Graphic design is the art of using visual and textual design elements to convey ideas that shape how people perceive the world.
There will always be opportunities and jobs that involve graphic design because graphic design is everywhere. It’s everywhere because it’s one of the most powerful tools we have to communicate.
Before diving into the vast world of graphic design, you first have to reflect on your skills and interests in graphic design.
Ask yourself the following five questions so you can choose a graphic arts career that matches your interests:
Your answers will help you narrow down the wide variety of careers in graphic design that we will explore in greater detail in this blog post. Regardless of what you specialize in, all graphic designers need strong mastery over fundamental design elements such as color, typography, and visual communication.
In today’s globalized world, you can find many remote jobs that involve graphic design from anywhere in the world. There are approximately 305 million startups created annually, and all of them will have graphic design positions such as Graphic Designer, UI Designer, Art Director, Game Designer, Concept Designer, Animator, Advertising Art Designing, Illustrator, Logo Designer, or Web Designer. All of these graphic design positions are in high demand, so let’s dive into what each position does and see visual examples.
The graphic designer position is a generalist role that has mastery over a variety of design tools and design concepts. Graphic designers can be freelancers, work at a startup or traditional company, or work at a design agency.
As a graphic designer for a startup, your responsibilities may include creating email templates, powerpoint templates, product illustrations, and marketing materials which communicate the brand’s identity.
For example, Miro, an online collaborative whiteboard platform, offers its users templates to help its users get started with their product. These templates were all created by Miro’s visual designers (visual designer is often synonymous with graphic designer at many companies).
UI designers, or user interface designers, are responsible for designing the visual and interactive elements of a digital product.
As a UI designer, your responsibilities could include UI prototyping, creating responsive designs that adapt to all screen sizes, and creating animations that show user interactions.
In the GIF example showcasing a music learning mobile app, the UI designer is responsible for choosing the colors, fonts, images; designing the layouts; and creating the animations that happen when users tap a button or scroll. All of those design elements should work together to make the app intuitive so it’s easy to use. For example, when you’re selecting an instrument in the first page of the GIF, there is one instrument in the center, but you can also see parts of other instruments on the side of the screen. This design choice communicates to the user intuitively that they can swipe to see other instruments. The black lines under the instruments tell the user if they’re at the beginning, middle, or end of the app onboarding process.
UX designers, similar to UI designers, seek to make services and products more accessible and user-friendly. The difference between UX and UI designers is UX designers focus more on how users feel while using the product.
UX designers aim to make the user experience as pleasant as possible by conducting research and testing to gather user needs and feedback, developing design ideas and prototyping new features, and determining sitemaps, screen flows, and information architecture.
You’ll find plenty of opportunities in UX Design because almost every industry that offers online applications requires a UX Designer that can strategically develop a high-usability platform. For example, Tiktok demonstrates an excellent use of user experience design in their unique layout, something that many social media companies, like Meta and Instagram, now strive to emulate. If you’ve ever used TikTok, you’ll know it’s scarily addicting, thanks to the UX design that’s so great at keeping its users engaged one video at a time; UX Designers at TikTok made the intentional decision to make each video full screen so that user would enjoy a fully-immersive video experience with no distractions.
Art directors often lead a team of artists to achieve the vision of the team. For example, an art director on a movie set might be responsible for developing the budgets and timelines of set creation, and will also help review and approve the artistic elements used in the set. This role is perfect for people who have a wide variety of skills and interests and love executing creative visions.
During a typical day, an art director for an agency might collaborate with clients to finalize a creative strategy, decide on what creative elements to use to achieve the strategy, and oversee their team members by reviewing and approving work and making sure everything stays on budget.
For example, art director Alec Contestabile won the 2021 MTV Video Music Award for Best Art Direction for the song “Best Friend” by Saweetie ft. Doja Cat. As the art director, Alec was responsible for the music video’s greater art direction, which is the overall look and feel and production design of a music video. Alec was also responsible for executing the video’s art direction by choosing the visual elements, such as colors, lighting, and sets, that establish the look and feel of the video.
Since the art director position demands strong leadership experience, the average salary in the US for an art director is $126,396, but can range from $108,549 to $153,041.
Digital design careers, such as game designers, are often multidisciplinary creatives. A game designer needs to understand what makes games fun, how to develop game systems, and how all the systems work together to create an engaging game. Game designers often have technical skills in game programming as well as strong artistic and storytelling skills to breathe life into their games.
Job responsibilities of a game designer may include developing the game’s storyline, the game play rules, and the digital world environments. When you’re looking for jobs as a game designer, keep an eye out for other role titles such as game writer, world or level designer, and game artist.
Famous game designers include Masahiro Sakurai, who developed the incredibly successful Super Smash Bros franchise for Nintendo. Many people love Super Smash Bros because it not only features many popular characters from other Nintendo games, but it’s also a butt-kicking fun party game with great art and gameplay mechanics.
Concept designers or concept artists help create everything we see in video games, animated films, books covers, and more. They often breathe life into the ideas art directors have. For example, concept designers at Riot Games, the studio that makes the popular game League of Legends, might be responsible for designing what a new League of Legends Champion will look like based on the champion’s personality, skill, and lore; they’ll often create 2D and 3D mockups of the character in multiple angles or poses like in the picture below.
As a concept designer, responsibilities include drawing quick sketches of characters, environments, buildings, vehicles, or props by interpreting briefs, and turning those sketches into finalized products by collaborating with a team to refine the artwork.
Animators, as the name suggests, create animations that bring art to life through movement. Animators can work in a variety of fields such as web design, gaming, digital advertising, and film.
As an animator, your responsibilities may include developing high quality character or object animations in 2D or 3D, often based on sketches, layouts, or storyboards from their team. A niche example is anime animators, such as the Demon Slayer: Season 2 animators who shocked the world with their fluid fight animations (the gif below does not do their work justice).
In the US, animators are paid an average salary of $57,799 in the US, and the top 10% are paid $90k or higher. Start your graphic arts career as an animator by exploring the best job board in the animation industry in this spreadsheet that’s frequently updated by freelance character animator Chris Mayne.
Advertising art designers are responsible for creating marketing materials that align with a brand’s identity and attract consumers. They need a strong understanding of human psychology to create ads that resonate with people.
For example, famous advertising art designer Helmut Krone created one of the most iconic print advertising graphic designs showcased below.
This advertising graphic design featured Volkswagen’s new VW Beetle in a way that totally captured the attention of the audience at the time. Krone used whitespace, rather than imagery of the car next to happy families, to draw attention to the small VW Beetle. This design was effective because rather than shying away from how small the car is at a time when most cars were huge, the design directly acknowledges how small the car is to hook readers into learning more about this new car.
Advertising art designers typically make $52,604 a year in the US, with the top performers making more than $90,500.
An illustrator creates original 2D images for both printed and digital products, such as books or websites. Illustrators have many career paths to choose from, such as comic book illustrator, fashion illustrator, or game illustrator. Most importantly, the illustrations they create tell powerful stories through images, so illustrators need to be fearless in telling the story they want to tell.
For example, one of the most famous illustrations that changed the picture-book industry is Maurice Sendak’s Where the WIld Things Are.
The beautiful illustrations in Sendak’s book captured people’s attention because it was a children’s book that depicted an ugly child and ugly creators at a time when most children’s books were drawn to be cute. Sendak’s illustrations did more than just illustrating the words – they also made people feel like they were transported into another world with Max as well. In fact, as the story progresses, the words disappear completely and it’s just illustrations.
The average salary of an illustrator is $44,369 in the US. You can explore the best illustration and graphic careers here.
Logo designers create distinctive symbols for brands. Logo designers understand how to use visual design elements such as colors, shape, and fonts to design logos that support the brand’s identity.
Logo designers have to understand the brand and where the logo will be used in order to create many sketches for their clients to review. The clients offer feedback which the logo designers use to refine their logos in digital tools like Illustrator.
If you look at great logo designs, like the I <3 NY logo by famous logo designer Milton Glaser, you’ll instantly get the idea the design’s communicating even on the first viewing. The logo is so visually effective in conveying love for New York because it evokes the idea of lovers carving their initials in trees; this idea actually inspired Glaser’s design.
Web designers help their clients solve problems through creating stunning websites.
As a web designer, your responsibilities may include conducting strategy sessions with your clients; creating sketches, wire-frames, prototypes, and mock ups using tools like Figma or Adobe XD; and establishing the look and feel of the website using fundamental design elements & UI & UX design.
For example, take a look at the website example below and you will see that every design choice a web designer makes needs to be strategic. For example, the web designer used light green buttons to create contrast against the dark purple background in order to highlight the business’s goal of getting people to schedule a demo. The web designer also chose to use a graphic that illustrates how the product works (it organizes data from multiple apps).
Web designers in the US earn on average $52,534 per year. Successful freelance web designers can earn more than six figures, so if you’d like to learn how to become a high earning web design freelancer, we have a free freelance course available here to help you get started.
Now that you’ve learned the top 11 careers in graphic design, the best way to start your career as a professional graphic designer is to create designs that align with the career path that interests you the most so you can add them to your portfolio. You can also develop your professional graphic design expertise by reading these 13 books for graphic designers.
Many graphic designers choose to be freelancers to enjoy greater freedom on which projects they take on. If you’re also not interested in working for a company, you can start your graphic arts career as a freelancer by finding freelance jobs online.
Our course Web Design: Becoming a Professional will kickstart your graphic arts career. The course is taught by Ran Segall, who shares his 17-years of web design experience with you so you can avoid the common mistakes web designers make and elevate your web designs. Rather than guessing how to get started as a web designer, you’ll learn a proven web design process that helps you design beautiful websites that solve your client’s business problems. A huge perk of the course is having direct access to Ran Segall and the Flux community whenever you have questions on homework assignments that help you apply what you learn.
This handy E-Book will help you pick the right color for every occasion