A Brief Introduction to Graphic Design

Although a graphic design degree or diploma is often used as a starting point for specialized careers such as web design, Flash design, animation and game design, there are still many traditional graphic design positions available to graduates. These positions tend to fall within the advertising and marketing departments of companies or within firms that contract out this type of work.

Art Directors

Art directors, also known as creative directors, are usually employed within a marketing or advertising company. They are responsible for overseeing the production of various creative elements used for paper publications as well as television and radio broadcast. Their team may consist of artists, designers, content developers, photographers and other vital roles. In addition to supervising the team, an art director will be expected to have exceptional graphic design qualifications and experience. They may be required to step in and complete some design work when required.

A degree in graphic design is the best start one can make towards becoming an art director, but it is highly unusual for this to lead directly into a directorial role. You should expect to start near the bottom and work up. While doing this, it is a good idea to take further, more specific courses to help with the progression of your career. More than half of all art directors are employed on a freelance or self-employed basis, and many earn bonuses that can help to improve the already impressive $50,000 to $80,000 annual salary.

Layout Artists

As the title would suggest, a layout artist works on creating the layout for a paper publication. This includes the placement of graphics, photographs and text as well as the overall format style of the publication. Layout artists must pay particular attention to the readers and determine whether the layout they are currently employing is beneficial to those readers or could be further improved.

Education can be in the form of diplomas, certificates, or degrees. Generally, the longer a person spends studying and gaining the required information the higher the starting salary they can demand. Computer software is a vital aspect of this job and so it is a good idea to study specific courses aimed at the use of QuarkXpress and the various Adobe and Macromedia design packages.

Business Designers, Brand Identity Designers, and Logo Designers

Business designers are generally either logo or brand identity designers. A brand identity designer is responsible for the design and creation of virtually everything that a company’s customers see. This includes the logo, signs, stationery design, and many other aspects of the brand identity. Even envelopes, business cards and packaging fall under the role of brand designer. A logo designer concentrates solely on the creation of a company logo.


Illustrators and technical illustrators create images for their respective publications. Where the two professions differ is in the nature of the publications. Whereas general illustrators tend to work for paper publications, technical illustrators are more inclined to lend their services to digital productions such as video games or television ads and programs.

Other graphic Design Careers

Thanks to advances in technology, traditional graphic designers now share the design space with video game designers, web designers and multimedia designers. While it is certainly possible to pursue these specialized design roles with a graphic design degree, individuals often look to a specialized program – such as a degree in multimedia or animation – to receive more tailored training.

View a list of California graphic design schools. Or, if you are more interested in a specialized design career, view our list of multimedia schools, animation schools and web design schools in California.