The landscape of graphic design is changing – emerging trends such as flat design, image blocking, multi-type usage to the near impossible task of refreshing a well established logo with some credibility (just ask American Airlines). Is the graphic design industry in jeopardy?

You would think so but, think of some of the most famous brands you know. What makes them stand out? Perhaps it’s the eye catching graphics, or the well-designed advertisements, or maybe the bold packaging? Whatever it was that stood out to you was the work of a professional designer.

Graphic design is your first impression. If you are a business owner, and have a website that a potential client has come across, do you want that potential client’s first impression to be respect for your brand and company? Or discouraged, because of a poorly designed, non-user friendly website?

The profession of graphic design has been around for many years, evolving as technical and consumer needs have changed. In order to remain competitive, graphic designers have to constantly upgrade their technical skills, stay abreast of industry trends and be flexible to integrating all mediums of design implementation into their service offering.

Aside from talent, certain characteristics, qualities and mindsets are needed to make it in this ever-changing creative industry.

  • Good graphic designers have strong communication skills. A designer’s job is to communicate a client’s story, brand and ideas, but you also need good communication skills in order to present, charm and negotiate for your work. It’s imperative to be professional and provide clear creative direction.
  • Graphic designers are curious folks. You won’t get far in design if you don’t have a love of art, or a curiosity for the world around you. Designers love to look beyond the surface of things, to explore both the minute detail and the big picture.
  • Graphic designers are passionate and ambitious. Work involves odd hours, numerous edits, client demands and juggling multiple projects at once. Passion keeps you going when you are exhausted but that inner drive provides focus.
  • Graphic designers have to be open-minded and willing to try new things. It is important to be comfortable taking advice from unexpected sources. Great designers often share pieces of themselves in their work, so you can’t be afraid to expose yourself and wear your heart on your sleeve.
  • Possibly the toughest thing for any designer is criticism, but everyone has to deal with it. As a designer, you have to be good at taking direction to improve your work and build on communication. It’s an evolving process and often produces positive results.
  • Graphic designers are excellent problem solvers. As a designer you have to think logistically and critically to make things work. Creativity is needed not only to produce something brilliant, but also to work out how the pieces fit together and turn ideas into a finished product.
  • A little self-doubt can be a good thing in the design world. It’s self-doubt that ensures you are constantly assessing your decisions and striving to do better. It’s healthy to question and challenge yourself.
  • Design work can be slow going—answers don’t often come quickly. It takes patience to let an idea develop – you have to go with the flow.
  • Graphic designers are relationship builders. Clients don’t just want talent. They want to get to know someone they can count on. It’s important to be reliable, manage client needs, develop consistency and prove trustworthiness.
  • Graphic designers have to adapt. Nobody knows it all. It’s good to keep growing and seeking new inspiration. Try new technology, share ideas with the wider creative community and never stop learning.

Today, the real threat to the graphic design industry is the automation of the discipline. No matter how talented you are, people avoid hiring graphic design professionals and are instead, using online design apps like Canva and free logo generating organizations. Artificial intelligence and crowdsourcing are making the industry less personal and more execution focused.

With these approaches, the trade appears to be futile and achievable by anyone. You do not have to report years of training or any type of license to submit design work on crowdsourcing sites.

Would you go to a restaurant expecting a chef to prepare hundreds of entrées and only pay for your favourite and throw out the rest?

People forget the training and development time involved to sharpen design sensibilities and technical skills. You could argue that a professional graphic designer is as essential to brand success as a lawyer is to social justice.

It’s pretentious to think that graphic designers save lives, however, graphic design is a mirror to the broader world of technological and social change… and it does matter! It supports value and represents a vision. Graphic design is part intellectual and part creative.

All professions and industries have to adjust to advances in technology and changes in society, however, as long as humans exist, so too will graphic design. We are not robots or devices. We have flesh and blood and feelings. Design is responsive to these feelings, our core beliefs and our collective desire for connection.

The role of a graphic designer is changing, there’s no doubt about that. In order for designers to realize full potential, however, they must shift mindsets from being order-takers to high quality consultants and strategic partners. From pixel pushers to advocates and change agents. They must embrace a position in the knowledge economy, seeking to provide meaningful contribution and anything devoid of intellectual value and social responsibility.


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