6 Things You Won't Find in the Graphic Designer Job Description
A job description is generally a helpful explanation about what a position will entail. However, we all know that every career has its quirks and every new job has its surprises. If every single detail were included within the job listing, we’d have entire manuals to read before sending in resumes.
If you’re artistic, computer savvy and a self-starter, you probably already know a career in graphic design is up your alley. But how can you know what the job is really like if you can’t get an inside look?
We can’t get you behind the scenes, but we can bring you some insider knowledge to better prepare you. We connected with a variety of designers to compile a list of helpful tidbits that will give you a better idea of what it’s really like to work as a graphic designer.
6 insights about a graphic designer’s job description
1. You’re going to have to compromise
“The hardest thing to adjust to is having to compromise what you think are brilliant ideas to your design team and having to design what a client wants,” says Pablo Solomon, an artist and designer. He adds that it’s especially difficult when you consider their ideas to be tasteless.
Colors, fonts, shapes—all become subjective in the world of art. Depending on where you end up working, the goal of your job as a graphic designer will often be to please the client...or at the very least, your supervisor or team. There’s a lot of back and forth that goes into creating a new logo or refreshing a brand, so it will be important that you’re willing to give up a certain amount of creative control in order to appeal to the company you’re working for.
The same goes for working with a design team. You might shudder at your colleague’s idea to use lime green for a logo. But then, your colleagues might think your concept of delicate lines and gentle curves is fussy. It’s all give and take, and learning how to work together in a creative capacity will only serve you well in the end.
2. Managing expectations is key
“A graphic designer needs to know how to manage expectations, or the client will run you ragged,” explains Eddie Vélez, CEO and founder of Success by Design. “For example, when I take on a project, I explain the process completely, the order it will go, when they have a say, how often they can interject, if they choose further ideas or modifications, what the additional cost will be and when the project is complete.”
Creating a contract is a great way to make sure both parties abide by the expectations listed at the start of a project. If that feels too formal for you, at least ensure you send an email detailing the specifics of how you work, what your process is and how much direction the client is allowed to provide. This eliminates unrealistic expectations and keeps communication free and open.
3. Backing up your work is crucial
Just about everyone has lived this nightmare: you stay up all night working on a college paper, only to have your computer crash at 4:00 a.m. and erase all your hard work. But alas, it was your fault after all for not backing up your work.
The same goes for design projects. Since the craft of graphic design revolves heavily around art files and digital images, backing up your creations is pivotal. “In my studio, I have about 11 terabytes of storage,” Vélez says. He explains he has his work backed on an external hard drive and also prints and files any signed documents, work orders or receipts. “Problems happen,” he adds. “Whether by your hand or not, you need to be ready.”
4. Connecting with other graphic designers is valuable
If you’re a freelance graphic designer, you’ll be spending a lot of time on your own, designing for external clients. However, even if you work with a design team, the world of graphic design is constantly evolving. New trends emerge almost daily, and best practices change regularly.
“There's a tendency for designers who work alone, whether in-house at a company or for themselves, to shy away from interacting with other designers for a number of reasons, fear being one of them,” says Drew Elrick, an in-house graphic designer at University of Northwestern - St. Paul and a freelance graphic designer. “But we need to build relationships with our design peers to get fresh eyes on our work, to learn from each other and to help make connections which lead to new clients and job opportunities.”
5. There’s a lot to organize
Aside from the libraries of photos, graphics, fonts, communications and other elements that designers work with on a regular basis, there’s the simple matter that everything you create will need to be stored and structured somewhere.
“You need to create a system that will allow you to know exactly where to find anything pertaining to any client,” Vélez suggests. “This will make a difference on time saved and [will] show you delivered what you were paid to do. Moreover, when follow up work is requested from a happy customer, it makes it easy to find all assets.”
When you start your first position as a graphic designer, it might feel tempting to toss everything on your desktop or save things in poorly titled folders. It may be easier, but resist the urge to create clutter, and take the time to organize your work as you create it. Every few months, set aside time to go through your files and clean out anything outdated or irrelevant. Your storage space will thank you (and so will your future self).
6. You might have to play multiple roles
This is especially true if you work as a freelance graphic designer. Creating your own schedule sounds dreamy, but it also comes with its fair share of work. Not only are you the one creating the graphics for clients, but you’re also the one managing clerical duties, like billing and supply ordering. Many graphic designer jobs include overseeing photo shoots, working with a communications team and managing interns.
If you’re freelancing, it will also be up to you to market your business. You’ll have to create your own social media posts and manage paid advertising. You’ll want to create a website that displays a portfolio of your work, and whether you hire someone or create it yourself, you’ll be directing the process, providing photography and adding copy to explain what you’ve designed.
Now you know
These insights aren’t meant to scare you off. They’re simply a realistic look at what you may encounter as a graphic designer. There will inevitably be some surprising quirks along the way that you didn’t find on this list, but that’s part of the fun.
As long as you build your career on a solid foundation of design theory and fundamentals, you’ll be able to roll with the punches and embrace the quirks of the job. Learn how you can prepare yourself in our article, Is a Graphic Design Degree Worth It or Worthless?