Becoming a graphic designer in 2021 sounds risky. With so many on-demand platforms that allow consumers to create their own graphics easily, you might wonder whether becoming a graphic designer is a viable career option. The rise of the internet and DIY technology have changed the landscape, but there are still opportunities for those who know what skills are most needed.
A decade or two ago, graphic designers were highly sought-after professionals because they were the only people who could do what they do. Businesses relied on them to build their brand assets and create powerful marketing visuals that converted customers. Now, with platforms like Canva, it’s much easier for companies to develop passable design skills in-house and spare themselves the salary of a full-time designer. That’s why you see the majority of designers today building their own businesses and working freelance.
One-off jobs are far easier to find, and even recurring customers may only require services on an individual basis. This means you have to adapt to the environment and learn how to meet customers’ needs. Becoming a graphic designer today isn’t a bad idea, but it does require a lot more research and inventiveness than before.
Why Graphic Designers Are Still Needed
The purpose of graphic design isn’t to create something eye catching or even attractive to look at. Sure, aesthetics matter, but at times, they may be used to create immediate contrast and elicit even a negative emotion in the viewer. That’s because the real point of graphic design is to use design as a method of communication. Your role is to use graphic elements, including imagery and text, to convey a message and conjure desired emotional responses.
With so many DIY graphic design tools out there, this meaning has been lost. Now, people want to make an ad, so they grab a premade template, insert their own copy and whisk it away with little thought into the social media void. Its why digital marketing has become so much more competitive and so many brands still struggle to maintain a consistent identity.
Professional designers are still needed because they are the only experts who know the theory that should govern the best practices. They aren’t only in it to make logos or come up with color schemes. These are artists with technical abilities who are able to take a simple message and objective and turn it into something visually powerful.
Becoming a Graphic Designer in 2022 and Beyond
Entering the field will take more than just some Photoshop know-how and a good portfolio. You’ll need to be a master in all the graphic design principles such as proximity, white space, contrast, color theory and more to truly excel at your work. Your goal should not be simply to land a job but instead brand yourself as a gem in a convoluted marketspace.
This means a degree is still valuable, despite the fact most of the skills can be self-taught. To be honest, most degrees could be self-taught thanks to the internet. Arguing that principle alone doesn’t negate the value of the commitment it takes to complete an undergraduate program. You needn’t waste six figures at a flashy art school either, unless that’s your thing. You can take out a student loan from a private lender, then use a calculator to figure out how much you’ll expect to pay later. This can help you choose a program that’s both profitable and practical for you now and in the future.
Choosing the Right School
You should choose a school that introduces students to the fundamentals, builds a strong skillset and emphasizes the creation of a professional portfolio. Your portfolio is your visual identity as a designer. It is the determining factor employers and clients will use to decide whether or not they want to hire you. Any school that does not recognize this is not worth your time or money.
Another important component to consider is faculty. Who are you going to learn the industry from? You should have access to relevant, modern professionals who understand the nuances of the current graphic design industry. They also need to know first-hand what challenges newcomers face and have the ability to help their students overcome them.
Advancing Your Skills
You may already be working in the field and just want to brush up on your skills. One way to consider reinventing yourself is to consider what value your skills could provide on an ongoing basis. We talked about DIY platforms and how they’ve reshaped the way people create. What if you didn’t compete with these models but instead learned to use them to your advantage? Professionals today can make editable assets and templates that allow customers to reuse them. You can put up a PSD for social media posts, make branded asset bundles and even customize templates for customers to build a thriving business.
To stay on top of your industry, you will also need to expand your repertoire to encompass the leading skill sets of the times. That’s digital marketing and UX/UI. Today, businesses are far more concerned with making money than looking good. They know that average designs can still yield decent results if their marketing budget is big enough. They aren’t worried about having the most original or unique identity in the world. What they want is effective and efficient branding that scales their company and increases revenue. With skills in UX/UI and the fundamentals of digital marketing, you’ll be better equipped to meet modern consumers’ needs. For example, anyone can make a logo, but icon design is more modern and allows the client to use an image for branding beyond just their logo. You can show potential clients or employers that your skills align with their objectives and demonstrate your value beyond simply making things look good.
Building Your Career
It’s no longer about looks or artistic talent. You need to be able to demonstrate your versatility as a designer as well as your skills in business. When you speak the language of marketers, you’ll naturally be able to appeal to a wider audience. Instead of offering to build a website, you can emphasize that you will help establish the experience all of a business’s consumers encounter. Rather than becoming obsolete entirely, graphic design must evolve in the wake of technological innovation. Moving forward, it will be the professionals who adopted new skills and expanded their definition of their jobs who reclaim the industry.