Get a list of the most important graphic designer skills employers & clients look for. Learn how to improve your graphic design skills and build your career.
10 min read
January 19, 2022
Build Your Portfolio
Art by tubik.arts
As a new graphic designer, you're about to embark on an exciting adventure. Whether you're applying for graphic design jobs at an agency or want to venture into the world of freelancing, you'll be getting paid to use your natural creative talents. To distinguish yourself from other graphic designers in the job pool, you need just the right combination of graphic designer skills. In this guide, you'll learn what technical and soft skills you need to get hired and succeed in your career.
Visual Designer vs. Graphic Designer
First, you need to determine whether you want to be a graphic designer or visual designer. While there are similarities in skill sets, understanding the difference between graphic design and visual design will help you build a career that best suits your talents and interests.
Graphic designers are responsible for using text and images to communicate a specific message. Logos, print advertisements, and brochures are all examples of projects completed by graphic design professionals.
Visual designers are responsible for building brands on digital media. Although they use some of the same skills as graphic designers, their goal is to create a consistent brand image across multiple digital platforms such as websites, apps, social media, etc.
Art by Julia Hanke
Skills needed to be a graphic designer
Graphic designer skills can be classified as technical skills or soft skills. Technical skills are specific to your job, while soft skills are the skills and personality traits that allow you to succeed in any role. For a graphic designer, one of the most important technical skills is the ability to use Adobe Suite (Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator) to complete design projects.
Technical skills for graphic designers
Employers look for versatile graphic designers who have the technical abilities needed to hit the ground running. These are some of the most desirable technical skills for a graphic designer:
- Typography skills:As a graphic designer, you must be able to arrange words and letters in a visually appealing way.
- Font selection:Font type, size and weight all affect the appearance of your designs and may influence the way people perceive your message, so you must be able to choose an appropriate font for each project.
- Ability to follow branding guidelines:Branding guidelines are standards used to determine how a brand will be presented to audience members. To succeed in the industry, you must be able to follow these guidelines closely.
- Design principles:Successful graphic designers know how to use white space, color, hierarchy and other principles to compose well-balanced designs.
- RGB and CMYK: You must be able to choose the right color set for each project. CMYK is ideal for print projects, while RGB is typically used for digital designs.
- UX design:Skilled graphic designers understand how to create simple designs that are useful and meet established accessibility guidelines.
- Digital technology (HTML, CSS, JS):Technology skills are especially helpful if you plan to design websites or work as a visual designer.
- Picture skills (photography)/photo editing:You may have to incorporate photos into your graphic design projects, so it's important to know how to edit stock photos or take high-quality photos of your own.
Art by Joanna Nowak
Soft skills for graphic designers
No matter how good your technical skills are, it's difficult to succeed in the design industry if you don't have the soft skills employers desire. As we noted earlier, soft skills are personality traits that can help you succeed in any industry. These traits help you communicate effectively, collaborate with others and build positive relationships with colleagues and clients. As a graphic designer, you should have the following soft skills:
- Collaboration skills:Good collaboration skills make it easy to work with others in pursuit of a common goal. A skilled collaborator listens to others, communicates consistently, and owns up to their mistakes.
- Emotional intelligence:People with high levels of emotional intelligence excel at managing their emotions, allowing them to resolve conflict and reduce stress on their team members.
- Communication skills:You must be able to communicate effectively with colleagues, clients, and other stakeholders. Potential employers are always looking for graphic designers who have strong communication skills that can express their ideas clearly and consistently.
- Time management:Graphic design is a deadline-driven profession, so you must be able to manage your time effectively.
- Creativity:Creativity refers to the ability to generate new ideas and use them to solve problems or communicate with others. Successful graphic designers are highly creative and innovative.
- Storytelling:If you're trying to appeal to a specific group of people, storytelling is a great way to find out what audience members need and show them how your employer can help. Storytelling skills are especially helpful for visual designers charged with building consistent brand images.
Art by Darya Semenova
How to improve your graphic design skills
Now that you know what skills you need to become a graphic designer, it's time to start building your portfolio. Here are some of the best ways to enhance your graphic design skills or build on your existing expertise.
Take online classes
If you don't have a degree in graphic design, there are plenty of ways to develop the skills you need to succeed as a designer. Taking online classes is one of the best, as it gives you an opportunity to learn from experienced professionals and complete projects that can be used to build your portfolio. Some organizations even offer free classes, making it easier for designers of all ages and backgrounds to access high-quality education. If you're ready to learn, check out these options:
- Canva Design School:Canva Design School offers a series of 12 lessons to help you build basic graphic design skills. The course touches on typography, color theory, and other important design principles, ensuring you understand how to create visually appealing designs that get your message across.
- Dribbble Workshops: Build your graphic designer skills learning alongside industry leaders in Dribbble's live, interactive design workshops. Whether you want to learn relevant skills like logo design, or how to become a successful graphic designer, Dribbble has a workshop for you.
- Udemy:Udemy has hundreds of courses on graphic design, from short intro classes to training programs with 10+ hours of educational content. You can learn more about the principles of graphic design or do a deep dive into a specific skill, such as using Adobe Photoshop to edit images or brainstorming tools (Miro, Figma) for motion design.
- CalArts graphic design specialization:The California Institute of the Arts offers a graphic design specialization made up of five courses. Each course builds on the previous one to ensure that you can apply basic and advanced design skills to multiple projects.
- LinkedIn Learning:LinkedIn Learning, previously known as Lynda, offers courses to help users improve their professional skills. The graphic design learning path includes 11 courses to help you learn in-demand technical skills and improve the soft skills needed to collaborate with others. These courses include Illustrator 2021 Essential Training, Color Trends, Photoshop 2021 Essential Training, and Color for Design and Art.
- Creative Live:LinkedIn Learning and Udemy offer asynchronous learning opportunities; once you sign up for a course, you can access the content at any time. Creative Live is a little different. Live instructors teach their classes at specific times, so you must be online while the course is in progress, or you won't be able to access the content later.
Art by tubik.arts
Read graphic design books
Reading graphic design books is an inexpensive way to learn specific skills, refine your design process, or get a better idea of what it's like to be a professional designer. Check out these books the next time you need some inspiration or want to learn a new skill:
- Thinking with Type:In Thinking with Type, Ellen Lupton explains the principles of typography, focusing on spacing, alignment, shape, and order. You'll learn more about using style sheets, captions, ornaments, font licensing, and enlarged capitals, among other typography topics.
- Designing Brand Identity:In some cases, it's not enough to be a great designer. You also need to know how to use your design skills to build cohesive brands. In Designing Brand Identity, Alina Wheeler explains how to develop and implement effective brand identities. The book includes 30 case studies to show you how well-established companies have used graphic design to build consistent brand images.
- 100 Ideas That Changed Graphic Design:Steven Heller and Veronique Vienne provide an overview of how graphic design has changed throughout history, commenting on how new ideas led to technological and stylistic advancements in the field.
- The Non-Designer's Design Book:If you're just starting out in the graphic design field, you might benefit from Robin Williams' guide to the fundamental principles of design. Williams explains how to design with color and type, work with multiple typefaces and think from a design perspective. The book also includes tips for completing specific types of design projects, including newsletters and brochures.
- How Do I Do That in InDesign?Once you understand the fundamentals of design, you'll need to be able to use industry tools to work on projects. In How Do I Do That in InDesign, Dave Clayton and Scott Kelby explain how to complete specific actions in Adobe's design software. You'll learn how to add grids to each document, drag out ruler guides, check for errors, change the pasteboard size, and much more.
Art by Lauren Castro
Find a design mentor
Everyone can benefit from working with a design mentor—someone who has experience completing a wide variety of design projects and collaborating with others. To find a design mentor, designer Jenna Freitas recommends reaching out to famous graphic designers via social media. She says:
"DM your heroes. I’m serious. Reach out to them. This sounds crazy but we aresolucky to have social media as a platform to connect to all these people we admire."
Many designers remember how difficult it was to find their footing when they first entered the industry, so you might get a few responses. If you don't hear from any of the people you contacted, check out the LinkedIn profiles of successful designers. LinkedIn profiles are a good place to find out what skills successful designers have, the schools they attended, and what organizations they recommend joining to advance your graphic design career.
Create self-initiated projects
Completing paid projects is great, but if you're always following someone else's guidelines, you won't have many opportunities to improve your design skills or develop your own signature design style.
Maria Galybina comments, "In my opinion, the most important thing is to focus on creating things you really love. Then, you won’t feel like you’re putting in so much effort, and the art of creating will fill you with joy." Take Maria's advice by setting aside some time to create self-initiated projects. These are projects you complete simply for the joy of improving your craft. You don't have to follow a client's style guide or adhere to an established set of brand rules; you just have to sit down and start creating.
Another benefit of working on self-initiated projects is that they can help you branch out into other types of design. Graphic designer Patrick Moriarty states:
"One of the best pieces of advice that I've received is to create the work you want to get paid to make."
If you've been spending all your time on logos when you really want to be designing brochures or annual reports, use your personal time to create samples that align with the type of work you want to do.
Art by Anton Kakhidze
Ask for feedback
If you never ask for feedback, you won't know what people really think about your work, causing you to miss out on valuable opportunities to improve your graphic design skills.
Although it's important to get feedback from design professionals, you should also be asking non-designers to look at your work and tell you what they think. This is especially important if you focus on business-to-consumer design rather than business-to-business projects. Someone who isn't a professional designer can look at your portfolio and tell you if the designs are visually appealing and easy to understand, two hallmarks of effective graphic design.
Online forums and communities like Dribbble are a great resource for graphic designers looking to get feedback on their work. When people can't see your reaction to their feedback, they're much more likely to be honest. If you ask a stranger for feedback, you also won't have to worry about how it will affect your relationship.
Sign up for design communities, post your recent design project, and ask people to provide constructive feedback that you can use to make improvements. You'll be surprised by how many people are willing to take a few minutes out of their day to help you grow as a design professional.
Showcase your graphic design skills in your portfolio
Graphic design is a rewarding career filled with creative challenges. But to become a graphic designer, you'll need to showcase graphic design skills in your portfolio and resume. that demonstrate using design software, selecting fonts, and following the basic principles of design throughout your creative process. You'll also need to demonstrate strong collaboration skills, creative thinking, effective communication, and that you can come up with innovative ideas. If you build just the right combination of technical and soft skills, you'll have a better chance of landing the design job of your dreams.
Recommended for you
12 min read
11 min read
10 min read
Unlock new opportunities with Dribbble Pro
Dribbble Pro is the no‑stress portfolio solution that helps you land work and get discovered.
You might also like
Learn how to build a profitable freelance graphic design business from scratc...
August 06, 2021 10 min read
Explore the most popular career paths for graphic designers to pursue in 2022...
December 06, 2021 12 min read
Ask these interview questions to help you hire the right graphic designer. Le...
September 16, 2021 6 min read
Compare the best UI/UX design courses to launch your product design career. L...
August 24, 2022 11 min read
Build your portfolio & unlock new opportunities with Dribbble Pro
Create a client-facing portfolio instantly(Video) 17 Side Hustles You Can Start During The 2022 Recession
Get hundreds of new leads weekly
Connect with the #1 creative community
Promote your goods seamlessly
Is graphic design a good skill in 2022? ›
Graphic design is a great career for people who are creative thinkers and enjoy art, technology, and communication. There are design needs across every industry, so Graphic Designers have many opportunities to take on a range of new and exciting projects.What are 5 skills you think a graphic designer needs to have? ›
- Design principles. A strong understanding of design principles is essential for any Graphic Designer. ...
- Ideation. Also known as idea generation, ideation is the creative process of generating, developing and communicating new ideas. ...
- Branding. ...
- Typography. ...
- Designing for print. ...
- UX and UI design. ...
- 2022 will be a year of creative pragmatism. ...
- 90's Retro futurism icons. ...
- Abstract asymmetrical background and patterns. ...
- Radical contrast. ...
- 2D & 3D mashup and character illustrations. ...
- Experimental typography. ...
- Interactive data visualization.
- Excellent IT skills, especially with design and photo-editing software.
- Exceptional creativity and innovation.
- Excellent time management and organisational skills.
- Accuracy and attention to detail.
- An understanding of the latest trends and their role within a commercial environment.
Employers look for graphic designers with strong problem-solving skills to ensure that they can make adjustments to their designs based on their intended purpose. Graphic designers also use problem-solving skills when setting expectations with clients and collaborating with other designers.What is the most important skill a graphic designer must possess? ›
Problem solving might just be the most key skill out of all the graphic design skills, besides actually using the Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, Sketch or other design software. That's because all digital products need to solve the users' problems.
The elements of design are the fundamental aspects of any visual design which include shape, color, space, form, line, value, and texture.What are 3 things graphic designers do? ›
Graphic designers typically do the following: Meet with clients or the art director to determine the scope of a project. Use digital illustration, photo editing software, and layout software to create designs. Create visual elements such as logos, original images, and illustrations to help deliver a message.What is the biggest trend right now 2022? ›
- Ultra-Baggy Denim. Balenciaga cotton baggy jeans. ...
- Leather Jackets: The Epitome of Cool. ...
- Punk Prep. ...
- Saturated and Strokable Knits. ...
- Bigger, Better Bomber Jackets. ...
- The White-Tank-and-Blue-Jean Formula. ...
- Floor-Skimming Hemlines. ...
- Tailored Waistcoats.
Psychedelic Shapes and Fonts
The psychedelic design takes over the stage these days. In contrast with futuristic designs and celebration of high-tech, old-school and back-to-60s types of design are pretty popular. Brighter colors and abstract illustrations are the essential parts of this trend.
What makes you stand out from other designers? ›
- Select a Color Scheme. ...
- Use Fonts that Add to Your Design. ...
- Always Sketch Before Designing. ...
- Experiment with Layouts and Typography. ...
- Embrace Minimalist Designs and Negative Spaces. ...
- See What Other Designers Are Doing. ...
- Practice and Continue Learning. ...
- Decide What You Want to Be Known For.
For example: Good communication skills. Critical thinking. Working well in a team.Is graphic design a skill or talent? ›
It is an essential skill to create your own graphic design and there is no way to avoid it either. Almost every job post required applicants to be well versed in using those programs. In fact, Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign are the most requested skill in our sample of job postings.How should a graphic designer prepare for an interview? ›
- Review graphic design industry terms before your interview. ...
- Practice answering common interview questions beforehand. ...
- Review your portfolio, focusing on major projects. ...
- Research the company and prepare questions for the interviewers. ...
- Bring several printed copies of your resume.
Dark-wash jeans are a great option for a less formal feel. Match them with a cardigan or blazer over a button up shirt and you're ready to go. Most creative directors recommend against the traditional tie if you're looking at agency work since it feels too formal.What are 5 things graphic designers do? ›
- Company brand identity (logos, typography, and color palettes)
- User interfaces on apps and websites.
- Books, magazines, newspapers, and other publications.
- Product packaging.
- Advertisements and commercials.
- Signage for stores, transportation, stadiums, and event spaces.
- Video games.
Graphic Designers create visual concepts to communicate information. They create everything from posters and billboards to packaging, logos and marketing materials. Graphic Designers use elements such as shapes, colors, typography, images and more to convey ideas to an audience.What are the 15 principles of graphic design? ›
Understanding the basics
The elements, or principles, of visual design include Contrast, Balance, Emphasis, Movement, White Space, Proportion, Hierarchy, Repetition, Rhythm, Pattern, Unity, and Variety.
How does this relate to design? You can find the Golden Ratio when you divide a line into two parts and the longer part (a) divided by the smaller part (b) is equal to the sum of (a) + (b) divided by (a), which both equal 1.618. This formula can help you when creating shapes, logos, layouts, and more.What are the 12 principles of design? ›
Understanding the basics
There are twelve basic principles of design: contrast, balance, emphasis, proportion, hierarchy, repetition, rhythm, pattern, white space, movement, variety, and unity.
What are three 3 qualities a good design should have a good design should? ›
Good design is honest. Good design is unobtrusive. Good design is long-lasting. Good design is consistent in every detail.What is the SWOT of graphic design? ›
As a designer, a SWOT Analysis of a design project allows you to dig deeper and uncover opportunities for your clients. With the information you gather, you'll be able to highlight your client's needs and create an effective design campaign that takes their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats into mind.What's your biggest strength as a designer? ›
- I would say that creativity is my greatest strengths. Each of my design is unique in something. ...
- Precision, attention to detail, passion for my work, which reflects in each painting or drawing.
A good designer does the design for the end user and not for herself. A good designer interviews the target group, builds personas. Another one of the typical characteristics of a great designer is that she cares to do interviews and talk to the users in person. She is able to put aside her own solutions.What are 4 responsibilities task of a graphic designer? ›
Contributing to team efforts by accomplishing tasks as needed. Communicating with clients about layout and design. Creating a wide range of graphics and layouts for product illustrations, company logos, and websites with software such as photoshop. Reviewing final layouts and suggesting improvements when necessary.What style is in for 2022? ›
Spotlight-stealing attire with a joyous mood is taking over ahead of the holidays, from vivid colors and prints to bold silhouettes like bubble dresses, volume tops, cut-outs galore, and ultra-low rises on pants and skirts. Accessories are in on the fun, too.What is cool now 2022? ›
Glitter, Sequins And Sparkles
Designers like Tom Ford, Rodarte and Prabal Gurung punctuated their Spring/Summer 2022 collections with shimmering fabrics and sequins fit for a Gatsby-era fete. So when the Covid blues creep in, go for disco ball eyelids, glitter nails or a sequin shift dress to lift your spirits.
- GREEN PRESSURE. In 2020, consumers move from eco-status to eco-shame.
- BRAND AVATARS. Human brands take powerful new form.
- METAMORPHIC DESIGN. Consumers demand relevance as a service.
- THE BURNOUT. Smart brands rush to help those burned by the pressures of modern life.
- CIVIL MEDIA.
- 1/20. Louis Vuitton.
- 2/20. Gucci.
- 3/20. Saint Laurent.
- 4/20. Chanel.
- 5/20. Prada.
- 6/20. Versace.
- 7/20. Balenciaga.
- 8/20. Alexander McQueen.
1. Benoy Sarkar. Benoy Kumar Sarkar was born in 1938 in Kolkata. He is a man with a great sense of design and has done admirable work in the field of graphic design.
Which graphic design is in high demand? ›
Product designer positions will be the most in-demand in 2022. Product designers are in charge of creating answers to real-world challenges that consumers face. They power the websites, applications, and other digital things we use every day.What age are most graphic designers? ›
The average age of an employed graphic designer is 37 years old. The most common ethnicity of graphic designers is White (76.1%), followed by Hispanic or Latino (10.2%), Asian (7.6%) and Black or African American (3.5%).Why should we hire you for graphic designer? ›
“Honestly, I possess all the skills and experience that you're looking for. I'm pretty confident that I am the best candidate for this job role. It's not just my background in the past projects, but also my people skills, which will be applicable in this position.What inspires you to design? ›
Inspiration can come from anywhere, a verse of poetry, the sight of a bird in flight or the colors in a sidewalk might all draw your attention. When you draw on these images, incorporating them into your own work, you will give of your best. A design is always a collaboration. We build on new ideas every day.Why do you want this job? ›
Focus on the job at hand
'I want this job because I have clear skills that will help me achieve...' 'This role will give me the opportunity to combine both my skills in [skill 1] and [skill 2] to achieve...' 'I love [job role specific task] and my last job took me away from that.
- Color theory.
- Communication skills. ...
- Leadership skills. ...
- Teamwork skills. ...
- Interpersonal skills. ...
- Learning/adaptability skills. ...
- Self-management skills. ...
- Organizational skills. ...
- Computer skills.
Identify your skills
- check the job description.
- take a look at our job profiles.
- talk to people you know about their job.
8 Essential Graphic Design Skills | Monster.com
11 Graphic Design Skills That Employers Want To See
Graphic Designer Skills: Definition and Examples
Graphic design is undergoing rapid change as technology changes and new ways of thinking emerge. As a result, the skill set that goes into creating visual communication has become much broader. The traditional role of graphic designers is changing.
How do graphic designers make money in 2022? ›
- Create and sell various templates. ...
- Share your knowledge with other people. ...
- Sell design consulting services. ...
- Create and sell stickers. ...
- Create and sell fonts. ...
- Sell ready-made logo packages. ...
- Consider creating branding packages. ...
- Freelance services.
In about ten years, graphic design will become more immersive as the paper will become obsolete. In other words, all designs will be digital and have a website feel. Note that the designs will need layers to allow users to click deeper into designs, allowing people to sell products without pitching.What is the future of the graphic design industry? ›
“The future of graphic design is going to be elevated to new heights by being fused with augmented reality and eventually, 3D printing. Augmented reality and virtual reality experiences allow people to get inside the experience whether it's for recreational, educational or occupational purposes.Which graphic design is in high demand? ›
Product designer positions will be the most in-demand in 2022. Product designers are in charge of creating answers to real-world challenges that consumers face. They power the websites, applications, and other digital things we use every day.Why is graphic designer salary so low? ›
However, The graphic design industry is highly competitive and contested which causes many designers to offer their services for low pay. On top of this, many businesses don't value graphic design or think it's necessary for their brand, when something is undervalued you can expect to be underpaid.How do graphic designers make 6 figures? ›
Create Demand with Content Marketing
If you build your demand up so high that you regularly have clients willing to pay you $1,000 per project, you only need to acquire 9 of them every month (or 2.25 per week) in order to make six figures as a graphic designer.
According to Indeed, the 5 highest-paid graphic design jobs are Product Designer, User Experience Director, Front End Developer, Creative Director and Digital Designer. As you can see from this article you're reading, there are many more ways to make money as a graphic designer, but those are the top-paying positions.What do graphic designers struggle with? ›
- Visual Branding. Visual branding has taken a bit of a hit because it's not so easy to get out and take photos at the moment. ...
- Project Direction. Some graphic design companies are still in demand during the pandemic. ...
- Unclear Communication When Working Remotely. ...
- Inefficient Workflow Management Processes. ...
- Print & Digital Advertisements.
- Social Media Graphics.
- Podcast Cover Art.
- Marketing emails.
- Brochures & Posters.
- Vehicle wraps.
“Graphic design is no more stressful than any other field,” says graphic designer Ryan Mungia. “A lot of the stress depends on what kind of job you have and who you are doing it for.” That said, there are a few common sources of stress for graphic designers: Keeping up with deadlines.
What state has the highest demand for graphic designer? ›
|Total Graphic Designer Jobs:||3,451|
|Lowest 10 Percent Earn:||$35,000|
|Highest 10 Percent Earn:||$76,000|
The majority of graphic designers find their personalities quite well suited to their work, with relatively few having complaints about their fit.Is AI taking over graphic design? ›
The reality is that co-creation between designers and AIs is more likely to happen in the near future. In the past, technology helped humans become faster and stronger. We'll get wiser thanks to AI. However, machines won't be able to take over designer and creative occupations just yet.