Top 13 Graphic Design Skills Highly Sought By Employers in 2024

design-skills
Design Skills: Essential Functions for Today's Workplace

The digital age has transformed many traditional crafts that were once done with pen and paper. One fields that has experienced significant growth in investment and development is graphic design, which is now a hundreds of millions of dollars worth industry.

Whether you want to become a graphic designer or are already an experienced one, in this article, we will share with you the top 13 skills every graphic designer needs to possess and other skills to learn for career advancement.

Without further ado, let's jump right into it!

Top 13 Graphic Design Skills Highly Sought By Employers

Before delving into the specific skills sought by employers, whether you're an aspiring graphic designer or a seasoned professional, let's begin by exploring the basic concept of design, graphic design and who these graphic designers are.

What is design?

Design refers to the process of planning and executing a form of visual art. It is a skill and area of specialization that plays a specific role in almost every industry, from architecture and media production to corporate business and medicine. 

Design has also become a competitive field of study due to its universal application, whether designing a website, creating logos for brands, or modeling a new level in a Triple-A game title. Hence, design skills are in high demand and highly sought-after by all industries.

With that being said, graduates and professionals proficient in a versatile set of design skills can find fulfilling and competitive careers in both the public and private sectors.

What is graphic design?

Who are graphic designers?

These folks are creative professionals specializing in conceptualizing and creating visual communication materials. Graphic designers are problem-solvers as they combine artistic and technical skills to create designs that effectively convey messages, ideas, or concepts. You can meet them across various industries, including advertising, marketing, publishing, web design, software, technology, or even education.

They work with clients or stakeholders to understand the design objectives and develop designs that meet their needs and preferences. While they are frequently sought after for their expertise, it is worth mentioning that demand for their services can fluctuate based on market conditions and industry trends. On their way to climbing up the ladder, they can eventually become an art director.

Now that you've understand the basic concepts, let's get into the main part of this whole article: the skills!

There are many skills that graphic design professionals should be competent in or at least familiar with the concept. These skills span from technical knowledge of computer programs to a theoretical understanding of basic design theory and styling. Here are the top 10 skills employer highly sought for:

1. Creativity

Being creative is one of the skills, if not a must-have, if you want to become a designer. As we've mentioned, a graphic designer is a problem-solver; now, you need creativity to come up with a visual design that delivers the key message of a product. Being creative allows designers to solve problems, communicate messages effectively, and produce appealing visual elements or designs.

2) Adobe's Creative Suite

Knowledge and technical skills in graphic design software are now indispensable in the modern design industry. If you look at most job descriptions, you will notice the high frequency of mentions of Adobe Creative Suite (not all apps in the suite, but you'll come across common names like Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe InDesign, or even Premiere Pro). These tools are so widely used that now even they are taught to students in junior high and high schools.

So, if you're a graphic designer or want to be one, it's time to learn or upskill in this software.

3) Color Theory

Remember when we were still students and learned about color theory in our art class? Well, now you'll need to recall what you learned before. A solid grasp of color theory principles, including color harmony, contrast, and psychology, is necessary for creating visually appealing and engaging design elements. By fully comprehend the color theory, designers can make informed decisions about color palettes, and create artworks that resonate with the target audience.

4) Typography

Typography is another critical design element. Typography is more than just a font or typeface; it is the art of arranging text in a way that is legible, clear, and visually interesting to the reader. If you want to step up your game, it's time to master typography to enhance a graphic design project's overall aesthetics and legibility.

5) Layout and Composition

Understanding principles of layout and composition, such as balance, hierarchy, and alignment, is critical for creating a well-structured and good design. Practical layout and composition enhance the readability and visual impact of graphic design projects.

6) Digital Illustration

Most people now can easily use Canva or Visme to create a poster since these tools already include a bunch of digital illustrations. However, to become a truly skilled designer, one must be proficient in digital illustration. This skill requires designers to have technical expertise in design software and the ability to create customer illustrations and graphics that enhance the visual appeal of their artwork. Digital illustration skills enable designers to add a unique and personal touch to their work.

7) File formats and resolutions for different design outputs

A core part of the graphic design skill set is understanding the effect different file formats, resolutions, and final outputs can have on the production process. For instance, a piece that was produced for a 760x760 resolution would not look right when scaled up to a 1400x800 resolution size.

8) Branding

Understanding a client's brand and crafting visually stunning content that reflects their identity across various communication channels is a real asset. Especially in agency settings, where you're juggling multiple brands, maintaining consistency in design is key. Ultimately, mastering the art of branding across different channels is a game-changer for all designers. It boosts their value and sets them up for success in today's competitive market.

📚 Further reading:  Want to Know How To Become a Graphic Designer? Read This

9) Communication

Strong communication skills are the cornerstone of successful graphic design projects. It's not just about conveying ideas visually; it's also about understanding the client's vision and objectives. Effective communication allows designers to ask the right questions, gather relevant information, and explain design concepts clearly to clients. Moreover, it involves active listening to comprehend client feedback and preferences accurately. Through clear and concise communication, they can build strong relationships with clients, foster trust, and ensure that the final deliverables meet or exceed expectations.

10) Attention to Detail

In the world of graphic design, every pixel, kerning, and color choice matters. Attention to detail goes beyond just aesthetics; it's about ensuring precision and consistency in every aspect of the design. Designers meticulously review typography, ensuring that fonts are legible and appropriately sized for the intended audience. They meticulously adjust spacing and alignment to create visually harmonious layouts. Furthermore, attention to detail extends to color selection, where designers consider the psychological impact of hues and maintain brand consistency.

Ultimately, it's the fine-tuned details that elevate a design from good to outstanding and leave a lasting impression on viewers.

11) Adaptability and willingness to learn

Graphic design is a dynamic field that constantly evolves with technological advancements, changing consumer preferences, and emerging design trends.

To thrive in this environment, you must embrace adaptability and a continuous learning mindset. This involves staying abreast of the latest design software updates, exploring innovative techniques, and experimenting with new creative approaches. Additionally, designers must be open to feedback and critique, using them as opportunities for growth and refinement. By embracing change and proactively seeking new knowledge, you position yourself as valuable assets in an ever-evolving industry.

12) Project Management

Effective project management is essential for ensuring the timely delivery of high-quality design projects. Graphic designers must possess strong organizational skills to manage multiple projects simultaneously, prioritize tasks, and meet deadlines. This involves creating detailed plans, setting realistic timelines, and allocating resources efficiently. Additionally, designers must communicate the milestones and progress updates to clients and stakeholders, ensuring transparency and alignment throughout the process. Effective management also involves problem-solving and adaptability to navigate unexpected challenges or changes in project scope.

By mastering project management principles, you can streamline workflows, maximize productivity, and deliver exceptional results that exceed client expectations.

13) Collaboration

Collaboration is a vital workplace skill for graphic designers, as they often work within various departments comprising fellow designers, copywriters, marketers, and clients. Effective collaboration involves not only contributing creative ideas and expertise but also actively listening to others' perspectives and feedback. They must be able to work cohesively with other team members, incorporating diverse viewpoints to refine and enhance design concepts.

This collaborative approach fosters creativity, innovation, and synergy, ultimately leading to the development of well-rounded and impactful design solutions. Moreover, effective collaboration strengthens professional relationships, builds trust, and fosters a supportive work environment conducive to success.

By embracing collaboration, and with good communication graphic designers can leverage the collective expertise of their team to deliver exceptional outcomes that resonate with audiences and achieve project goals.

Other Skills Graphic Designers Can Learn for Further Career Advancement

Besides the skills mentioned above, if you want to further advance your career, it might be beneficial to pick up some of the following design aspects:

Website Designs

There are over 1.5 billion websites on the internet, many of which offer services or platforms for consumers to use. This has become one of the most important tools in a designer’s toolbox as demand has exponentially increased for professional/attractive websites that organically lead consumers through their content. 

Website design comes into play to create websites that are accessible to multiple device platforms, including PC, Mac, and mobile. Things like clear and directional navigation, balancing content and white space, interactive elements and even the typography of fonts used are all considerations that designers must take into account when creating a website. 

If you are a web designer and are looking to keep up with the latest trends and new tools, following leading experts and professionals in the field is a great way to access the wealth of resources and information they have and are (usually) willing to share. Aside from this, there are some technical web designs that you can start by familiarizing yourself with:  

  • Proficiency in softwares like Adobe Dreamweaver: Programs like Adobe Dreamweaver or visual design tools like Sketch or Figma allow designers to conceptualize and create many of the elements that are included in the final product website. Proficiency in these applications can all be independently learned through online courses and tutorials!
  • Knowledge of HTML, CSS, and basic coding for effective collaboration with developers: Understanding and having at least a basic proficiency in the programming languages that are the backbone of most websites will allow you to create a more efficient product as you understand the functions and limitations of the programming language being used to put your website design on the internet.
  • Awareness of responsive design principles for various screen sizes: One of the deal breakers on the consumer end of a website is the responsiveness and wait time involved in loading a website. Websites that contain large images and file sizes to download generally do not have high traffic as consumers are impatient. Designing a website with this in mind ensures that the final result is within tolerable responsiveness limits. 

Product Design

Product design refers to the production of a physical good to be sold on a market. Product designers are included in every step of the design process, from the conceptualization period and decision-making process for materials to the execution and testing of prototypes before the final product is released to the market. Product design is a very iterative process that involves many tests and retests of prototypes. While incredibly tedious, successful product design is responsible for the greatest technological innovations and levels of success for inventors and companies. Products such as ScrubDaddy, Lego, and Velcro are some of the many success stories featuring creative and forward-thinking product design!

Here are some of the common skillsets:

  • Proficiency in CAD (Computer-Aided Design) software for physical product design: CAD is one of the standard and most commonly used product design programs. It allows you to design and render 3-D models of projects, which is a crucial part of every step in the conceptualization and initial design phases. 
  • Knowledge of 3D modeling tools such as SolidWorks or Autodesk Fusion 360: These softwares allow designers to create renders of their products. Proficiency in multiple programs allows designers to complete tasks that other programs cannot due to software limitations. 
  • Understanding of materials, manufacturing processes, and technical constraints: A deep and nuanced understanding of other stages in product development allows product designers to create blueprints that can be realistically made and are within the financial/technical limits of the client/company. 

User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) Design

In the app and product development domain, the consumer (user) is at the forefront of attention in the design process. Designers who are proficient in user experience and user interface design understand the impact that the placement of different elements on an application and the use of specific colors can have on how the final product is received and interacted with by the user. This is a another level of website design and product design.

The challenge in learning UX/UI lies in understanding how to design a product that both functionally accomplishes the task it is intended to complete and is aesthetically pleasing enough to retain the attention and interest of the user and enhances overall user satisfaction.

Some websites with well-structured and intentionally designed user interfaces (UI) are Netflix and Google; their simple but intentional structures highlight the sites’ purposes and demonstrate how to direct user attention to the places we want them to see. 

Being functionally competent in UX/UI involves having some level of proficiency in at least one of the following technical skills:

  • Competency in prototyping softwares such as Sketch, Figma, or Adobe XD: These design applications are helpful tools designed for UX designers to conceptualize and create designs for products they have been commissioned to create. 
  • Familiarity with user testing softwares and methodologies: Programs like UserTesting and Optimal Workshop provide UX designers the platform to test and debug their products before completion! Designers should be aware of these programs and have at least a basic familiarity with using them. 
  • Understanding of information architecture and wireframing techniques: Information architecture and wireframing techniques refer to how information is organized and the order in which it appears on a website or program so that the consumer consumes it in a logical and easy-to-understand way. UX designers should not only create visually appealing designs but must also consciously design them while keeping the consumer's interaction with their product in mind. 

📚 Further reading: UX Designer Portfolio: 10 Best Portfolio Examples and Why They Work

Other relevant skills you can learn are motion graphics/animation, photography, video editing, video production, filming, etc.

How to Improve Your Design Skills?

Developing new and improving existing design skills is fundamental to being a modern-day designer. With the massive influx of new technology and trends modernizing the industry, there are several things you can do to keep up with industry and market trends: 

1) Education resources: The internet is home to a wealth of information regarding every process, technique, programming language, and design skill necessary to become a contemporary designer. We recommend checking out specialized courses and training on websites like Coursera for basic understanding and in-depth guides to becoming a proficient and skilled designer.

2) Hands-on experience: Nothing beats practical experience, and designers learn about many gaps in their design skill knowledge through hands-on projects. These projects can be done independently, and you can even offer freelance services to gain a broader and more realistic design career experience.

3) Collaboration with developers and marketers: Effective communication with development teams is a foundational part of being a designer. Functional communication ensures that every aspect of your final design is translated as intended to the final product, so working on soft skills such as interpersonal communication is a great step in the right direction in becoming a professional designer. 

How to Search for a Graphic Design Job

The job search as a designer is challenging and competitive due to the nature of the industry, so highlighting your design skills as the feature of your resume is tantamount importance! Here are some ways you can go about doing this.

  • Include a link to the portfolio: include a link to a database with your past projects so that prospective employers can see what skills you bring to the table.
  • Quantify your achievements where possible: Providing quantifiable metrics, such as a percentage boost in website traffic following a website revamp, can show employers that your designs can provide them with a boost to their operations.
  • Tailor your resume for each job application: Tailoring your application, emphasizing skills and experiences that align with the specific role to individual companies/positions shows a level of care and interest in working with a company and allows you to highlight the specific skills that a position is asking for. Once your impressive resume has landed you an interview, consider the following when marketing yourself in the conversation:
  • Talk about the design process from concept to execution and highlight how you approach problems.: Employers want new employees to integrate well with existing workflows; explaining your design approach can give them the needed information to see if you would be a good fit in their company. 
  • Use concrete examples: Using examples of your past work experience that highlight the quality an employer is looking for can show them you are all you make yourself out to be!
  • Show adaptability: The modern workplace presents many challenges that must be overcome with professionalism and grace. Show your adaptability by discussing challenges you have encountered in your professional design career and how you have overcome them.

Conclusion

Design is an evolving and in-demand field of study that many are interested in. Whether graphic, product, or web design, designers should possess soft and hard design skills to ensure that they are a good fit on a team or in a company. 

If you are a budding or established professional, consider checking out CakeResume. Our extended article library goes deep into every field of work and offers everything you need to know about making the most out of your career. Take a step towards maximizing your career and check us out today!

CakeResume is a free resume maker and portfolio builder that provides hundreds of resume templates (free download) and various job resume examples to help showcase the best you. Landing your dream job will be a piece of cake!

— Originally Written by Alexander Coye —

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