If you’ve thought about becoming a graphic designer but have a hard time deciphering which drawings are yours and which are your children’s, you’re not alone! It’s a surprisingly common concern among aspiring graphic designers. “Can I make it as a graphic designer even if I’m not a good drawer?”
You’ll be happy to hear that the short answer is YES! There is a place in the industry for those who don’t consider themselves great artists, according to Nancy Cleary, art director and publisher at Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing, Inc.
Cleary remembers feeling the same intimidation you’re experiencing now because she felt her drawing ability wasn’t up to par. But she ignored her critics and acquired a formal education that set the stage for her successful graphic design career.
Here is Cleary’s firsthand advice on how you can survive in the graphic design industry even if you’re not the next DaVinci.
Simple sketching will suffice
Cleary recalls being “really freaked out” when she enrolled in the Rhode Island School of Design to earn a bachelor's degree in graphic design. The illustrators there had impeccable drawing skills and she could barely sketch, she says.
“I learned quickly that in graphic design, all you need is the ability to quickly rough out a design concept,” Cleary says.
She says that although drawing skills aren’t a necessity, it’s still critical to understand the fundamentals of drawing. A typical graphic design degree program will incorporate a basic drawing course along with typography and color theory courses.
This curriculum will provide you with the basic knowledge you’ll need to find success in the field. Cleary says that by simply sketching a rectangle with some scribbled mock text and basic image placement, you’ve provided a sufficient blueprint for a magazine spread, web page, book cover or ad.
Cleary’s advice for graphic designers who are insecure about their artistic abilities is to take graphic design classes to learn the fundamentals of visual communication. “You’ll soon see that proficient drawing is not as important as quick, creative conception of ideas,” she says.
The computer is the new pencil and paper
If you turned back the clock twenty years and said to someone, “I want to be a graphic designer but I can’t draw,” they might laugh in your face. Lucky for you, technological advancements have changed the landscape of the industry.
Cleary says graphic designers today rely heavily on software to execute their ideas. Successful designers combine their knowledge of design theory with their technical expertise to transform their sketches into dynamic designs.
Any design professional would agree that, in this day and age, mastering design software is far more important than drawing talent. In fact, when you look at a list of the top graphic design skills employers are seeking, you won’t see any mention of hand drawing.
That’s right, we analyzed nearly 40,000 graphic design job postings over the past year and found that seven of the top 10 most in-demand skills are associated with design software.* You’ll be even more relieved to know that drawing isn’t even listed among the 25 most preferred graphic design skills.
Enlist the experts when needed
Graphic design is a multi-faceted industry that employs many specialists. This makes it fairly easy to commission a professional when you do come across a project where it’s necessary to incorporate intricate illustrations.
Cleary says that in her line of work, it’s extremely common to hire professional illustrators to provide the artwork for a particular project. The graphic designer’s job is to piece together elements from multiple sources—illustration, photography, typography, etc.—to achieve the overall design vision.
So as long as you can jot down your ideas enough to get your point across to the experts, even the most elaborate design need not suffer from your lack of drawing talent.
Don’t doubt yourself
So you want to be a graphic designer but you can’t draw. Don’t let that be an excuse to avoid pursuing your dream job. Cleary has proven it’s possible to enjoy a long, promising career as a graphic designer without this particular skill, so don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. She disregarded those who questioned her artistic abilities and so should you.
“They may have criticized my lack of drawing skills in art school,” she says, “but in the business world they sure respect me as an art director who hires them!”
*BurningGlass.com (Analysis of 39,151 graphic design job postings, Jan. 7, 2013 – Jan. 6, 2014)