by Bill Long
Graphic artists use both words—text—and artistic media to communicate ideas and information. Computers and digital technology have completely revolutionized the field and increased career opportunities. Most graphic art careers require professional education, technical skill and creativity—and they offer a wonderful way to use your talents and abilities and earn a living at the same time.
Advertising Designers take a client’s ideas and transform them into audiovisual presentations that communicate to a target audience. They use a variety of media—digital imaging, text, film, music, animation and others—to communicate quickly and effectively. Some of the products an advertising designer produces are commercials, promotional displays, magazine ads, product brand images and logos.
Most advertising designers have a degree in Advertising Design. While you are going to school, you develop a portfolio that demonstrates your talent and skills. It helps to understand the business world and the purposes of advertising. Advertising design is a competitive, fast-paced business where ambitious, talented, hard-working individuals thrive.
Animators create special effects for movies, television, advertising and computer games. Good animators have artistic talent and an understanding of human behavior, kinetics (movement science) and technology. They use a variety of techniques and technologies to do the job. Some animations have to be hand-drawn and scanned into a computer. Some are created by manipulating digital images or by combining technologies. Music and dialogue are usually added to create a multimedia project. Animators often work with a team of writers, game developers and other professionals.
Talent and skill are occasionally enough to establish yourself as an animator, especially if you have developed a good portfolio. Most animators, however, have a BFA or MFA (Bachelor’s or Master’s of Fine Art).
Art Directors oversee the entire process of creating a production. The art director is responsible for the overall “look” of the final product, whether it is a print ad or a full-length movie. They work with various teams to develop the design and create the final product—teams that include designers, animators, copywriters, actors, models, photographers, computer designers, producers, illustrators, accountants, executives and directors.
An art director must have talent, skill, knowledge and experience in producing multimedia commercials, ads and other products. He or she must also understand how to work with a variety of artistic and professional individuals, how to create and lead teams and how to manage both human and material resources. An art director is a leader and a vision-caster who has earned the respect of others and established a reputation for excellence.
Desktop publishing is an exciting career that combines computer technology, writing skills, artistic ability and creativity. Desktop publishing is rapidly replacing commercial printing and typesetting. Today’s technology allows more creativity and the use of more types of media, is easier and faster, and requires fewer employees. Many organizations that used to send print jobs out now employ desktop publishers to create materials in house. Desktop publishers create a wide variety of print and digital products, including brochures, business cards, flyers and leaflets, ads, books, newsletters, presentations and many others. They create page layouts and designs, write or edit copy and add audiovisual components.
A desktop publisher must be proficient in using various desktop publishing software packages. He or she must be skilled at layout and design and understand concepts such as readability and visual communication. In addition, the desktop publisher must be able to communicate verbally using correct grammar and spelling. He or she may have to prepare materials for web publication, for film or for print distribution. Desktop publishing is a job that requires both left-brain (analytical) and right-brain (creative) skills.
Illustrators create images for a variety of products. Some illustrators create patterns for fabric, wrapping paper, wallpaper and other products. Some improve books by creating images that correspond to the text. Some are specialists who create specific types of images; i.e., medical illustrators and cartoonists.
Although computers are often used to create or enhance illustrations, many illustrators use traditional techniques and media such as watercolor, pen and ink drawings and wood-cuts. Illustrators are first and foremost artists, and many have some kind of art education.
Production Artist or Multimedia Specialist is usually an entry-level job that gets you the industry experience you need to become an art director or graphic designer. As a production artist you get to do a little bit of everything on the production side of a project—proof copy, press check files, compress and optimize images, perform data entry, make coffee and whatever else is needed. You will have less opportunity to use your design skills in this position, but you will gain valuable experience in the technical aspects of producing an ad or commercial and in working with the many different professionals involved.
Web Designer is an emerging specialization for graphic designers. Web design requires knowledge of digital communications, specialized programming and advanced technology—all of which changes with extreme rapidity. You also have to have an eye for layout and design, which can include the use of videos, music and animations and be interactive.
All graphic artists are in demand, no matter what area of specialization you choose, and the demand is expected to increase. Salaries range from minimum wage (for those with no experience or education) to six figures. Education, experience and a solid portfolio do make a difference in how much you will make, how rapidly you will advance and how far you will advance in your chosen field. Any graphics art job, however, gives you an opportunity to earn a living using your talent and skills and doing something you love.