A graphic designer has the passion, talent, and skills to convey, through visual art, the message his or her client needs to present. There is a wide spectrum of positions in this field: someone who is focused on producing artwork for the sake of art, an artist who creates graphics for clothing, or designs patterns for fabrics or carpeting, someone who designs patterns or scenes for decorating automobiles, or an artist who creates magazines or even book covers. Look around the room you are in right now, I’m sure you will find someone’s logo or ad.
Many people believe designers simply push a button and click a few functions in Photoshop and a master piece is created. Well, it isn’t, it’s a complicated industry with its own risks, rewards and language made up of incredibly hard working individuals that is routinely undermined by its own customers. Before I made the choice to go to college to become a graphic designer, I talked to a wide variety of professionals in the field. In doing so, I learned what they truly do, what they have to know, and what potential employers are looking for. I will endeavor to explain what I have surmised in hopes that you will have a more complete understanding of what a graphic designer is. Employers in this field look for assets like character, attitude and professionalism; however, the main requirement for graphic designer can be summed up into main areas that require specific, high levels of aptitude. I discuss them below so that someone trying to find work in the advertising/marketing field can have a good understanding of what people who hire designers are looking for, and to help you prepare as best you can to land the job you’ve always wanted.
Requirements for “Designer Greatness”
1) Artistic Ability
Artistic Ability is the base talent of all successful designers. It’s a designer’s ability (partially natural, partially learned) to envision and design a polished, professional looking finished product, whether it be a printed piece, a logo, a website, a billboard ad, or a book cover. It requires an advanced understanding of color, composition, and typography and an adept handling of essential feature unity, dominance, hierarchy and balance. It is the most elemental talent a designer needs and it’s also the most common talent found among designers.
2) Skill with Popular Creative Tools
This is a person’s expertise or learned skill with the most popular creative productivity tools in the industry. These include applications like Photoshop, Illustrator and Quark Express. Other popular graphic applications are Flash, InDesign and Corel Draw as well as Adobe Acrobat, Word Processing programs, MS Office applications, and Windows/Mac operating systems.
3) Knowledge of popular industry production processes
Simply put, this is a technical understanding of how the visual pieces designers create are produced, printed or published. It means possessing the production knowledge necessary to ensure that a visual communications piece prints, outputs or displays correctly in the media that it was designed for. This knowledge is critical when prepping an art file you’ve created. Much of the technical information for the correct production of a piece is assigned by the designer and is included or embedded in the art file itself.
4) Excellent understanding of business and marketing fundamentals
Having an excellent understanding of business and marketing fundamentals as a designer means you understand why a piece is being created for a company and how that piece fits strategically into a broader, higher-level of a marketing and/or business plan. It means you understand the specific business goal. The piece you are designing must achieve, why it is important that the piece is created, and why the achievement of that business goal is the most important criteria for evaluating the success of your design, not whether or not you think it looks pretty or artistic. In the design of visual communication pieces for business, art plays a secondary and supportive role. In order to achieve this understanding, you must be familiar with how businesses work and how they market themselves.
Having the ability to see through the eyes of the target market is the most important skill to possess when looking to enter the world that is graphic design. The talent to experience the world, including interacting with collateral you’ve designed, through the eyes of your target market means you can remove yourself from your own system of beliefs and values when evaluating an experience. Instead, you evaluate experiences using a system of beliefs and values common to people within your target market segment, even if their beliefs and values are vastly different from your own.