Graphic designers need to have some knowledge of marketing in order to understand the needs of their clients and their customers or users. 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. Graphic designers use a variety of graphics and layout computer software to create their designs. 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 printing. These industries employ about half of all graphic designers in Oregon. The remaining graphic designers are spread throughout a variety of industries (Table 1). The only major industries that do not employ graphic designers in Oregon are natural resources and mining, construction, and leisure and hospitality. Even so, most businesses in these industries 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||821|
|Specialized Design Services||187|
|Advertising and Related Services||219|
|Newspaper, Periodical, Book, and Directory Publishers||327|
|Printing and Related Support Activities||162|
|Apparel, Piece Goods, and Notions Merchant Wholesalers||108|
|Management of Companies and Enterprises||128|
Most 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. Employers want self-starters with excellent problem-solving skills. 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, including graphic 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. Graphic designers can expect to see higher demand in other industries of employment like software publishing, which represents the growing market for electronic media over print.
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 2011 average annual wage for graphic designers in Oregon was $44,900, which was about the same as the statewide average for all occupations. The wage at the tenth percentile was $26,083. 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 three out of 10 graphic designers were self-employed in 2010. 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."