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Graphic Design

8 Essential Skills for Every Graphic Designer’s Toolkit

POSTED 08/13/2014
By Joseph Rauch

People don’t read pure text anymore when it comes to online content and content marketing. You need well-crafted and eye-catching visuals if you want people to stay on your site, read the text, and complete the action you need in the first place (usually a purchase). In fact, all the modern data collected proves that visuals increase engagement by at least 10%. Having a great graphic designer to spice up your content and website ultimately means more engagement and converted viewers who will spend longer amounts of time on your site and come back more often. The increased demand for these visuals has also grown graphic design as a career/skill since graphic designers can now make around $45,000 dollars at entry-level and work in a growing industry. These are the 8 essential skills for every graphic designer to have, if you want to excel in a graphic design career!

Visual Ideation/Creativity

Pencil Sketching Ideas

Great graphic designers do more than play around with stock images and other things that already exist. Great graphic designers create! They make original sketches based on ideas from their clients and then use those sketches as the foundation for what will ultimately appear on the web or in print. This means you might actually need to be good at drawing even though your product will ultimately appear on a screen.

Typography

Different Typography Styles and Characters

It might seem like a relatively small detail, but typography is one of those skills that has not degraded even in the digital age. People react positively or negatively to fonts depending on how well they match with the content and images on the site. Typography becomes even more important for print media! Either way, graphic designers should have a good understanding of font families, line-height, tracking, and more. Typography is the language of text in graphic design so a successful professional should be fluent in it.

Design Software (Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, etc.)

Essential Graphic Design Skills

Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign are just a few of the many applications used for graphic design. We won’t list all of them since it would consume the article and since new software is always being developed. However, graphic designers should always be proficient in at least a few of these platforms and be aware of the rise and fall in their use. Graphic designers should also be up to snuff on new applications so they don’t fall behind the times.

Multimedia Design Software (Acrobat, etc.)

Multimedia on screen

Sometimes your clients will want more than images. They’ll want simple animations, programming language integration, documents with interface elements, and interactive infographics. You’ll need to learn a program like Acrobat if you want to develop these more complex and multimedia-rich projects.

Color Theory

Spiral segmented color wheel

Color theory isn’t just for painters. It may be subtle, but knowing how to utilize, contrast, juxtapose, and mix different colors based on context is an invaluable skill. Readers subconsciously appraise color decisions and factor them into their split-second decisions to continue browsing a site or go elsewhere for their content. Color theory also involves lighting and shadowing along with the effects they produce.

Web Design/Basic HTML & CSS

HTML and CSS coding on a screen

Since HTML & CSS are the programming languages of function/structure and style, graphic designers should know them so they can go behind the hood of the site or CMS they may be working on. They will then be able to use their skills to manipulate the page and the destination of the image. They might need to change other elements of the site too so that everything meshes. Either way, this skill will broaden your array of opportunities.

Layout/Conversion Optimization

Layout

Designers need to know how to organize and structure elements on a page so they are clear and guide visitors towards the goal or “conversion” (many marketers call this practice “conversion optimization”). If it’s a retail page, the structure should make it easy to buy without shoving the product in the consumers’ face. If it’s an infographic, the layout needs to visualize data in a way that makes it interesting. Any good layout should present information and a path for the consumer while hitting that perfect balancing point between space-wasting and cluttering.

Print Design

Print design on many notebooks

Although we have entered the digital age, print is still alive and important to understand. Graphic designers should have knowledge of color space, printing processes, color separation, grid layout, and master pages. Remember that even companies born on the web eventually produce print materials so they have stuff for events, print advertising, and merchandising.

Learn These Skills So You Can Start a Career in Graphic Design

For all you experienced designers out there, did we miss any skills? Do you agree with the ones we picked? Keep in mind that these skills are less broad as opposed to others people often list such as creativity, business savvy, communications, etc. We want to give people specific skills that they can obtain affordably via online courses rather than broad skills acquired over many, many years. Online education is especially good for learning HTML & CSS, Photoshop, and Web Design. If you don’t have these skills but want to pursue a career in graphic design,  it’s time to start learning!

Jagged Edge Media JAcom Consultants