What Does a Graphic Designer Do?

Top experts tell us more about this role in their own words

A graphic designer is a problem solver. Essentially, their job is to find visual solutions that transmit ideas and concepts. To do so, they use programs such as Photoshop, Illustrator, Indesign, and After Effects, and often collaborate with advertisers, journalists, marketing directors, and many others.

A graphic designer can develop a wide range of products and services of varying levels of complexity: from an exhibition poster to the entire visual identity of a new brand, from magazines and books to logos, packaging, illustrations, and prints. The list is never-ending. They are experts in applying their creativity to the project in question’s needs and characteristics.

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Balázs Kétyi

The professional

For Sagi Haviv (@sagi)–who is a partner at branding and design studio, Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv–one of the essential qualities of a designer is the ability to come up with new ideas. "Having ideas is at the heart of our work," he says. The more information, skills, and references a designer carries in their backpack, the better.

Each project requires a different skill set. A magazine cover, for example, requires a designer to have a good understanding of typography and color theory, but, perhaps most importantly, know how to prioritize information. On the other hand, when working on packaging, their focus is on materials, textures, and volumes. The project requires creating a more implicit message and focusing on aesthetic appeal.

Perhaps this is why Haviv–who teaches the course, Logo Design: From Concept to Presentation, on Domestika–describes the graphic designer as a kind of "modern Renaissance man.”

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Jeroen den Otter

Designer, typographer, and artist, Pepe Gimeno (@pepepegimeno), who teaches The Laws of Visual Perception: Unit, Weight, Balance and Movement, considers the tasks carried out by a graphic designer as forming a bridge between two worlds: on one side, we have tasks to do with strategy and concept–such as marketing, communication, and advertising–and then we have those linked to visual perception–such as illustration, photography, and art in general. "This makes this professional profile very special. I would say that how we use typography is what distinguishes us. That's what makes us special," he adds.

Leire Fernández and Eduardo Herrera (@leireyeduardo), who lecture at the University of the Basque Country and teach the course, Design to Communicate, highlight another aspect of this profession: controlling meaning. "Our work consists of organizing content visually by choosing and combining different signs and symbols.”

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Markus Spiske

The most common skills

Some of the most common technical skills that a graphic designer will have are:

- Proficiency in Adobe Creative Suite
- Photo editing
- Illustration
- Layout design
- Social media
- Project management
- Typography
- Packaging
- Infographics
- Branding

The most common tasks

The most common tasks that a graphic designer will carry out are:

- Creation of printed graphic pieces such as posters, brochures, business cards, postcards, packages, etc.
- Digital publishing for websites, blogs, and social networks.
- Development of logos and visual identities
- Layout of digital and print publications
- Art direction

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Ways of working

A designer usually works in three different ways: at a public or private company, at an agency, or as a freelancer. Each setup has its pros and cons, and it is up to the professional to decide which way of working best suits their profile and goals.

When working at a company, the graphic designer produces exclusive creative work. In the case of a shoe brand, for example, they may be responsible for coming up with the concept of a campaign, researching materials, the packaging, the website, social media content, etc. It is necessary to be able to multitask. One of the advantages of this set–up is the stability it offers. It gives you the option to get to know your niche over time so that you become an expert.

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NordWood Themes

At an agency, the designer develops projects for his employer's clients. As a result, you’ll work on a larger variety of projects, and there will be greater demand. Deadlines tend to be tighter and, although the role of each designer tends to be more specialized, it is common to have to work on several projects at the same time. If you like a fast-past, ever-changing routine, this job is for you. For those who prefer to plan ahead and avoid last-minute changes, this may not be a good option.

Last but not least: freelancers. Most freelancers work from home and have the advantage of being able to set their own schedule and select the clients and projects they want to work on. But it's not all smooth sailing. Being your own boss requires great discipline and a good portfolio of clients, which can take time to build up. It is also important to take into account the financial instability that comes with working without a contract and worry about other aspects of the profession, such as advertising, taxes, covering costs of materials, etc.

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Diego PH

If you enjoyed this article and want to learn more about becoming a graphic designer, check out Domestika’s graphic design courses.

English version by @eloise_edgington.

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