What is Graphic Design?

by Carli Cominoli


    By now, I am used to the awkward and puzzled look people usually give me when I tell them I am going to school to be a graphic designer.  I then have to give my long, repetitive, and boring speech about what graphic design is and how I plan to make a living out of it.   People’s first reaction is that I will be doing some type of “Star Wars” outer space, weird alien movie.  I tell them “no” and to sum it all up, I tell them that my job as a graphic designer will basically be to make things look pretty.  So for all those who aren’t quite sure about what the field of graphic design entails, this is for you!

    Graphic designers use a variety of print, electronic, and film media to create designs that meet their clients’ needs.  They use computer software to develop the layout and design of magazines, newspapers, journals, corporate reports, and publications.  They also produce promotional displays and marketing brochures for a variety of products and services.  They design unique company logos for products and businesses.  There are many graphic designers who develop material to appear on web pages, too.  Another interesting task some graphic designers have is to produce the credits that appear before and after television programs and movies. That is one example that often goes unnoticed by the public.  At the end of a movie, everyone usually leaves without even reading the credits.  Someone has to put the credits together, and guess who does?  Yes, a graphic designer. 

    Designers employed by manufacturing companies, large corporations, or design firms usually work regular business hours.  An example of that would be the Oriental Trading Company here in Omaha.  They have employed a group of graphic designers to create everything from their corporate identity, which is their company logo, to their catalog layout.  Children’s Hospital also employees a group of graphic designers to create a design for everything from all their logos to their billboards. Just about every major company has a team of graphic designers to create all of their advertisements and logos. 

    One more type of graphic designer is a self-employed or freelance designer.  They tend to work longer hours than those employed by one specific company.  Designers who work on contract jobs frequently adjust their workday to suit their clients’ schedules.  At times they may have to meet with them during evening or weekend hours.  Designers may do business in their own offices, homes, or studios.  It is easy for some graphic designers to become frustrated at times when their designs are rejected or when they can’t be as creative as they want to be.  Therefore, this career demands patience and good stress management skills.   

    In the field of graphic design, the overall employment is expected to grow faster than the average through the year 2010.  The demand for graphic designers should increase because of the rapidly increasing demand for Web-based graphics, web pages, and the expansion of the video entertainment market.  Teenagers have literally leeched onto the video entertainment market in recent years.  The notorious Play Station II created by Sony and the Nintendo 64’s popularity has skyrocketed because of the realistic three-dimensional graphics created by graphic designers.  One of the hottest new items this past Christmas was the entertainment game Play Station II.  It was so popular because it has the most updated graphics to date.  This is all thanks to the work of graphic designers.

    A bachelor’s degree is required for most entry-level graphic design jobs.  There are some formal training education programs for graphic designers available in two and three-year schools that award associate degrees.  An example of one of these programs would be the Graphic Communications degree offered at Metropolitan Community College.  The competition is high, so the more education one can obtain, the better.

    Individuals in the design field must be creative, imaginative, persistent, and able to communicate their ideas in writing, visually, and verbally.  They must also be open to new ideas, and quick to adjust to changing trends.  A graphic designer must also have good business sense and relate well to people.  The beginning yearly salary for a graphic designer is around $20,480.  The higher portion of graphic designers make around $58,400 per year.  Graphic designers can make a good living, depending on what type of graphics they do and where they are located.  For instance, the west and east coast prices for free-lance graphic designs are a significant amount greater than what is charged in the midwest.  The price difference is because the majority of television shows, advertising companies, and movies are produced on the east and west coasts.             

    Now that you have a better understanding of what graphic design entails, maybe you will notice the small details done by a graphic designer that you see each day.  In our evolving technological world, graphic images are everywhere.  So the next time someone tells you they are a graphic designer, you will have a better understanding of what they do. 


Works Cited

Designers. Occupational Outlook Handbook. 26 April 2002. http://www.bls.gov/oco/ .

Fischer, Dominic. The Art of Design. Chicago: SchoolHouse Publishing. 1997.