Graphic design is a technical field, but “technical” skills are not the only things you need to build a career in it. Beginner graphic designers often focus more on technical skills but forget to hone the more overlooked ones. This can result in being unable to follow the trend, having difficulties in client-designer interactions, and reduced income.
Core technical skills include typography, UI and UX designs, design software, design principles, branding, ideation, and visualization in graphic design. However, other skills are often overlooked yet prove vital in determining your success as a graphic designer. Here are several examples.
Every graphic designer is expected to generate and visualize ideas using design principles. However, all great designers have the ability to “tell stories”. Their ideas are not just a combination of elements; they have stories to tell to viewers. When viewers manage to see your design as a form of a story, they will pay more attention.
A good graphic designer must have the visions, ideas, and creativity needed to create compelling stories. This is especially important for branding, where designers are responsible for delivering the brand’s visions and messages.
If you think a graphic design career “frees” you from interacting with many people, think again! All good designers develop people skills, which affect how they communicate, respect, and empathize with others. These skills are very important to building a career and good rapport.
Designers with people skills are able to communicate efficiently, show respect, and build a productive professional relationships with others. They can also maximize rapport, build trust, and minimize unnecessary conflicts. They help you understand clients’ needs, win partnerships, and build positive networks.
Time management is an important part of a competitive field like graphic design, especially if you run your own studio. You need this skill to make sure that you finish projects on time, juggling other responsibilities at the same time. The bigger your client networks are, the more important this skill is.
Time management is also related to the ability to prioritize. When you start growing your rapport and clients, you need to be more discerning. Learn to say “no” to frivolous or excessive requests or those that do not pay you properly. You can always set aside time and budget to do charity work but never stray outside the planned projects.
Portfolio management is an important skill that beginner graphic designers often neglect. However, a portfolio is an important record of your growth, and maintaining it is important for your career. You must make your current portfolio reflects your ability, which means carefully curating the works you feature.
Downloading templates for online portfolios is the easiest way to start. You can create a full website where you display your latest projects. If you specialize in several fields, such as package design, branding, and concept design, make sure to show your wide range through the portfolio. Refresh your portfolio every one or two years, and put the most notable works you have ever done as highlights.
When you start as a small designer, it is easy to neglect business skills aspects. However, once you grow your portfolio and clients, you will need to have some of these skills. Even when you work as a designer in a studio or company, you still need to have basic knowledge of business skills. They will help you navigate the challenges in the design world and support your finances.
There are several important business skills every successful designer has. Some examples include:
- Financial management, both personal and business purposes.
- Organizational skills, including communication, teamwork, task delegation, and conflict management.
- Basic administrative skills, such as supply management, scheduling, filing and updating records, and dealing with various forms and documents.
- Sales and customer service, including negotiation, composing sales pitches, promoting your products/services, and dealing with potential clients in a satisfactory way.
- Analytical skills, including basic data analysis and knowledge about the current trend and news.
The bigger your work scope is, the more skills you need to acquire. If you start your own studio or work with a team, you need to add leadership and collaboration into your skillsets.
Building a graphic design career requires a lot of skills outside the technical ones. Start cultivating these often-overlooked skills if you want to be a successful designer.