Updated December 2022
What exactly is graphic design? This might seem like a really obvious starting point to this blog post—but it's key to knowing if this career path is truly right for you.
One of the biggest misconceptions about graphic design is that it's mainly about making things "look good." In other words, arranging images and text in ways that are pleasing to the eye...and that's about it.
In reality, design is about solving complex problems and communicating important ideas. Yes, you want your final product to look good—but your work must go far beyond that goal.
Think of it this way: If someone hires you to design a product package, album cover, poster, or website, you'll need to ensure your final product reflects their brand and meets their business goals.
You can't just design to please yourself. Your work will have to satisfy your client, the target audience, and often several goals related to marketing and sales.
So, now that we've established what graphic design actually is, let's get down to figuring out whether you should make it your career.
Here are some of the most common pros and cons of becoming a graphic designer, and some advice on how to get started.
Pro: Graphic design is creative & challenging
Are you fuelled by creativity? Do you love a good challenge and genuinely enjoy helping others solve problems? You'll really enjoy this aspect of graphic design. This is what it's all about.
Designers help their clients communicate key ideas, attract and connect with target audiences, and create lasting impressions with unique design solutions.
Benjamin Kaiser, graphic designer and owner at Kaiser Media Group, sums up what he loves best about the creative side of this work:
"Every day we get to wake up, head to the office, and create a new piece of design for the world. Whether that is digital marketing, advertising, web design, magazine layout, print production, or YouTube videos.
I get to wake up each and every day, observe the world around me and bring together a new combination of the elements at hand."
If you're looking for a career that challenges you on a daily basis and keeps your creativity flowing, you've found it with graphic design.
Con: Dealing with criticism & demanding clients
This is where the "challenging" aspect of graphic design can shift from a pro to a con. Remember, graphic designers don't just design to please themselves. They have to work within client guidelines.
That means sticking to a budget, understanding exactly what each client needs, and delivering a final product that meets their expectations.
And if your design solution doesn't impress, you'll have to accept the criticism, learn from it, and try again. There's often quite a lot of back-and-forth with big design projects. It takes a lot of edits to get client approval on a final design concept.
You'll need to negotiate with clients, deal with their demands, and stay professional as you work toward a solution. This process can be long and frustrating at times—but it's all part of the creative cycle.
Pro: Seeing your graphic designs go live
Ask any graphic designer: nothing is more exciting than finishing a project and seeing it go live for the whole world to enjoy. Whether it's a new website you helped create, or a TV show you worked on, designers love watching others interact with their work.
This part of the business is gratifying and exciting, and really validates your talent as a designer.
Con: Multitasking and tight deadlines
No matter where you work after graphic design training—TV/film studio, digital marketing agency, publishing house, small business—everyone will want their design solution done yesterday.
Chances are, you'll be juggling multiple projects at once, and be under pressure to complete work within tight deadlines. This is true for many professions, but for designers, having to rush the creative process can be particularly challenging.
Over time, and with experience, designers develop strategies for managing busy workloads, and the juggling act gets a bit easier. But when you're just starting your graphic design career, it can be a bit stressful.
Pro: Steady demand for designers in Toronto
Toronto is a great place to launch a graphic design career. The city has a large number of graphic design firms, advertising agencies, web services companies, and other organizations that hire designers.
The Government of Canada Job Bank predicts moderate demand for designers in the GTA, giving the occupation three out of five stars for employment outlook through 2024.
Just keep in mind, this field is competitive to break into. You'll need to complete a quality graphic design program and assemble a strong portfolio to land a good job and grow your career.
Con: A lot of time in front of the computer
Graphic design involves using a lot of really interesting digital technology and software tools. This is great, except that it means spending a lot of time sitting at a desk, staring at a screen.
You'll need to make sure you get regular breaks and exercise, or pay the price in back pain and eye strain!
Pro: Many graphic design career paths
It's amazing what you can do with a graphic design certificate. Talented designers find opportunities in so many different work environments. Common options include:
- Marketing/advertising agencies
- Television and film companies
- Publishing companies (newspapers, magazines, book publishers)
- Medium-sized businesses and corporations
- Municipalities (designing for public spaces, transit systems, etc,)
The kinds of projects you focus on will vary greatly, depending on where you work. You could spend your days designing book covers and album art or focus on corporate branding, logos, and digital marketing campaigns.
Straight out of graphic design college, you'll probably try a bit of everything until you gain experience and find your perfect fit.
And don't forget, designers can also freelance and work from home—picking which jobs they want, within industries they like. Graphic design careers are diverse and flexible.
Con: Some people think this job is "easy"
This is because talented graphic designers make their final products appear effortless. The average person has no idea how many hours the designer spent trying out different approaches, or how many edits she did to satisfy her client.
Your audience only sees the final, perfected piece of work. So, graphic designers often find themselves educating others on the technical skills and creative problem solving involved in this career.
But the truth is, many professionals in creative fields (writing and film, for example) face the same misconceptions.
In the end, all that matters is satisfying your client, producing exceptional designs, and knowing that what you do makes a real difference.
Pros: Graphic design training is quick
This is a major pro for people who don't want to invest tons of money and time in a university degree. There are many graphic design programs out there that you can finish in under one year.
For example, at Herzing Toronto, our graphic design certificate runs for just 10 months, full time. The training includes a six-week internship, and we ensure you graduate with a professional design portfolio. It's a quick, intensive, really exciting program.
For people who can't manage full-time design training, you'll also find a range of part-time programs out there—there's something for everyone. Just ensure the school you choose is accredited and the training is respected before you spend those tuition dollars.
And there you have it. Some of the most common benefits and challenges of choosing a career in graphic design. Final word? If you really love design, the pros will always outweigh the cons. Don't let anything hold you back!
Looking for more information on graphic design careers? Want to start training, and need help figuring out financial aid, course schedules, and admission requirements?
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