Graphic Design Careers

Make a living AND make a difference.

What does a graphic designer do?

Graphic designers plan, analyze and create visual solutions for communication needs. Put simply, they look for the most effective way of getting a message across.

Graphic designers work in print, electronic and film media using a variety of methods such as color, typography, illustration, photography, animation, and various print and layout techniques. Graphic designers are responsible for the overall layout and production design of magazines, newspapers, journals, corporate reports and other publications. They also produce promotional displays, packaging and marketing brochures for products and services; design distinctive logos for products and businesses; and develop signs and signage systems - also called environmental graphics - for business and government.

Graphic designers do not confine their expertise to art or computer production. They consider their clients cognitive, cultural, physical and social factors when planning and executing designs for the target audience. They gather relevant information by meeting with clients and creative or art directors, as well as by performing their own research. Identifying the needs of consumers as well as corporate clients is becoming increasingly important for graphic designers as the scope of their work expands to corporate communication strategies in addition to technical design and layout work.

Graphic designers prepare sketches or layouts by hand or with the aid of a computer to illustrate their vision for a design. They select colors, sound, artwork, photography, animation, typography and other visual elements to support the design. Designers also select the size and arrangement of the different elements on the page or screen. They also may create graphs and charts from data for use in publications, and often consult with copywriters on any text that may accompany the visual part of the design. Designers then present the completed design to their clients or to the art or creative director for approval.

In printing and publishing firms, graphic designers also may assist printers by selecting the type of paper and ink for the publication and reviewing the mock-up design for errors before final publication.

Understanding contracts, copyright concepts and pricing will be important when you are working under contract or freelancing. Even as a student, you should never work without a written agreement. There are many websites to guide you, but the most comprehensive resource is the Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines. Get it for your library or find it in the Kendall Library.

What are some typical occupations for graphic designers?

Where are Kendall graduates working?

Many graduates will work in advertising firms or in-house marketing departments of large companies. An opportunity to get experience before graduation is important. Many students use the Kendall job bulletin to find internships or freelance projects to build their portfolios. About 30 percent of our graduates will start their own design businesses.

  • Structure Interactive
  • Gordon Food Service
  • Grand Rapids Press
  • Reagan and Associates
  • BBK Design
  • American Greetings
  • Square One Design
  • Family Christian Stores
  • DDM
  • J. Walter Thompson
  • Leo Burnett
  • Wood TV8
  • St. Mary's Hospital
  • Adams Outdoor Advertising
  • Fairly Painless Advertising
  • J.W. Messner Inc.
  • Jager Group
  • Printech Ads Inc.
  • Beta Design Group
  • Cull Design Group
  • YH Communications
  • Perrin Inc.
  • Fluid
  • Palazzolo Design
  • Alticor

Salary information

The headline graphic designer salary of $47,578 is an average figure for the United States. At the top end of their survey, some designers earn as much $63,944, while at the bottom end of the scale some earn as little as $37,809. Salaries for management positions such as art director or design director average between $70,000 and $100,000 nationally.

Freelance designers can charge $40 to $75 an hour. If your client is a large company, pricing can vary depending on the project. See the AIGA guidelines for pricing.

Employment-related websites

  • (career information)
  • (career information)
  • (the professional association for design)
  • (Graphic Artists Guild)
  • (jobs and freelance opportunities)

Get involved

  • AIGA - Kendall student chapter
  • AAF of West Michigan - Association for local advertising and design firms. Students can enter the student Addy awards competition and win regional and national awards. See
  • AD2 Club West Michigan - see An offshoot of the AAF for the 32-and-younger group who love marketing, advertising, public relations and design.
Make it
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