In order to become a well rounded Graphic Designer, there are a variety of skills that are essential to handling a clients or employers tasks proficiently. Below you’ll find some of the most essential skills that a Graphic Designer will need to have as he/she advances in their career and reaches new height.

In several cases a designer may have excellent artistic abilities and many years of experience, however what separates the “must re-hire” from the rest is the following acquired skills. The following skills will not only make you a more valuable member of a team, but they will also make you much more feasible hire, ergo allowing you to raise your rates in exchange for quality.

Style Compared to No Style

Style can be acknowledged as a designer’s signature. When your design needs to reach a targeted audience, whichever styles the audience has been familiarized with can be a valuable addition to the design tools at hand. It’s key that every designer should be comfortable and drawn to their own style. As every project you approach is unique, your style has to leave an imprint on the minds of the audience.

Most designers, (especially the novice) tend to adopt a wide range of contemporary styles for the sake of being well rounded or familiarized. However, style can be whatever the designer desires as long as it’s unique and brings structure to design. If you wish to fully master a style, designer’s should carry out reasearch on its history.

Project Management


A lot of designers consider being organized sufficient, but on larger projects it really helps to have a grasp of project management fundamentals. A designer that can actually project manage the design part of a project has an edge over another designer who needs to be told what to do and when to do it and sits there waiting for input.

Leadership is one of the designers strongest points when it comes to managing a project. Taking on a new project/responsibility, means managing the extent of authority you need in order to effectively execute your project. Make sure you have the proper authority at hand before you begin hammering away at a project.

As a leader it’s also important that you are flexible enough to realize when plans need to be changed be or accommodated. Planning shouldn’t stop the moment you think you’ve figured out the direction you wish to steer a project, it should be an ongoing process. Depending on the succession of your plan’s implementation, you would take into account the strategic planning and documentation that placed everything in motion. Bad planning translates to bad implementation and chaotic results.



One  of the more underrated design skills today is typography, however in truth, typography is one of the key things top advertising firms review in a design portfolio. It is usually the difference between a good and excellent designer. Typography requires a firm understanding of font families, appropriate use of line-height,  kerning and tracking. The advertising industry is primarily about communication and therefore needs clean, readable, well designed type.

Seasoned designers can tell you that it’s almost impossible to know the names of all the typefaces available. However, if you can can learn to identify a portion of the main fonts utilized for clarity in readable content, then you should feel confident. Typography is readily classified as the official language of graphic design. If typography seized to exist, most designs would become irrelevant or obsolete.

Fact is letters come in many different shapes, colors, and forms, and this is what gives graphic design its unique and favorable personality. While knowing technology is essential, if a graphic designer does not learn the difference between families and styles of type, or how and when to best use them, they will not be fluent enough to communicate.

Creative Thinking

An important asset skilled to a graphic design artist is their ability to take something that is deficient or incomplete and turn it into something remarkable. A graphic designer should be lucid about discovering and producing the picture that other people are trying to express with words and desire. The picture may not always be clear at first, but this is where creativity stands out.

Skydiving over a sea of wild thoughts, improbable, and unthinkable ideas is just fine. In fact, with every project, it is expected. By permitting yourself to think outside the boundaries of ordinary, normal thought, brilliant new ideas can arise. In creative thinking, a variation of ideas are used for their suggestive qualities, to see what new ones they can break loose. If you can manage to search for several points of similarity between different ideas and your project at hand, new aspects of your design will begin to reveal themselves.

Print Design and Layout

One of the most sought after skills employers seek in designers is an understanding of digital print production. The ability to use a page layout program also sometimes called a desktop publishing program (Adobe®, InDesign®, or Quark®) is vital as well. Print design also requires an understanding of concepts like color separations, grid layout, and master pages.

Every professional graphic designer should possess thorough knowledge of the printing process. One shouldn’t take it as far as knowing how to operated a printing press, however being familiar with the process is key. The most basic printing knowledge involves an understanding of color space.

Quite simply, color space is the combination of types of color and how those colors interact to create other colors. There are two types of color space, light and pigment. Light color space is made up of red, green and blue, or RGB. Pigment color space is made up of cyan, magenta, yellow and black, or CMYK.

Web Design


Having a clear understanding of web development is more essential than ever in an age where online advertising, and web presence are essential to every marketing campaign. Graphic Designers are usually expected to have some basic understanding of HTML and CSS, as well as web design standards. This skill can become a very lucrative one. Web designers work on anything from complete websites to user-interfaces, to designing blogs. Now graphic designers can take part in this process.

For graphic designers, web design is probably the most valuable skill to have aquired. Countless doors will open up a large new client base for you, allow you to create and update your portfolio site as often as you’d like and much more. Being fluent in web design and multiple coding languages will not only make it easier to keep steady work from home, but will make you much more attractive to potential employers who are looking to cut costs by finding multi-talented designers.


If you wish to be perceived as a well-rounded graphic designer, sooner or later you will need to take a picture. If you are fortunate enough to work for a company which supplies you with a camera, utilize it. What sort of camera could meet the standards of a designer? A camera that can provide enough light to adequately illuminate the subject. This can be done with a built-in flash or with an add-on flash.

Also, it’s a good idea to use a digital camera that provides enough pixel resolution. A good rule of thumb is anything below 6 megapixel’s probably won’t produce quality shots and will need to be worked on by an image editing software such as Photoshop®.



To be successful in any career the guidance and support of others is vital. This is especially true of designers who need to spend most of their time in their offices or studios. Building a network of individuals who have a common interest in your career, through: other Designers, Marketing Experts, Web Designers, Design Blogs, Design Magazines, Photographers, SEO’s, Magazines, and Publishers is one of the most effective ways to strengthen your network.

Since the beginning of the web 2.0 movement many designers have launched their careers by starting a blog. They’ve used this as a way to market their skills and increase awareness to their portfolio. Having sufficient understanding about web design, online marketing and search engine optimization, which we mentioned above will help you turn your blog into a powerful and useful tool as opposed to a waste of time.

You need to research blogging before hand, optimize your blog, post regularly and promote your blog posts in order to achieve maximum results. The more visitors reach your blog, the more chances you have of landing a prospective client.


Realistically speaking this maybe the most important skill a designer will utilize throughout their career. The ability to communicate is fundamental to everything a designer does (Refer to the Typography section above), but this task does not begin or end with visual communication. Designers have to be able to articulate their ideas and concepts to employers and clients with ease and fluently. In addition graphic designers need to be able to write well organized briefs, proposals and instructions.

90 percent of the time, in order to land a project, this will require good communication skills. Once you have the project, it really helps when you can easily communicate with your clients or other team members. A lot of design requires good communication, from extracting accurate requirements, discussing changes and options, explaining how to utilize a tool or why something just simply won’t work.

Succesful designers in today’s day and age will likely have to write clear emails, hold skype conversations crossing numerous timezones and cultures, and countless other communication tasks, and display effective communicative skills through their art.

Social Media Marketing


This skill is essential to any individual needing to promote or brand themselves, their products or services in today’s marketplace. A firm understand of the value of social media applications such as: Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, and Digg; and how to properly use them to build relationships with an audience as well as brand recognition, will only become more important and valuable in the future.

If you become fluent in marketing you will get more work or a start, but knowing some of the art and science of marketing will help your designs work for what they are intended. Consider that many of a web designers deliverable will ultimately exist to get attention, build brand, sell products, and bring repetitive business.

  • Mike Smith

    Really good article. I think a web designer could get by without knowing about Print Design and Photography though. But these are all solid skill sets to have and definitely things that are needed to run a business.

  • Tamia@StyleSampleMag

    I’m not a graphic designer but these are great tips for people in semi-related industries as well, ie Internet Marketing. Employers and clients are increasingly looking for people who know how to do it all–strategy, planning, AND execution.

    Thanks for the reminder!

  • John

    You forgot the most essential skill all Clients will require sooner or later: make the logo bigger :) apart from that: good article.

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  • RK

    How about non-painful to read blog designs?

  • MCEctoCooler

    Great post- it’s always a good idea to revisit and sharpen those fundamentals. Also I ESPECIALLY loved that you included:
    PROJECT MANAGEMENT & COMMUNICATION. You can be an awesome artist, but can’t just rely on ‘skill alone’. Great points!

  • Peter

    How about learning to write a decent sentence? Whoever threw this together hasn’t mastered that skill. Christ, at least proofread.

  • Jad Limcaco

    Great article. I definitely need to be working on some of these areas.

  • Jared

    Very good post, alot of good points here.

  • jamEs

    I don’t agree at all with this post. While I’m a web designer, trained as a graphic designer and have these skills, I don’t think a designer needs to be so broadbased. Sure it is great to have a designer that can be a jack of all trades, but just because you are a good print designer doesn’t mean you have any obligation to know HTML and CSS, or be a photographer or a social media guru. To be a good graphic designer you should understand how to prep an item for print, add proper bleed, understand colour separations and be able to design a diecut. I worked in print for 5 years and you would be shocked how many designers lack these basic skills when supplying jobs for print.

  • Shea

    Would like to add two things:
    1.) patience- lots of it
    2.) strong research skills- you need to do at least some for almost every project.

    In response to Mike, I do think a good web designer should have knowledge of print and photography. It’s not necessary to be able to execute them but knowing about the processes involved and especially the different file requirements is very important.
    The “why can’t you use that image from my website?” problem could be greatly reduced for the print world if more web developers did.

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  • MK

    Seriously guys, loved the article but pleeeease check your spelling and punctuation before you publish! It’s “ceased”, not seized, in this case.

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  • Paulo

    Excellent article, well written and concise. I had fun ticking the boxes here and will revisit to fill in those unticked boxes soon :)

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  • kat

    I like that wire frame u included!

  • Josh Blackwood

    I have to call bullshit on a few things here. On photography; anything below 6 megapixels probably won’t produce quality shots? Your qualification of a camera that would meet the standards of a designer is that it—the camera—should provide enough light to illuminate the subject, via flash? Do you know ANYTHING about photohraphy? No, you do not.

    The section on style just seems as if you needed to fill a spot. There are some good tips in this article, but ultimately it seems as if you just threw together a bunch of popular keywords and phrases and wrote up a bunkum piece to take advantage of traffic trends.

    I’ll stick to Smashing Magazine, Web Designer Wall, CSS Tricks and A List Apart.

  • Franz

    every designer should have a head and one hand….

  • Ted Rex

    Excellent collection here. I posted a link to this page on my daily design blog:


  • Philip

    Good information – but why not apply your own rules of thumb to the article? Ironically, the content was very difficult to read because of the graphic design of the presentation. Also, the idiom is ceased to exist not seized to exist, although the later is more likely to end up on YouTube.

  • Cindy – Discover Your Site

    I think this is a fabulous article. I’ve been designing websites since 2002. I recently decided to branch out and attempt to make a living out of it. Over half the people that have contacted me already have websites. They are unhappy with the look or with the ability of the designers to update their information in a timely fashion. Some people want professional while others want artistic or bright sites. I think one of the most important things of design is being able to listen to your client and then being able produce something that will actually work well for them that they are also happy with. I admit it. I am still learning. Every time I do a site I learn something new. I have found that when you are actually giving your client what they want they are very understanding because they are grateful to have someone working their butt off to get something done they way they envision it.

  • Webdesigner

    Good article.. I agree with Mike. As a webdesigner you don’t necessarily need to know everything about print design and photography.

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  • Febby Tan

    really nice post. these are the feeds that keeps graphic designer breathing alive.


    I loved this article… Definitely something that all designer’s need to be aware of and prepare for. I wrote an article this morning that links to this post, as I found appropriate relevence on the subject.

    Thanks again!

  • Rain

    hmmmn, I’m having a little self-evaluation here. thank you for a quality post.

  • 4W Web Design

    Only 10 ??

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  • Ravikumar V.

    its really a nice post.

    but its made me very hard to read white text in black bg.

  • Carl Hansell

    Great round up thanks for that. Ten reasons I love my job.

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  • Rita | Creative Graphic Design

    Superb post. You hit it all right on. To be successful on what you do as graphic designers, you should possess all what is written here.

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  • electronic toys for kids

    nice post. every designer should have a lot patience

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  • Paridhi

    A real nice article… Must read for upcoming graphic designers

  • website design bristol

    good article, agree not easy to read but worth the effort

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  • Rose

    Thank you so much for this article, I’m in school currently to become an Graphic Designer. This article, really helped me have an idea about what I need to improve on when I finish my degree.

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  • JayJay

    You really should proofread. Even a designer needs to use words correctly. Maybe it’s just me, but when I read an article full of mistakes, I take it less seriously.

  • Cierra

    well my opnion is this is stupid im really young and even notived that you should have re read efore you did this. My honest opnion is i staraight up do not like it. t really dont give me any info. :PPPP

  • Latanya Tyson

    As someone who doesn’t know a whole lot about the graphic design industry, but plans on attending Columbia College of Chicago for a Bachelors degree in graphic design soon, I would just like to say that I thought the article seemed highly informative. Whether or not the classes are all that essential may or may not be correct. it may just be the writer’s opinion, but if it has made them successful then they are probably just trying to put the ideas in your mind as a recommendation. I do agree that they could have proof read their article a little bit better, however comma, calling the article stupid is uncalled for. How about some constructive criticism or perhaps even suggestion on how to improve the situation after your stated opinion. If you were working at a truly professional company and it was your job to critique this article would those really be your choice of words.
    Please people, let’s look to the log in our own eye first, so on and so forth. It’s a bit of hypocrisy to critique another person’s misspelling by misspelling words of your own. Am I allowed to say that doing so is” stupid ” or would I be contradicting myself ?
    And don’t worry Cierra, we can all tell that you are really young :)LOL.

    As for Design Reviver I liked the article and plan on further investigating some of these mentioned courses at Columbia College of Chicago. My classes are free so even If I don’t need to take the courses I am sure they will still be helpful. Look for Latanya Tyson ( former Military, Navy member 10 Years) as a new graphic design artist in the near future.

    Thank You

    • Nicole Lindenmuth

      so you were a former women in the service- Navy, because i was thinking about going into the airforce as a cook, or…- just nothing involved in the actual battle– only a 4 year contract im willing to do. so they pay for your schooling-actually? because i heard that when you get discharged if you want, you can go to any collage- completly free.. even campus housing free..?

  • Anthony Hiscox

    I was just about to post what Latanya (cool name) said. It sucks when someone tries to share what they have learned with others and then are met with such unnecessary criticism (save the grammar lessons for the articles on grammar), especially when the critics do things like use “later” instead of “latter”. If the article read like Cierra’s comment I would agree, but it doesn’t.

    I for one am very happy that more and more professionals stand up and share what they know for anyone to learn, regardless of finances, and regardless of whether we intend on making a career (or even a job) out of it. This stuff used to be trade secrets, now it’s all about getting people up to speed on the secrets so we can break new barriers.

  • Anthony Hiscox

    I also wanted to agree with Cindy. The closer you can get that final design to what the client envisions in their head, while still maintaining usability, readability, and a slick look, the better a designer you are.

    The ability to design absolutely everything the way YOU want it, isn’t really that special, what’s amazing is when you take things that probably shouldn’t work out of the heads of people that could never create them, and bring that to life.

    I’m a developer though, I don’t have the slightest shred of design skills in my entire body, but that’s how I see it.

  • 12

    would someone please tell me the specific skills and characteristics needed to become a graphic designer, I have a project and I need help

  • Yuliya

    One thing that wasn’t mentioned is perhaps that you can get some additional money – particularly if you are photographer. For example, I’m designer but working as a content manager for day job and additionally a photographer. So I sell my photos and at the same time buy images for the content through stocks: istock, bigstock, and depositphotos. The point is when you acquiring some additional skills it will always help to gain some profit in future :)

  • Muhammad Tariq

    I like the article and it helps me to improve my ability and knowledge as a graphic Designer.

  • Elizabeth L.

    are there any other skills are required?

  • Bob Web Designers Bristol

    Yes Elizabeth, to succeed in the web or graphic design world you need the skill to quickly get on with people, start up friendly conversations (without the hard sell) and create a rapport. Empathy is a useful skill along with working all the hours to get yourself noticed as a successful web design agency (and stay there!)

    • lololo


  • Adam Daly

    Great summary of skills graphics designers should possess. BTW “If typography seized to exist, most designs would become irrelevant or obsolete.” Ceased to exist I think is what you meant.

  • Lou Fank

    i’m looking into going into grafic design but i don’t understand all of this and reading this article was great i now know what they will be looking for:)

  • ramkumar

    simple and superb article….thax buddy…..

  • Graphic Dig

    Great article. These skills are needed for being a good designer and you provided this information. Thanks for sharing.

  • Drdialer

    Really nice post. It has better understanding. Really helpful for me. Great skill mention in the article. A lot more then thanks for spending time on it and making it useful for audience.

  • jaklin badr

    simple and superb article….thax buddy…..


  • antonny

    Nice to you say how to create graphical design web site professionally. I can develop my graphical design knowledge by way of this post. Thanks for sharing this innovative information.
    graphic design in India