No matter where life has taken you professionally to this point, you’ve always had an interest in doing something creative for a living. Maybe you’re already well on your way to mastering the tools of the Adobe Creative Suite® or maybe your best work is still in the margins of your notebooks. Whether you are already pretty invested in the idea of becoming a graphic designer or have just been casually daydreaming about this field, it never hurts to hear from professionals who’ve walked the walk. They’ve seen the demands of this career first hand and have learned from experience what it takes to do well in this field.
Are you cut out for a career as a graphic designer? We’ve asked several design professionals to help identify the traits and skills that have helped them throughout their design careers.
You should become a graphic designer if…
1. You are good at balancing ideas and input
As a graphic designer, it’s not just about making something you think looks cool—you also need to factor in the needs of your clients. Those clients will have opinions about your work and it will be your job to interpret their feedback in a productive way. You’ll need to take, “I don’t know—it could be more exciting?” and learn to translate it into something more concrete, like using a more dynamic color palette or incorporating more active imagery into a design.
“The designer needs to listen to their client and actually hear what they like and dislike when it comes to the design and what they are looking for,” says Amanda Hogen, art director at FiG Advertising. “The designer also needs to know how to interpret what that client is telling them. Most clients are not visual thinkers, so the way they describe things are typically more technical to their industry. The designer then needs to interpret that into visual understanding and execute accordingly.”
You may have already experienced this in the feedback you received in an art class or on an English paper. Or maybe you’ve practiced this skill with your friends. If you have a knack for being able to use other people’s ideas and grow from them, you already have an important skill for a career in graphic design.
2. You’re a strong communicator
Being able to understand your client’s ideas and needs has a lot to do with your technical skill as an artist and designer. It also has a lot to do with your strengths as a communicator. If you are a good listener and can stay poised under pressure, you may thrive in the field of graphic design.
“You need to learn to receive constructive criticism with grace and give it with grace,” advises graphic designer Becky Byron.
You shouldn’t underestimate the value of being able to “sell” your design concept and why you’ve made certain creative choices. If a client understands that your design decisions were made after thoughtful deliberation, it can help steer their feedback and potentially save time on back-and-forth revisions.
3. You handle variety well
Some people are perfectly content to head to work every day tackling tasks that are more-or-less the same thing over and over. While having a steady routine and enjoying stability isn’t necessarily a bad thing, design professionals should expect quite a bit of variation in their work as they move from project to project or client to client.
“The thing I love most about graphic design is the diversity,” says Oksana Pleten, UI/UX designer at KeenEthics. “There’s no monotonous routine here—each project is inspiring and unique.”
The work of a graphic designer, particularly for those who work in an agency or freelance setting, will keep you on your toes. One day you might be tasked with creating graphic assets for a client’s new website, the next might have you sinking your teeth into creating compelling advertisements for a targeted digital marketing campaign. If you like variety and don’t have a problem changing your daily routine on occasion, you’ll be well-positioned to handle this aspect of a graphic design career.
4. You have a favorite font
This might seem a little odd, but graphic design is all about visual communication. A huge portion of visual communication is conveyed through text—and it’s more than just what the words on the page say, but also the look and feel of how they’re presented. If you are a nerd for typography, graphic design is definitely a field to consider.
“Any graphic designer needs a solid foundation in typography,” says Claire Escobedo, associate digital designer at Online Optimism. “You’ll use your typographical know-how every day on the job.”
Often, when we think about graphic design we think about the more artistic elements like color and graphics. However, typography is where a lot of graphic design thrives. Even if you don’t know the technical information about typography at this point, if you have a sensitivity to font choice and lettering, you have an advantage in the field of graphic design.
5. You love to create
The biggest sign you might be destined for a career in graphic design? You love creating things! Whether it’s the just-for-fun fake movie poster designs you’ve whipped up in Photoshop® or the occasional craft projects you like putting together, this desire to create and build new things can power you through the challenges of working as a graphic designer.
“I had always wanted to be a designer ever since I was a little girl,” says Hogen. “I think the drive to continue to educate yourself in the changing techniques of design is also a good indicator for designers that they will have success in their career.”
Graphic designers are regularly pushed to try new things, learn new skills and transform loose collections of ideas and concepts into effective and thoughtful designs. A passion for creation and creative experimentation can help fuel you over the long term of a career.
Can you see yourself as a graphic designer?
Graphic design can be a tough field. But if you have the drive to put in the time to continue to grow and develop as a designer, it might lead to a successful and fulfilling career. Some of your skills like communication and collaboration might not have come to mind as strengths for a graphic designer, but as we learned from these creative professionals, it often takes under-the-radar talents to thrive as a graphic designer.
If you’re looking to take the next step toward become a graphic design professional, learn more about the road ahead in our article, “How to Become a Graphic Designer: Career Advice from Creative Pros.”
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