• Molly McGraw

What Does A Graphic Designer Do?

I've seen a lot of listings on job sites, where the poster seems to be mistaken as to exactly what skill-set they should reasonably expect a Graphic Designer to have. Due to this trend in hiring expectations, designers are coming out from their degree-required education woefully under-prepared for what the working world is going to actually expect from them. We are expected to have knowledge that in reality is spread across several different degree paths and fields of study, all of which would take years to master on their own. And yet somehow we're expected to become competent in these many skill-sets alongside our graphic design degree which is in and of itself a full-time commitment. I could go on about the under-valuing of arts-based careers and the societal forcing of hobby status onto creative pastimes, but that, I feel, is for another article.

So instead, here's a quick run-down on the actual things Graphic Designers can reasonably be expected to be useful for, and what jobs I've seen people asking Graphic Designers to know how to do that we cannot actually do because they're an entirely different skill-set and degree.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: "Graphic designers create visual concepts, using computer software or by hand, to communicate ideas that inspire, inform, and captivate consumers. They develop the overall layout and production design for applications such as advertisements, brochures, magazines, and reports."

You DO want a Graphic Designer for:

  • Logo Design & Branding

  • Technical Illustrations, Diagrams, Data Graphics, & Infographics

  • Spot & Article Illustration

  • Book & Magazine Cover Design, Illustration, & Layout Design

  • Brochure Design, Poster & Flyer Design, Banner Design

  • Packaging Design & Display Design

  • Advertisement Design & Layout

  • Typography, Color Design & Theory

  • Merchandise Design, Apparel Design

  • Web Graphics

You DON'T want a Graphic Designer for:

  • Website Coding & Maintenance (you actually want a web coder/designer/author)

  • Database Coding & Maintenance (you actually want a database coder/designer/author)

  • UI Coding & Maintenance (you actually want a UI/UX coder/designer)

  • Videography & Photography (you actually want a videographer or photographer)

  • Technical or Scientific Writing (you actually want a technical writer or science writer, or perhaps an actual technician or scientist if these are for journals)

  • Data Entry & Assessment (you want a data entry specialist or data assessment manager, perhaps even someone versed in statistics)

  • Architectural Design (you want an architect, please; graphic designers can make a nice building drawing but cannot assure you it will be possible to build or make sure it's up to code)

  • Machine Design (you want a machine design engineer; as above a graphic designer can make a cool looking machine drawing but cannot assure you it will work nor actually physically build it)

  • Marketing Research & Analysis (while a lot of graphic designers are learning Marketing skills due to an increasing overlap, if you have no need for the design aspect of things you want a marketing consultant or specialist)

  • Broadcast Media (you want on-air talent, or camera operation specialists, or audio/video editors, or any of a number of other jobs required in the industry)

  • Scientific Research, Medical Research, Technological Research (you want actual scientific, medial, or engineering researchers)

  • Electrical Engineering (you want an electrician or electrical engineer; please various job listing sites, stop suggesting I go into electrical engineering despite only ever searching for design jobs)

  • Spokesperson or Press Relations (you want public relations or media relations specialist or a head of communications)

Hopefully this will help future job-listings to be more accurate in what they want from the position they are posting about. And while some Graphic Designers do have skills that overlap into the fields on the "DON'T" list, these are not and should not be expected to be the norm. Graphic Design is its own very valuable field and deserves respect that has been slowly waning.

Also, as a bonus and to flex my own Graphic Designer skills, here is a graphic representation of this article:

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