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A Day in the Life of a Graphic Designer

By Eric Fleming

For students interested in the field of graphic design, there are a few things to know about the career. The first is that although graphic design is a highly competitive career, it is expected to grow along with the population. Second, before signing up for classes or coursework, understanding the necessary skills, required training and the day-to-day activities of a graphic designer will all be information necessary for making a smart, informed career decision.

What Does a Graphic Designer Need to Know

There are many skills necessary for graphic designers, many of which have nothing to do with graphic design at all. For instance, many graphic designers work from home or on a contract basis (working solo, and not as part of a company's in-house design team). For those designers, financial skills such as billing and hour tracking are important parts of the job, although not necessarily the most fun. In addition, communications skills are paramount. Communication often occurs over the phone or via e-mail. Getting to the core of what your customer is looking for in a design or logo is incredibly important. It will lead to fewer redesigns and, ultimately, to happier clients or employers.

Of course, most of your workday will be spent designing commercial artwork. Even here, you can focus your skills on any number of areas. Graphic designers can, in the right situation, specialize in Web design (including HTML, CSS, PHP, Flash and Photoshop work), desktop publishing (including the ability to produce reports, brochures, magazine and book layouts, newsletters and more), advertising design (such as producing print and visual ideas and designs for marketing campaigns), as well as product design (which includes product boxes and other packaging). In all of these, designers with skills and experience using programs such as Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, QuarkXPress and possibly CAD (computer aided design) programs will find themselves in greater demand.

What Is Required Training for a Graphic Designer

Different design positions are going to have different degree qualifications so it's difficult to make a blanket statement for required training. Most graphic designers have, at a minimum, a two-year degree, while many go for a more complete four-year degree. There are many advantages to attaining a higher level of education (although it can be tempting to see how far your natural skills can take you). Among the advantages, the most obvious is the value a potential employer may put on a degree. Having a diploma (whether it is an associate's degree focusing on the more technical skills or a bachelor's degree that includes social and cultural studies) can be an indicator to an employer that you have a solid skill set, beyond what is observable from your portfolio.

What Does a Graphic Designer Do Every Day

While there may be no simple schedule a graphic designer can expect to keep on a day-to-day basis, there are a few tasks you will find yourself spending most of your time completing. The first of these is related to what your project will be, and what your design will look like. Second is actually working on one (or more) possible designs, so your clients have a choice. The third area includes meetings, billing and other organizational activities. Depending on whether you work for a company or for yourself, these organizational activities can be a large or small part of your day. Finally, a graphic designer will spend a good deal of time preparing finalized artwork for presentation, either at a print shop or dealing with finalized electronic files.

Being a graphic designer can be a very rewarding career, allowing you to flex your creative muscles, but it's not all about design. Client management and other organizational skills are important elements of a successful graphic design career.

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