This article explores the many different career opportunities in the graphic design field for those who enjoy art, technology, and communication. Learn more about being a graphic designer, including the salary and job outlook for graphic design jobs.
The graphic design field offers many job opportunities in a variety of settings. You can work as a web designer, illustrator, animator, or product developer and use your graphic design skills to be a creative director, production artist, art director, marketing specialist, or brand designer.
Take a look at five types of jobs you can pursue in graphic design, the salary and job outlook, and the skills and software knowledge you need to work in graphic design.
Salary and job outlook
According to Glassdoor, the average annual salary for graphic designers in Canada is $53,590 . The Government of Canada Job Bank projects a good job outlook for graphic designers in certain areas, including Alberta and Quebec through the year 2026 .
Graphic design jobs
Within the graphic design field, you might choose to work in web, mobile, or print design. Consider these and several other job options to pursue as a graphic designer.
User interface (UI) design
As a user interface (UI) designer for web and mobile, you’ll create designs and work on projects for websites and apps. Some duties might include:
- Use technologies to create functional websites.
- Design video game interfaces and landing pages.
- Ensure sites are easy to navigate.
- Incorporate the needs of users and clients.
- Translate a brand’s image into colours, fonts, graphics, and layouts.
- Present content to clients or other stakeholders.
- Update website designs as needed.
Web and mobile designers can work for large or small companies; some work remotely as freelancers.
Print, publication, and layout design
As a graphic designer specializing in print, publication, and layout design, you’ll need good typography and photo editing skills and an understanding of colour theory. You’ll need to know what images work best in print-ready copy.
Some of the materials you may work on include:
- Book covers
- Greeting cards
- Newspaper and magazine layouts
- Album covers
- Business cards
- Ad designs and layouts
Newspapers and magazines need graphic designers to layout pages, create ads, and typeset. Job opportunities are also available with advertising and public relations agencies.
Brand identity and logo design
As a logo designer, you’ll create logos to match the personality of businesses or organizations. The goal of the logo is to have instant brand recognition. Nike, FedEx, Lululemon, Pepsi, and Apple are examples of recognizable logo designs.
Brand identity designers create the entire look and feel of a company’s visual presence by designing colour palettes, typography, and other design elements. You’ll also typically define a brand’s strategy and guidelines.
Infographics and data visualizations
In the field of graphic design, you’ll work with large data sets to make information understandable and accessible to the general public through infographics or data visualizations.
Infographics are visual representations of facts, stats, and other information that tell a story and draw conclusions or show relationships among items. For example, you might create infographics for marketing content, blog posts, case studies, or resumes.
Data visualizations are visual representations of data organized to make it easier to understand and analyze. Common places you may create data visualizations include user dashboards on apps, reports, newsletters, and editorials.
Data visualization and infographic designers can benefit from knowledge and experience with data science.
Marketing and advertising design
If you enjoy behavioural psychology, consumer behaviour, and marketing, advertising design offer careers focused on understanding consumer purchasing habits. You’ll work with ad campaigns that can involve print and digital advertising, social media graphics, posters, marketing emails, and brochures.
As a marketing and advertising designer, you’ll work with a team of other professionals and clients to create effective ad campaigns. You’ll research current trends and your target market’s characteristics and needs to know how to influence them. You may work directly for a company, an ad agency, or as a freelancer.
Skills needed to work in graphic design
Graphic design requires creativity, an artistic eye, and strong technical skills to use programs such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, and Canva.
This career also requires good communication skills to articulate ideas to clients. Brainstorming is important for creating mood boards and generating creative solutions for clients. Knowledge of typography, leading, kerning, and tracking is especially important for branding and advertising. The ability to pair fonts and understand colour theory are skills that graphic designers also need.
As a graphic designer, it helps to be familiar with programs like Keynote or Milanote for organizing and creating mood boards.
TIP: A mood board is a collage that shows photographs or illustrations, type pairs, textures and designs, and colour schemes and pallets. This helps to inspire the end design, and it gives the client an idea of the direction you’re taking and the opportunity to make changes or suggestions.
Software programs for graphic designers
As a graphic designer, you’ll use software programs to create your designs and projects. Graphic designers often work with the following programs:
- Adobe Photoshop is among the most popular programs used in graphic design. It’s used for photo editing, digital art, animation, and web design. It has a variety of tools and is compatible with Windows or macOS.
- Adobe Illustrator is a vector-based graphic design software program used to create business cards, logos, and other graphics. It is often used with Photoshop and is compatible with Windows or macOS.
- Adobe InDesign is used for layout and page design by newspapers, publishers and magazines for print and digital media. InDesign is often used with Photoshop and Illustrator and it is compatible with Windows or macOS.
- Canva is an online application providing templates for creating Facebook and Instagram graphics and stories, banners, posters, brochures, and more. Canva offers hundreds of templates and tools.
- WordPress is a popular website building application that professional web and mobile designers use because it offers many free and customizable templates.
The type of work you’ll do as a graphic designer determines the software application you’ll use; some designers will use multiple applications, depending on the project.
Qualifications and requirements
The qualifications and requirements needed to begin a career in graphic design depend on the type of design and the employer’s needs.
When you seek a graphic design position, you’ll want a strong portfolio showcasing your best work. Because so much of your work might be internet based, you’ll want a website so prospective employers can view your portfolio at any time. Be sure to add a link to your resume or LinkedIn profile.
Employers often look for candidates with experience. If you’re just starting out, consider using volunteer work and internships as credentials. Volunteering to create a logo or poster for local businesses or organizations is an avenue for gaining experience.
Graphic designers need to have a good command of colour theory and typography for selecting aesthetically pleasing serif and sans-serif font combinations. You’ll want to be comfortable using design software and all its available tools and command shortcuts.
Educational requirements for graphic designers vary by position. A degree isn’t always necessary if you are creative, have good knowledge of design principles and programs, and a strong portfolio. A degree in graphic design can put you ahead of the competition and offers the chance to start building a strong portfolio. You’ll also learn colour and design fundamentals, animated graphics, colour theory, typography, and web design.
Some educational programs available include:
- Micro-credentials. These credentials prove you have the skills necessary to work in graphic design. The programs are generally taught at colleges and universities and require completing a set number of credit hours. Upon completion, some universities issue the micro-credentials as digital badges for ease of sharing and authentication.
- Associate degree. This program typically takes two years to complete. Associate degrees cover general academic subjects as well as specializations like graphic design.
- Bachelor of Design degree. This liberal arts degree program typically takes four years and helps you learn theory, technique, and application.
- Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. This four-year degree program focuses on graphic design fundamentals and often offers opportunities for internships and work-study programs.
With a career in graphic design, you can use your creativity and imagination while helping clients with their design needs. Learn more about this diverse career choice in the Graphic Design Specializationoffered by the California Institute of Arts. Upon completion, gain a shareable Professional Certificate to include in your resume, CV, or LinkedIn profile.
Click to learn more: https://www.coursera.org/ca/articles/graphic-design-jobs