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Graphic Designer Job Description

Graphic Designer






Bachelor’s degree

(graphic design or related) 


1-5 years

Upward Mobility



not needed

Job Outlook

4% growth

2016 - 2026

Graphic designer: understanding the job

What is a graphic designer?

A graphic designer creates visualizations that have just the right aesthetic to communicate the images their clients want to deliver. They design these visualizations for products, advertisements, print media, book covers, periodic reports, logos, brochures, billboards or signs, or any other medium of visual communication. Graphic design jobs typically require a background in art and/or using computer software to design images or web page layouts, so, ultimately, they are artists. They just use a combination of images and text as their medium and consumable items as their canvas.

Here are some of the technical and soft skills that graphic designers use on a daily basis.

| teamwork | creativity design software | communication | time management |

| art and technical design | presentation skills |

Top graphic designer skills

What graphic designers do

The technical part of the graphic designer job description involves designing layouts by making hand-drawn or computer generated illustrations and combining them with text of the right type, font, size and color to communicate to consumers. There is also a people-oriented part of the graphic designer job description that is quite important. Graphic designers communicate frequently with clients to get an idea of what they want the design to communicate and the feelings they want it to impart to consumers. They approximate and zero in on a client’s vision by producing a series of draft visualizations until the client approves.

A major part of the graphic designer job description involves working closely with creative marketing and advertising teams as well as public relations and promotions teams. This requires a lot of interpersonal skills and teamwork to pull off. Being in sync with these teams is as critical a portion of graphic design jobs as communicating with clients. Those other teams also communicate closely with clients to identify their needs, so it’s important that graphic designers get together with them to share and compare the information they’ve gathered from clients. Once they put it all together, they have a more comprehensive vision of what the client wants and can produce communications, designs and campaigns that more closely meet client needs.

What great graphic designers do

1. Great graphic designers listen to their clients.

A great design is judged in the eye of the beholder and in the graphic designer’s case, the beholder is always the client. A great graphic design career is always built on satisfied clients, so taking in client feedback and incorporating it into every draft is the surest path to success.

2. Great graphic designers are creative.

Keeping up with the latest design technology and experimenting with avant garde aesthetics keeps great graphic designers a step ahead of others and helps their material to stand out in a crowd.

3. Great graphic designers have a diverse portfolio.

It is entirely possible to have a successful graphic design career serving a particular type of client or designing for specific products, for example many professionals work on web design for businesses or beverage packaging or magazine covers and advertisements. Graphic designer jobs that allow for a diversity of design experiences are not only stimulating but expertise broadening experiences for the designer. Working on several types of projects or taking a few different graphic designer jobs in one’s career can help a designer to build a diverse and attractive portfolio that gives them leverage to work in many different companies or firms.

Typical day as a graphic designer

Most graphic design jobs follow a similar pattern throughout the day. The pattern consists of three elements usually carried out in whichever order best fits the designer and their responsibilities on a given day. Those three elements are:

1) communicating with clients or internal teams and management,

2) drafting technical and creative designs, and

3) pitching and presenting designs to clients or management.

These three elements are as present in freelance graphic design jobs as they are in senior or entry level graphic design jobs.

And so goes the typical day for a graphic designer. Perhaps it begins by finishing up a draft of a design for a billboard promoting a feature film. That designed was created with a combination of sketched drawings on the drafting table, photographs edited using Photoshop, and text and images overlayed on the draft using Illustrator and InDesign. The final product is then taken to a conference room or even to a client office for presentation and final approval by the client.

After presentation another client is waiting to meet and discuss their vision for design of an promotional package they are producing for their travel customers that they want produced both as a webpage and as a physical brochure. The designer listens carefully, asks questions, and gleans as much information as possible from the client before moving on to consult with the marketing and communications team to discuss how they visualize creating these promotional materials with their expertise and understanding of what the client wants. Then they move along to start another design.

''You have to have a good eye for design and aesthetic, and you have to be able to produce it, using multiple tools...''

Freelance graphic design typically allows a lot of this process to take place remotely with digital communication from mobile locations. Freelance graphic design jobs often require designers to work in conjunction with different advertising firms or in-house marketing teams, giving freelance graphic design a larger potential for diversity in types of projects and clients than an organizationally bound graphic design career.

Graphic designer basic duties

  • Present and pitch ideas and drafts to clients and management
  • Use creativity and innovation to develop design briefs that fit client vision
  • Collaborate with illustrators, web developers, writers, photographers, creative and technical marketing teams and other designers to create designs that fit campaigns
  • Use creative software (CAD, Adobe Creative Cloud) and hand-created illustrations and diagrams to combine with text and create client-pleasing visualizations
  • Producing drafts and finalized visualizations that meet client-imposed conditions under deadline
  • Meet regularly with clients or executives to determine their needs and establish goals of upcoming and ongoing design projects
  • Proofing final layouts and designs to make sure they meet client needs and communicate accurately
  • Keep up to date with design technology and software with training and coursework

Becoming a graphic designer

Graphic design job requirements


A bachelor’s degree in graphic design or a related field is a basic requirement for all graphic designer jobs. Entry level graphic design jobs require skills that come from art and technical coursework combined with business and customer awareness training. These skills are all combined in graphic design undergraduate work. Though the client interfacing skills can also be gained by experience in a graphic design internship and some technical and artistic skills can be self-taught, a bachelor’s degree in graphic design is by far the most common to entry level graphic design jobs as it allows students to build a portfolio to help build their graphic designer resume.


Certification is not required for graphic designers. The certification in graphic design that exists is in the form of continuing education courses offered online and at universities with graphic design programs. Software vendors also offer courses that provide certification in the use of their products.


Most employers want a minimum of 1-3 years experience designing for an advertising or design firm or with a company’s in-house marketing and design team. The most important thing gained from any graphic design work experience is a well-built portfolio. Freelance graphic design doesn’t afford the same opportunities for consistent work at an organization but it does provide the opportunity to build a portfolio. Freelance graphic design jobs also require experience, but that experience can be shown in form of an extensive and diverse portfolio.


Skills required for graphic design are a mix of technical and soft skills. They include: teamwork, creativity design software, communication, time management, art and technical design, and presentation skills.

Ideal graphic design resume

The ideal graphic design resume lists a bachelor’s degree in graphic design and 3+ years experience as a graphic designer for either an in-house graphic design team or for an advertising or design firm. What truly transforms the typical graphic design resume to an ideal graphic designer resume has more to do with the accompanying portfolio than anything else.

Soft skills like the ones listed in the section just above are important to include in a graphic design cover letter accompanying a graphic designer resume and if possible to sneak into answers to graphic design interview questions. However, the body of work produced and represented in a portfolio is expected to be attached to any graphic design cover letter and will be the main subject of most graphic design interview questions.

''What truly transforms a typical designer's resume into an ideal one is an exceptional portfolio...''

Most graphic design employers including design and advertising firms as well as companies and businesses with  in-house design teams require their designers to collaborate with creative and technical teams like copywriters and web developers and photographers to produce visualizations. The interpersonal skills developed while working with these teams is an important addition to a good graphic design cover letter and should definitely be inserted into answers to graphic design interview questions whenever possible.

So to wrap up: The ideal graphic design candidate uses a few tools beyond just the resume to highlight their qualities.

  • artistic and creative skills (portfolio)
  • education and graphic design training (resume)
  • communicating/pitching to clients and executives (graphic design cover letter)
  • collaboration with creative and technical teams (graphic design interview questions)

Graphic designer salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) lists the median graphic designer salary in 2017 as $48,700 per year with a job growth outlook of 4% between 2016-2026. This is a much slower growth outlook than average which the BLS says will translate to high competition for available graphic design positions during that period.

Graphic designer salary of course varies from business to business and whether or not a designer is self-employed. The median graphic design salary posted by BLS includes the approximately 20% of graphic designers who are self-employed. Graphic design salary for designers who work individually with their own firm depends largely on a designer’s network, client base, portfolio diversity and specialty. Similarly, in-house graphic designers working for example for large publishing houses or large corporations with multiple products and brands can make well above the median salary listed by BLS and freelance graphic designers without consistent work can make less than the median.

Is graphic design the right job for me?

The first thing you may want to think about when considering being a graphic designer is the path it takes to get there. People who study illustration and drawing as well as art and design in general make up the majority of people who go into graphic design. It is not the only path into the profession as one can be self-taught in both illustration and computer design, but it is certainly the most common path.

And for good reason. You have to have a good eye for design and aesthetic and you have to be able to produce it using multiple tools. It is both creatively and technically demanding work that not just anyone can pick up and do well. Training is absolutely required to both gain skills and build a portfolio that represents your skills to potential employers.

''Graphic design can be fun and creatively stimulating work...''

It is also important to consider if you can work creatively with teams of other designers and marketing or communications professionals like illustrators, web designers, copywriters and photographers. Advanced communication skills are needed as well, including pitching ideas to executives and clients and being able to transform feedback into improved design and sellable results. If you prefer to work alone as a freelancer or to begin your own firm, how willing and able you are to build a network of potential clients and industries, often without landing contracts, before you can consistently land projects and start invoicing for your work needs to be considered.

Graphic design can be fun and creatively stimulating work, a combination of self-starting and teamwork, that allows one to grow aesthetic and business sensibilities. If all of this sounds appealing then this may be the right job for you!

Top graphic designer skills

Teamwork - collaborate with creative and technical teams to create designs that match client need and executive direction

Creativity design software - create designs using Illustrator, Photoshop, Adobe Creative Suite, InDesign, QuarkXpress, Acrobat, Dreamweaver; train to keep updated on latest design software innovations and industry uses

Communication - creating presentations and making pitches to executives and clients, reaching out to research and development teams to learn about product or service details to help develop appropriate designs to maximize brand recognition and profitability

Time management - prioritizing competing creative work, client feedback and requirements meetings, pitches to executives and clients, technical work and project auditing for accuracy and quality

Art and technical design - creative designing including manual illustrations; aesthetic decisions about text including type, size, font, color and line length; integrating photography logo designs, information on product, author or other relevant elements

Presentation skills - pitching ideas and design drafts using multimedia formats and persuasive descriptions to executives, management, and clients

Similar or related job titles

  • Marketing manager
  • Studio manager
  • Art or Creative director
  • Illustrator
  • Desktop publisher
  • Drafter
  • Multimedia artist
Last updated: 05 Jul 2019

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