Graphic designers, also known as graphic artists, possess a unique skill set that requires creativity, in addition to marketing and technical savvy, to produce images through a variety of media types. Graphic designers work with ever-changing technologies to produce these images. Those with website design and animation experience are in increasing demand. But there's much more to graphic design than being able to use a computer to create images. Graphic designers must be effective communicators. The opportunity to combine arts with technology "draws" people to careers in graphic design.
Graphic designers need to have some knowledge of marketing in order to understand the needs of their clients. Once graphic designers understand those needs, they prepare sketches or layouts by hand, or more commonly, with the aid of a computer, to illustrate the intended message. They are constantly trying to keep up with changing technologies in everything from software to paper.
Not surprisingly, the largest industries of employment for graphic designers are specialized design services, publishing (print and software), advertising, and management of companies and enterprises. These industries employ roughly two out of five graphic designers in Oregon. The remaining graphic designers are spread throughout a variety of industries (Table 1). The only major industry that does not employ graphic designers in Oregon is natural resources and mining. Even so, many businesses across all industries, including natural resources and mining, contract with graphic designers to create things like company logos and brochures.
|Primary Industries of Employment|
|for Graphic Designers in Oregon|
|Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services||880|
|Specialized Design Services||389|
|Advertising and Related Services||193|
|Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting||131|
|Computer Systems Design and Related Services||92|
|Newspaper, Periodical, Book, and Directory Publishers||234|
|Printing and Related Support Activities||147|
|Other Miscellaneous Manufacturing||86|
|Management of Companies and Enterprises||205|
Employers expect graphic designers to be familiar with current graphics and design software. How can these artists keep up in such a dynamic industry? "Through trade periodicals, blogs, and websites, as well as vendor educational opportunities including on-site training," according to Liz Cawood, president of Cawood Communications in Eugene. Employers increasingly want graphic designers with website design and computer animation experience. Aside from the educational and training requirements, graphic designers must be creative and be able to effectively communicate their ideas in words and images. Graphic designers need self-discipline to start projects on their own, budget their time, and meet deadlines and production schedules.
The first step in effective graphic design is to understand the message the client wants to send to its customers or users. Before a designer touches a computer to design an image, information needs to be gathered about the cognitive, cultural, physical, and social characteristics of the target audience. This information is gathered by meeting with the client, creative or art directors, and researching customer groups. Often working as part of a team, designers use that information to create graphic designs that capture the client's message and meet the needs of the customer.
"In an agency setting, designers need to be good listeners and collaborators. They work as part of a team and benefit from multiple perspectives," says Cawood.
Specialized design services and advertising are two of the primary industries of employment for graphic designers. These industry groups are comprised of many small and medium-sized businesses and are relatively stable. But other key industries of employment, including printing and publishing, have faced steep employment declines, closures, mergers, and acquisitions that have lessened the demand for graphic designers in those industries.
Advancement opportunities for graphic designers vary depending on firm size and industry. Experienced workers may advance to chief designer, art or creative director, or other supervisory positions in larger firms. Some graphic designers open their own firms, and may specialize in one area of design.
The 2013 average annual wage for graphic designers in Oregon was $48,079, which was higher than the statewide average of $46,402. The wage at the tenth percentile was $26,915. In general, graphic designers can expect to earn wages below the statewide average when they start their careers, but should eventually earn wages comparable to or higher than the statewide average over time. These wages do not include the self-employed.
Nationally, about one out of four graphic designers were self-employed in 2012. Some work full time while others work part time. Many do freelance work on the side in addition to holding a salaried job in design or another occupation.
Some graphic designers will specialize in certain media types, but Cawood cautions graphic designers not to put all their eggs in one basket. "Though there is some interest in specialization, I think the generalist is going to rule; someone who can see the big picture and then orchestrate how all pieces are created consistently and with crisp graphics."