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What qualities/skills do I need to become a Graphic Designer?

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Subject: Career question for you
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John’s Answer

Megan Graphic designers are visual communicators who design and develop print and electronic media, such as magazines, television graphics, logos and websites. They may be employed by advertising agencies, design companies, publishers and other businesses that need design professionals. Most graphic designers earn bachelor's degrees. These programs allow them to develop design and technical skills, and develop portfolios that can help them obtain employment after graduation. Along with a formal education, graphic designers should be artistic and creative and have strong verbal, visual and written communication skills. Designers often work independently and must meet strict deadlines, so the ability to manage time and stay on schedule is important. Business, marketing, and sales skills are also beneficial for this career, especially for graphic designers who are self-employed.

Graphic designers need to be creative thinkers. They have to creatively convey ideas through text and image. They have to generate solutions for their clients through creative means; for example, they might have to promote a company’s mission through a website or design an image that helps sell a product. All of this involves creativity, as well as creative problem-solving skills.

Graphic designers have to articulate ideas to companies, clients, employers, etc. It requires strong public speaking skills for presentations and writing skills for proposals. Designers also have to be able to communicate with clients and employers by phone, email, and sometimes through Skype. Graphic designers must listen to their clients’ needs and convey persuasive solutions.

Graphic designers have to master various forms of technology in today’s world. Firstly, they need to be comfortable with design software, such as Quark, InDesign, and Adobe. This software is used by many companies to produce digital prints. If your interested in website development, you also need to know about web design. Then you should be fluent in multiple programming languages (including HTML and CSS) as well as web design content management system platforms, such as WordPress.

Graphic designers need to know how to develop (via creation or selection) legible, well-designed type. You'll need to be familiar with certain fonts and have a knowledge of line-height and tracking. Anyone can access every kind of font imaginable online, but you'll need to be understand how fonts are made and utilized to be a more effective designer.

Most graphic designers are constantly juggling multiple projects at once. Because this is so common in the job, they have to have strong time management skills. Graphic designers should be able to multitask, juggle multiple assignments over long periods, and meet all established deadlines.

Hope this was helpful Megan

Thank You Dexter for your continued support. Today is the tomorrow you were optimistic about yesterday. What are you doing today to make tomorrow as rewarding as you had hoped today would be? John Frick

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Daniel’s Answer

Hi Megan!

I'm a UX designer, so I primarily think about graphic design in terms of problem solving. You need to know how color theory, gestalt principles, and typography work together to help people use an interface or interpret a visualization as easily and efficiently as possible. Map design is a wonderful illustration of how graphic design can be used in this way, as are Edward Tufte's books on data visualization (e.g. https://www.amazon.com/Visual-Display-Quantitative-Information/dp/0961392142/).

However, graphic design is concerned with more than just problem solving and usability. In consumer-facing industries, graphic design is responsible for evoking a sense of delight, wonder, or sophistication. Animation is a great area to learn about (see Disney's twelve principles of animation), as is learning about modern design languages like Google's Material Design (material.io) and Microsoft's Fluent Design (https://www.microsoft.com/design/fluent/).

Graphic Design is such a broad field, I highly recommend exploring as much of it as possible to decide what aspects you enjoy the most. You might decide that you love data visualization and animation and coding, and be the next Mike Bostock (author of the D3 visualization library and creator of visualizations for the New York Times)! The sky's the limit in graphic design. 🙂

Daniel recommends the following next steps:

The Elements of Typographic Style (Robert Bringhurst): https://www.amazon.com/Elements-Typographic-Style-Robert-Bringhurst/dp/0881791326
7 Gestalt Principles of Visual Perception: https://www.usertesting.com/blog/gestalt-principles
The Fundamentals of Color Theory: https://99designs.com/blog/tips/the-7-step-guide-to-understanding-color-theory/
Massive impact design in the world's subway maps: https://99designs.com/blog/creative-inspiration/the-worlds-subway-maps/
The Twelve Principles of Animation: https://ohmy.disney.com/movies/2016/07/20/twelve-principles-animation-disney/

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Eric’s Answer

First and foremost being a natural creative thinker. Seeing things outside the box since you will be hired to provide fresh approaches for a client. You should be daily noticing designs that are strong and ones that you see room for improvement with. You should be very motivated and driven with strong organizational skills as managing your time during the creative process can be as important as the end result of your designs. You should be able to take feedback well and listen closely to that feedback to apply to your work ensuring your client is happy and your work is solving their problem. You don't have to be able to draw well to be a great designer as I have hired many over the years that validate that. You don't have to be an expert in the Adobe creative suite, knowing every trick in each platform but you do need a solid working knowledge across them. You should be a naturally curious person that takes the time to always be looking to learn new things and move your work forward. I find it helpful to never look back at my work as I am rarely happy with it. I approach each new project with a fresh start. Speaking from what has worked well with my career the details above have served me really well.

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Danielle’s Answer

One of the most useful skills I've valued and developed as a graphic designer is detachment from your design. A lot of people with artistic talents and interests are often frustrated once they start doing this work for a living, because the integrity of the art and/or the vision of the artist must be altered frequently. Although you are hired by businesses to "be creative" for them, you will often find you are asked to change your artwork after customers see it, and often you won't agree with the change, sometimes you'll even dislike it a lot. That's where the detachment comes in, because if you're too attached to your vision, you'll have difficulty selling your services. That's part of the trick in considering this as a career, realizing that graphic design skills are a service. Most designers that I know who also create their own art keep it completely separate from client services, more and more so over time.

Communication skills are very important in this field (every field in my opinion). You will have a well developed visual communication style and ability, but many clients will not at all or very little. You'll be helping them meet their goals and learning to communicate in a new language. You may be teaching them the importance of outlines and contrast for printed materials, the versatility of a logo's usage and how crucial that design is, etc. You're a teacher whether you have certification or not. You'll also have to 'sell' your good ideas sometimes, and be able to speak up for yourself when it's billing time.

Also, time management will be your expertise without question. Whether it's getting a print job done on time and scheduling backwards from deadlines (plus keeping everyone on time along the way with approvals and edits), or knowing yourself well enough to track hours for estimates and projects, time management is crucial. CRUCIAL.

I hope this helps.