by: Bill Long
Being a graphic designer takes skills, talent, knowledge and understanding in a whole bunch of disciplines. As a graphic arts designer, you work with various art forms as well as words, images and the media.
Graphic designers are trained in working with advanced computer technology to create visual and multimedia presentations. Not only do you need to interact with clients, project managers, and colleagues, you need skills in areas like design, production, marketing, business, and interpersonal relations if you want to be successful.
Here’s a breakdown and more detailed look at just some of the skills you want to develop to succeed as a graphic designer.
In the past couple of decades, graphic design has become a highly technical profession. Layouts that were sketched out in the past are now designed on computers. In today’s world, it is impossible to compete as a graphic designer without expertise in state-of-the-art computerized graphic design software—and the ability to learn quickly and adapt as the technology becomes more sophisticated.
Graphic designers must also be multimedia experts, skilled in utilizing audiovisual technologies, animation, digital photography and other multimedia techniques. Again, the technology continues to evolve rapidly, and the graphic artist must be able to learn, adapt and adopt new techniques as they become available.
Essentially, all graphic designers are artists. You need to have a strong foundation in color, composition and design. You create presentations including charts, advertising, logos, images and sometimes audiovisual components to produce a responsive message to be used in an ad, brochure, presentation or some other marketing media. In the end, it is still a work of art that conveys an idea to present a message visually.
Besides having art skills, a graphic designer needs cognitive skills from both the left and right side of their brains. The left-brain is more logical and helps you stay organized. It is the business side of the brain that keep projects on time and communication open with people you are working with.
The right brain is more creative, visual and artistic. It is the cognitive part of the brain that allows you to craft original, intuitive ideas and present them in an art form. You use the right brain to envision a marketing project from beginning to end.
To be successful, you need to develop both cognitive sides of your brain. It’s one thing to be able to come up with innovative marketing ideas but another if you can’t get the project done on time. Along with your strong art skills, you need to be able to make quick decisions and solve complex dilemmas.
Organizational skills, including time management, are essential. The ability to multitask several projects at the same time and to work with budgetary constraints are everyday skills expected of you.
Graphic designers need a foundational comprehension of business procedures. Your task is to help businesses enhance their profit margins by creating ideas and presentations that will sell an concept while at the same time working within budgetary and time constraints.
You need to understand finances and profit-loss concepts. If you own your own business, you need a good business sense to run a firm. It’s not all about creativity. Even if you are working for a big marketing firm filled with “business heads”, a good understanding of budgets is necessary to succeed.
As a graphic designer, you need good interpersonal skills. Since you often work as a team on projects from start to finish, the ability to work with clients, managers, vendors and fellow designers is a must. If you are in charge of a project, you need skills to delegate and manage those working under you. If you are part of a team, it is essential you have the skills to communicate with your manager to understand what is required of you.
As the owner of your own business, you are required to deal with clients, hear what they are saying and interpret their needs into a project plan. These ideas need to then be communicated to the rest of the team so everyone is on board and understands the message you are trying to present. If the communication breaks down anywhere in the process, you may not be able to meet your customers needs and expectations.
Graphic designers, no matter how big or small the job, need to be able to communicate verbally, visually and in writing clearly and accurately. They also need to know how to actively listen to understand what their clients are asking for and what their employees are telling them.
If you are choosing a career as a graphic designer, you want to be more than a skilled technician or artist. You require excellent business savvy, terrific communication skills and the ability to work effectively with other people.
Although many of the technical skills, as well as the business expertise can be taught at one of the many fine graphic design schools located throughout the country, some of the interpersonal skills and maturity to be professional graphic designer come from life’s experiences.
If you are the type of person who enjoys solving problems, using your creativity and intelligence to interpret ideas into a form of visual communication, becoming a graphic designer is a career you may want to explore.