Looking to build a career in graphic design? The first thing you have to do of course is to hone your graphic design abilities. But that can only take you so far. Every business prefers to have multi-skilled versatile employees as this ensures they do not have to hire someone for every single task around the office.
That’s why the fate of your graphic design career will depend as much on non-design skills as it will on your graphic design expertise. The following is a look at the non-design abilities you need.
Good communication is inseparable from good design. After all, graphic design is a means of visual communication. A good designer must be able to understand, interpret and repeat design requirements to clients and employers. They must be comfortable discussing their work and presenting their ideas.
Too often, designers hope their work will speak for itself and they therefore don’t bother to improve their oral and writing skills. Yet, poor communication can cause confusion, misunderstanding and needlessly precipitate rework.
Graphic designers usually see themselves as artists and not marketers. However, you cannot become a much sought after designer if you do not possess some understanding of marketing. The degree of marketing knowledge you need will vary from role to role.
If you are a self-employed designer, you need to be pretty good at marketing as that’s how you’ll get clients. If you are an employee, you won’t need to be as deeply immersed in marketing but you’ll certainly require good presentation skills when pitching to a manager or client.
You don’t have to be good at drawing to be a good graphic designer but it certainly helps. It’s not only a way to set yourself apart from other designers but also makes your work easier. The ability to develop concepts and ideas before you can bring them to life on a computer is important.
It allows you to have a reasonable working draft that you can perfect quickly when you move to the graphic design software.
4. Technical Knowledge
A graphic designer may be a visual artist of sorts but in today’s world they are often seen as tech workers — with good reason. Not only do graphic designers heavily rely on software to perform their work but they often have to work closely with other IT professionals such as web designers.
Having some technical knowledge on how IT systems work and how to troubleshoot basic systems problems is beneficial. Familiarity with things like server management software and operating system installation means you don’t always have to wait for someone else to come and solve your tech issues.
Your design skills may open the door to your first graphic design job. However, it is networking that will get you moving up the company hierarchy and/or the income ladder. It is easy to get lost in the day-to-day routine of your job but this can lead to stagnation as you miss out on emerging opportunities for growth.
For self-employed designers, networking is a way to find new clients. For employees, networking is your path to a promotion and better pay.
Graphic design is a deeply project-oriented career. Each design task is a standalone project or part of a wider project. As with all project-oriented jobs, good planning skills are paramount. You’ll often need to handle multiple projects concurrently. If you do not manage your time well, it can all get overwhelming fairly quickly.
You need to have a workflow and milestones for each design project that you can share with stakeholders so everyone is on the same page. Break down the entire process so your client or employer understands exactly what you are doing. Stick to timelines but have an exception process that ensures prompt notification of delays to all parties in the rare event that a deadline is unachievable.
A good graphic designer must be good at graphic design. But it’s the non-design skills that can give you the edge.