Ever wonder whether a Graphic Designer Career Path is the right one for you? Not sure what a graphic designer does? Want to know the pros and cons of being a graphic designer?
If so, read my in depth interview with Alex (30yrs old) who discusses all of the below:
- Why she chose a graphic designer career path
- How much of what she learned in her graphic design degree she uses in her day to day role
- What certifications and qualifications you need to work as a graphic designer
- What type of university degrees are best if you want to be a graphic designer
- The best universities in the UK to study graphic design
- What a typical graphic design job entails
- The key skills you need to be a good graphic designer
- The pros and cons of working as a graphic designer
- How much fun it is to work in the graphic design industry
- The skills and training you need to work as a graphic designer
- The average salary and hourly freelance rates that graphic designers get paid
- The difference between a graphic designer and an illustrator
- Her advice on how to become a graphic designer
(This interview was part of the 100 interviews I did with graduates 10 years out of university about their career paths so far. The book was a #1 Amazon Best Seller and is available to buy here)
Graphic Designer Career Path Part 1 -> Education
What was your degree in?
BA Visual Communication (Graphic Design)
Why did you do graphic design?
I wanted to be a graphic designer, and I had heard great things about this course! It’s a really broad grounding in graphic design as it includes web design, typography, animation, illustration, etc.
Why did you pursue a graphic designer career path?
I was always interested in artistic things. Originally I had thought I would like to study architecture. Then after speaking to a friend she told me about graphic design.
I hadn’t really heard much about it before but as I researched I decided it was definitely something I wanted to do.
When you came out of university did you seek advice from anyone following a graphic designer career path?
Did you know anything about what a graphic design career entailed starting off or were you a bit blind?
Definitely a bit blind.
What % of what you learned in university have you used in your graphic design career?
Most of it really, maybe 80%. I am not really involved in any web design so that is something I don’t use at the moment. However, it’s not to say I won’t use in the future!
With the benefit of hindsight, if you were 18 again now would you do anything differently degree wise?
Yes, I would apply myself sooner. I was kind of feeling my way through the first 2 years and it was a very steep learning curve.
A lot of my year at Uni had completed a portfolio course for a year or they were mature students so I was a bit behind. I felt a bit unsure of myself at times and wasn’t very confident in what I was doing.
What Certifications or Qualifications do you need to become a Graphic Designer?
You don’t need a degree or certification but many graphic designers will have done a relevant degree. i.e. graphic design, art, etc
What you do need is a portfolio or work to show employers. Whether you get this from university or from internships it doesn’t matter. A good way to show off your skills is by designing your own website.
Employers will expect you to know how to use design and photo-editing software i.e. Illustrator, InDesign, and Photoshop
If you did want to do a graphic design related degree, what would be good universities to do it in?
I know Brighton offer degrees in Illustration and Graphic Design that are really well known. They have their own studio space and run dedicated design workshops.
Some friends of mine also rave abouty Nottingham Uni, and University of the Arts London. Nottingham are really high tech with lots of print rooms, laser cutting, mac suites and interactive media.
UAL are always voted one of the best Universities for Design. I think there are 5-6 colleges that form part of the campus. You’ll find no shortage of creative people to be inspired by.
Are there any graphic design related degrees you would recommend?
Any illustration degree really. You can also do degrees in animation or contemporary art which will be relevant.
Try to do one with hands-on studio based experience. A course that has built in work experience will enable you to make long-term connections that are so important in the graphic design industry.
It also depends on what you like doing the most i.e. Multimedia design, 3D Technology, Animation, Digital Media, etc. Some courses will place more emphasis on different things.
Graphic Designer Career Path Part 2 -> Jobs
What does a typical Graphic Designer Job Description entail?
- Designing graphics for use in advertising, marketing, magazines, books, media, etc
- Discussing requirements with clients i.e. concepts, size, production, and timescales
- Choosing materials and styles for your designs
- Modifying drafts based on client feedback and suggesting improvements
- Using design and photo-editing software
- Working with external printers to ensure product is high quality
- Ensuring you don’t go over budget or miss deadlines
What key skills do you need to be a good Graphic Designer?
Creativity – you need to be able to come up with designs, and turn a clients concept into a design they are happy with
Time management – you need to work to strict deadlines, be good at working under pressure and and having several jobs on at the same time
Communication – the better you can communicate with your clients the better you can understand what they are looking for and ensure they are happy with the end product i.e. interpreting, listening, receiving constructive criticism
Technology – you will need to keep upto speed with ever changing technologies to ensure you don’t fall behind your competitors
Networking – you need to be able to attract and keep clients. The wider your network the more chance you have of being able to do this
What are 3 things you’ve most liked about your graphic design career so far and 3 things you don’t like?
- That I get to be creative
- That I learn a lot when I am doing projects
- I can see/feel myself improving as a designer the more experience I get.
- Design can be subjective, so it can be hard to sell an idea that you love sometimes.
- We don’t often measure the success of a project. It would be nice to have that data in a metric sense.
- Sometimes the workload fluctuates so a bit more consistency would be nice.
How much does a Graphic Designer earn?
Graphic Designer Starting Salary:
Coming out of university Junior Graphic Designers can expect to get paid around £17-25k.
Graphic Designer Average Salary:
Senior Graphic Designers with 10 years experience earn about £35-40k.
Graphic Designer Top End Salary:
If you are a Creative Director you can earn £60k+
Graphic Designer Day Rate:
Freelancers can charge anywhere from £200-£500 a day depending on how much experience, how good their portfolio is, and where they are based.
The average rate for a London based freelance graphic designer with 5 years experience will be approx £300 per day
Graphic Designer Hourly Rate: The average rate a UK based frelance graphic designer can charge will be £40-50 an hour
For more details on graphic designer freelance rates, check out this blog post on freelancerclub.net
Like this post? 🙂 Check out my post on How to Attract Success through the Power of Creative Visualisation
Which would you prefer to work for? a small company or a big company, and why?
Small. I work for a big company but in a small office. There are 6 in our team.
I think in a junior role it is nicer to be in a small team and have people that are personally interested in your development. I also feel as part of a smaller team you have a greater opportunity to stand over your own work.
What is the difference between a graphic designer vs illustrator?
- Graphic Designers will usually work with companies on improving messaging/branding for a product or service.
- They will be experts of product design, website design, etc.
- Their work will be mainly with digital images and technology
- Illustrators will usually do more drawing and provide illustrations for books, novels and company logos.
- Many of them will have studied art history, painting, drawing.
- They do use computer programs but it will be to scan or upload and picture they have drawn. They work mainly with drawings and text
Has it been much fun working in your graphic design career? and if so why?
Yes the design industry is something I find really interesting. I love following trends and styles in design.
It’s a very creative industry, and you can be really proud of the end products you have worked on.
If you could start over and you were 22, but you know all you know now, would you do anything differently career-wise?
Yes, I would have more confidence in applying for jobs. I’d also spend more time getting my portfolio into great shape. I wasn’t confident after we graduated so I spent 2 years working in Bank of Ireland.
I then did a post grad in advertising before I had the confidence to apply for jobs in design. In hindsight, I would have been better doing internships, etc, and learning and developing in the design world.
What are some of the different graphic designer career paths you know of?
You can do loads of different jobs. I know people with a graphic design background who work in Fashion Design, Marketing, Illustrators, Web Designers, Book Cover Designers, Lecturers. There are so many different career options available.
Graphic Designer Career Path Part 3 -> Advice
What tips would you give a young person (18-30) now?
You don’t need to know now where you will be in 10 years time; just do what feels right!
For more advice from 100 graduates 10 years out of university, check out some of the other interviews:
What tips would you give young person (18-30) on how to become a graphic design career?
- Get experience as soon as you can.
- Try and do a degree that has lots of in-built work experience and studio time
- Do some internships to try and add to your portfolio and try and build u a network of contacts and professional relationships.
- Try to have as large and as varied portfolio as possible. This can be difficult to do, but the more you can differentiate yourself from other junior designers the better.
- Do some add on courses that will make you a more well rounded Graphic Designer i.e. marketing, web design, etc.
In your opinion, is graphic designer a good career?
I love it! I really enjoy the problem solving element to it, and the rewarding feeling you get from a satisfied client.
The work is really varied, you can be doing anything from a new package design, to a 3D design to branding work. Seeing the difference your design can make to a product is really exciting!
I like the fact that you can do freelance work, and be your own boss. A lot of my friends who work in other industries can’t really do this, so I think it’s a real plus if you are a graphic designer.
However, when you are young you think you will spend your days creating beautiful images and designs where in reality a lot of your time is re-using old designs, tweaking margins, spacing, etc. There is plenty of boring work, it’s not all glamourous!
You do get regular criticism of your work, and often have to pander to what the client wants even if you think it’s not as interesting a design as it could be. Dealing with unrealistic client expectations about designs and deadlines can be tricky too.
Ultimately, it is down to you. I recommend getting some work experience and seeing for yourself if you enjoy the work or not!