Graphic Designer Role: Expectation Vs Reality | Wired Sussex

05 Oct 2022

05 Oct 2022

The Graphic Designer Role: Expectation Vs Reality

Learn the surprising truth about Graphic Design jobs

‘What do you do for work?’ is one of the main things we all quiz people about when meeting them for the first time. When ‘graphic designer’ is the answer to said question, most of us have an inkling as to what that entails, even if we don’t work in a creative role.

At least we think we do.

The reality is, though, that unless you’ve studied an advert for a graphic design job or directly experienced working within the industry, there are always common misconceptions, misbeliefs and fabrications that do the rounds.

If you’re considering a career as a graphic designer but need some help separating fact from fiction, you’re in the right place. Join Wired Sussex as we investigate what’s what, and how expectation marries up with reality, when it comes to the graphic designer role.

What does a Graphic Designer do?
Expectation: they make things look pretty
Reality: they make things look pretty... & more!

From an outsider's perspective, a lot of what a graphic designer does is simply make things aesthetically pleasing. However, there is much more to the role than that.

Graphic designer duties and tasks include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Creating eye-catching, prominent and on-brand visuals to make an organisation recognisable
  • Combining art and technology to communicate ideas through text and images
  • Liaising with clients to determine their business objectives, requirements and budget
  • Working on a variety of platforms including websites, adverts, books, magazines, computer games and product packaging
  • Developing design briefs in line with a client's vision and purpose
  • Presenting final ideas and concepts to account managers or clients
  • Keeping up to date with industry trends and emerging technologies
  • Proofreading colleagues' work, as well as their own, to ensure deliverables are accurate and of a high quality
  • Demonstrating illustration skills with rough sketches
  • Communicating with a wider team of creative professionals including copywriters, photographers, animators, illustrators, web developers and marketing specialists.

Graphic Designer qualifications & education
Expectation: only a Graphic Design degree will do!
Reality: any degree that relates to visual arts is acceptable

Whilst a graphic design degree is, indeed, ideal for pursuing a career in this field, other degrees are widely accepted by employers seeking graphic designers.

In particular, a degree or higher education in the following topics, which provide a good grounding and knowledge of design, art history or printing techniques, will most likely be suitable:

  • 3D Design
  • Communication Design
  • Film and Television
  • Fine Art
  • Illustration
  • Photography
  • Visual Art

If you are lacking a formal education, it’s not entirely unheard of for employers to take on talented graphic designers on the merit of their graphic design portfolio and informal qualifications. Nonetheless, this is quite rare and the vast majority of graphic designers have been through higher education.

The average Graphic Designer salary in the UK
Expectation: show me the £££!
Reality: it ranges according to experience, location & company

Whilst graphic design jobs are very much in demand and can prove extremely lucrative, the average graphic designer salary varies according to multiple factors.

Your level of experience, the location of the company you work for and whether you pursue an in-house, agency or freelancer role will all have an impact on your earnings.

As a rough guide though, a junior graphic designer salary can expect to earn anywhere in the region of £15k - £19k. Once you’ve been in the industry for a few years, a mid-weight graphic designer salary tends to fall in the £25- to £35k bracket. Finally, £35-£55k is typical of a senior graphic designer salary, while a Creative Director can earn in the region of £60k. 

What are the necessary skills & qualities of a Graphic Designer?
Expectation: you should be an incredible artist
Reality: you should have an incredible sense of design & much more

Now that computer-based tools are available, the ability to draw is not as crucial an ingredient for being a graphic designer as you may have first thought. Rather, a good sense of design is much more important.

That said, you do need to be able to do basic drawings and sketches in order to convey your ideas. Indeed, a graphic designer must possess a combination of the following technical and soft skills:

  • Proficiency in using creative tools such as Photoshop, Illustrator and Indesign
  • An understanding of UX design and UI design
  • A firm comprehension of design principles
  • Typography skills
  • Excellent verbal and written communication
  • An artistic or creative flair
  • Great team worker
  • Presentation skills
  • Time management
  • Networking skills
  • Problem-solving

Graphic Designer struggles: is it hard to be a Graphic Designer?
Expectation: it’s creative, fun & stress-free
Reality: it’s creative, fun & stressful (sometimes)

There’s so much to enjoy and appreciate about working as a graphic designer. It entails tapping into the creative side of your brain and is a cutting edge, ever-evolving and in-demand job. You will constantly be learning and the industry typically doesn’t stagnate or stay the same for very long, which means having a career that remains fresh and exciting.

For the very same reasons, however, being a graphic designer can be stressful too. Wearing multiple hats daily, you’ll work with and communicate with clients from various industries. This requires an ability to manage client expectations and accept their feedback - both the good and the bad. Keeping abreast of industry trends and software, and continually coming up with intriguing designs, can be a struggle too. The solution to this is simply to ensure you have sufficient downtime away from work and using that time to rest, recharge and refresh!

What else can you expect from a Graphic Design role?

Mostly, working as a graphic designer involves sitting at a computer for long periods. Graphic designers typically work 9-5 but, depending on your circumstances, whether you work in-house, at an agency or are freelance, your start and finish times might be more/less flexible. Agency and freelance work tends to be less rigid. On occasion, you may be required to travel to meet clients.

Next steps...

Are you seeking a graphic design job, based in Sussex? At Wired Sussex, we connect talented job seekers with incredible companies across the region.

Why not check out the current opportunities available on our jobs board? From junior graphic designer jobs to more senior or managerial roles, we’ve got you covered. Plus, if working from home is more your style, remote graphic design jobs are available too.