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How to become a graphic designer

So you want to be a graphic designer, right?

That realization is an excellent beginning step.

Now, we’d like to show you how to become a graphic designer and launch a design profession. There are multiple approaches to this, and there are several things to learn along the process.

You may be beginning from scratch, fresh out of high school or college, or you could be many years into another job. If you do these steps, you will be well on your way to realizing your ambition of becoming a graphic designer.

What Do Graphic Designers Do?

We’ll begin your road to become a graphic designer by explaining who and what graphic designers are.

First and foremost, who. You may have an image in your mind of what a graphic designer looks like. Forget assumptions and clichés; a graphic designer may be anybody, and everyone can be a graphic designer. People from different areas of life work in the design profession.

Okay, that’s all right. But what exactly is a graphic designer? That is all you need to know to become one. Graphic design is defined as the efficient visual transmission of an idea or concept.

This implies that graphic designers are, first and foremost, visual communicators.

In other words, to become a graphic designer, you must be able to transform knowledge into something visual or graphic. To elaborate, the information normally comes in the form of a client brief, and the something visual or graphic may be many things—we’ll go through some of them now.

As previously said, all graphic designers are visual communicators, but graphic designers may also be a wide range of other things! Designers are responsible for many of the things you see and use every day, including branding, advertisements, applications, publications, packaging, logos, books, maps, and websites.

We could go on and on, but we believe you get the idea. In a nutshell, graphic designers are visual communicators who develop items that make our lives simpler in a variety of ways.


Why Is Becoming a Graphic Designer a Good Idea?

You’ve made it this far, so you must still want to be a graphic designer after learning about what they are and what they do. Now, we’ll explain why being a graphic designer is a smart decision and what you may expect from your new job.

First, there are the people. You’ll meet some fantastic, creative folks no matter where you work as a graphic designer. You’re certain to meet a new family as soon as you start working, whether at a studio or in-house.

Furthermore, as a graphic designer, you are not confined to becoming a graphic designer. You may be a user experience or user interface designer, an artist, a motion designer, or a concept artist. However, you are not restricted to them; here are some more occupations you may perform as a creative graphic designer.

Don’t let this make you feel that you can’t work as merely a graphic designer—clearly, the majority of graphic designers do just that! Even so, you have a lot of options in your job.

Graphic designers may work at a design studio or agency, in-house for a firm (anything from insurance companies to ad agencies employ in-house designers), or as freelancers.

Another great advantage of working as a graphic designer is that your job may take you anywhere—after all, design is a worldwide language.

If you want to be a graphic designer, you’ll have a lucrative future ahead of you. As an example, consider the beginning wages in Shillington’s college cities.

According to Payscale and Indeed, the average compensation for junior graphic designers in New York City in June 2019 is $43,317. According to Indeed in June 2019, the average compensation for junior graphic designers in London is £22,209, while the average salary for junior graphic designers in Manchester is £18,905. Finally, according to Indeed, the average income for junior designers in Australia in June 2019 is $48,376.

However, junior is merely the beginning, and your compensation will only rise from there.

This takes us perfectly to our next point: development. As a graphic designer, you’ll rapidly find yourself moving up the corporate ladder. In a studio, you’d typically start as a junior designer and work your way up to mid-weight designer, senior designer, and eventually creative director. Similarly, in-house, you may go from junior designer to design manager in a matter of years.

Finally, being a graphic designer allows you to be creative on a daily basis and produce beautiful work that you can be proud to call your own for the rest of your career.

How to become a Graphic Designer

You’ve now learned what it means to be a graphic designer and the many advantages that a profession in graphic design may provide. Let’s get down to business and talk about how to become a graphic designer. What you’ll need to know and what you’ll need to do in particular.

Step 1: Be Innovative

The first step is simple, and if you’ve made it this far, chances are you’ve already completed it! Simply being creative is the first step in becoming a graphic designer. Graphic design is a creative job, thus you’ll need a lot of creativity to be a graphic designer.

Some individuals are born with an artistic bent. Others emerge as they get older. Some don’t even realize they have one until they’ve been working for years! It doesn’t matter when you discovered your creativity; if you have it, you can be a graphic designer.

Step 2: Learn to Solve Problems

Graphic designers must be problem solvers as well as creative. A significant part of being a graphic designer is coming up with innovative, visual solutions to “issues” that customers present to you.

Of course, graphic design isn’t the only profession that requires issue solving, so you’re probably accustomed to it. It might also come easily to you! No one expects you to come into your first day as a graphic designer and have all the answers, but it’s absolutely useful understanding how to face an issue front on.

All you need to do to become someone who does not panic when confronted with an issue is practice, practice, and more practice! This might happen in your daily life. For example, open your refrigerator and look inside. Instead of rushing out to purchase anything new, address the issue by preparing something with the ingredients you already have. Do this every day, and being a problem solver will become second nature to you.

Apply it to a graphic design scenario—and then practice some more. Create your own customer briefs or utilize a specialized tool like Briefbox to start thinking possible solutions. You don’t even have to create anything; just write down some thoughts on paper and you’ll start to grasp how to solve issues and become a problem solving graphic designer.

Step 3: Gather the Necessary Equipment…

To become a graphic designer, you need the correct tools, just like any other career. So, before you begin your quest to become a designer, you must first acquire the necessary equipment. These tools include both physical items and applications and programs installed on your PC.

What about the real tools? A designer’s best buddy is their computer. An Apple Mac, either an iMac or a MacBook Pro, is the industry standard, so getting one of them is your best chance. However, if Windows is your preferred operating system, you should be able to operate with it as well.

If you want to be a graphic designer, you’ll need a tablet, a decent digital camera (even if it’s on your phone), and a drawing tablet like a Wacom. Of course, a notepad or sketchbook, as well as your favorite pen or pencil, will come in helpful. Particularly for brief jobs like thumbnailing or brainstorming.

Step 4: What about the applications and programs?

As soon as you have your computer, you should install the Adobe Creative Cloud, which includes InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator.

As you work your way through the design profession, you’ll grow to know these three programs like the back of your hand. They are not the only Adobe Creative Cloud apps, but they are the ones you will need to learn if you want to become a graphic designer.

It might be tough to read between the lines when job postings request skill in a broad range of design tools. After all, it’s unlikely that any designer has mastered every facet of Photoshop. What if you’re not so great at Illustrator but a pro at Figma? What exactly is a ‘intermediate’ skill level?

More importantly, by fast transitioning into real-world briefs, you’ll learn how to get the program to perform what you need it to do, exactly like professional designers do in the real world.

Because digital design will most likely be an important element of your future work, you’ll also require a digital design app. Shillington teaches and recommends Figma. Figma enables you to design, prototype, collaborate, and realize any of your digital ideas!

Aside from the applications you’ll be working on, there are several more apps and tools that will assist you in your job as a graphic designer. Many organizations have switched to Slack and Zoom in recent months to stay connected and work successfully. Both of these are well worth getting into your computer before becoming a graphic designer so that they are available for you when you need them.

Step 5: Figure Out How to Use Them!

It’s great to have all of the tools and applications you need to become a graphic designer, but you don’t want to end up with “all the gear and no concept.” If you are serious about becoming a graphic designer, you must first learn how to utilize these tools. We’re confident you’re already comfortable with a pen and a sketchbook, so we’ll skip that one.

There are self-taught designers that have learned all of the skills required to become a graphic designer via internet forums, YouTube, and practice.

However, we believe that taking a course is the greatest method to become a graphic designer.

Step 5: Learn the Fundamentals

The principles of design are something we do teach on the Shillington course. The most significant aspect is the design ideas.

No matter how you decide to become a graphic designer, you won’t go very far without them. These principles include alignment, repetition, contrast, hierarchy, and balance, and they are essential in the development of any good design. As a result, they’re an essential aspect of becoming a graphic designer.

Let us briefly break down what each one implies or how it influences a design to give you a leg up on your quest to become a graphic designer:

  • Alignment—> results in a more defined, cohesive design.
  • Repetition—> improves a design by connecting otherwise disparate elements and, as a consequence, creating connections.
  • The most effective technique to establish attention and impact with your design is via contrast.
  • Organization is created through hierarchies.
  • Balance—> adds stability and structure to a design by using symmetry or element tension.

These are only a few basic definitions; for a much more in-depth look at the Design Principles, see this page.

Consider this a fast guide to assisting you on your path to become a graphic designer. However, grasping the principles entails much more than just knowing what each one represents.

Any good graphic designer should be able to apply these principles to each and every design they make. The Design Principles collaborate to produce a visually attractive and correctly organized design. We cannot emphasize how crucial they are to grasp if you want to be a graphic designer.

Step 6: Become a Reader

Reading a good book is a terrific approach to assist yourself become a graphic designer. We’re not talking about the newest bestseller or a childhood favorite here; we’re talking about the many, many amazing graphic design books available.

As previously said, there are many graphic design books available, therefore here are a few that we suggest for various purposes to help you separate the wheat from the chaff.

First and foremost, history.

Any graphic designer working now should be aware of what came before them.

Jen Muller’s excellent History of Graphic Design Volumes 1 and 2 are definitely needed if you want to come up to speed on Design History. The first covers the years 1890-1959, and the second from 1960 to the present.

Typography is one of our favorite aspects of graphic design, and authors definitely agree, since there are several books devoted to it. Why Fonts Matter by Sarah Hyndman and The Visual History of Type by Paul McNeil are two of our favorites. The former delves into the science and art of typeface impact, explaining why different fonts or styles elicit certain feelings and connections. Meanwhile, Paul McNeil’s book provides a thorough examination of the key fonts created since the invention of printing.

Step 7: Create a Portfolio

Creating a portfolio is maybe the most significant stage in the process of becoming a graphic designer. “If I have all the abilities, tools, and know-how, why do I need a portfolio?” you may wonder. “Of course, to show off your effort!” A portfolio is a means to showcase your greatest work and demonstrate your abilities.

A portfolio is vital for becoming a graphic designer since it is what you will utilize to get a job.

This applies to working at a studio, in-house, or as a freelancer. You’ll probably need to email a shortened version of your portfolio when you initially apply, and then bring your entire portfolio to an interview.

Nobody will ever hire you as a graphic designer unless you have some great work on your portfolio. But it’s not just about the visuals. You are a designer, not an artist. The distinction is that design is used to solve a problem. As a result, companies will want to see how you addressed the challenge and how your design handled it.

When pitching for jobs as a freelancer, you’ll need to send your portfolio to potential clients. They are the most important tool in any graphic designer’s arsenal.

Making your portfolio may seem to be a hard undertaking. It’s difficult to pick what to include and much more difficult to decide what to exclude, but here are a few tips to get you started:

You must be harsh if you want your portfolio to be the greatest it can be. That means being harsh on yourself and limiting yourself to 10-12 high-quality pieces that emphasize your greatest work in order to make the maximum effect.

Make your portfolio reflect the kind of work you want to see more of. It’s pointless to include anything that doesn’t reflect you as a designer or assist you acquire the graphic design job you desire.

A portfolio is an excellent method to demonstrate your personality! Don’t go overboard, but be sure to include some of your personality in the way it’s presented, your personal branding, how you write, and so on.

It is also beneficial to include some personal work (competition entries, side projects, etc.) to contribute to your own personality and to demonstrate work or approaches that may not be found elsewhere in your portfolio.

Make sure to include some process work as well! It’s pointless to demonstrate the completed result without explaining how you got there in the first place. It’s a terrific approach to show a prospective employer what you’re capable of.

Hopefully, these pointers will assist you in getting started on your portfolio. Check out this post for additional useful hints and stunning portfolio inspiration from some of the world’s best graphic designers.

You’ll be well on your way to becoming a graphic designer once your portfolio is polished and ready to launch. There is just one more crucial step to take…

Step 8: Look for Work

You’ve made it this far, but our last step might be the most difficult in becoming a graphic designer: obtaining a graphic design job. It should be noted, however, that the procedure may be rather enjoyable. It’s an interesting process to go through all of the wonderful design studios and other organizations that are recruiting and choose where you want to work!

The initial stage in this process is to look for a job to apply for. Fortunately, there are numerous fantastic internet job boards specialized to graphic design and other creative occupations. A nice place to start is right here on the blog, with our very own Shillington Jobs Board. There are, however, several more locations to look. Take a look at our list of the top 20 design job boards for employment all around the globe.

When you’ve discovered a job that interests you, it’s time to apply. A design job application will often need you to submit your portfolio (I told you it was important! ), a CV, and a cover letter. Your CV should include all of your experience and talents. Remember to mention everything you did before becoming a graphic designer; these other experiences and talents will help you be a more well-rounded professional. Your cover letter functions similarly to any other, describing why you believe you would be an excellent match for the position.

One critical consideration is to ensure that each application is tailored to the position and firm.

Don’t just copy and paste. If you do, recruiters will see straight through you! We’ve heard of individuals putting in cover letters that were addressed to the incorrect employer. Tailoring to each firm will also make you seem much more personal and professional, allowing you to stand out from the throng.


Developing your graphic design career

  1. Select a Field of Specialization

Graphic designers sometimes pick between two paths: generalists who are conversant with many various forms of design work and specialists who specialize in one field. Many designers opt to specialize because they like one form of work over another and wish to devote their time to developing expertise. Others opt to specialize because it is more profitable or allows them to establish a larger customer base.

Among the most prominent areas of specialty are:

• Branding and Logo Design

• Environmental Planning

• Print Design and Layout

• Design of Marketing and Advertising

• Package Design

• Design of User Interfaces

• Mobile and Web Design

  • Designing a Brand Identity and a Logo

A brand identity is a visual depiction of a company, individual, organization, product, or service. Logo design, color schemes, fonts and typefaces, and visual style such as artwork are all aspects of brand identification. A brand identity should be recognizable and unique — a clear depiction of what the company or individual stands for.

A brand identity designer is concerned with creating a consistent image from the start of a project to ensure that colors, typefaces, and pictures fit together as a coherent whole.

  • Design for the Environment

Environmental design is the design of the environment in which people work, shop, or visit. Retail outlets or showrooms, museums and galleries, office spaces, storefronts and entranceways (known as building signage), vehicle wraps (or vehicle livery), window displays, bus stops and benches (street furniture), restrooms (including signage and fixtures), and outdoor public areas such as parks, plazas, and community halls are examples of this.

  • Print Design and Layout

The composition of words and graphics (type and artwork) on a page or screen is referred to as layout and print design. It includes the front and back of a business card, as well as flyers, brochures, posters, booklets, periodicals, menus, packaging designs such as product boxes, and bottle and can labels. The designer must strike a balance between creative inventiveness and readability and usefulness. A flier that is overly busy, for example, may be difficult to read, but one that is too sparse may not attract attention.

  • Design for Marketing and Advertising

Advertising designers are concerned with the sale of goods or services through print or digital media. Text, graphics, pictures, video clips, animation, and other media may be used by a designer to sell a product or service in an interesting manner that captures people’s attention and encourages them to learn more. During ad campaigns, the designer will often collaborate with the client and other members of a creative team on print advertising, billboards, broadcast commercials (TV and radio), and online banners.

  • Design of Packaging

A package designer is concerned with how a product appears on a retail shelf. This may include the form or silhouette of the product, its texture and color, as well as the label or graphics that appear on it. Packaging design encompasses not only the container that holds the product (such as a shampoo bottle or a cereal box), but also any additional materials such as stickers and labels, ribbon bookmarks in books, and anything else that helps sell the product by communicating information about the price, brand name, logo, and special features.

  • Design of User Interfaces

A user interface is a set of controls and indications that allow humans to interact with machines, particularly computers and household appliances. Computer desktop icons, software buttons, and windows are examples, as are touch displays on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.

A user interface designer will collaborate closely with computer programmers or other technical employees to ensure that the design and computer code work together to achieve user goals (which may include gaining and maintaining attention, increasing brand awareness, increasing sales conversions).

  • Design for the Web and Mobile

A web or mobile designer designs the appearance and functionality of websites and applications. The designer’s primary goal is to create an aesthetically beautiful user interface that includes images, text, music, motion, and everything else that a user could view on a screen when using a website or app. The designer will also consider how a user navigates through a site or app by deciding where crucial features like navigation, logo, and search bar should appear.

  • Create an Eye-Catching Portfolio

You’ll need to exhibit samples of your work to prospective employers or customers at some point throughout your design career. Your portfolio is your chance to stand out and get an advantage over other applicants by demonstrating the range and depth of your talents, as well as your aesthetic sensibility.

In the traditional sense, a portfolio is simply a presentation folder containing items such as samples of designs created for previous clients or employers; copies of awards and design publications in which your work has been featured; letters of recommendation from former collaborators; and documents demonstrating your proficiency with specific design software applications.

  • Portfolios of Graphic Design Online

Today’s graphic designers often showcase their work via online portfolios that may be seen by potential employers or customers anywhere in the globe. An online portfolio is a website or digital presentation that comprises samples of your work and links to papers or videos that emphasize the projects you’ve worked on and the distinctive abilities that you possess.

Your web portfolio should be sleek and professional. Furthermore, it is critical to keep your portfolio up to date with current work since design trends are ephemeral — what is hot now may not be popular in six months or a year. This implies that the longer you keep your portfolio ignored, the more antiquated it will become.

  • Learn the Fundamentals of Business (Contracts, Pricing, & Marketing)

There are whole volumes dedicated to the topic of business fundamentals, thus covering all of these topics in a short essay is unfeasible. However, if you want your firm to succeed, you need follow certain simple recommendations.

Your ability to make sound judgments about how your company (or you as an employee) is handled will most likely decide whether you succeed or fail. It is critical that you understand how to construct a company contract, set pricing for services given, collaborate with customers to achieve deadlines, and handle marketing initiatives.


Contracts are vital in any designer-client relationship because they define out what each party will provide, when it will be done, and how much your services will cost. Contracts protect both you and the customer by defining specific expectations on both sides. But, more crucially, a contract helps you prevent misconceptions that might lead to future dispute.


Another area in which many designers struggle is pricing – how much should I charge, and how should that cost be determined? Should I bill by the hour or by the project? These questions do not have simple solutions. However, the greatest advise we can provide is to ensure that your pricing represents the quality of your work and is comparable with other designers in your region.


Marketing is a subject that receives much too little attention. The issue is that many new designers believe they are marketing when, in fact, they are just sharing material or developing a social media presence. Marketing is all about building and managing relationships, so it’s something you should consider from the start of your career.


Graphic Designer’s Skill Set

Graphic designers must be creative as well as computer savvy. They also have a keen sense of detail, great problem-solving abilities, and a quest for knowledge. Graphic designers are also good communicators, both verbally and in writing. While a college degree is not necessarily required to become a graphic designer, it does assist you in learning the necessary tools and developing a distinctive portfolio. It may also teach you sophisticated artistic skills.

Problem Solving and Communication

To solve issues, share concepts, and plan projects, graphic designers connect with customers, employers, and maybe a team. You must communicate your thoughts and listen to others while addressing problems creatively. If you are a strong communicator and like working with people, this is the profession for you.

Ongoing Education

It’s critical to remember that graphic designers are lifelong learners. Designers must adapt as technology, society, and trends evolve. They must keep up with new technology, tactics, and approaches. These are always changing, and remaining current is essential if you want to stay ahead of the curve and advance in your profession.

Graphic Design Careers

Graphic design is a diverse discipline with several applications. It is an essential tool for many professions and work contexts. As a result, it is a very customizable professional path. Book designers, for example, design how the pages will appear, create the book cover, and collaborate with photographers and illustrators to ensure the author’s vision is realized. A brand designer creates a brand’s appearance. They employ color theory and typefaces to produce a color palette and imagery that symbolize the personality and product or service of a company. Environmental signage designers produce signs that direct people to where they need to go and assist us in orienting ourselves in new environments. These are just a few instances of how adaptable and important graphic designers are in today’s society.

Other design-related specializations include:

  • Game development
  • Design of a book
  • Graphics for film and video
  • Designing a website
  • Production planning
  • Illustration


Salary of a Graphic Designer

According to the BLS, growth in the Graphic Design industry is expected to be 3% from 2020 to 2030, which is slower than the national average of 8%. As of 2020, there were 254,100 graphic design jobs available. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for graphic designers in 2020 will be $53,380 (25.66/hour). According to Glassdoor, the average annual salary for a graphic designer is $54,538.

Graphic designers, like other creative or technical-based vocations, are paid differently by each firm. It also varies according to experience, education, and work needs or expectations.

Designers are often adaptable in their jobs, keeping their alternatives open. Throughout their careers, they will be in and out of various work situations and arrangements. offers the national average yearly salary for a variety of typical graphic design jobs:

• Graphic designer assistant — $47,570

• $68,560 for Senior Graphic Designer

• Advertising —$55,800

• $60,911 for a book designer

• $58,517 for a web designer

• Motion graphic designer — $65,691

• $59,901 for package designer

• Designer of Typefaces – $64, 307

Graphic Designer Career Opportunities

As a graphic designer, you may work in specialized design services, publishing, or advertising. In 2020, around 19% of graphic designers were self-employed and worked as freelance designers.

Your job title as a junior designer may be graphic designer, user experience (UX) designer, visual designer, motion designer, digital designer, web designer, animator, production artist, or graphic artist.

The title may be more specialized one step above, such as information designer, interface designer, product designer, environmental graphics designer, information architect, package designer, exhibition designer, experience designer, or content strategist.

Graphic design artists at the top have titles such as executive creative director, head of design, or chief creative officer.

Graphic Designers’ Working Environment

You should not anticipate to work a standard 9 to 5 or in an office atmosphere. Designers often work in studios, where they have access to all necessary equipment. Studios have drawing tables and computers with the most recent software. Graphic designers often work alone, although those who work for a specialized agency or business will almost certainly be part of a design team. Designers will collaborate with teammates as well as clients. Workplaces range from tiny studios to huge advertising firms and companies. Because graphic design is computer-based, you may have greater freedom to work from home.


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