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Erica Rosas
Dec 30, 2020

The Ultimate Guide to a Career in Graphic Design

Whether you're just starting out in graphic design or you're an experienced designer hoping to become a full- or part-time freelancer, navigating the graphic design industry can be a challenge. This guide is designed to help introduce you to the world of graphic design by describing what graphic designers do and explaining what qualifications they need, as well as by answering some common questions about the current state of the graphic design industry. With this information under your belt and a little bit of hard work, there's no limit to what you can accomplish as a freelance graphic designer.

What Do Graphic Designers Do?

Simply put, graphic designers create visual concepts for brands that they can use to communicate ideas to their consumers. In practice, this might translate into designing a logo or developing a brand identity for a company, selecting colors and typefaces to create a coherent web design, or generating designs for brochures or pamphlets. Because graphic designers work with both text and images, they need to be able to incorporate both into their designs; they must also be able to generate designs for a wide variety of media, including social media, in order to establish a strong and clear brand identity.

The vast majority of graphic designers are freelancers, with labor statistics indicating that 21% of graphic designers in 2019 identified as being self-employed. The median wage for graphic designers in May 2019 was $52,110. Some similar occupations to graphic designers include art directors and fine artists. These statistics prove one main point: if the idea of freelancing your way to success as a graphic designer intrigues you, you're not alone!

How Does One Become A Graphic Designer?

Becoming a graphic designer typically requires some formal training, as a bachelor's degree in graphic design is often required for most design work. To strengthen their artistic skills, designers should take art and design classes, as well as courses in additional skills such as web design and printing techniques. Furthermore, many colleges and universities offer classes in marketing and business, which are valuable skills for any graphic designer to possess. Competitive graphic designers are also well-versed in using a variety of computer programs, such as Illustrator, Photoshop and more. 

The most important qualification that a graphic designer must have is a portfolio, which is a collection of that designer's work. Having a strong portfolio allows potential clients to see whether your aesthetic might be a good fit for them; it also demonstrates that you have the skills and experience you need to do the type of work that they're hoping to accomplish. Having a great portfolio that shows off your skills and style is a great way to break into the field of graphic design and start landing your first few clients.

Is The Graphic Design Career Over-Saturated?

A commonly held belief is that the graphic design industry is over-saturated or even that graphic design is dead. This belief is likely due to the recent rise of a wide variety of online services offering fast and cheap graphic design services, such as those that provide clients with $5 logos or rapid and inexpensive website design. However, although the number of graphic designers has increased, so has the demand for good graphic design. Labor statistics indicate that the employment of graphic designers is expected to decrease by 4% from 2019 to 2029, but they also suggest that these statistics are field-specific: although newspapers and periodicals are expected to hire fewer designers, the demand for graphic designers in the world of web design and online-specific design is expected to grow.

Overall, the field of graphic design is still an active one. In 2019, the graphic design industry generated $15 billion in revenue, indicating that there is still a need for high-quality graphic designers. Additionally, although the rise of fast and cheap graphic design has been meteoric, many companies still prefer to hire skilled designers who can create a cohesive brand identity that can appeal to consumers online, across social media, and in person. In summary, although competition may be increasing, there are still plenty of opportunities for strong graphic designers with up-to-date skills and a great work ethic to find clients.

How Can One Succeed As A Graphic Designer?

Becoming a graphic designer requires more than just artistic prowess. All freelancers need excellent time management skills, the ability to multitask on multiple clients' projects at once, and excellent communication skills, which can help you communicate ideas to your clients as well as to consumers through your work. More specifically, graphic designers must understand the basics of typography, coding, and branding. If you're a creative person who is self-motivated, driven, and enthusiastic about creating art that is meant to engage consumers, then you're well on your way to becoming a successful graphic designer.

However, freelance graphic designers face additional hurdles when trying to succeed in the graphic design industry. Because freelancers are small business owners, they are responsible for generating their own retainer contracts, invoicing clients for their design work, and tracking their hours. Freelance platforms such as Tispr are invaluable tools for helping freelancers better manage their time, clients, and efficiency by offering forms and other tools that can help you run the administrative side of your freelance business more smoothly. If you're confident about your design skills but not so sure about your ability to transform into a business whiz overnight, a freelance platform may be the perfect tool for you. 


The world of graphic design is an exciting creative field that is full of possibilities. As long as you have the proper education and skill set needed to become a graphic designer, the sky's the limit when it comes to applying your talents. Whether you're more excited about dreaming up a new web design or generating a cohesive brand identity for a corporation, all graphic designers are skilled at using words and art to communicate their messages to consumers. If you're interested in becoming a full- or even part-time graphic designer, why not get started on generating a portfolio today? You might be surprised at what you end up creating.

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