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So exactly how much does your average graphic designer earn these days? If you are going into the field fresh out of school--or simply thinking about changing graphic art design jobs, you are probably a little curious as to what the going rate is out there. As always, there is a bit of a range, but according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, here is the breakdown as of May 2006:
Whether you're one of the top Chicago designers or a brand new freelancer, there's one rule that applies to all levels of experience: you need to listen to your client. In order to create the visual design your client is looking (and paying you) for, you'll have to get some specifics. Things such as color, illustration, font, and photography all play crucial roles in the creation of a layout for visual appeal. Spend time with your client discussing their tastes, the impact they would like to make, and who the target audience is.
Once you have an understanding of your client's needs, the next step begins: communicating the brand to the customer. Whether this means creating a magazine ad that will appeal to 20-year-olds or working on packaging that stands out in the supermarket, it takes time and skill to get this part right. Matching all of this up together—the things your client wants and the things that will reach the audience—is the foundation for everything a graphic designer does. It all begins with listening to your client.
If you're looking for career information on graphic design, one of the things you'll want to know is what the employment outlook is for the field. This is influenced by several factors, such as demand for the type of service provided by graphic designers and the availability of people who are qualified to meet those needs.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, graphic designers held just over 260,000 jobs in 2006 and about one quarter of them were self-employed. The growth expected in the field is expected to be about average--about ten percent by 2016. Since it is such a desirable field, the competition for jobs is expected to be fairly keen as people continue to be drawn to this type of work.
The lower-level positions may begin to face a downturn, as many companies have begun to outsource some of this work to overseas companies and designers. Those who have been in the field and are in higher-level positions should be fairly insulated from this trend, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor. This does not necessarily mean that a career in this field is a bad idea, but if you are interested in becoming a graphic designer, it can help to be aware of the current employment situation.
Graphic designers work for a range of different companies, but there are certain arenas that tend to employ more professionals from this field. For example, ad agencies use a lot of graphics, so they tend to be good places to look for work. Newspapers and magazines are also smart places to look for design employment. Some other businesses that hire graphic designers include printers, book and directory publishers, and computer design firms.
Of course, these aren't the only types of companies that employ designers. All companies need to present an image to their patrons, so it's worth checking for design jobs in all sorts of industries. If you're looking for freelance or full-time design work, consider using a design agency that can help connect you with potential employers or clients.
So what are the basic educational requirements expected of someone entering the field as a graphic designer these days? According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, entry-level careers in graphic design typically require a bachelor's degree. Sometimes you may also find a job where a two-year degree is an acceptable credential, depending on the organization and their hiring policies.
Formal schooling is available in a variety of colleges and universities throughout the United States. There are also many private schools that specialize in graphic design coursework. Classes for this particular field include subjects such as principles of design, printing techniques, Web design and desktop publishing, among others. Many college or university programs also include supporting coursework in liberal arts. Professional schools tend to focus in more on technical classes, and the program length is not as long as a bachelor's degree.
With the upswing in technology, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find employment in this particular field without some type of specialized training or schooling. If you are interested in pursuing a career in graphic design, formal education helps assure that you will be competitive when you begin applying for jobs in the field.
One of the most popular specialties in the graphic design field digital design. These days it doesn't matter if you're going to be a production artist or an art director—some experience in the digital realm is required. Computers serve as the basis for digital manipulation, and this has been true ever since the 1980s, when the Macintosh first made a splash on the design scene. The words "graphic design" and "computers" really go hand-in-hand. Even so, a digital designer delves far deeper into the possibilities of what can be done with computers than most people in the graphic design field.
Digital designers manipulate images such as photographs and drawings to create ad campaigns and other marketing collateral. This work is often highly technical and requires the use of advanced computer programs. Although much of the work in digital design is eventually used for print, some of it is used on the Web as well. Design projects in this arena can be extremely complex, and they require a good amount of skill in visual form-making in addition to the obvious technical abilities needed to make the idea become a reality.
Do you have the qualities needed to become a graphic designer? New York graphic designers and designers from sunny California all have one thing in common--they need a particular skill set to perform their work well. Some of this comes from schooling and on the job training, but there are also certain qualities that are a bit more elusive to describe.
For example, graphic designers must be able to "synthesize" the input from many people into an idea or campaign that pleases everyone. They must also be able to take people's thoughts and opinions an turn them into a graphic, logo or other visual representation of the concept.
Graphic designers need to be able to stay cool under pressure, as many times a project will have strict time constraints with short deadlines. They also need to have an eye for color, layout and shapes. If that isn't enough--graphic designers must also understand business and marketing so that they are able to utilize their design skills in a way that benefits their client's organization.
People best-suited to this field are those with strong visual talents and an ability to perform multiple tasks side by side. Interpersonal skills are another important factor, as designers will interact with many different people during the course of a particular project.
If you're looking for graphic design or artist jobs, don't forget that all companies, whether they're in the creative, business, or healthcare industries, employ designers. Depending on their size and other factors, companies may hire freelance designers or have in-house designers to help them create and maintain a solid, polished company image. This is done by making sure that all of the collateral used for communications has the look and feel that the company wants to put forth. The idea is similar to branding, but it isn't just reserved for the public face of the corporation—it also creates an internal identity for those who work on-site.
The size of the company will typically dictate how many people they have working in this capacity. Corporate design involves consistent messaging of the logo, tagline, and other imagery that helps identify the brand to those inside and outside the company. Smaller companies may be able to employ a part-time freelancer for this type of work, but large corporations will often have several employees working on this full-time.
The Internet has created a need for a different type of graphic designer. This new platform has opened up a whole new way to communicate; resulting in the need for people who are trained for these different types of graphic design jobs. Many companies now have a presence on the Web and are looking for the best ways to convey their messaging to the consumer or customer. Graphic designers with this type of training will be positioned well for these opportunities.
Interactive media projects are on the rise as organizations take advantage of all of the computer options that are available to them. Some of these include things such as video games, cell phones and Web pages. Graphic designers will play an increasingly important role in these kinds of applications as time goes on.
Web-based marketing, promotional materials and video entertainment are all areas that are going to need more designers, so this type of thing will probably be a good choice for those going into the field to concentrate on when in school. Even those who choose to go a more traditional route will benefit from some Web-based training; it will make them more marketable in their search for employment as an in-house or freelance graphic designer--or to help secure their current position.
If you're fresh out of school and looking for graphic design jobs, it can be a little intimidating at first. After all, the job market these days is tight, and you'll likely be going up against other people who have quite a bit more job experience. Do what you can to prepare yourself for the job search so you can interview with confidence.
One step in the process is preparing your design portfolio. Many schools will provide some help in this regard, be it a teacher who's willing to advise you or a more structured program for portfolio review. You'll want to be sure to get plenty of input on the work you include so that you feel secure that it's your best work. Once you have the portfolio assembled and your resume ready to go, you can begin searching for places to interview.
Having your paperwork in order prior to starting the job hunt will make you feel more confident. If you take a little time to prepare, you can concentrate on the actual interview process instead of trying to do both things at once.
Where can you look for graphic design jobs? There are many places to find employment in this field, but if you are hoping to connect with a position sooner rather than later, it may pay to get a little bit of help.
Do you want to work in a graphic design agency or would you prefer to freelance? If you aren't sure, ask yourself some questions about your work style. Here are some to consider:
Have you ever wondered what it would take to become a freelance graphic designer? If working for yourself seems appealing, you may want to consider going that route rather than working in a corporate environment. Freelancing can be a wonderful job, but there are certain things you will need to be able to do to make this type of career happen. If you are thinking about going freelance, here are some things to keep in mind:
Were you always the kid in school with the best art project? Did you always get picked to create the lemonade stand sign? What about now? Do all your friends turn to you for an opinion on their party invitations or birth announcements? If so, you may have a natural ability for graphic design.
Graphic designers are those who strive to get messages across using visual means. They work on projects ranging from promotional material to full-scale ad campaigns and more. Brochures, packaging and logos are all things that graphic designers are called upon to do, depending on their specific role within a particular company. If this all sounds interesting, you may want to look into a career as a graphic designer.
There are many graphic design programs, ranging from basic, introductory courses to advanced degrees. To start with, you may want to research the various options in your area and see which seem appealing. If possible, it may also be helpful to sit down and talk to an actual graphic designer. Does someone in your family know a person that is already in the field? If so, they may be willing to sit down with you and talk about their career over a cup of coffee. Talking to an industry professional can be a great, low-pressure way to learn more about what it is like to work in the field.
When setting up your graphic designer career for the long term, it can help to think about specializing in a particular area. In order to do this, you first need to be able to define what that area is and then make sure you get some training in it so that you are marketable. This may not be necessary when you are first starting out, but as you become more established, it can help insure your longevity in the field.
These days, the demand for graphic designers who are "Web savvy" is high. Website design is one possibility as there is plenty of coursework you can take to get qualified for this area if you aren't already. There are also designers who consult on page layout and logo placement for Websites and other related collateral on-line.
Other areas of specialty can include things such as product or packaging design, logo development, advertising and positions within the newspaper industry. As you go along in your career, you may begin to find one more appealing than the others. Try to keep an eye out for what you would enjoy most, and then look into it in more detail so you can find out about the particular skill set that is needed to work in that arena. Once you have some experience, it can be fairly easy to cross-train into another area in the field if you find something you think you would be happy doing.
If you are curious about the different types of graphic design careers out there, you aren't alone. There are many different ways that a graphic designer can find employment, simply because there are so many ways that their skills can be utilized. Here are some examples of jobs that graphic designers typically hold, along with their median annual earnings in 2006 as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:
The range of positions keeps this industry interesting, but the variety can also mean specific training and specialization. Experience on the Web, in photography or in certain types of computer applications can be helpful, as can marketing or advertising experience.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|