Graphic designers combine technology and art to create visual communication messages addressed to target audiences.  The messages they produce inspire and inform their intended audience and help to make an organization recognizable.  The primary tools of a graphic designer are images and text.  The field of graphic design has become increasingly more important in the sales and marketing of products – particularly with the growth of social media.

Career Overview

The main responsibility of graphic designers is to visually portray ideas and concepts using color, imaging, layout, type illustration, animation, and various print and layout methods. Graphic designers create a variety of print and electronic communication that include books and book covers, CD and DVD covers, magazine ads, posters, logos for products and services, catalogs, brochures, newsletters and Web sites. An increasing number of graphic designers also work in interactive multimedia.

Specific duties of a graphic designer:

  • The first step in developing a design is to identify the needs of the client and the message that is to be conveyed. Graphic designers consider the age, socioeconomic, and cultural factors of the target audience when planning and developing a design.
  • Identifying the needs of consumers and market trends is becoming more important as the role of graphic designers is expanding to include campaign strategy.
  • Graphic designers prepare sketches—either by hand or with special computer software—to illustrate their design concept. They select the color, artwork, photographs, animation, typography and other elements, such as sound, that will comprise the visual message.
  • Designers may also incorporate charts, graphs and other visual aids for use in certain types of publications (e.g. annual reports and brochures).
  • Designers also frequently consult with copywriters regarding any text that will accompany the design to ensure consistency between their design and verbal message.
  • Designers then present their completed concept to clients (art or creative directors) for approval.
  • Designers, who work in publishing and printing firms, may also be responsible for selecting the paper and ink to be used in the publication and reviewing mock-ups for any errors before final publication.
  • Senior designers may supervise the work of technical assistants who work on certain parts of the design process.

Those of you who have an entrepreneurial spirit may also wish to start your own graphic design firm. You can elect to focus on a specific industry or become a generalist. Start-up cost is a consideration as you will need to have the most up-to-date computer equipment and design software. You must also have a sufficient nest-egg to live without an income from 3 to 6 months or more as you build a steady client base. Many who start a graphic design business remain in their current job to meet living expenses. Once the business is up and running, you can then devote full-time to it!

Graphic designers may find employment in publishing firms, design firms, advertising agencies, in-house design departments, film, television, along with computer animation and design firms.

Education and Training of Graphic Designers

The American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA), the national organization that represents the field of graphic design, in conjunction with the National Association of Schools of Design of Schools of Design, (NASD) the agency that accredits design programs, have set certain standards with regard to the education and training of graphic designers.

Both organizations maintain that just because a school offers coursework in graphic design does not indicate that it sufficiently prepare students for professional practice. There is a minimum quality standard for practice that can only be obtained through a four-year undergraduate professional program that provides students with a comprehensive education in the field.

The degrees that students will obtain in accredited programs are the Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design or Bachelor of Graphic Design. The majority of coursework (over 65%) in these programs will focus on design-related courses with a minimum of 25% devoted to graphic design.  Courses include digital imaging, art history, typography, technologies and processes, and design workshops.  The remainder of the program will include general liberal arts subjects.  This is a specialized rather than generalized degree program and is targeted toward those who are clear in their intention to become graphic designers.

Community colleges also offer courses in graphic design, commercial art, and visual communication.  Graduates are awarded an Associates of Arts, Associate of Fine Arts, or Associates in Science degree.  Obtaining an associate’s degree in graphic design will open the door for you to take part in this exciting field by participating in diverse projects, from magazine ads to animation and multi-media.

An associate’s degree will enable you to obtain entry-level employment as a design assistant where you will employ technical design skills (e.g. design layouts, prepare graphics for various projects, assist in the production of print and digital mechanicals) rather than participate in concept development and strategy or client presentations. However, these positions offer wonderful learning opportunities and provide a solid foundation for future career advancement.  Keep in mind that you can also transfer into four year programs that will make you eligible to assume a greater diversity of responsibilities with higher salaries.

An associate’s degree from Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida will cost about $12,117 per semester for a total tuition of around $39,380.  For Florida residents wanting to obtain a bachelor’s degree, you can attend the University of Florida for a total tuition cost of about $24,572.  Out-of-State tuition costs substantially more at approximately $113,680.

Below is a listing of Florida Graphic Design programs that have been accredited by NASD:

There are no certifications required to become a graphic designer, however certification in tech tools and computer software programs are a definite plus.

Skills of Graphic Designers

Essential skills for graphic designers include creativity and problem-solving. You must be able to communicate concepts visually and have an eye for detail. You also need to remain current with new market trends and be able to create designs that reflect these changes. The ability to work independently and meet deadlines is also important so you will need self-discipline, along with the ability to work under pressure.

To obtain your first job, you will also need to have a strong portfolio that highlights your versatility and creativity in coming up with design concepts for diverse campaigns.   Most graphic design programs incorporate real-world projects that will help you to build an impressive portfolio.  You may also be able to participate in internship opportunities to build your portfolio—many of which may lead to full time jobs upon graduation!

Professional Associations for Florida Graphic Designers

The primary association for graphic designers is the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA). There are chapters located throughout Florida as noted below.  The Web site of each chapter lists events, discussions by other members, and job postings. Membership provides a great way to network with other professionals in the field.

Salary Information for Graphic Designers in Florida

The national median annual salary for Graphic Designers according to Salary.com is $49,070.  Below is the median annual salary for Graphic Designers in select Florida cities.  They fall just slightly below the national average.  As with other occupations, salary will depend on years of experience, level of education, and location.

Ft. Lauderdale $47,598
Jacksonville $46,813
Miami $48,138
Orlando $45,096
Tampa $46,126


Career Outlook for Graphic Designers

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of graphic designers is expected to grow by about 13 percent from 2008 to 2018 which is about as fast as the average for all occupations.

The best job prospects will be for graphic designers with Web site design and animation skills as demand will continue to increase for design projects that incorporate interactive media.  Demand will also arise from advertising agencies that create print and Web-based promotional material for products and services.  There has been a reduced demand for graphic designers in the print publishing industry due to the decrease in consumer consumption of printed products.

Ready to move forward towards a career in graphic design?  Review our list of Graphic Design training programs in Florida.  To find a school near you, enter the name of your city in the search box at the top of the page.