8 Cutting-Edge Graphic Design Skills Employers Are Seeking in 2019 and Beyond

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You love design and you’re at the top of your game, but this year you want to keep pushing yourself and looking for ways to grow. So what skills should you focus on in order to be the best graphic designer you can be? We asked the experts to highlight the design skills every graphic designer should strive to perfect in 2019 and beyond.

The design skills that will benefit nearly any graphic design pro

The following skills range from broadly applicable fundamentals to specialized niche competencies that can help boost your versatility as a design professional. No matter where you are in your design career, dedicating some time to refining the following abilities will help you become a well-rounded creative professional.

1. Business acumen

Having a sense of business-savvy isn’t just for those with corner offices. “Graphic design isn’t just about creating appealing content; it’s about solving problems,” says Mark Hellevik, creative director at Periscope.

Hellevik says he’s more likely to hire designers who can demonstrate an ability to solve a business problem, even if it’s an imagined problem. Demonstrating your practical problem-solving knowledge in your portfolio will impress hiring managers who know how truly valuable skills like communication and business acumen are, says Diane Domeyer, executive director of The Creative Group.

2. Typography

Typography is the art of choosing typeface, color palette, size, length and layout. The combination of these factors can evoke an emotional response in the reader, one that boosts credibility and trust in the content itself.

Why is typography so important for designers? Because no matter where design trends go, “the visual representation of language and the ability to portray it meaningfully are the backbone of design,” according to Gustavo Neri, visual identity director at ABA/HBA A Brand House. Neri says he’s constantly looking for designers with an “appreciation for type and a passion for infusing it into various formats.”

3. Adobe® design software

Though the existence and popular use of Adobe software like Photoshop®, Illustrator® and InDesign® are hardly new in 2019, they are becoming even more vital to the daily work of designers.

The better a designer can use Photoshop and Illustrator to create content, the better their work will be in InDesign. Beyond just the practicality of knowing how to use these programs, mastery of these tools allows you to dedicate more thought and energy to the underlying principles of design. This freeing up of mental energy should help make your designs more inventive. Without time to focus on design principles, designers are likely to follow in another’s trendy footprints—which isn’t great for creating standout work.

4. Motion design

What’s better than a still image? One that moves! While that may be a little simplistic, motion design is engaging and will continue to be huge in 2019 for illustrations, logos, websites and social media marketing. For many graphic designers, learning to create motion design means incorporating the elements of time, sound, space and movement to their existing skills set. Adobe® After Effects or Maxon Cinema 4D™ are versatile tools for creating motion design.

“Any motion skills you learn will pay off as UI/UX models want more fluid and responsive graphics,” says Neri.

5. Front-end web development

Many small companies and agencies are interested in hiring versatile designers that can do web development and design. According to a survey conducted by The Creative Group, web and mobile development is the most in-demand hiring area, but also the most difficult to hire for.1 Even if you want to work primarily as a designer, learning how code works and how web developers think will help inform your design decisions.

6. Color theory

Color selection can have a massive impact on a design. In fact, research suggests most viewers make an initial assessment of a design or a person within 90 seconds and much of this evaluation is based on color alone.2 Color selection impacts the viewer’s mood and can even increase or decrease appetite or the perception of waiting time.

Though there are many color palette tools out there to help assist with this, understanding the theory behind them will help you use color effectively and explain your choice.

“Everyone should take a color theory class,” Hellevik says.

Anyone who has had to defend their work understands that design is subjective. An understanding of color theory can help you support your design decisions beyond just a gut feeling for what you think looks good.

7. User experience (UX) design

UX design impacts the entire consumer journey with a brand, including products, services, website and apps. The best UX designers are able to provide the user an enjoyable experience through exceptional design and usability. Essentially this design discipline is all about the pursuit of the feeling users get when everything is placed logically and just seems “right.”

UX design has exploded in popularity in recent years. In fact, Adobe found that 87 percent of the 500 managers they surveyed said hiring more UX designers is a top priority for their organization.3 Graphic designers and UX designers have many overlapping skills, which makes UX an attractive option for designers looking to branch out. Possessing a strong grasp of UX design fundamentals can help you create more effective designs and better understand the factors that drive user and client decision-making. 

8. User interface (UI) design

While UX design takes a broader view of user-focused design, UI deals specifically with the appearance and functionality of the specific platforms that the consumer will use including apps and websites. UI designers select colors, pair typefaces and set menu layouts. They also often build wireframes, define style guides and perform user-testing.

Even if you don’t want to hold a UI designer position, having this skill will help you work with UX and UI developers and designers and give you a leg up in your own role, according to Nate Masterson, CEO of Maple Holistics.

Build on your design skills

Whether you’re looking to get a leg up in your career, get started in graphic design or just branch out into a new area of expertise, you can’t go wrong by focusing on developing these design skills.

Even if you haven’t heard of these skills before, it’s never too late to start learning. But before you dive in, check out our article, “Graphic Design Jobs You May Not Know About” to learn more about the roles in which you could be putting those skills to work.

Adobe After Effects, Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign are registered trademarks of Adobe, Inc.
Cinema 4D is a registered trademark of Maxon Computer, Inc.

1The Creative Group, Robert Half International, Research Reveals In-Demand Creative Skills and Top Sourcing Strategies for Hard-To-Staff Roles [accessed January 29, 2019] http://rh-us.mediaroom.com/2018-06-21-Research-Reveals-In-Demand-Creative-Skills-And-Top-Sourcing-Strategies-For-Hard-To-Staff-Roles
2Singh, Satyendra, Department of Administrative Studies, University of Winnipeg, Impact of Color on Marketing, [accessed January 29, 2019] https://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/full/10.1108/00251740610673332
3Adobe Blog, Hiring Trends in UX Design: The 6 Things You Need to Know About Tech’s Fastest Growing Field, [accessed January 29, 2019] https://theblog.adobe.com/hiring-trends-in-ux-design-the-6-things-you-need-to-know-about-techs-fastest-growing-field

Kirsten Slyter

Kirsten is a Content Writer at Collegis Education where she enjoys researching and writing on behalf of Rasmussen University. She understands the difference that education can make and hopes to inspire readers at every stage of their education journey.


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