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Graphic Design
Graphic Design
Career Opportunities & Work Life

Being part of a creative team, turning ideas into messages, and finding new ways to communicate with people while employing the fundamentals of visual arts are at the heart of careers in graphic design. Because almost every company and organization invests in marketing to sell its products, to raise money, or to promote its cause, graphic designers can put their skills to use fields ranging from education to the recording industry.

A few areas of specialization for today's graphic arts professional include:

  • Production Artist
  • Graphic designer (print)
  • Interface Designer (web, programs, games, mobile, etc)
  • Illustrator
  • Environmental Designer (signage, wayfinding, architectural systems)
  • Animator
  • Digital Video Producer, Interstitial Designer
  • Video Game Designer
  • Exhibit Designer (for trade shows, museums, etc.)

Work Environment
Graphic designers can work in a number of professional office settings. Traditionally that was exemplified by advertising agencies. Ad agencies work with outside clients to develop marketing and communication strategies. In an agency environment, graphic designers work as part of team with writers, creative directors, and the client's account representative to create communication materials that combine written and visual elements to achieve a specific goal.

Organizations and companies that have in-house marketing production departments also employ graphic designers. Since the "client", in this situation, happens to be the company the designer works for, he or she often has more direct involvement with the final decision makers. Which can lead to more control over the look of the final product. A drawback to working in an in-house setting is the possibility for less variety in the types of projects on which to work. The advantage is that as companies have realized the advantages of having trained visual artists working on their staff, the employment opportunities for designers has expanded. Non-traditional employers can include hospitals, architectural firms, non-governmental organizations like the Red Cross and many more.

Other businesses that employ graphic designers include newspapers and publishing companies, printing companies, sign companies, and web design firms. In addition, many designers are self-employed as freelancers, giving them the opportunity to persue the types of projects that are most interesting to them. Designers typically work a standard Monday through Friday, 40-hour week. However, as deadlines approach, extra hours including weekends and evenings are frequently required. Much of the workday is spent working on a computer with specialized design software.

Employment Outlook

Graphic design positions are expected to grow about as fast as average compared to other occupations. Much of this is due to the explosive growth of the Internet and the need for high-quality, professionally designed web sites.

Job growth in the graphic design field is projected at 13 percent nationally by 2020 and 9 percent in Michigan by 2018.

Even though the field is experiencing growth, competition for jobs is strong, as many artistically talented people are attracted to this creative career. This is both for its intrinsic qualities and for its more reliable and greater earning potential than some other artistic disciplines. Formal education resulting in an associate's degree, bachelor's degree, and even master's degree coupled with creative talent and a strong sense of self-disipline will help you rise to the top among applicants. In general, an associate’s degree is primarily a technical proficiency in the software and systems involved, most practitioners are at the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree level and this allows more access to conceptual, strategic or experimental work. The Masters degree is primarily for teachers and people who are interested in studying a specific sub-discipline like Social Design (the use of design as a tool in a social engineering context.)

Career Advancement

As graphic designers gain on-the-job experience and come to better understand marketing strategies, empathy for their target markets, technical issues, they can move up to positions including senior designer where they oversee entry-level designers, or creative director - a position that has more authority and influences the creative direction of a company's brand image.

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