arts. Like in-person programs, students will need sufficient access to software programs and a computer, which are often not provided. Students who find they need more training can also take online courses that offer training in one topic like how to use Photoshop. These independent classes might not add up to a degree, but they will provide more skills to graphic designers.
Graphic designers are often challenged to learn and master a large variety of software tools, which often changes as technology changes. Here are the main types of software that need to be mastered. Note that this is not a complete list.
While computer-aided design (CAD) software is most commonly used by designers of physical systems like engineers and architects, graphic designers utilize this tool as well. Auto CAD by Autodesk is one of the most widely used CAD software programs.
Whether designing from scratch or altering an already made image or photo, this software is critical for graphic designers. Adobe Photoshop is the most well-known graphics and photo editing software tool.
While not always critical for graphic designers, understanding coding languages and software like JAVA or HTML can give designers an advantage. This can allow them to better format and formulate their images as well as web pages if needed.
Graphic designers use this type of software to help with formatting and designing webpages to be published. While desktop publishers use this more often, many graphic designers have been tasked with taking over these jobs in smaller companies.
This type of software manipulates the look and feel of webpages. Adobe Dreamweaver is a commonly known web page creation tool.
Most graphic designers have talents that cannot be taught in a classroom, while other skills need to be developed over time. Here are some of the most sought after skills for graphic designers.
The job outlook for graphic designers is overall slightly negative. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that a 4% job growth is expected for graphic designers, compared to the overall job growth of 7%. A 4% job growth is also estimated for all art and design workers.
Graphic designers have taken over some job duties of other individuals in similar fields such as desktop publishers. However, as newspapers and other print media move online, graphic designers in traditional roles will need to adapt to the latest trends in advertisements and web-based companies. In fact, BLS projects that career opportunities for graphic designers in print media will decline 22% in the next 10 years, whereas those who work with companies using online media will increase 20%. Graphic designers should bolster their portfolio, which may lead to freelance opportunities if a company changes direction or goes out of business.
Graphic designers who work for large companies within a team of graphic designers have some advancement opportunities. There is often a team leader who oversees the work of other designers. Gaining advancement is more likely for individuals who have managerial experience. Some graphic designers can ultimately be promoted to chief design officer (CDO) who oversees all artistic and design components within a company.
Graphic designers within smaller companies often do not have much room for advancement. However, they can build their portfolio within a company and supplement their work and growth by freelancing. Independent graphic designers with a good reputation can work for high profile companies, which can lead to higher paying jobs or full employment.
These professionals work on movies and shows to bring animation to life and make visual effects more realistic. They spend most of their time working on computers and meeting in teams to develop ideas. They often have one focus (like a single character), particularly on large scale projects like a fully animated movie.
These individuals specialize in overseeing the artwork and visual style in magazines and other published media, on websites, or in movies. They work between artists and other project managers to implement ideas and ensure the artistic side of a project matches the other components. Art directors often oversee teams of graphic designers in some industries.
While graphic designers often work with new technologies, traditional artists work with physical media. Craft and fine artists often work independently, however they can sometimes work alongside graphic designers. For instance, a stop-animation film or an advertisement company may hire a fine artist to inspire new ideas.
Desktop publishers are in charge of designing webpages and a variety of other published work found online. They are often in charge of formatting and organizing the layout and text, rather than writing the text or designing graphics. This job will likely become obsolete in the near future as other employees can handle these tasks.