The Think Smart Blog

Career Profile: Graphic Design

by Patrick on 17 Mar 2018

Ever look at a poster, or a website, or a magazine cover, and think, "I wonder who made that?" The answer is a graphic designer. In this article we take a look at what it's like to work in graphic design in 2018.

What's it like being a professional graphic designer?

We asked freelancer Rebecca to describe a typical day for her, and this is what she said:

At any given time I’ll work on six or seven different projects, and I’ll have up to 40 projects live at a time. 

I work from home, and don’t travel very much for work.

I’ll start the day doing brainstorming for new projects, because I’m at my most creative in the morning. I’ll develop new concept visuals, which means either sketching or fiddling round with Photoshop. Once I’ve developed some ideas I’ll send them to clients for feedback.

I’ll spend the rest of the day developing designs from clients, which normally means responding to their feedback on an earlier design and making updates. Each design will go through several iterations until the client is happy with it.

The other thing I do is receiving new briefs and doing preliminary research. So I might speak on the phone to a client about a poster for a play, and then they’ll send me the script to read before I start doing concept work the next morning.

What are the career prospects?

According to the Design Council, "the UK now has the second-largest design sector in the world and the largest design industry in Europe." In other words, there has never been a better time to get into it, as there are plenty of opportunities to be had.

How to get into graphic design

If you're trying to make it as a graphic designer, your main asset is your portfolio. If your portfolio impresses the creative director of an agency they probably won’t care about qualifications or your CV. You don’t even need A levels.

That being said, some companies have strict rules about who can apply for their jobs, and some HR departments require qualifications or certain levels of experience. Rebecca says, "In my first job, for a large agency, about a third of my colleagues had graphic design qualifications." So formal training can be helpful, but it's not always necessary. 

To build up a strong portfolio, you just need to put your head down and start designing things. Anything will do. For example you could make posters for clubs and societies at your school or college, or just design things by yourself for fun. You’re more likely to get a job if you can do more than pure graphic design, for example if you can paint, or take good photographs, or can do illustration.

Going freelance vs working for a large agency

Rebecca says:

When I worked for an agency I worked relatively stable hours. I left at seven every night. Whereas now I’m working 11/12 hour days as a freelancer. 

Also I didn’t have to think too much about the business side of things as an employee, whereas as a freelancer I have to run a business. That means chasing up clients if they’re late to make payments, and so on.

However, the great benefit of being a freelancer is you have more control over what work you do and how you do it.

Learn more

If you  think graphic design may be for you, try out our problem-solving scenarios to get a better taste of what it's like. If you think it's for you, have a look at our latest design and marketing vacancies.