Graphic designers create visual concepts, by hand or using computer software, to communicate ideas that inform, inspire, and impress clients. Graphic designers help with promoting an organizational identity by selecting color, images, or logo designs that represent ideas and concepts for use in advertising and promotions. An ideal home business, many graphic designers work remotely by using the Internet and assorted software packages. These positions are often contract-based, with the contract term over when the project is complete. Roughly 30% of graphic designers were self-employed in 2010 according to Bureau of Labor statistics.
Graphic designers typically do some or all of the following:
- Meet with clients to determine project scope
- Advise clients on strategies to reach a defined audience or market niche
- Create images that identify a product or convey a message to the audience
- Create designs either by hand or using computer software packages
- Select colors, images, text style, and layout
- Work with clients on designs, revising and modifying as requested
Graphic designers typically have a degree in fine arts or graphic design from a 4-year college or university. To stay in-demand in today’s market, some may need to constantly update skill sets to stay current in the latest Internet trends and terminology.
Although many graphic designers work independently, those who work for specialized graphic design firms often work as part of a design team. Many graphic designers telecommute and collaborate with colleagues on projects or work with clients located around the world. Frequently, designers specialize in a particular category or type of client. For example, some create credits for motion pictures, while others work with print media and create signs or posters.
Most of the work day will be in front of a computer, with exceptions for client meetings, design team meetings, and other professional obligations. If working at home, plan frequent breaks throughout the day to relieve eye stress, muscle stiffness, and other conditions associated with sitting for long periods.
Graphic designers must keep up with new and updated computer graphics and design software, either on their own or through formal software training programs.
As a contractor, responsibilities are typical: no work, no pay. A contractor wears multiple hats: accountant, sales, marketing, project manager, and creator. Some of these functions may be outsourced, but at a charge to the bottom line.
Need to Have
An updated computer with large flat screen monitor, high speed Internet access, relevant computer software, and a separate phone line. If you plan to meet with clients in your home, have a dedicated space – built-out basement, extra bedroom, living room – that is clean and professional.
Individuals in graphic design generally have degrees in fine arts, graphic design, or a related field. Ongoing classes can help maintain skills while learning about the latest software packages.
Maintain a professional portfolio of previous design work and customer references starting with college (or even high school) work. This portfolio should be kept in both digital and hard copy (printed) formats for display and presentation purposes. A good portfolio is often the deciding factor in getting a job.
Nothing special other than computer equipment and a drafting table. Quiet, dedicated work spaces in the home are useful.
Start building your portfolio as soon as possible. Consider internships or college programs with industry connections. Market yourself by passing out business cards to potential clients; attend industry conventions and chamber of commerce meetings. Maintain a professional website to show off your portfolio; teach classes at a local college or school district. Volunteer your time with non-profit organizations or other worthy causes.
Graphic designers generally need one to three years of professional experience prior to advancing in their field. Some individuals with a background in graphic design teach in design schools, colleges, and universities, either part-time or full-time. Other graphic designers move toward website design and development.
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