The Day-to-Day as a Visual Designer
A Visual Designer creates the concepts, artwork, and layouts for digital projects on a variety of platforms. Visual Designers will experience a range of responsibilities and teammates depending on where they are employed, their specialization, their niche, and their technical skills. Some Visual Designers work in-house for a company or government office, others will work freelance, and many work for design agencies. There are Visual Design jobs in every industry which leaves a plethora of options for disciplines, jobs, and methods. They often work on a team of Web Designers, UI Developers, a Product Manager, and other tech and design professionals.
Visual Designers usually work onsite but can find remote opportunities as well. They typically work 40 hours per week but can work more, depending on their project. Some Visual Designers will spend their days creating digital elements such as page designs, advertisements, icons, and overlays. Others might work on the visual aspects of websites, applications, movies, games, and other technologies. Still, others will work on designing print items, graphics and patterns for textiles, or labels for food or drink items. The daily tasks of a Visual Designer often also include meetings with clients, creating and presenting mock-ups or prototypes, planning their work, researching best practices and end-users or audiences, and using design software.
What Skills Should Visual Designers Have?
Because Visual Designer can mean different things to different employers, a Designer’s specialization or niche should serve as their guide for the skills they’ll need to know. However, in general, most Designers will need to know how to work within brand guidelines, design with a specific end-user or audience in mind, collaborate with other teams or clients to solve problems, and work with a component library. Simple tasks like resizing images, organizing and creating production assets, sourcing stock images, and stock videos, and managing deadlines are also essential for Visual Designers.
A Visual Designer’s most important tool is, of course, visual design principles. These are the techniques and overarching theoretical components of creating visual graphics. A Visual Designer should have a strong foundation in layouts, typography, and color theory; problem-solving skills, experience with multiple mediums and techniques, and excellent communication skills. Most importantly, Visual Designers must be able to take direction and critical feedback to collaborate and also work autonomously within a brand’s standards.
Visual Designers should have a basic understanding of coding. They might have a hand in creating the look and feel for website or application interfaces but typically those roles are more specifically for User Experience or User Interface Designers. Visual Designers will also use software like Sketch, HTML and CSS, Adobe Illustrator, and Photoshop to create deliverables for their client or employer on a daily basis.
Learn the Skills You Need to Become a Visual Designer
Graphic design is the creation of visual content to communicate a message. Graphic design uses visual hierarchy, typography, photo editing, spacial awareness, empathy, color theory, and more to create visually appealing and communicative images. Graphic design can be done with software like Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator, Figma, and Sketch.
Visual design is a set of strategic best practices used to improve a design or product's aesthetic appeal and usability through the selection of appropriate images, typography, use of space, hierarchy, color, and layout.
Sketch is a design platform used to create, share, and collaborate prototypes and wireframes.
HTML & CSS
HTML is Hypertext Markup Language and CSS is Cascading Style Sheets. HTML is used to create web page structure and text while CSS is used to style the structure and text visually. HTML can be used to create objects like sections, menus, and functions within a webpage. CSS is used to select those objects and style them with fonts, colors, layout, and more to make the webpage visually appealing.
Illustrator is a computer program for design developed by Adobe. Illustrator is used by designers to create and edit vector graphics. It can be used for print, web, applications, videos, animations, and more.
Visual Designer Salaries
A Visual Designer in the United States makes, on average, $72,179 annually, according to Indeed.com.
Salaries for Visual Designers vary by region within the the United States. Listed below are some Visual Designer salaries for specific areas with the United States compared with the average national salary:
- U.S. Average $72K source n/a
New York City
- U.S. Average $72K source n/a
Los Angeles, CA
Orange County, CA
Typical Qualifications to Become a Visual Designer
Some Visual Designers have bachelor’s of arts degrees or master’s of fine arts, but most Visual Designers did not complete higher-education degrees. Many Visual Designers choose to complete Design bootcamp to learn the technical skills required for most design positions. Most design positions will evaluate based on your portfolio, reviews or testimonials, and experience over your education level. There are no certifications for Visual Designers.
Searching for Visual Designer Jobs
Visual Designers will find the most opportunities by narrowing down whether they want to work in-house or freelance, their specialization, and the top three industries they want to work in. There are myriad Design-specific job boards and freelance job boards. We’ve listed the top job boards here, but almost every design organization has their own that will be focused on their region, specialization, or industry.
Visual Designers can find jobs on these sites:
Freelance Visual Designers can find gigs on these sites:
Tips to Become a Visual Designer
While Recruiters usually have a specific idea of what each design job title is responsible for, Many employers will have their own idea of what each position means. Since the design industry isn’t regulated or standardized, titles and responsibilities will vary from employer to employer. Then there are the freelance opportunities that make titles seem even more confusing. It all simply boils down to the requirements and preferences listed in each job posting, gig listing, or proposal if you’re freelance. Job Responsibilities can vary based on the size of the company or organization a Designer is working for, the industry Designer is working in, and each specific Designer’s specialization.
Visual Designers can choose to specialize in certain types of design such as iconography, logo design, typography or calligraphy, illustration, print media, brand or identity design, marketing and advertising graphic design, packaging design, or environmental design. Specializing will help Designers narrow down job postings and position themselves as an expert in a specific niche to attract employers or freelance clients. Specializing is the most efficient way to find a creative job.
To stand out as a Designer for hire consider creating a blog or portfolio website where you can display your portfolio and design thinking. Consider yourself not only someone who is qualified for the position you’re looking to obtain or as a new freelancer and more as someone who is two steps ahead of you. Consider how a Visual Design Director would do the task you’re approaching or how an Art Director might incorporate a clients’ needs. Articulating your thoughts on a blog alongside your portfolio often boosts your portfolio because employers can see exactly how you’re approaching a project instead of only being able to see the final product. To potential employers, thinking and communication are as important as the designs that you create.
Try to meet up with other creatives as often as possible. This might include attending design group virtual or in-person meetups, quick informational interviews, engaging on social media, or spending time on forums. The more connections you have in your field, the more likely you are to be referred for a job or freelance gig. Plus, you might find inspiration, advice, and even friends!
What Job Titles Would a Visual Designer Hold?
Visual Designers have a wide range of job titles available to choose from! Which jobs they pursue will depend on the type of Visual Designs they choose to specialize in, the software they are proficient in, their desired work environment, and the industry they want to work within. Each of these variables will have similar position requirements but salaries will vary based on industry, employer, and specialization. Upward mobility for a Visual Designer can include Art Director, Creative Director, Communication Director, or Art Production Manager.
Visual Designers can look for job titles like:
- Visual Designer
- Graphic Designer
- Junior Designer
- Communication Designer
- Associate Creative Director
- Associate Designer
- Creative Lead
- Production Artist
- Logo Designer
- Brand Identity Designer or Developer
- Visual Image Developer
- Multimedia Designer
- Packaging Designer
With a foundation in Visual Design, upward mobility is essentially endless. Visual Designers can upskill into positions like Graphic Designer, Web Designer, User Experience (UX) Designer, or User Interface (UI) Designer. The most common Visual Design position is Graphic Design. To become a Graphic Designer, Visual Designers can specialize in creating digital graphics and learn how to implement design best practices within design software. Graphic Designers usually specialize in a specific type of digital artwork like advertisements, software or website concepts, illustrations, icons, logos, or website graphics.
Each of these career pivots will likely lead to a pay raise for a Graphic Designer. Some Graphic Designers who have more experience and are self-employed might find a similar salary if they market themselves correctly. But UX, UI, and Web Designer positions generally have a higher starting salary than Visual or Graphic Designer positions because of their technical skill requirements. The majority of the skills needed to pivot into these positions can be learned through classes, bootcamps, or workshops and some practice and there are no educational requirements to obtain one of these other positions.
Salary Comparison to Visual Designer
User Experience Designer
User experience (UX) designers are responsible for ensuring that digital products offer a seamless user experience, through prototyping, user research, and user testing. They will test the navigation and functionality of websites, apps, and more. UX designers must stay current on design trends to ensure ongoing adherence to best practices. They will also conduct ongoing user research to understand the habits and needs of users.Learn about becoming a User Experience Designer
User interface (UI) designers are responsible for how an application or web page looks and feels. Using colors, fonts, patterns, textures, icons, and buttons, user interface designers work with user experience designers to improve websites. Some user interface designers may also touch on user experience design (UX) issues and use prototyping and user testing to analyze the effectiveness of messaging and ease of use.Learn about becoming a UI Designer
Web designers design the appearance and workings of a website. They use their understanding of both visual design and technical design principles to create functional web layouts. Some web designers work from home and enjoy the flexibility of freelance work, while others work for agencies or businesses. Good web designers have the experience and foresight to anticipate the end-user experience and design for ease of use and navigation.Learn about becoming a Web Designer
Graphic designers work with both digital and physical media to create art that communicates and inspires. Using graphics, text, colors, and animations, graphics designers develop media assets for branding, advertising, and messaging. Graphics designers can work for agencies or themselves. They create a wide variety of design elements, such as brochures, infographics, marketing material layouts, and design elements for print, video, or web use.Learn about becoming a Graphic Designer