Top 10 Most Sought-After Skills For Graphic Designers

It takes skills to make it in any industry – graphic design is no exception. But, what exactly are employers looking for when they post graphic design jobs? What are the skills needed to be a successful graphic designer? What appeals to potential employers? When you’re just embarking on your design career, there may be a lot of questions. Luckily, this post offers an in-depth understanding of what skills employers are looking for when hiring a design professional. 

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In This Post:

5 Essential Technical Skills for Graphic Designers

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  • Adobe Creative Suite: These days, most graphic design projects will use the Adobe Creative Suite. So, designers must hone their skills in the industry standard design software: Adobe Illustrator, Adobe InDesign, and Adobe Photoshop. 
  • Typography & Font Selection: A career in graphic design or communication design will often involve using written language in visual design. Typography skills are among the most important skills needed for graphic designers. After all, the ability to arrange letters in a visually appealing print, digital, or web design is at the core of this work. 
  • UX Design: Visual communication is all about making information appealing yet accessible to the intended audience. So, skilled graphic designers must combine their creative thinking with their communication skills – especially when designing accessible spaces for the public. 
  • Website Design: As technology continues to advance, it’s becoming even more imperative that graphic designers have some knowledge of coding. Skills in HTML, CSS, or JavaScript come in handy across multiple projects – thus making digital technology skills even more sought-after.
  • Color Management: Experienced graphic designers are expected to know when to use CMYK vs RGB color settings and how to design with digital or print in mind. While many may assume that digital design is the only way, a print design still has its place – with billboards, business cards, packaging design, posters, and more – all requiring a graphic designer’s touch. 

5 Soft Skills Needed to Succeed in the Graphic Design Industry

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  • Idea Generation: The graphic design process often begins with an idea. After all, the most successful graphic designers utilize creative thinking to their advantage when designing a company’s brand identity, logo design, or website. 
  • Storytelling: The ability to create graphic elements with a consistent brand identity requires good storytelling to keep a consistent message. Beyond creating designs, professionals in this industry must learn how to craft stories that connect with the audience. 
  • Time management: Some design projects will require that the creative process be expedited a bit. But to succeed in a graphic design career, one must be able to adapt to the demands of a given design project – which may include rather tight deadlines from time to time. 
  • Professionalism: In the world of graphic design, clients and designers interface on a daily or weekly basis. So, graphic designers must uphold a high level of professionalism when discussing design projects. Out of the myriad soft skills, designers can possess, a keen level of professionalism is certainly one that’s sought after. 
  • Emotional Intelligence & Communication Skills: It’s a designer’s job to communicate complex ideas to the public in a visually appealing way. So, it’s no surprise that potential employers are drawn to folks who have strong communication skills and high levels of emotional intelligence. 

5 Ways to Improve Your Graphic Design Skills

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If you want a career in graphic design or to improve your skills, keep reading. Below is a short list of ideas you can implement to take your graphic design skills to the next level. 

Enroll in an online class.

  • Coursera: This e-learning platform aggregates classes and certificate programs from various institutions and makes them accessible all in one place. While it’s not specific to graphic designers, Coursera can come in handy for anyone wishing to expand their knowledge of history, art, and visual design alike.
  • CalArts Graphic Design Specialization: The California Institute of the Arts is one of many schools that offer a specialized program dedicated to graphic design. At CalArts, the graphic design specialization is broken down into five courses – each one expanding on the previous one to create a comprehensive educational experience. 
  • Dribble Workshops: For those looking to enhance their graphic design skills with the help of industry leaders, Dribble offers comprehensive design workshops. 
  • Udemy: Whether you’re searching for a short or long course on graphic design, Udemy has you covered. From tutorial-style classes on the Adobe Creative Suite to classes on motion design, Udemy offers a plethora of options for those getting started or looking to enhance their skills for a design job. 
  • Linkedin Learning: Previously known as Lynda, Linkedin Learning is the perfect platform for candidates wishing to gain new skills in graphic design. From courses on Adobe Illustrator to market research-based classes on trending colors and graphic elements; Linkedin Learning can help folks hone strong skills in a variety of areas. 

Expand your knowledge of graphic design books. 

Pick up a new book or two to generate new ideas for your design projects. Who knows? An inspiring message or design could be waiting between the pages of a book. Here are a few suggestions:

  • 100 Ideas That Changed Graphic Design – written by Steven Heller and Veronique Vienne, this text acts as a comprehensive overview of the changes that have occurred in the world of graphic design. 
  • Designing Brand Identity – written by Alina Wheeler, this explainer book reveals design secrets for creating designs that are consistent and impactful elements of a brand’s identity. 
  • Thinking with Type – written by Ellen Lupton, this book reviews the basics of typography – honing in on kerning, text alignment, color, and more. 

Seek mentorship from another design professional.

Finding a mentor can be a rather difficult task. However, if you wish to enhance your designs, it can be a worthy pursuit. After all, sharing knowledge, feedback and resources can work wonders for one’s confidence and design skills alike. 

Accept and Encourage Criticism. 

Criticism can help designers or anyone pursuing a creative career. Feedback encourages growth, and idea generation. Not to mention, getting constructive criticism can help designers pinpoint relevant skills that they need to focus on. 

Keep creating, no matter what.

With each design project, the designer dives deeper into the software, expands their creative process, and flexes their knowledge of design principles. Whether you create a print design as a freelancer or design websites for a design firm; you must continue to utilize your skills on daily basis. 

5 Popular Career Paths for Graphic Designers

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  1. Packaging Design – designers who create a product’s packaging materials. These graphic designers are typically highly skilled in typography, color management, and color theory. 
  2. Marketing & Advertising Design – designers in this field work on marketing materials; which can include both print design and digital design projects. Those working in this realm create assets that can include social media graphics, marketing emails, billboards, vehicle wraps, and more. 
  3. Brand Identity Design – beyond logos, graphic designers who work with branding are responsible for creating designs that align with a company’s visual identity. These designers usually focus on typography skills, crafting color palettes, creating icon systems, and determining brand guidelines – in addition to logo design, of course. 
  4. Web & User Interface (UI) Design – simply stated, these designers are responsible for creating websites and mobile applications. To succeed in their tech-savvy industry; these designers must have an in-depth understanding of design software and a basic understanding of coding as well. 
  5. Infographic Design & Data Visualization – graphic designers who work with visualizing data need a deep understanding of how to create designs that communicate information effectively. In this role, designers are charged with working with large data sets and making them accessible to the everyday person – thus it may require more knowledge of accessibility than other graphic design jobs. 


From digital advertisements to infographics with important data on display; graphic design can be found everywhere. Do you wish to become a graphic designer? Already skilled but want to stand out to prospective employers? Show employers what you have to offer by showing a stellar portfolio and listing some of these sought-after skills on your resume.