What’s It Like to Be a Graphic Designer?


Think of any product or website that catches your eye. You might be intrigued by the text, but you wouldn’t have even noticed it without the expertise of the graphic designer who worked to get the font, colors, and overall look just right. Hey—the focus of Mad Men might be the copywriters, but they wouldn’t have a leg to stand on without the graphic designers’ artwork and visual representation of their ideas. So how do you crack into this creative field? Read on to find out…

Keep in mind that graphic design is about more than just artistic ability. It takes communication skills to understand what clients want and to manage their expectations about what you can offer (and how long it’ll take to accomplish it). Time management is also an essential skill—especially if you work as a freelancer (which about 29% or one in four graphic designers do, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics).

It makes sense to begin our investigation of graphic design with an infographic. Carrington College has created this informative one, called Graphic Design Careers by the Numbers.

You can also check out the Bureau of Labor Statistics pages on graphic designer job descriptions, salaries, and outlook for the next few years. (FYI, the median salary for graphic designers in 2010 was $43,500 and by 2020, available jobs are expected to grow about 13%, which is about average.)

People come to the field of graphic design from a broad range of majors. These are the top ten majors applying for graphic design jobs on AfterCollege:

Graphic Design/Multimedia



Business Administration


Media Arts

Fine Arts

Urban Studies

Internet/New Media

Visual Communication Technology

For a quick rundown of what it takes to make it as a graphic designer, check out this article “So you want to be a graphic designer?” from River Graphics.

We also like One Day One Job’s breakdown of the wonderful field of Graphic Design. (Bonus: You can also search for jobs and internships right there!)

If you think you’d like to work in the field of advertising and you’d like to understand a little more about how the creative department functions within an advertising agency, check out this short video What’s the Difference Between Working on the Account Side and the Creative Side of Advertising by Intern Sushi.

And finally, for a humorous look at what your working life might be like (and some of the outrageous demands you can expect to hear from clients), check out Another Day. Another Dropshadow. from Amerikanmade Prints and Hilarious Works of Art Inspired by Bad Client Feedback from Flavorwire.

For a more personalized account of working as a graphic designer, check out our interviews with:

Derek Atkinson, Designer at Wieden + Kennedy

Kat Sikes, Freelance Designer

Lori Reed, Owner and Principal Creative at Reed Creative LLC

Maya Muller, Principal at Muller Design Studio and Graphic Design Senior at Lower Columbia College

Sutton Long, Owner of Sutton Long Graphic Design and Art Director Study in the USA Magazine

And find all our other graphic design-related content by checking out the “graphic design” tag on the AfterCollege Blog.

Finally, if you’re serious about finding graphic design jobs, don’t forget to stop by AfterCollege and see what we’ve got cooking over there.


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