Each month we take a deeper look at one career pathway in particular. For in-depth profiles of over 600 job profiles, take a look at the Indigo Careers module. This month we take a look at the role of a Graphic Designer*.

Job profile_Graphic Designer_2400x1800

Qualifications and courses:

The majority of entrants have a degree in a visual arts subject such as graphic design, fine art, illustration or 3D design. Entry without a higher education qualification is possible if you have an exceptional portfolio but progression is difficult without formal training. The minimum requirements for a degree are usually 2 A levels/3 H grades, including an art-related subject, and 5 GCSEs/National 5s. It is also recommended to complete a Foundation diploma or BTEC National in art and design, as entry to an undergraduate art degree without these qualifications is rare.

School leavers have the option to apply for an apprenticeship in design and train to become a graphic design assistant or junior graphic designer.

Competition within this industry is strong, so pre-entry experience, for example from work experience placements or internships, is essential. Work experience will also allow you to build up a portfolio of your design work which is essential for interviews. Networking with graphic designers during a placement could help you to secure employment in the future. Creating a website to showcase your work is also advised.

A working knowledge of computer design software such as QuarkXPress, FreeHand, Illustrator or Photoshop is beneficial.

D&AD publish information, and host training events and awards for designers with a particular emphasis on design and media for advertising.


What the work involves:

Graphic designers produce original images and designs for use in published or other materials such as leaflets, brochures, websites, logos and stationery. Most work is now done on a computer, although manual techniques are occasionally used.

You will need a thorough understanding of clients’ needs in order to develop appropriate designs for specific projects.

You will be responsible for producing time and budget schedules and ensuring that they are adhered to.


Type of person suited to this work:

It is essential to have a strong creative flair, the imagination to develop original designs and a good eye for layout. Having the skills to draw designs by hand and to use industry-specific graphics or multimedia software packages is also important.

You need good communication skills and the confidence to present ideas to colleagues and clients. It is likely that you will work in a fast-paced environment with tight deadlines so you need to be able to multi-task and work well under pressure.

Organisational skills are essential to ensure that projects are carried out on time, within budget and as requested.


Working Conditions:

Most of your work will take place at a computer and drawing board within a studio. However, you may undertake external research in order to gain inspiration for a project and you will also be required to attend client meetings to present your ideas.

The majority of graphic designers work 37 hours a week, Monday to Friday. You will be expected to work overtime in order to meet deadlines. Part-time work is available and many experienced designers become freelancers.


Future prospects:

In the UK there are about 18,000 businesses in this sector, with about 34% of its workforce in London and the south-east of England. The diversity of graphic design qualifications available has resulted in increased competition for positions.

There is the possibility to work for a range of clients in an agency or in-house for a large organisation such as a bank. Junior designers in larger organisations can progress to senior level and eventually a director role.

In smaller companies, many designers will decide to become self-employed within 5 to 10 years in order to progress and diversify their workload.

With experience, there are many freelance opportunities.



Creating original work and seeing your ideas being used in the public eye is satisfying.

Competition is becoming increasingly fierce as the number of available qualifications in this field rises.


Money guide

Earnings vary according to the type and size of employer and geographical location. Salaries tend to be higher within in-house design teams than in design agencies.

  • A junior designer can expect to earn £15,000–£19,000 at the start of their career.
  • As you gain experience in the field, your salary could increase to £20,000–£35,000.
  • Senior graphic designers can earn £35,000–£55,000 and creative directors can make in excess of £60,000 per year.

Freelance designers could be paid hourly or daily, which could range from £200 to £400 a day.


Further information

Visit the Design Council website and D&AD.



*Information in this profile taken from Careers, from Trotman Publishing – part of the Indigo family.