20 Skills of Successful Graphic Designers

Every industry has their share of top professionals who have found success based on talent and a number of skill-sets that may be undefined.

What is it that has put them above all the rest? For graphic designers, it probably has something to do with mastering most or all of these skills.

1. Creativity

Too many graphic designers believe that if they can draw and work the software extremely well, that skill alone will land them a job. However, certified designers with that talent are essentially a dime a dozen. It’s the designers that tap into their creative resources, delivering fresh ideas and innovative content that move up in the graphic design world.

Creativity is a natural skill for many, but for others, it can be taught through mind practices. Let your creative juices flow by learning something new, doodling in a sketchbook, finding your creative atmosphere, and roleplaying. These are just a few of many ways that you can become more creative in your design job.

2. Intuition

Instinct is often an underappreciated skill. The best of the best in graphic designers develop a knack for knowing when and how to rely on instinct in a design move. After all, sometimes the craziest ideas turn out to be the most lucrative. This skill takes practice and a certain personality trait that facilitates taking risks. It’s not easy to take risks, but like creativity, it can be learned through spontaneity and perseverance. It could turn them into the most valuable asset to a company.

3. Typography

If you’ve spent much time in the industry, you already know how often fonts are misused and abused in design projects. But do you know how to fix it? Being a leader in typography skills goes beyond understanding the definitions of words like font families, kerning, tracking, leading, and white space. It involves stepping outside the traditional mold and creating something truly visually stunning.

Finding the balance between creativity and readability is one of the most important skills in design. Too many designers know how to make something visually appealing, but fail to make it readable. The balance is necessary to make a great product, yet this is one of the most underrated skills in the industry.

4. Software Knowledge

There are hundreds of software tools available for the graphic artist, and you’ll obviously need a proficient amount of skill in these areas. The Adobe Suite is the industry standard, and if you gain a decent understanding of each of those programs, it will help you to more easily learn to work with other programs you might encounter through your various tasks.

5. Adaptability

Perhaps even more important than knowing how to work the technology of the industry is showing an ability to learn and adapt to any software that comes your way. You’ll also want to learn to adapt to any physical situation. The workplace is always changing as clients come and go, software updates, management shifts, and company goals develop. Showing a positive, can-do attitude in any of these situations is a principal skills employers look for in graphic designers.

6. Web Design

There’s an overwhelming need in the digital world for an overlap between graphic design and web design. Many small companies are looking for a one-size-fits-all designer who can handle both basic web design needs and graphic art. It’s also handy to have this skill for designing purposes. If you understand how a certain graphic will appear on a web page, you’re more likely to deliver a product that will fit on the website the first time rather than going through a series of edits to make it work.

7. Communication

It’s easy for graphic designers to want to hide in their offices and let the creative juices flow without interruption. However, that kind of attitude simply won’t fly in the workplace. Constant communication with clients, collaborating employees, and project managers is the key to staying employed as a graphic designer. You’ll even find that constant communication and feedback from others will make you a better artist. Go figure.

8. People Skills

Like communication, people skills is often an ignored but very important skill that you can’t learn from your design professors. This is a talent you learn through constant practice and real-life application. People skills sums up a unique skillset comprised of being a good listener, a verbal communicator, and the ability to maintain lasting relationships with clients and those who work with you.

It also means being able to pitch an idea with good communication skills and staying utterly calm under the pressure of meeting and dealing with clients. The lone wolf approach won’t do you any good in the design world; in fact, it will probably leave you unemployed.

9. Color Theory

Not every graphic designer has an eye for color. Many graphic designers believe that color theory is only important to painters and artists, but it plays a major role in graphic design, particularly if you’re involved in advertising. The proper colors in any piece will make or break the success of the product from a business standpoint, and a misunderstanding of how these colors work could find you out of a job.

10. Basic HTML and CSS

The ability to publish your own graphics is powerful. It gives designers the authority to manipulate the page and format it to host their graphic the best. It’s also a good skill to have if you need to change other elements on the page to match the page layout to the graphic. It provides limitless opportunities in both the job and creativity spectrum.

11. Conversion Techniques

A significant amount of graphic design jobs today are found in digital marketing, which means that conversion and page optimization will be a major factor in successful design. An understanding of how to structure the elements on the page to drive consumer action is priceless for this type of design job.

In general, conversion techniques will revolve around inviting the target audience to the page and then leading the eye to the call to action. An understanding of how to balance space and color is necessary for this technique.

12. Print Layout

Just because you’re a graphic designer in a digital age doesn’t mean that you can ignore the print medium altogether. That sector of design is still very much alive and important to understand if you want to have the versatility necessary for a successful career. This means understanding the difference in ink values, how to communicate with the printer, and how to create master pages.

Even if this seems like a dying art, remember that even entirely online companies do physical advertising, so they’ll need printed materials to hand out at events, and if you can’t deliver, they’ll simply find someone who can.

13. Signature Style

Designers with a signature style are fairly rare in the graphic design realm, which makes them the most sought after designers in the industry. The ability to develop a unique style into all designs is a priceless attribute for a company’s brand. It creates a more strongly imprinted impression on the mind of the viewer, which leads to increased brand trust. Since brand imprintation is the main goal for most companies, it’s a skill most companies look for in their lead designers.

If you want to develop this skill, the best advice is to stop trying to adopt a wide range of contemporary styles, and instead choose one that is distinctly you. It’s okay to have those styles in your back pocket for more conservative projects, but when it comes time to impress the bosses, your style will be your saving grace.

14. Project Management

The ability to lead a team of other project collaborators is also a very attractive skill for designers to have. Leadership is defined by working with team members rather than dominating them. Companies love to have a designer on board who can manage the design project rather than using a project manager with another specialty because it generally leads to a better product. However, they won’t ask you to step up to this position if you can’t demonstrate strong leadership skills.

15. Photography

You’ll probably be asked at some point to do more than just edit the photos; you’ll probably also have to take them. Though you don’t need to study photography in depth to include this skill, it’s still a good idea to know what a high quality picture looks like and how to take one. This can actually be an advantage for you because you can take a picture with specific edits in mind.

16. Networking

Half the battle in getting a job in any field is networking, and this can be especially true for graphic designers. Many graphic designers work freelance, and they need as many contacts as possible to find a good job.

Furthermore, networking forces you to do more with your career. For example, hundreds of freelance graphic designers have also started a blog, which has prompted them to learn more about and engage deeper with the industry. The more up to date you are on graphic design standards, the more successful you’ll be with your career.

17. Social Media

Freelance graphic designers also have a great need to brand themselves and draw attention to their products, services, and unique skillset. Marketing yourself on social media can be the key to building your brand, and it involves creating a social presence on multiple social media sites, particularly Facebook and Twitter. There you can create your own page or profile and continually share and market your own creative content with the world. This will help you to practice some of the most essential skills for graphic designers: art presentation, communication, marketing, and networking.

18. Freehand Art

Sure, you can create an original design in Adobe Illustrator, but can you draw it by hand? Freehand art is a very useful skill in multiple avenues. To begin with, you’ll need to be able to sketch a clear plan for your design piece for your client or employer. It’s also a useful skill to custom draw graphics using a Wacom tablet or other device. Your client may not share the same vision as you, and if you can’t clearly portray what you have in mind through your freehand sketches, your vision may never see the light of day.

19. Problem-Solving

In most situations, a client or employer will present you with a problem, and your solution will be the resulting product. Your solution will need to be the best of the best in order to deliver the results your client needs. Problem-solving is also an extremely useful skill because there are always little hiccups and problems along the way with every project you’ll encounter. The ability to face a problem head-on without panicking and wasting too much time is one of the most valuable skills you’ll ever gain.

20. Business Knowledge

Every graphic designer needs an element of business savvy. It’s important to know how a business deal works and how to best influence a client. Designers should have at least a basic knowledge of how budgeting, planning meetings, client interactions, marketing, and accounts work. They should also be aware of the company’s goal and mission statements as well as the parameters that surround each. This knowledge is integral in keeping clients and employers happy throughout a design process.

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2 Comments

  1. Nice skills 🙂
    Excellent article. Thanks you

  2. This all step very helpful for me because there are I gain all of Graphic Designers related news.

    i give you thanks for that. Please share more news like this.

    Very informative! Excellent post. Thanks.

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