When you read a magazine, buy a product at the supermarket, look at a billboard, watch television, or cruise a website, chances are you’re looking at the work of a graphic designer. Today’s graphic designers use traditional tools including pencils and paper, but they also use the newest and most sophisticated computer design software. Computer design applications include Adobe Illustrator, PRIMO pdf, AutoCAD 3-D Modeling software, and Adobe Flash software for web-based flash designs. To learn how to effectively use these tools, you’ll need the right training.
An Example: You Design an Ad for Sneakers
It’s the job of a graphic designer to create a message using color, shape, line, and texture. The message can be structured to enhance the sale of a product, or it can be reflected in the product itself to create visual appeal and branding.
For example, consider a sporting goods manufacturer that is introducing a new line of classic basketball sneakers. If they are marketed effectively they will sell well to young adult men, whether or not the buyers actually play basketball.
The marketing director of the advertising agency responsible for introducing the new sneaker comes to you, the graphic designer. The marketing director asks you to create an Internet advertisement for the sneaker. It’s got to look exciting, dynamic, and fresh. The ad may feature an endorsement by a pro basketball player.
Are you going to design your ad using a theme of pretty yellow daisies in a summer garden? Probably not. Daisies are lovely, but they won’t sell basketball sneakers. Would you use a cute puppy? Again, no. Everyone likes puppies, but you wouldn’t use one in your ad campaign for sneakers.
Using a program like CorelDRAW Graphics Suite, you might create a design showing a group of urban kids playing basketball on an asphalt parking lot. Maybe it’s at night, and the only light is from an overhead street light. Perhaps your layout uses colors like black and purple and silver. The lettering in the text is slanted and dynamic. You can tell from the ad that the kids who wear the shoes are passionate about basketball.
Even before you begin, you’ve already made some choices that a graphic designer makes. Whether you are designing an ad for sneakers, the box the sneakers come in, or even the logo on the side of each sneaker, the choices you make help tell the consumer about the product.
How’s the Job Outlook?
Like many specialized careers, your job prospects may depend upon your level of training. Most entry-level graphic design positions require an associate or bachelor’s degree. You’ll need to get training from an accredited college or career school. But finding a good school should not be difficult; the National Association of Schools of Art and Design accredits about 250 postsecondary institutions with programs in art and design.
Once you’ve got the degree you need, what’s the outlook? According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 40,000 new jobs will be added in this field in the current decade from 2008 through 2018. Median salaries were $42,400 in May, 2008, but annual earnings can go over $100,000 for those who have ownership interest in a successful firm.
Prospects will be better for graphic designers with website design and animation experience. Demand should increase for interactive media products including cellphones, video games, personal digital assistants, and other technology. Proficiency with computers and computer design programs will be an asset.