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Nature of the Work

Graphic designers—or graphic artists—plan, analyze, and create visual solutions to communications problems. They find the most effective way to get messages across in print and electronic media using color, type, illustration, photography, animation, and various print and layout techniques. Graphic designers develop the overall layout and production design of magazines, newspapers, journals, corporate reports, and other publications. They also produce promotional displays, packaging, and marketing brochures for products and services, design distinctive logos for products and businesses, and develop signs and signage systems—called environmental graphics—for business and government. An increasing number of graphic designers also develop material for Internet Web pages, interactive media, and multimedia projects. Graphic designers also may produce the credits that appear before and after television programs and movies.

The first step in developing a new design is to determine the needs of the client, the message the design should portray, and its appeal to customers or users. Graphic designers consider cognitive, cultural, physical, and social factors in planning and executing designs for the target audience. Designers gather relevant information by meeting with clients, creative or art directors, and by performing their own research. Identifying the needs of consumers is becoming increasingly important for graphic designers as they continue to develop corporate communication strategies in addition to creating designs and layouts.

Graphic designers prepare sketches or layouts—by hand or with the aid of a computer—to illustrate their vision for the design. They select colors, sound, artwork, photography, animation, style of type, and other visual elements for the design. Designers also select the size and arrangement of the different elements on the page or screen. They may create graphs and charts from data for use in publications, and they often consult with copywriters on any text that accompanies the design. Designers then present the completed design to their clients or art or creative director for approval. In printing and publishing firms, graphic designers also may assist the printers by selecting the type of paper and ink for the publication and reviewing the mock-up design for errors before final publication.

Graphic designers use specialized computer software packages to help them create layouts and design elements and to program animated graphics.

Graphic designers sometimes supervise assistants who follow instructions to complete parts of the design process. Designers who run their own businesses also may devote a considerable time to developing new business contacts, choosing equipment, and performing administrative tasks, such as reviewing catalogues and ordering samples. The need for up-to-date computer and communications equipment is an ongoing consideration for graphic designers.

Work environment. Working conditions and places of employment vary. Graphic designers employed by large advertising, publishing, or design firms generally work regular hours in well-lighted and comfortable settings. Designers in smaller design consulting firms and those who freelance generally work on a contract, or job, basis. They frequently adjust their workday to suit their clients' schedules and deadlines. Consultants and self-employed designers tend to work longer hours and in smaller, more congested, environments.

Designers may work in their own offices or studios or in clients' offices. Designers who are paid by the assignment are under pressure to please existing clients and to find new ones to maintain a steady income. All designers sometimes face frustration when their designs are rejected or when their work is not as creative as they wish. Graphic designers may work evenings or weekends to meet production schedules, especially in the printing and publishing industries where deadlines are shorter and more frequent.


Common Tasks

1.Create designs, concepts, and sample layouts based on knowledge of layout principles and esthetic design concepts.
2.Determine size and arrangement of illustrative material and copy, and select style and size of type.
3.Confer with clients to discuss and determine layout design.
4.Develop graphics and layouts for product illustrations, company logos, and Internet websites.
5.Review final layouts and suggest improvements as needed.
6.Prepare illustrations or rough sketches of material, discussing them with clients or supervisors and making necessary changes.
7.Use computer software to generate new images.
8.Key information into computer equipment to create layouts for client or supervisor.
9.Maintain archive of images, photos, or previous work products.
10.Prepare notes and instructions for workers who assemble and prepare final layouts for printing.
11.Draw and print charts, graphs, illustrations, and other artwork, using computer.
12.Study illustrations and photographs to plan presentation of materials, products, or services.
13.Research new software or design concepts.
14.Mark up, paste, and assemble final layouts to prepare layouts for printer.
15.Produce still and animated graphics for on-air and taped portions of television news broadcasts, using electronic video equipment.
16.Photograph layouts, using camera, to make layout prints for supervisors or clients.
17.Develop negatives and prints to produce layout photographs, using negative and print developing equipment and tools.

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