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Graphic Designer

Overview  

A dream life

Many people dream of turning something they love, such as an art form, into a living. Graphic designers are among the few professionals who manage to do just that. And because of the explosion of dot coms, designers who work with web sites are now among the hottest of commodities.

Traditional graphic artists create print products such as packaging, promotional displays, marketing brochures, or books. Many graphic designers work on the visual designs of annual reports and other corporate propaganda. They also design the important logos for products and businesses. Increasingly, graphic designers are channeling their artistic talents into the lucrative and fast-evolving profession of web design. Web designers use a combination of technical know-how and design ability to create the snazzy sites on the World Wide Web.

Free to be

Because they often work on projects that eventually end--such as a seasonal catalog or redesign of a web site--graphic designers are often staffed on a freelance basis. Freelance artists sell their skills and pitch their designs to advertising agencies, retailers, design firms, magazines, newspapers, and Internet companies. While freelancing offers many advantages, such as the opportunity to take large chunks of time off, and the chance to work in many different environments, working on a project-to-project basis is far from a breeze. Freelancers must be versatile enough to be marketable to a wide variety of businesses and must also be shrewd businesspeople. A freelance artist's ability to meet deadlines and work within a budget is important to a company. Artists who prove themselves earn repeat business and invaluable word-of-mouth advertisement.

In-house graphic designers, who work on salary from one company, often work in the creative departments of advertising agencies and design firms and often get the grunt work when they start out. After an "apprenticeship" period, they will be able to work on actual designs and layouts.

Although becoming established is difficult, successful freelance artists can make a comfortable living and tend to enjoy their freedom. In-house graphic designers, such as those who become art directors at magazines or ad agencies, can command high salaries.

Career Path  

A strong portfolio is an essential for any aspiring graphic designer. The portfolio is a collection of the artist's best work; some graphic artists include new takes on existing ads or logos to demonstrate their ability within a certain industry. In fact, many graphic designers freelance while still in school in order to develop experience and a portfolio of published work.

Although no formal education is required for graphic or web design, a bachelor's degree program in fine art, graphic design, or visual communications is valuable training for both traditional graphic designers and web designers. For web design, courses in languages such as HTML and Java add highly sought-after skills. Internships are a good way to acquire hands-on experience and to gain contacts within the industry.

Designers hired into advertising agencies or graphic design studios often start with relatively routine work. While doing this work, however, they can hone their skills and learn all aspects of the business first-hand. Many graphic artists work full-time jobs in other industries while working part-time as freelancers to establish themselves.

Uppers  

Diversity of tasks;Wide variety of career options;Hot industry

Downers  

Long hours

Personality Match  

Creative;Patient;Self-disciplined

Personality Miss  

Unassertive;Disorganized

Hours  

Average about 40 per week

Salary  

Average entry-level salary: $23,000 - $27,000;Average salary for webmaster/web designer: $50,600;Experienced web designers can earn more than $80,000

Skills  

Familiarity with computer design applications: Quark, Photoshop, Adobe Ilustrator;For web designers, knowledge of languages such as HTML, Java, and Cold Fusion

Our Survey Says  

Graphic designers "love their jobs" but complain of exhaustion as well. The strain of "constantly having to sell [themselves] and their work" "takes a toll on [their] confidence and sense of self-worth." The amount of work that they get is "proportionate to how hard" they pitch their designs. They are "happiest when working on a project." Many graphic designers realize that they "won't be raking in the cash" but seeing their work used in national campaigns and logos fills them with "tremendous pride." Constant rejection is part of the job also. "A lot of people lose faith in themselves or burn out early," according to one veteran designer. But those who "make a reputation for themselves" can look forward to a long career if they are versatile and diligent.

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