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FAQs: Graphic Design

By Academy Xi

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We’ve compiled this list of questions most frequently asked about Graphic Design to help you understand what it’s like to make a splash as a Graphic Designer.

Graphic Design and why it’s important

Graphic design is the practice of creating high-impact visual content that informs, inspires and entices a target audience. Fusing traditional art and tech capabilities, modern Graphic Design serves print and digital media, and can be accomplished by hand, with computer software, or a combination of the two.

Your day-to-day life is filled with graphic designs, from the branding on your coffee cup, to the eye-catching billboard on the train platform, and even the news app you read during your morning commute.

Though Graphic Design is widely used by businesses to promote goods and services, it’s also considered a form of artistic expression. The beauty of Graphic Design is that it combines commercial problem-solving with true creativity.

As you’ve probably already guessed, Graphic Design goes way beyond aesthetics. It acts as a vital point of connectivity between a business and its target audience.

Businesses rely on graphic design at every stage of the marketing funnel, using it to streamline communications about a product or service, distinguish itself from the competition and convince customers to make a purchase.

When it comes to building a brand, the right graphic design will elicit an emotional connection, giving people ‘reasons to care’ and increasing customer loyalty.

Everything you see of a business, from an online advertisement, to a social media post, or even a product’s packaging, is the end result of a strategic Graphic Design process that’s intended to enhance a company’s visibility and tell a compelling brand story.

Graphic design is a multifaceted field and no two graphic design roles will ever be the same. That said, there are certain responsibilities that most professional graphic designers perform. These include:

  • Meeting with clients or art directors to define the scope of a project
  • Using photo editing software, layout software and digital illustration to produce designs
  • Selecting colours, images and typefaces to communicate a company’s brand and message
  • Presenting design concepts to clients or art directors
  • Revising designs based on stakeholder feedback and opinion
  • Proofing final designs to ensure there are no errors before printing or publishing

Design theory, skills & software

Design theory is a system that helps designers understand why certain visual concepts ‘work’ when conveying visual messages. This involves breaking down the different elements in an image, explaining why each element is important and using design principles to determine how their effects can be maximised.

Rather than being guided by creative instincts alone, design theory allows a designer to predict how certain stylistic choices will influence a viewer’s reaction.

Applying design theory is all about asking and answering the question “why am I designing this way?”. If you’re designing and find you can’t answer that question convincingly, you probably need to do a bit more thinking!

Explained in the simplest terms, Gestalt theory is based on the idea that the human brain will attempt to simplify and organise complex images or designs that consist of multiple elements. 

By subconsciously arranging an image’s parts into an organised system, our brains instinctively aim to create and perceive a whole (rather than experiencing a design as a cluster of disparate elements). 

In response to gestalt theory, Graphic Designers will implement the five design principles to ensure their images are viewer-friendly.

Following the five principles of alignment, repetition, contrast, hierarchy and balance not only help Graphic Designers craft beautiful content, but also increases the accessibility of a design, ensuring it serves its intended purpose and makes a lasting impression on the viewer. 

The five principles are:

  • Alignment – Aligning the elements of a page creates a unified design and can be used to establish visual connections. Most importantly, it brings a sense of order to your design, which makes for easier viewing.

  • Repetition – Repeating certain design elements can build familiarity and create strong visual associations. Graphic Designers use repetitions to formulate a consistent brand image that can be quickly and easily identified across all its visual content.

  • Contrast – It’s possible to create contrast by combining two elements that are complete opposites, such as a classic and contemporary font, or warm and cool colours. This generates impact and can increase a viewer’s emotional response to an image. 

  • Hierarchy – Grouping similar things close to each other implies that they are related in some way – hierarchy is fundamental in creating organisation in a design.

  • Balance – this refers to how the elements are placed and distributed across an image. There are two kinds; symmetrical balance and balance by tension, and both can bring stability and structure to the layout of a design.

Added together, all five design principles ensure a design is visually appealing and formulated in a way that promotes legibility and the viewer’s comfort.

Colour theory clarifies how and why designers should use a specific colour or colour palette, and is based on the idea that people often have particular and predictable responses to certain colours and colour combinations.

Colour theory can be used by Graphic Designers to stimulate an emotional response that entices or persuades an audience. For example, brands that use the colour red in their designs (Coca Cola, YouTube and Netflix) tap into its associations with passion and strength, effectively demanding our attention.

There are a raft of essential skills that a Graphic Designer needs to produce eye-catching, functional assets. Here are a few of the essential capabilities that Graphic Designers rely on to thrive in the industry: 

  • Working with briefs

To make sure you clear the first hurdle, it’s vital that you’re able to effectively interpret and respond to Graphic Design briefs. This might entail working with too much information, or even too little. Just as no two clients will be the same, every brief will be unique, and the best designers approach each brief with a fresh mindset.

As a Graphic Designer, it’s your responsibility to understand the client’s specifications and the problems they are hoping to solve. In order to find effective long-term solutions, the best designers will religiously refer back to the original brief throughout a project.  

  • Illustration

It’s liberating to know that you don’t have to be a professional illustrator to be a Graphic Designer. That said, Graphic Designers do need to be able to explore different design concepts. 

One of the best ways to formulate your Graphic Design ideas is through sketching. These sketches are a visual means to get ideas down on paper, and don’t need to be perfect.

That said, there’s always an advantage to being able to illustrate to a high level as a Graphic Designer. Today’s illustrators use pads and tablets (such as Wacom), which come with built-in pressure-sensitive features, enabling you to intuitively sketch, draw and paint with complete precision. 

  • Still and motion graphics

As well as working with still images (digital or print), such as posters and magazines, contemporary Graphic Designers incorporate movement into their creations, at which stage Graphic Design becomes motion graphics.

Motion Graphic Designers produce assets for the web, television and film, using visual effects, animation and other cinematic techniques to breathe life into their designs. 

With the increasing popularity of online video content, you could find yourself working with motion graphics on almost any platform, from a catchy YouTube ad, to a short and snappy TikTok video.   

  • Communication

As well as expressing ideas visually, Graphic Designers need to have excellent communication skills when dealing with clients, stakeholders and teammates. 

Being able to confidently pitch concepts is essential for attracting new clients, while maintaining positive interactions with any existing clients ensures projects reach a satisfying outcome. 

Ideation and planning are often collaborative exercises, so you’ll need the soft-skills to share ideas, brainstorm and work as part of a synchronised team.

  • Portfolio building  

It almost goes without saying that a stand-out portfolio is a must-have for any graphic designer (or, for that matter, anyone working in a creative field!). A portfolio displays the originality of your Graphic Design brand and serves as a platform for potential clients to view your work. 

A well curated portfolio is your most important piece of advertising, concretely demonstrating your talents and work experience, while inspiring clients with a vision of what your skills could do to improve their business.

Graphic Designers rely on the ever-expanding possibilities of software to bring their ideas to life. Because of rapid tech innovations, designers have more software to choose from than ever before, enabling them to combine different forms of media and create attention-grabbing interactive content. 

Designers need to be fully aware of the strengths and weaknesses that come with each piece of software, which enables them to choose the best tools for the job in hand. 

Today’s industry is largely driven by the Adobe suite, which has developed side-by-side with Graphic Design practice. 

Here’s a breakdown of the essential Adobe apps that power-up the work of modern Graphic Designers:

  • Adobe Photoshop

A must-have for any serious Graphic Designer, Photoshop is your go-to application for working with pixel-based images for print, web, and mobile apps.

Photoshop’s powerful editing tools let you correct exposure and colour balance, crop and straighten images, erase blemishes from a portrait, or combine multiple images to formulate a completely new scene.

  • Adobe Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator is a software application for creating drawings, illustrations, and other vector-based designs. It offers designers a comprehensive toolkit that enables them to create designs from scratch, just as they would on a drawing board.

Used as part of a larger design workflow, Illustrator helps with the creation of everything from single design elements to entire compositions. Graphic Designers use Illustrator to create posters, symbols, logos, patterns, icons and much more.

  • Adobe InDesign 

Adobe InDesign is the industry-standard layout and page design software used in print and digital media. Graphic Designers use InDesign to create and publish books, magazines, brochures, posters and customised stationery.

InDesign offers a wide range of typography from the world’s top foundries and imagery from Adobe Stock. Its latest features allow designers to create interactive publications, such as iPad apps, interactive PDFs, online magazines and eBooks.

  • Adobe After Effects

Adobe After Effects is a digital visual effects and motion graphics application that’s used in the post-production process of film, television and web video production. 

After Effects can be used to create animations, layer text over images, and edit and composite footage. It also allows designers to create special effects, such as adding dramatic lighting, making moody colour changes, or layering up patterns and textures. 

  • Adobe XD

Adobe XD is a prototyping tool for user experience and interaction designers (both of which Graphic Designers regularly delve into). Adobe XD features are handy for creating wireframes, prototypes, and screen designs for digital products, including websites and mobile apps.

  • Adobe Premiere Pro

Premiere Pro is industry-standard video editing software, used for film, TV and the web. Intuitive tools and Premiere Pro’s simple integration with other apps helps users composite clips, create smooth transitions and turn footage into polished videos.

  • Adobe Animate

Animate allows designers to produce high-quality vector graphics that are scalable, reusable and adaptable for cartoons, banners, games and other interactive content. 

Animate graphics can easily be imported to After Effects, allowing you to add post-production effects and publish your animated videos through multiple platforms with just a few clicks.

 

Career paths in Graphic Design

Becoming a professional Graphic Designer opens a career full of opportunities, rewards and personal fulfilment. It’s a passion job that allows you to solve problems you care about and shift perspectives through powerful visual communications.

As a Graphic Designer, there are a range of pathways that you can choose to follow, depending on your professional goals and lifestyle preferences. These include:   

  • Becoming a permanent in-house Graphic Designer for a business or organisation. 
  • Working for a design consultancy or agency that carries out design projects for a variety of clients.
  • Going freelance or self-employed and effectively running your own Graphic Design business.
  • A combination of the above.

With the nation’s freelance employment market currently growing three times faster than the employment market as a whole, Australia offers an abundance of opportunities for freelance Graphic Designers.

There are a number of benefits that come with striking it out alone as a freelance Graphic Designer. Some of the biggest perks include:

  • Choosing your clients – you’ll have the unique ability to select the clients you work with. You might pick clients based on their brand image or stellar reputation, or because of a personal affinity with a particular product or service.

     

  • Managing your workload – Work as much or as little as you like; if you want to work full-time most of the year and only part-time during the summer months, you’ll have the flexibility to make that a reality. Because freelancing is often remote, you can work anywhere wifi-connected.

     

  • Diversifying your exposure – you’ll get the chance to work on projects for clients in a variety of industries, enabling you to broaden your horizons, diversify your professional exposure and build a specialised portfolio.

Industry demand for Graphic Designers

With more businesses than ever vying for visibility, Graphic Designers are in high demand worldwide and Australia is no exception. The nation’s Graphic Design industry is forecast to grow by 12.9% throughout the next five years.

Seek is currently advertising over 16,500 Graphic Design roles in Australia alone. A Graphic Designer’s skills are universally sought after, so wherever you end up in life, you’ll have a CV that employers are searching for.

The pay opportunities for Australian Graphic Designers are representative of an industry that’s growing fast and on the lookout for more capable professionals.  

Talent.com records the average Graphic Designer salary in Australia at $82,758 per year. Even entry-level positions start at $68,629 per year, while the most experienced designers make up to $107,121 annually. 

Added to this, a career in Graphic Design is acknowledged by those already in the profession to be highly rewarding, scoring 4.1 out of 5 for employee satisfaction on Seek.

Becoming a Graphic Designer

Believe it or not, learning Graphic Design is not hard, but does require creative thinking, a basic level of aptitude towards art and design, and at least a little familiarity working with tech and digital platforms.

It takes time and dedication to understand and apply the principles of design theory, while you’ll also need plenty of hands-on practice in order to get to grips with the necessary software.

Many Graphic Designers will specialise their skillset on the job, but it’s important to start with a solid foundational grasp of the essential tools and techniques.

The chances of anyone learning these alone online are slim, so anyone keen to enter the industry should consider earning a formal Graphic Design certification. Without this, it’s difficult to get hired into that first role or attract clients, since so many other designers will have a proven, certified skillset.

There are many options when it comes to qualifying as a Graphic Designer. You can undertake a Diploma of Graphic Design, which can take between 1- 2 years to complete.

Traditional universities offer Bachelor of Graphic Design degrees, which normally take 3-4 years to complete. Some Graphic Design degrees tend to spend a disproportionate amount of time covering Graphic Design theory. While understanding the principles of effective design work is crucial, most people will only fully absorb the theory by putting it into practice.

These days, there’s far less expectation for Graphic Designers to be university qualified, with most employers and prospective clients prioritising skills, experience and a good portfolio above formal qualifications.

As a result, more people are enrolling in condensed bootcamp-style courses, which leave graduates industry-ready in a much shorter period of time by focusing on the tangible skills that today’s Graphic Designers need most.

 

Whether you want to venture into a new profession as a Graphic Designer, build your own money-spinning design business, or upskill and test the waters of a design career, Academy Xi offers a range of Graphic Design courses suited to your goals. 

  • Graphic Design: Transform – For those who want to kickstart a new career as a Graphic Designer, including 24 weeks of access to a Career Support Program that helps 90% of graduates straight into industry.

     

  • Graphic Design: Elevate – For those who want to boost their career with in-demand Graphic Design skills.

     

  • Graphic Design: Elevate (self-paced) – For those who want to boost their career with in-demand Graphic Design skills, while also enjoying the flexibility of self-paced learning. 

Not sure which course is right for you? Chat to a course advisor and we’ll help you find the perfect match.

Thinking a Graphic Design course could be right for you?

Get in touch with our Course Advisors to discuss training options or, if you’re ready to go, simply enrol now.

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