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What is the difference between “Just a Graphic Designer” and a “Graphic designer people want to hire”?

A “graphic designer” can be many people: Someone who focuses on producing artwork for art’s sake, equivalent to someone who produces fine art for a living. They are artists who create graphics for clothing, or designs patterns for fabrics. In this article I wrote I focused on the “graphic designer” as someone who works on creatively in advertising/marketing capacity.
A GREAT graphic designer is partially interpretive and if someone hires you they look at your character, attitude and professionalism. I believe you can distill the main requirements for “graphic designer greatness” into a few key areas that require specific, high degrees of competency. These points are discussed below.
As a graphic designer trying to find work in the advertising/marketing space, you’re armed with a good understanding of what people who hire designers are looking for, and to help you prepare as best you can to land the job you’ve always wanted.
Requirements for “Designer Greatness”:
1.   Artistic Ability or “Talent”:
It’s the ability of the designer to vision and design a professional looking finished product, whether it be a printed piece, a logo, a website or a billboard ad. It requires an advanced understanding of color, composition and typography. It is by far the most elemental talent a designer needs, for without it they are not a designer.

Be sure your level of talent meets or exceeds the level of talent that is currently acceptable in the jobs you desire and to which you are applying. It takes one level of talent to work at a small, local newspaper designing classified ads for small businesses. Any designer with talent can get better: for some it just takes longer, so don’t give up!

2.   Skill with Popular Creative Tools
It’s a person’s expertise with the most popular creative productivity tools in the industry. It include applications like Photoshop, Illustrator and Quark Express, other popular graphic applications like Flash, InDesign and Corel Draw and other productivity tools like Adobe Acrobat, Word Processing programs, MS Office applications, AdobeVersion Cue and Windows/Mac operating systems.

It is extremely important that designers be experts in the use of the most popular programs used in the graphics industry, because in the design world, you’ll need them to do your job and because – most importantly – time translates into money.

3.  Knowledge of popular industry production processes
The technical understanding of how the visual pieces designers create are actually produced, printed or published. This means possessing the production knowledge necessary to ensure that a visual communications piece prints, outputs or displays correctly in the media for which it was designed.

Know the different production requirements for art that you create for various media formats. Understanding the different production methods used to produce the most popular forms of visual communications will also allow you to get creative with materials as well, and create unique pieces with atypical stocks and finishing processes.

4.  Excellent understanding of business and marketing fundamentals
Have an excellent understanding of business and marketing fundamentals as a designer means you understand WHY a piece is being created for a company and how that piece fits strategically into a broader, higher-level marketing and/or business plan. It means you understand the specific business goal a piece you are designing must achieve, why it is important that the piece achieve it, and why the achievement of that business goal is the most important criteria for evaluating the success of your design

The understanding of business and marketing fundamentals is the most rare – and the most important – attribute designers possess. Those that have it are years ahead of those that don’t, because they do not demand that their agency spend months, and possibly years (which costs time and money) teaching them why the art they are creating is important to the client, and how it will be used.

5.  Ability to see through the eyes of the target market

Having the ability to experience the world, including interacting with collateral you’ve designed, through the eyes of your target market means you can remove yourself from your own system of beliefs and values when evaluating an experience.

It is not easy to fundamentally change the way you think in order to be more like another type of
person. However, with practice, it becomes easier to achieve.


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