Careers in the Arts: Graphic Designer

Want to be a Graphic Designer?

Being a graphic designer can be one of the most gratifying jobs for people with a creative streak. The work can be very broad in terms of the final product that needs to be produced and in the right environment, a graphic designer can have almost the same amount of creative freedom as would an artist working independently on works that were intended solely for art’s sake. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, graphic design is a job field that has a projected 13% annual rate of growth through 2020. This makes it about average in terms of growth. The pay can become quite high and will increase with experience, talent, and demand, but most graphic designers will make an income of around $43,500 per year.

While that level of pay may increase or decrease depending upon the quality of the designs the designer produces and the market in which they are working, it is a decent salary for a job in the arts or any profession, and considering the level of job satisfaction most graphic designers report it is a pretty good option to consider for creative folks.

What’s the Work Like?

According to the Princeton Review, graphic designers are best understood as artists who use computers and software to create commercial projects. Graphic designers do not produce their works to sell at fine art shows or to display in galleries. The graphic designer concentrates on making graphics for products, websites, television ads and other venues.

Graphic designers also need to be very flexible in terms of the tools that they use. This job is something of a hybrid between an artist and a programmer, in many regards. For example, one must have the creativity necessary to create a truly great logo for a company or a package, but they must also be able to render that logo in any one of the numbers of various design programs that are used in this profession. These design programs are constantly being upgraded and changed, so graphic designers have to have an interest in technology, in addition to an interest in art. In addition, it is quite common for graphic designers to draw by hand in pencil or pen their design and then scan and load it into a digital format. From here the image is often enhanced or merged with digital design elements.

Some of the common tools that designers use include:


  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Quark
  • Adobe Illustrator
  • Various layout programs

 Indie or W2?

One of the interesting things about graphic design as a career choice is that it is one of the few that can be equally profitable if you are working as a regular employee or if you are working as an independent contractor. This gives a lot of inherent flexibility and that may make it particularly appealing to some individuals.

The training for graphic design generally involves a four-year degree. Some people with very advanced computer skills may be able to get into graphic design by studying for a general art degree. For most people, however, the amount of computer training is extensive enough to necessitate a degree specifically geared toward graphic artists and to provide the computer and artistic skills required.