Education and Training Requirements
While in high school, take any art and design courses that are available. Computer classes are also helpful, particularly those that teach page layout programs or art and photo editing programs. Working on the school newspaper or yearbook can provide valuable design experience. You could also volunteer to design flyers or posters for school events.
A bachelor’s degree in graphic design, Web design, or digital design is required for most positions in the field. Approximately 365 colleges and art schools offer art and graphic design programs that are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. Applicants to bachelor’s degree programs in the graphic arts may be asked to submit samples of their work to prove artistic ability. Many schools and employers depend on samples, or portfolios, to evaluate the applicants’ design skills. Students also typically complete at least one internship as part of their training.
A period of on-the-job training is expected for all beginning designers. The length of time it takes to become fully qualified as a designer may run from one to three years, depending on prior education and experience, as well as innate talent.
A growing number of colleges and universities offer undergraduate and graduate certificates in digital design and related fields. Contact schools in your area to learn about available programs.
Other Education or Training
The Graphic Artists Guild provides teleclasses that focus on topics such as optimizing your portfolio, copyright trends, and utilizing social media for marketing and self promotion. AIGA, the professional association for design; Society for Experiential Graphic Design; Society for News Design; and the Society of Publication Designers also provide continuing education opportunities. Contact these organizations for more information.
Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements
Certification or Licensing
No licensing is required for graphic designers. Human Factors International, which bills itself as “the world’s largest company specializing in user experience design,” offers the certified usability analyst credential to those who complete four courses (User Experience Foundations; User-centered Analysis and Conceptual Design; The Science and Art of Effective Web and Application Design; and Practical Usability Testing) and pass an examination. It offers certification courses in cities throughout the United States and the world. Visit http://www.humanfactors.com for more information. The Nielsen Norman Group offers the certified user experience designation to those who complete at least 30 hours of training and pass five exams. Visit https://www.nngroup.com/ux-certification to learn more.
Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits
New hires typically obtain one or three years’ experience before being considered full-fledged designers. Any design experience you can obtain while in school will also be extremely useful.
As with all artists, graphic designers need a degree of artistic talent, creativity, and imagination. They must be sensitive to beauty, have an eye for detail, and have a strong sense of color, balance, and proportion. Many of these qualities come naturally to potential graphic designers, but skills can be developed and improved through training, both on the job and in professional schools, colleges, and universities.
More and more graphic designers need solid computer skills and working knowledge of several of the common drawing, image editing, and page layout programs. Graphic design can be done on both Macintosh systems and on PCs; in fact, many designers have both types of computers in their studios.
With or without specialized education, graphic designers seeking employment should have a good portfolio containing samples of their best work. The graphic designer's portfolio is extremely important and can make a difference when an employer must choose between two otherwise equally qualified candidates.