While the job titles of commercial artist and illustrator have not completely vanished, they have been largely replaced by the graphic artist or graphic designer in the 21st century. Graphic artists use images, text and motion graphics to create visual materials for a wide range of purposes. Typical projects include designing trademarks, logos and business insignia. They also work to develop ad campaigns in the print and Internet publishing industries and for advertising purposes.
Employers generally expect graphic artists to have an undergraduate degree in graphic design, art or fine arts. Introductory graphic design classes usually emphasize proficiency in one or more graphic design software programs. That said, a good many folks working in graphic design come from other fields or have less education. They may be self-taught, and have sufficiently developed their artistic talent and design skills to create top-notch portfolios to impress employers. On the other side of the spectrum, a few graphic artists go back to graduate school to earn an master of fine arts, master's degree or Ph.D. in graphic design.
Graphic designers are typically a member of a team. Their initial responsibility is to meet with clients, art directors and other project stakeholders to discuss expectations and the scope of the project. Graphics designers often advise clients regarding strategies that will resonate with a specific audience or how to most effectively convey the message. They must incorporate feedback from other parties into their creative work. Often, projects are characterized by tight deadlines.
The graphic design process itself involves creating or modifying images that convey a message or serve as a "visual brand" for an organization or product. Graphic artists typically create designs by hand, then digitize or create them using graphic design software. Creating a graphic design includes selecting appropriate images, choosing text fonts and styles, and laying out the design. After presenting a design to a client, the graphic artist must negotiate and incorporate changes requested by the client. Ultimately, however, the client is paying the bills, and sometimes a project requires multiple revisions. The final step in the process is a careful final review of the design to make sure there are no typos and that no errors were introduced during the revisions.
Pay and Prospects
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 30 percent of graphic designers are self-employed, and graphic designers earned a median salary of $44,010 at year in 2011. Overall job prospects for graphic designers are average, with the BLS projecting 13 percent employment growth between 2010 and 2020. Prospects for graphic designers in the computer systems design and services industry are exceptional, with a scintillating 61 percent job growth rate anticipated in that same period.
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