As a graphic designer you'll need to listen to clients and understand their needs before making design decisions
A graphic designer works on a variety of products and activities, such as websites, advertising, books, magazines, posters, computer games, product packaging, exhibitions and displays, corporate communications and corporate identity, i.e. giving organisations a visual 'brand'.
You'll work to a brief agreed with the client, creative director or account manager and will develop creative ideas and concepts. The appropriate media and style has to be chosen to meet the client's objectives.
The work demands creative flair, up-to-date knowledge of industry software and a professional approach to time, costs and deadlines.
You may need to manage more than one design brief at a time and typical activities include:
Salaries vary widely depending on the sector of employment, location and your experience and reputation. The best paid jobs are usually in London and other large cities. Salaries within in-house design teams tend to be higher than in design agencies.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
Working hours are typically 37 hours a week, usually with some flexibility around start and finish times. Extra hours are likely when deadlines are approaching, and this may involve working into the early hours to get a job finished.
There are opportunities for part-time work, but these may be hard to find. Self-employment and freelance work are common but you will need several years' experience and established professional contacts.
Relevant subjects for graphic design work include those that involve visual arts. In particular, a degree or HND in the following subjects may increase your chances:
Any design-based course will give you a good grounding and knowledge of design, art history and printing techniques.
Some roles don't require a degree or HND, as job offers may be based on the standard of portfolio work and not on educational qualifications. However, progress without formal training is extremely difficult, and the vast majority of graphic designers have higher qualifications.
A pre-entry postgraduate qualification isn't needed, but pre-entry experience is essential.
Apart from technical and drawing skills, you will need to show:
Internship or placement experience is extremely useful, especially if you have a reference who can recommend you and provide evidence of what you've done. The most valuable work experience comes from involvement in a live project, along with building a portfolio of your work.
Having your portfolio assessed while at university can be helpful as it will give you the chance to talk confidently about your work, which you'll need to do at job interviews. A student assessment scheme is offered by the International Society of Typographic Designers (ISTD). Any experience that allows you to practice your presentation skills will also be invaluable.
The majority of vacancies are found in agencies specialising in advertising design, including identity and event branding or corporate communication.
Other employers include publishers, design groups, magazines, multimedia companies, local government, computer games companies, educational establishments, television and the packaging industry.
Look for job vacancies at:
As well as looking on agency websites, it can be beneficial to register with a specialist design recruitment agency, such as Gabriele Skelton.
It is common to make speculative applications, either for internship positions or junior designer roles. Represent has compiled The Ideal Candidate, where some of the leading studios share what they're looking for and what you can do to make sure you stand out.
Other tips for making speculative approaches include:
Advice on how to get into digital careers and case studies of people working in digital jobs can be found at Bubble Digital Career Portal.
Most learning is on the job, except for formal training in industry-specific software. As a graphic designer, you'll need to be skilled in using a variety of packages such as InDesign, QuarkXPress, Illustrator, Acrobat and Dreamweaver.
Some employers will fund training courses for you, but it's common for freelance and self-employed designers to pay for themselves. It's likely you'll learn new skills to meet the demands of a particular project. Relevant courses are available from creative organisations such as D&AD. Learning will continue throughout your career so you keep up to date with advancements in graphic technology.
Membership of professional bodies can enhance your knowledge by providing access to useful resources, advice and training. Relevant organisations include:
You may choose to work towards chartership with the CSD. To achieve chartered designer status you need to prove you're operating professionally and that you meet required competences. The process involves a professional portfolio and review. Find out more at CSD: Chartership.
Progression from junior graphic designer is possible within two to three years, with the first few jobs acting as stepping stones. At this stage, developing a reputation, networking and making contacts are important.
Successful designers may be in a position to apply for a senior designer post after three to five years. In large design partnerships, it may be possible to achieve promotion from designer to management positions, such as studio manager or creative director.
In general, career development depends on frequent job movement to widen your experience and develop your portfolio. You'll have to think strategically about career moves and consider the development opportunities within each role.
It's possible to become self-employed within five to ten years of your first job, if you've built up a good reputation. Gaining chartered status with the CSD can help with career progression as it shows you're working at a specific professional level.