There are approximately 290,100 graphic designers (including those who specialize in digital design) in the United States. They work for animation companies, film and television production companies, computer and video game design companies, advertising and marketing firms, public relations and publicity firms, technology companies, and newspaper, book, and magazine publishers.
About 22 percent of all graphic designers are self-employed, a higher proportion than is found in most other occupations. These freelance designers sell their services to multiple clients.
The best way to enter the field of digital design is to have a strong portfolio. Potential employers rely on portfolios to evaluate talent and how that talent might be used to fit the company's needs. Beginning digital designers can assemble a portfolio from work completed at school, in digital art, Web design, and animation classes, and in part-time or freelance jobs. The portfolio should continually be updated to reflect the designer's growing skills so it will always be ready for possible job changes. The digital designer’s portfolio is extremely important and can make a difference when an employer must choose between two otherwise equally qualified candidates.
Those just starting out can apply directly to companies that employ designers. Many colleges and professional schools have placement services to help graduates find positions, and sometimes it is possible to get a referral from a previous part-time employer or volunteer coordinator.
As part of their on-the-job training, beginning digital designers generally are given simpler tasks and work under direct supervision. As they gain experience, they move up to more complex work with increasingly less supervision. Experienced digital designers, especially those with leadership capabilities, may be promoted to chief designer, design department head, or other supervisory positions.
When designers develop personal styles that are in high demand in the marketplace, they sometimes go into business for themselves. Freelance design work can be erratic, however, so usually only the most experienced designers with an established client base can count on consistent full-time work.
Tips for Entry
Use social media such as LinkedIn and Twitter to stay up to date on industry developments and learn about job openings.
Visit the following Web sites for job listings:
Attend industry conventions and trade shows to network and interview for jobs.
Join professional associations such as the Society of Publication Designers and AIGA, the professional association for design to access training and networking resources, industry publications, and employment opportunities.
Participate in internships or part-time jobs that are arranged by your college’s career services office.