If you’re looking for a job that allows you to get creative every day, a career in graphic design could be perfect for you. Find out the steps you’ll need to take to become a graphic designer with our useful guide.

What is a graphic designer?

Graphic designers create visual concepts to communicate ideas or to engage customers. These visual concepts could be in the form of branding, adverts, brochures, magazines, posters, product packaging or website designs. 

Graphic designers can work within print or digital media and their designs are completed either by hand or through the use of computer software.

What does a graphic designer do?

Some graphic designers choose to specialise in one area of design, such as product package design or logo design, whereas others are responsible for all aspects of a company’s design requirements.

The responsibilities of a graphic designer are varied, meaning this job is always full of variety. Day-to-day tasks may include:

  • Liaising with clients to discuss design requirements and budgets
  • Managing and completing client proposals 
  • Developing designs, concepts, graphics and layouts
  • Producing rough drafts of designs and presenting them
  • Reviewing final designs and suggesting improvements
  • Staying up to date with the latest software and design trends

What skills are needed to become a graphic designer?

There are a few key skills and qualities that you’ll need to be a successful graphic designer. These include:

Excellent design and creativity skills
Knowledge of design software and media production packages
Strong verbal and written communication skills
Excellent attention to detail
An ability work both independently and as part of a team
Strong time management skills
An ability to problem solve and think strategically

What qualifications are needed to become a graphic designer?

Whilst you don’t need any formal qualifications to become a graphic designer, completing a relevant course can help you to develop those all important skills. 

Universities and colleges offer degrees, diplomas and courses in subjects such as graphic design, communication design and illustration, all of which would help to boost your knowledge.  

Having a strong portfolio is also important for any aspiring graphic designer. This is where you can showcase your creativity and design skills to convince employers that you’re the right candidate for the job. It’s never too early to start building out your portfolio — the more creative skills you can show, the better. 

“You have power as a designer to change the relationship someone has with an object. Your challenge is to keep people looking. Build-in those little details. To some people, they might mean a lot.”

David Pearson, Graphic Designer (1)

Steps to become a graphic designer

It can be difficult to know where to start on your journey to becoming a graphic designer. Below you’ll find the key steps you’ll need to take.

Step 1: Develop a passion for graphic design

If you want a career in graphic design, you’ll need to have a real passion for getting creative. To get a feel for this line of work, try reading some graphic design blogs, listening to some webinars or taking part in some short online courses.

You could even download some common graphic design software, such as Photoshop or Illustrator, to start developing your skills. 

Step 2: Undertake a relevant course or work experience

There are plenty of great courses that you can apply for at colleges or universities. These courses will give you a solid understanding of the key concepts of graphic design, whilst allowing you to put your skills into practice.

Alternatively, work experience is a great way to get a hands on approach to graphic design. You could approach companies that offer work experience placements or ask charities if you could volunteer to assist with graphic design.

Whichever path you go down, you’ll need to build out your portfolio too, making sure it captures a range of your creative skills and qualities. 

Step 3:  Secure a job as a graphic designer

Once you’re happy with your portfolio, it’s time to start searching for a job. You’ll find plenty of entry level or junior graphic design jobs listed online, some of which will require little or no experience. On the other hand, you could set-up your own business and begin searching for clients, or join a freelancing platform such as Upwork or Fiverr.

How much does a graphic designer earn in the UK?

The average starting salary for a graphic designer in the UK is around £18,000, rising to around £35,000(2) as you gain experience. The most senior graphic designers and creative leads can earn up to around £60,000. 

There is also the option to start your own graphic design business or to work as a freelance graphic designer, where you can set your own rates.

How many hours do graphic designers work?

Graphic designers typically work between 37 to 40 hours a week (3). Occasionally, you may be expected to work extra hours when important deadlines are approaching. 

If you choose to become a freelance graphic designer or to set up your own business, you’ll have more flexibility on the hours you work.

Related occupations

Occupations related to the role of a graphic designer include:

    • Illustrator
    • Web designer
    • Advertising art director 
    • Creative director 
    • Interior designer 
    • Brand designer