A career in the competitive field of graphic design requires a wide skill set, especially in today’s market where graphic design can encompass both print and digital media. Individuals looking to get started in the field, as well as experienced professionals who want to give themselves a more well-rounded skill set should have proficiency in the following areas:
The first and foremost skill of any graphic designer is being creative. This is applicable on several levels. First, it’s the ability to take something that already exists and find ways to improve on it. Second, it’s the ability to create something from nothing, to dream it up and bring it to life. Of all the skills in a graphic designer’s proverbial toolbox, this one is the most difficult to obtain without already having the talent. Creativity isn’t something that has a consistent way of being measured because there are many different types. But if you have it, nurture it, and use it to develop your style. Your level of creativity in approaching projects is your signature. It’s what makes your creations entirely you.
This is an often-overlooked skill a graphic designer must possess. It sounds boring, like something from a previous age, but it’s not. Graphic design, while often associated strictly with images, is primarily about communication. It’s about sharing information, whether in the form of a website, catalog, or newsletter, and that means words. Knowing about the different font families and about line height and tracking is an invaluable skill for a graphic designer. For more information on why typography matters, check out: The Importance of Typography in Graphic Design.
This one almost goes without saying. A graphic designer must be familiar with various types of software, such as Photoshop, Acrobat, InDesign, Illustrator, etc. In a field where multiple forms of media are paired with words, you need to be able to create and edit images, videos, animations, page layouts and so much more. Being proficient with a wide variety of graphic design software will allow you to consistently meet and exceed the expectations of your clients.
The best graphic designers have a solid grasp of HTML and CSS and can go the extra mile when working on a client’s website. This may seem daunting and unrelated to such an artistic field as graphic design, but while coding doesn’t seem especially artistic, it is most certainly an art form. For the graphic designer who knows this and can use it to his or her advantage, it opens a lot of doors for career opportunities.
Though it might seem trite, the most successful graphic designers are the ones who can communicate effectively with their clients. That’s how you do a job to their satisfaction. Ultimately, they’re the ones who are hiring you. They have a need, and they want you to express that need in a way that suits them. If you can’t communicate well, or have trouble accepting constructive criticism, or following directions, you’ll never succeed in the field of graphic design.
Whether you are new to graphic design or just looking to expand your skill set, learning all five of the aforementioned skills will improve your resume and give you more opportunities. Graphic design is a growing, though highly competitive field, so the more skills you possess, the more success you’ll have.