Art & Art History

6 Jobs You Can Do With a Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design

6 Jobs You Can Do With a Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design
Although most work in an office setting, in 2018, 22 percent of graphic designers were self-employed, allowing for flexibility to flourish on their own schedule. Image from Unsplash
Mairead Kelly profile
Mairead Kelly February 12, 2020

With this degree in hand, you’ll have the opportunity to grow in a range of creative professions. Some are niche, while others open doors to work in virtually every industry you can think of.

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“Graphic design” is a phrase that was coined in 1922 by the American type designer William Addison Dwiggins, who used it to describe his work bringing structural order and visual form to printed communications. Born in 1880, Dwiggins began his career in Chicago, working in advertising and lettering before becoming the director of the Harvard University Press.

But those weren’t Dwiggins’s only titles. He was a master calligrapher, illustrator, private press printer, and a pioneer of advertising, magazine, and book design. In short, he was the quintessential maker—known for fabricating his own tools, mastering traditional skills, and inventing new techniques.

Like Dwiggins’s approach, there isn’t one method that dominates graphic design today, but a mix of design techniques and styles. The same can be said of individual careers in the field, which offer professionals the opportunity to continuously develop their skills and grow across advertising, publishing, media, industrial design, and nearly every other industry.

Although most work in an office setting, in 2018, 22 percent of graphic designers were self-employed, allowing for flexibility to flourish on their own schedule. And while an eye for design can’t necessarily be taught, a bachelor’s degree in graphic design is needed to start in the field.

This degree comes with many benefits, most notably extensive training and hands-on experience with both longstanding and cutting-edge design technology. Overall, it’s an ideal path for any student who sees creativity as a professional goal—and wants to lay the groundwork for a career spent producing thoughtful, innovative work. Here are six jobs you can get with a bachelor’s degree in graphic design.

Art Director

You can think of art directors like the directors behind movies, but instead of directing actors, they supervise a team of designers working on a creative project—and all the artistic elements and visual pieces it entails. If that description sounds broad, that’s because the job title exists in virtually every industry

Day-to-day, art directors might design with their team, provide feedback on different project components, and attend meetings to provide input on a client’s wider creative strategy. In between, they might help a junior team member through an issue with Photoshop or teach an Illustrator shortcut.

Most art director positions typically require a bachelor’s degree in art or design, such as fine art, graphic design, visual communications, or digital media. Depending on their industry, art directors may have several years of work experience in an art-related occupation. And given the position’s managerial focus, years of professional experience, great communication skills, and a killer portfolio is a must.

Film or Video Editor

Many in the film and video industry consider the work of this role to be an often unnoticed and unappreciated art form, lending it the nickname, “the silent art.” Before filming starts, you’ll typically find them studying scripts to collaborating with directors, producers, and film staff to fine-tune the script and a given director’s goals.

Throughout filming and post-production, film and video editors will examine tapes for editing purposes while keeping an eye out for errors, long-running segments, and scenes that do not match a project’s intended storyline. They’ll also work with audio post-production experts like foley artists, dialog editors, mixers, and music supervisors, to ensure a project’s sounds and music match its script are appropriately timed.

Most editor positions require a bachelor’s degree in a field like film studies, television, or communications. A bachelor’s degree in graphic design may also be applicable, especially one with coursework involving a mix of film theory with practical training. The New York Film Academy, The Los Angeles Film School, and SUNY College at Oswego are just a few schools that offer a similar concentration.

Graphic Designer

While not the most surprising career path with a bachelor’s degree in graphic design in-hand, it’s still one worth noting. Through visual-thinking and problem-solving skills, graphic designers communicate ideas that inspire, inform, or captivate consumers.

From the ads you see to the games you play, and the packaging for the products you buy, graphic Designers are the creative engine behind brand identity and marketing efforts through the use of color, texture, photography, fonts, and a wide range of other design elements.

In the field, those employed by a company will typically spend most of their time working in Adobe products like Photoshop and InDesign while monitoring task requests. Self-employed or freelance graphic designers juggle these responsibilities alongside a more involved administrative list of to-dos such as seeking out new projects and clients, setting deadlines, and oftentimes, ensuring that they receive payment on time.

Degree programs in graphic design typically include courses in art, commercial graphics production, branding, design principles, printing techniques, and website design. Because the work of a graphic designer combines art with marketing and business, courses in these subject areas can prove incredibly useful.

Industrial Designer

Industrial designers are to thank for familiar brands and products like Jeep, the iPod, and the Coke bottle. Whether in your home, office, or school, nearly every product that you interact with daily is the result of a design process during which countless decisions were made by an industrial designer regarding physical appearance, functionality, and lasting value.

To start in the field, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in areas like industrial design, architecture, or graphic design. As the industry increasingly emphasizes strategic product design, a growing number of industrial designers go on to earn a master of business administration (MBA) degree to boost their skills in strategic design as well as their professional marketability

Multimedia Animator

Multimedia animators create special effects and other animations for projects ranging from advertisements and computer games to software, TV, and movies. Many often work within a specific focus, whether creating animation from images of actors performing or designing scenery of background. Those working in the gaming industry may specialize in “level design,” which concerns the look, feel, and layout for the various levels of a video game.

Usually, multimedia animators work in teams with each animator working on a specific portion of a project to create one cohesive animation. Some create their work using computer software or by writing computer code, while others use company-specific animation software. It’s also common for multimedia animators to draw and paint by hand and then translate their work into computer programs, and use storyboards during the design process to help visualize the final product.

Most employers require multimedia animators to have a bachelor’s degree in animation, graphic design, fine arts, or a related discipline. In some cases, an associate’s degree or certificate may suffice.

Web Designer

These visual architects are responsible for creating websites that are easy to understand, navigate and use, and adhere to design standards and specifications. From appearance, layout, and in some cases, content, the keystone of their work is to ensure that websites foster the trust of their audiences—and lack any potential for user frustration.

To do this, web designers need training in design software such as Dreamweaver, Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, and Paint Shop Pro as well as knowledge of Flash, XML-based web applications and programming, XHTML programming, and other web development languages and technologies.

Most web designers typically have a bachelor’s degree in graphic design, web design, or publishing combined with training in computer science. Since these professionals often work with businesses to increase branding effectiveness, some background in marketing may be preferred.

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About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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