Friday, December 15

So You Want to Be a Graphic Designer?

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For whatever reason, many people carry the perception that graphic designers have stress-free jobs where they sit and draw pretty pictures and play with fonts on the computer all day. But according to graphic designers themselves, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Graphic designers work with cutting-edge computer programs such as Adobe’s Creative Suite to create various forms of advertising artwork including book covers, banners, posters, tent cards, t-shirts, logos, stickers, window clings, labels, brochures, magazine and newspaper advertising, newsletters, illustrations, promotional campaign materials, CD/DVD covers, and racing car ads. Basically, that’s just about any flat surface that can handle two-dimensional artwork being slapped upon it.

But it’s not simply flat surfaces that graphic designers work with. In recent years, a significant portion of graphic design job openings have been geared toward web design, thus necessitating HTML, CSS, Flash, even javascript as key skill sets. Because they are more technical than print design jobs, web-based design positions typically pay a higher salary.

Many graphic designers are employed in cutting-edge advertising firms working with external clients, while others are employed by corporations working with internal clients. But rather than going on about types of graphic design employment, let’s take a quick look at a “day in the life” of a corporate graphic print designer.

The graphic designer’s first morning task is to start the computer (most likely a Macintosh); check e-mail; open Adobe InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop; and check the list of design projects. Then, he or she jumps in to a project that typically has a tight deadline. Prioritization is key, as is the ability to quickly shift focus from one project to another based on level of importance and when the job has to go to print. It is truly a constant juggling act.

Designing the artwork presents its own set of challenges. A graphic designer must become intimately familiar with such industry-wide terms as vector graphics, RGB/CMYK, DPI vs. memory usage, image size/resolution, masking, transparency, JPGs vs. PDFs, thumbnails, shadows, and font effects just to name a few. Computer glitches often arise as well, most often in the form of compatibility issues among the various software programs and their respective versions.

Multiple clients compete for the graphic designers’ time, and demands are often made suddenly and unexpectedly. Designers have to show their work to other people: “It’s a feeling of 3 steps forward and 4 steps back sometimes,” graphic designers often say on how management selects the artwork. “You have to be organized and ready to respond to requests for work.”

During the course of the day, a graphic designer may print copies of the artwork and ensure colors are accurate. He or she may also check with local area printers and bid work out to the print shop offering the best price and quality. Some companies require designers to draw “thumbnails,” quick brainstorming sketches of new projects.

At the end of the day, the graphic designer may update his or her tracking sheet which keeps tabs on the progress of each project. This is a purely administrative task, but is absolutely necessary to ascertain the status of individual design jobs.

So as you can clearly see, the job of a graphic designer is most certainly fulfilling for the creative, artistic-minded person; yet like any job, it’s not without its daily challenges. For more information on the field of graphic design, see the AIGA website.

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