What actually is a Graphic Designer?
Updated: Jun 23
When you hear the title ‘Graphic Designer’, do you think you have a pretty good idea of what they do? Or are you completely in the dark? Perhaps you’re somewhere in the middle. In this post, I’m going to break down the role of a Graphic Designer so you can better understand what it is that they do. Whether that’s to give you an insight into the services they can offer you, to help you decide if it’s a career path you want to take, or to satisfy your curiosity!
First things first, Graphic Designer roles can vary a lot. This can make it feel confusing to understand what a Graphic Designer actually is. Often, when working in digital, people can be pulled in a few different directions which means their job description gets a little blurry. This can be true of Graphic Designers who may also find themselves as unofficial Social Media Managers, Videographers, Photographers, Illustrators, Content Managers and Motion Graphic Designers. That’s a lot of hats!
So, what is it that a Graphic Designer (without all of the extra hats) does?
A Graphic Designer creates visual content, for both digital (social media, apps, and websites) and print (posters, booklets, banners, etc.), to communicate ideas, stories, and messages.
Examples of what a Graphic Designer creates:
Banners (from those wide vinyl banners you often see outside schools when they’re proud of a new Ofsted status or advertising their open days, to the 2-metre tall roller banners you see at events and conferences)
Business Stationery (letterheads, business cards, welcome packs)
Templates (so that businesses can create their own content in-house)
Branding (more than a logo, this includes all of the visual aspects of a brand – such as the colours and fonts that they should use as well as extra assets, which are usually icons and shapes that suit the brand - as well as their tone of voice, audio, and feel, e.g. a high-end jeweller will consider what it feels like when you touch their packaging)
Branding Guidelines (a set of helpful guidelines, often most helpful for businesses with new branding)
Social Media Graphics (cover photos, highlight icons, or the design of social posts i.e. carousel posts on Instagram)
Infographics (a visual, fun-yet-professional way to display data and facts)
Website Graphics (such as icons/shapes)
What a Graphic Designer doesn’t do:
Write the copy (which is the text within the content, such as paragraphs in flyers or captions for social media)
Take the photos (this is a Photographer’s job)
Design the website (this is a Website Designer's job)
Graphic Designers can also be hired to work as part of a larger team on big projects, when designing apps or board games, for example.
You might have read the list of examples above and thought: ‘I’ve designed my own flyers and social media posts, does that make me a Graphic Designer?’
Whilst that does make you creative, and perhaps you have some good design skills, there are some things that Graphic Designers do and think about that you may not have ever noticed.
7 things Graphic Designers do well
Graphic Designers make sure that the content is on-brand for their clients. This doesn't mean putting a logo in the top right hand corner, it means they consider colours, fonts, and the overall 'feel' of the content - does it need to be more corporate or more fun? etc.
They adjust the layout of the content within a piece to ensure there is space for everything to breathe & the content feels balanced. Unless for artistic effect, Graphic Designers make sure that content and copy aren't off-grid, squashed in, or too close to the edges.
They think about how the targeted audience will engage with the content. They consider how to make the content appeal to the right audience and where to place call-to-actions that encourage further engagement such as 'buy your ticket now'.
Graphic Designers use their typography knowledge to ensure that the copy reads as best it can. Widows, rags, and orphans are the names of things that need correcting to make a piece read and flow better from line to line.
They make sure the main message of the content is clear and that the audience's attention is drawn to the important parts first i.e. information is prioritised, such as the title of a music event, followed by date, then address - each is carefully placed and sized so that your eye goes to the title first and so on.
Many Graphic Designers have an exceptional eye for detail, and can spot mistakes in tiny details that make a big difference - this is especially true for the placement of shapes, text and photos within a piece. Graphic Designers know what feels and looks just right.
Because it's their job to, Graphic Designers stay up-to-date on trends, new software and skills, and are always learning. They also know how to design something that will not become dated very quickly once a trend passes.
How do Graphic Designers make everything that they make?
Graphic Designers use specialist software, often from the Adobe Creative Suite which comprises of several different professional softwares. Most often, Graphic Designers will use Adobe Illustrator for logo and icon design, Adobe InDesign when designing for print (such as posters), and Adobe Photoshop when manipulating colours and colour profiles of images.
Whilst it’s not in the list of work a Graphic Designer usually has, some Graphic Designers are also trainers and speakers who share their knowledge with other people in business and in the design industry.
Have you got any more questions about what a Graphic Designer is and what they do? Do you want to discuss the ways your business could benefit from Graphic Designer support?
Drop me a line: firstname.lastname@example.org
Insta: @AmyWaltersDesignUK, Twitter: @AmyWDesignUK, LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/amybwalters