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Top 10 Graphic Design Careers for 2021

Jan 2021

7 mins read

The one thing that most of us take for granted is realising the impact graphic design has on our daily lives. Graphic design is literally all around us. Don’t believe me? Well, let’s first understand what graphic design is before I reveal to you how much we are actually influenced by design on a daily basis.

What is graphic design?

Graphic design is a process of visual communication. As a graphic designer, you need to solve a problem visually so that your target audience is able to translate and understand the intended message. To put this into simpler terms, graphic design is anything that consists of type (or typography), illustrations and/or photography. A combination of these three elements will result in graphic design.

Going back, looking at the signs of design around you, let’s see if you can identify any sign of graphic design. Depending on your surroundings, the street sign you just passed is a form of design. A design on your clothing item, whether it’s your bag, a cap or a shirt, is another form of graphic design. The print on a cup, whether it is a ceramic or cardboard cup, is also a form of graphic design. Did you know the logo on your device you’re viewing this article from is yet another form of graphic design? So, if you are considering a career in graphic design, rest assured that there are quite a lot of options to consider!

How to become a graphic designer

Graphic design is an industry that has changed vastly over the last three decades. In fact, it is still changing. Like most careers, especially those influenced by technology, you need to adapt in order to stay relevant. Whilst technology has changed the way we design, it is still crucial to have access to a computer if you are considering becoming a graphic designer. There are applications like Canva and Adobe Spark that you can download on your smartphone, allowing you to design using template-based options, but these don’t offer you nearly the creative freedom and flexibility software applications on computers do.

So, whether you prefer Mac or Windows, the options of becoming a graphic designer are endless and the machine you are using is simply a tool to assist you in achieving greatness. I would recommend a decent machine and the following requirements are a good starting point for a computer.

What do you need to become a graphic designer?

CPU: Intel Core i5 or i7

Display: 15 in. 1440 x 900 pixels, minimum

RAM: 8 GB minimum; 16GB is better

Storage: 250GB at least (more is better)

On top of a decent machine, the software required will also assist a great deal. Now, there are numerous options of software to consider, from the more popular Adobe applications, which you will learn in our graphic design course, to more affordable and even open-source options that you can learn in our budget graphic design course. These more affordable and open-source options include GIMP, Inkscape, Vecteezy, Adobe Spark, Canva, and even Affinity’s Designer, Photo and Publisher.

Now, you need to investigate whether you are competent enough to consider a career in graphic design. Most people I have encountered have this fear of “not being artistic enough” in order to become a graphic designer. The good news is that graphic design is so much more than simply being artistic. I would much rather perceive graphic designers as visual problem solvers than artists, to be honest. Yes, being artistic will help a lot, but being creative is a more important skill to have if you consider a career in graphic design. Did you know that creativity is a skill that can be learned? You will learn this skill in both our professional diploma in graphic design course and the professional diploma in graphic design on a budget course.

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Top 10 graphic design careers for 2021

Understanding that graphic design is a form of visual communication that assists in solving problems visually, can you think of various types of graphic design careers? Did you know that graphic design even correlates with other careers, and sometimes it can be the stepping stone into a different type of design career? Let’s have a look at 10 of the most popular graphic design career options.

1. Brand identity designer

    A company’s brand needs to communicate effectively and quickly. A brand identity designer’s role is to aid the company in creating a successful brand that communicates successfully to its target audience. You will need to have a great understanding of the design elements and principles (which you will learn in our graphic design courses).

    Examples of what a brand identity design will design include:

    • Logo design
    • Business card design
    • Letterhead design
    • Stationery

    2. Advertising designer

    An advertising designer is probably the most well-known and common form of design career as it entails print media ranging from brochures to magazines as well as digital design and social media design.

    Examples of what you will be able to do as an advertising designer are:

    • Magazines and newspapers
    • Brochure design
    • Email newsletters
    • Social media graphics
    • Infographics
    • TV adverts

    3. Publication designer

    Some of these design careers tend to overlap when it comes to skill. Like an advertising designer, publication designers focus on publications like magazines and newspapers. More recently, publication designers have focused on a more digital approach including e-publications and digital magazines.

    Examples of publication designs include:

    • Books
    • E-books or e-publications
    • Magazines
    • Newspapers
    • Catalogues
    • Menus

    4. Environmental designer

    Environmental designers consider architecture and the environment to make spaces and places more attractive and efficient for people to move around in. This job entails aspects and knowledge of architecture, interior design, industrial design and landscaping. These designers might also use 3D CAD software like AutoCAD or Maya to help their clients visualise the end result before actually constructing it.

    Examples include:

    • Exhibition and event spaces
    • Mural artwork
    • Signage (which, nowadays, can also be digital)
    • Office branding
    • Stadium and concert branding

    5. Motion designer

    Motion design has gained a lot of popularity during the last decade due to technological advancements. A motion designer takes design elements and creates the illusion of movement with these elements. A very popular software to create these movements in is Adobe AfterEffects. However, you need to understand and learn the basics of design first before learning this software.

    Motion design is a great way to tell a story and is being used in:

    • TV adverts
    • Movie intros
    • Text animation
    • Apps
    • Video games

    6. Web designer

    A web designer not only needs to be able to create an effective website but also needs to understand how to make a website appealing. Coding lies at the backend of being a web designer.

    The skills needed for this type of career include, but are not limited to, being able to understand web coding but on top of that, web designers will also make use of software like Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop along with web designing software like Adobe Dreamweaver or even web-based applications like WordPress.

    Examples are the various websites you visit when browsing the internet.

    7. Packaging designer

    Packaging designers not only need to look at the aesthetics of packaging but also need to understand what material is best to use for the given package. Walking through a grocery store, you will realise that almost every item is in some sort of package. Most of the time, it is the packaging that convinces us to buy a certain product over its rival, hence, packaging design’s role is to convince its audience without them even realising.

    Examples include:

    • Confectionery wrappers
    • Wine bottle labels
    • Merchandise packaging
    • Cardboard containers

    8. Illustrator

    An illustrator can also be referred to as a graphic artist. Graphic artists are known to create original artwork, mostly by means of mixed media including drawing, digitising and sometimes even animating these designs. An illustrator or graphic artist’s skills can be used for:

    • Comic book creation
    • Animated films
    • Video games
    • Advertisements
    • Book covers
    • Album art
    • T-shirt design

    9. UI designer

    UI stands for user interface, and these types of designers are relatively new to the industry. UI designers are responsible for designing a mobile app and other software interfaces by considering the process of making these applications as convenient and user-friendly for the end-user as possible. They consider the layout, buttons, menus and any other interaction the end-user may have with the selected application. It is crucial to understand human interaction and behaviour to digital devices to ensure that the applications created by UI designers don’t confuse the end-user. Examples include:

    • App designs
    • Web page designs
    • Games

    10. Font designers

    Although font designing falls under the broader spectrum of graphic design, it is quite a field on its own. I do, however, feel that it is a field that graphic designers should be exposed to since working with fonts is part of our daily jobs. Typefaces make out the most of your designs, and of course, there is someone behind creating them. A font designer or typeface creator is someone who designs, develops and creates fonts. Font designers should have an eye for detail, just like graphic designers should, and also have a respect for language and its use. There is literally a legion of font-creating software available, some of which are covered in our graphic design course.

    Considering all the different career options you can go into as a graphic designer, it is great to know that a lot of these skills overlap. Our graphic design courses consider the fundamentals and foundation of graphic design as a career to give you the stepping stone into any of these above-mentioned careers or even other careers. Combining the skills you learn in our graphic design courses will assist you a great deal if you simply want to upskill or move into a different industry.

    Seeing as graphic design will not disappear any time soon, what do you want to achieve with this skill?

    Want to learn more? Join our top graphic design course at Shaw Academy today!

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    Annerie du Plessis

    I believe that design is not simply a matter of making something beautiful, but rather a way to help solve problems visually. My journey in graphic design has been a constant learning curve. Everyday you learn something new and as a graphic designer and educator, you need to embrace change or you will stay behind.