Aspiring visual designers can prepare for a career by completing an associate's or bachelor's degree in graphic design or a related field. While an associate's degree may be sufficient to gain an entry-level job in visual design, most of these professionals have bachelor's degrees. They can use their skills in many industries.
Visual designers work with a variety of media to create visual products that convey a message or are visually pleasing. They must possess communication skills and may work as freelance consultants or be employed by a business. Most employers prefer visual designers to hold an associate's or bachelor's degree in graphic design or art.
|Required Education||Associate's or bachelor's degree in graphic design or art|
|Other Requirements||Proficient communication skills|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||1% (Graphic designers)|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$46,900 annually (Graphic designers)|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Visual Designer Job Options
Generally, visual designers are hired to design products and advertisements for products. Examples include a soup can label, a company website, a billboard or the layout of a print journal or a book jacket. Practically every product created by people has been designed by an individual or team of designers. Video game companies often employ teams of visual designers to create the graphics for the games. Advertising firms need visual designers to help create visually appealing advertisements for their clients.
Some visual designers support themselves through freelance work. Others are employed by a variety of companies, such as:
- Advertising agencies
- Architectural firms
- Video game developers
- Book publishers
- Design studios
- Film title companies
- Environmental signage firms
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The duties of a visual designer depend upon the needs of the client or employer. Some visual designers are allowed a large amount of artistic license, while others have very strict guidelines to follow. Visual designers work in many different mediums, including text, paint, pencil and computer graphics, to create designs that will appeal to a target audience.
Visual designers are generally required to meet with art directors and clients. They often plan a design in advance and go through a process of sketching, market research and submitting proposals to ensure that their design is what their employer has in mind. They rely increasingly on design software to lay out their designs. Designers working in print media, such as newspapers, magazines and journals, are usually responsible for developing the overall layout of the publication and must produce work according to a deadline.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a bachelor's degree in graphic design is necessary for most entry-level positions, though an associate's degree can get people in the door of some workplaces as a graphic design assistant (www.bls.gov). Design students learn the basics of light and shadow, perspective, color, materials and other concepts. Courses are offered in a variety of art and design areas, such as painting, drawing, typography, motion design, Web design and art history. Degrees include both the Bachelor of Arts and the Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design, as well as the Associate of Arts in Graphic Design.
According to the Princeton Review, communication skills are paramount in this job, because visual designers must be sure they understand the needs of their clients and employers. Since a designer's work is always critiqued and on display, confidence and an ability to listen to constructive criticism are also essential qualities for this position.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that between 2014 and 2024, graphic designers can expect job opportunities to grow 1%. The BLS also showed that graphic designers made a median annual wage of $46,900 in May 2015 (www.bls.gov).
Visual designers may work independently as a freelancer or for businesses such as a book publisher, an advertising firm, or a video game company. Job growth in this field is expected to be much slower than average through 2024, and a bachelor's degree, along with technical and artistic ability and good communication skills, may boost employment chances.