Ready for a Career in Design?

Doing in-depth research on the career you are interested is vital to success and this research includes knowing how much room for growth a certain career has. Most careers have different levels of employment and room for growth, but the design career ladder is extremely complex with many levels, paths and salary types.

I recently finished reading a great book called “Becoming a graphic designer – A Guide to careers in design” by Steven Heller and Teresa Fernandes. One of the early topics of the book is going over common terminology for a career in design.

The book explains there are basically two paths you you can take, the in-house path or the freelance path, and most designers will do both in their lifetime. Below are some important terms mentioned in the book that will help you when you are searching for a job as a graphic designer.

Graphic Design Career Terminology


In-House Design Department Terms

Art Department, Art and Design Department, Art Services Department, Design Department, Design Services Department, Creative Services Department, Creative Group

Design Management Job Titles

Creative Director, Design Director, Corporate Art Director, Creative Services Manager, Design Manager

Creative/Design Level Job Titles

Senior Designer, Designer, Senior Art Director, Art Director, Graphics Editor

Support Level Job Titles

Junior Designer, Assistant Designer, Deputy Art Director, Associate, Art Director, Assistant Art Director, Production Artist, Art Associate

Entry Level Design Job Titles

Assistant Designer, Junior Designer, Intern

They Want Super Designers!

I would also recommend that designers keep and eye on design job boards such as (Coroflot, Krop, and even Cragislist) so you can get an idea of the requirements employers are looking for nowadays. Management positions will obviously require more years of experience then entry level positions, but you would be surprised at the amount of qualifications some employers expecting from entry level designers.

This is mainly a lot of businesses do not have the money for an entire design staff so they are looking for “do it all super designers” designers who are not only graphic designers, but experienced web designers and animators as well.

Many areas of design are crossing paths now a days due to advances in technology and easier access to software, which is a second reason why the amount of technical skill required for jobs is growing rapidly! Knowing Illustrator, Photoshop and Indesign still might be enough for most jobs, but having other skills such as knowing how to code valid XHTML and CSS are becoming much more sought after and can help you land a job much easier.

Build a Foundation First

While I do think its good to have experience in a multitude of areas, I believe it is important to have a strong foundation in one area first and then branch off into other areas. For example my main focus is graphic design and I spend most of my time bettering myself as a graphic designer, but I have begun to branch off into other areas as well such as blogging, web design, search engine optimization and marketing so I can pursue my long term goals, including working full time from home.

So to sum all this up, do your research on the career you are interested, keep an eye on the ever-changing requirements for jobs, build a strong foundation for yourself and then look into branching off into other areas!

8 comments on “Ready for a Career in Design?”

  1. JamieO Reply

    Great article! The concept of foundation learning / experience in other areas is an important one. If you are an amazing graphic designer who can’t code your way out of a box, learning to understand how the coding process works will improve the transition process when you hand off your designs to a developer to implement.

    The stereotypical designer will get all worked up about a developer using the wrong font styling on “their design”. If they had used a safe-for-web font for primary content in the first place it wouldn’t be an issue.

  2. MC3 Reply

    Thanks for the tips. I notice more and more that studios and business want Graphic Designers to be web people and were not. but im trying.Anyway thanks for the help and all the great tutorials and info.

  3. Sean Hodge Reply

    This is a good book for someone in design school. I didn’t get a hold of this book until my Senior year. I think it would help a lot with planning if it was assigned to freshman.

    For the DIY’s out there its still a good book if you want to see a broad spectrum of where design intersects with other careers.

    You brought up some good points about having skills to tie together with design. I think for web design you will need to know Javascript as well. Its becoming necessary.

  4. Amanda Vlahakis Reply

    I think that if you are a graphic designer creating designs that will be used on the web it’s going to be difficult for you to produce designs that not only look good but ‘work properly’ if you don’t have a fairly good understanding of how websites are built.

    That doesn’t mean that you need the skills of an advanced web developer, but you do need to have an understanding of how websites are put together and issues that can arise such as the web safe fonts mentioned.

    If you don’t know basics like this you will simply cause problems for the developer who comes to build your site, and even worse customer dissatisfaction when it needs to be explained to them why they can’t have the build ‘exactly’ like the design they signed off.

    A designer should be confident that what they have designed can be built with no changes required.

  5. Brad C Reply

    I think the hardest part for entry level designers is dealing with expectations, especially at larger firms. Unless you’re a superstar, you’re going to start doing production work and move your way up the ladder. That can suck, but can be a great way to get your foot in the door working for larger clients.

  6. MediaMisfit Reply

    I was just catching up on some old posts and saw this one. THANK YOU! I’m a marketing manager for a tech startup and it is vital that people, especially at a company like mine, be “Synthesisers of Talent.” I took that quote from an awesome speech by this guy.

    I talk to other professional at my local refresh meeting ( and learn about a ton of jobs looking for people with skills in all areas of media and design. I always to try and convince my fellow students going through school. Diversify, don’t specialize.

  7. Alice Job Seeker Reply

    Good article ! I think to this combination for a career in design : WORK, TALENT, CREATIVITY. Book like ” Becoming a Graphic Designer ” it ‘s very useful.

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