Continuing our regular feature focussing on some of the most popular small businesses, we take a closer look at graphic designers.
What do graphic designers do?
In a nutshell, graphic designers create visual solutions to communication problems.
Using a range of computer design packages, they utilise variations of elements such as typography, colour, illustrations, photography and animations to create graphics for individuals and organisations.
Graphics produced can be logos, marketing materials, and packaging, but in recent years some graphic designers have specialised in interactivity and work based around social media, such as multimedia packages and Gifs.
Graphics are also used in editorial products such as magazines and newspaper images, and there are graphic treatments added to TV programmes and movies, including the rolling credits.
Traditionally, graphic designers are first and foremost creative thinkers with good drawing skills, being used to imagine and then sketch layouts freehand.
However, today’s graphic designers are also expected to have more than just visual communication skills and to be gainfully employed you are going to need to be able to communicate with clients face-to-face and over the phone.
And a good grasp of HTML will give you more of an edge in such a competitive field.
If you’re interested in a career in graphic design, then you need to start with some basics before you even get to the qualifications. These are:
– Ability to draw
– Desktop design software capabilities
– A knack for problem solving
– Communication skills
If you’re lacking any of these essential four, then you are going to need to hone them before pursuing graphic design as a career.
If you’re satisfied that you do have these abilities, then you can start thinking about what qualifications you’re going to need to make your chosen career path a complete success.
Most graphic designers have a degree in graphic design or a subject related to art and design, or a Higher National Diploma (HND).
If timing is of the essence and you don’t fancy doing a full three-year stint at university, then a course in using design software, such as QuarkXPress or one (or all) of the Adobe applications (Illustrator, InDesign and Photoshop) is essential.
There are lots of colleges and training providers that offer this, but you can also use YouTube tutorials and online training sites such as Lynda.com.
Once you have all the skills, you’re going to need to put these into practice. Identify market challenges and solve them using your new skills and then use this to build your portfolio both in print and online.
The primary challenge for the graphic design industry is oversaturation due to increasing competition. This area of work is a highly attractive career path for creatives and there are a growing number of people entering the industry.
Graphic designers also face challenges with global competition. The gig economy is a wonderful thing; however, freelance sites allow international designers to bid for work, and because those in developing countries have much lower overheads and cost of living, their bids are often at a much lower value the UK’s going rate.
While most people embark on a graphics career because of their love of design, it’s business acumen that keeps you in the game, and for some that can be incredibly stressful, especially in an increasingly-competitive industry.
For freelance designers, working for yourself is also very demanding. Pitching for clients, balancing the books, marketing yourself – and that’s all before you’ve even thought about doing any day-to-day design work.
Working from home offers flexible hours, but achieving work-life balance can be incredibly challenging as it’s difficult to switch off. You can find yourself tinkering on projects well into the night, when really you should be recharging during your down time.
• The starting salary for a junior graphic designer is around £15,000 to £19,000, according to Graduate Prospects.
• An experienced freelancer can earn between £200 and £400 a day.
• A 2016 Government study into creative industries found designers (specifically design: product, graphic and fashion design) have the highest increase of all creative occupations, increasing 9.7% on average each year.
Case study: How to be successful in graphic design
While the industry is competitive, there are some agencies that are making (relatively) light work of being successful.
SomeOne, a Shoreditch-based creative agency, was voted Britain’s number one agency in the Drum Design Census. The firm has also won a Brand Impact Award.
Simon Manchipp, co-founder of SomeOne, has issued some sound advice to those trying to break into the industry and make a success of their career.
He says; “Design has got to be one of the most competitive, relentless and unforgiving sectors because everyone thinks they can do it. But if you choose your clients wisely, over-deliver and enjoy the ride, it’ll show in the work.”