Graphic Designer

    If you are wondering how to become a graphic designer, below are tips and advice on training for and beginning careers in this area of the design industry, as well as job prospects in the UK.

    The Job Description
    Graphic designers use images and lettering to get information across and make an impact. This could be for all kinds of purposes, including advertising, book covers and magazines, television graphics and websites.

    Typical responsibilities:

    discussing the project requirements (the ‘brief’) with clients, senior designers or account executives
    providing cost quotations
    choosing the most suitable materials and style
    producing rough sketches or computer visuals to show to the client
    using specialist computer design software to prepare designs
    keeping to budgets and deadlines
    producing a final layout with detailed specifications for typefaces, letter size and colours.
    You may also produce 3D (three dimensional) designs for packaging, exhibitions and displays.

    Person Specification
    The key personal attributes of good graphic designers include:

    creativity and imagination
    skill in using computer design packages
    drawing ability
    knowledge of printing techniques and photography
    the ability to manage your time, meet deadlines and work within a budget
    excellent communication skills
    good spelling and grammar
    normal colour vision and good spatial awareness.

    How to become a graphic designer
    There are no set qualifications for becoming a graphic designer. You would usually be employed on the strength of your skills rather than your qualifications. However, most professional graphic designers have a BTEC HND, foundation degree or degree in graphic design or another art or design based subject.

    To search for colleges and universities offering HNDs, foundation degrees and degrees, visit the website of the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). Please check with the individual colleges and universities for their entry requirements.

    As talent and contacts are the key to getting work, you may be able to develop a career in graphic design without a qualification. You will need to keep an up-to-date professional portfolio of your work, and have a working knowledge of computer packages such as:

    Quark Xpress
    3D Studio
    You can do courses in these at local colleges and with private course providers.

    Unpaid work experience will give you the chance to develop your portfolio, make contacts and impress potential employers. Visit the British Design Innovation website to search for work placements, contacts and job vacancies. You could also create a website to show your work.

    Training and Development
    You would need to keep your skills up to date throughout your career as a graphic designer. You may be able to attend short courses, for example in computer packages such as Quark Xpress, FreeHand, Illustrator, Photoshop, 3D Studio, and Flash, but you will also learn new skills on the job to meet the needs of particular projects.

    The Chartered Society of Designers and D&AD run courses and workshops for members which you may find useful for professional development. For example, D&AD runs Workout, a range of one-day development courses. Joining professional bodies will also give you the opportunity to make contacts in the industry.

    The Pay (a rough guide)
    Newly qualified designers earn from around £12,000 to £15,000 a year.
    Experienced graphic designers can earn between around £19,000 and £25,000.
    Senior graphic designers with extensive experience can earn up to £50,000 or more.

    Job Prospects
    Most graphic designers work for agencies that specialise in advertising or corporate communications, or for in-house design teams in large organisations like retailers, local authorities or banks. Other employers include multimedia companies, charities and educational establishments. Many graphic designers become self-employed, working alone or in partnership.

    The graphic design field is very competitive, and you are more likely to find employment if you have experience and advanced skills. To progress in your career you may need to move from job to job to gain wider experience.

    Not all jobs are advertised, so it is also a good idea to approach agencies directly. It can also be useful to network and make contacts within the industry.

    You may need to change jobs frequently to build up your experience and add to your portfolio. In larger companies you may be able to progress to senior designer and then to management positions.

    Useful design industry resources:
    9 Graphite Square
    Vauxhall Walk
    SE11 5EE
    Tel: 020 7840 1111

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