What Does It Take to Be a Graphic Designer?

There’s something special about seeing the ideas you’ve scribbled on the back of a napkin come to life. When scattered thoughts are compiled into a functional and polished end product, there’s a huge sense of satisfaction. The way these ideas are presented and designed plays a major role in this.

Graphic design is one of those careers that people don’t always appreciate the complexity of. Designers are professionals at making things look good and communicate a clear message. They’re also professionals at making it look easy.

If there’s one lesson we should all learn in life it’s that, just because something looks easy, doesn’t mean it is.

A lot of time and effort, theory and experience goes into making something look polished and effortless. Graphic design is a prime example of this.

So, what does it take to be a graphic designer? Let us tell you, it’s more than a great sense of style.

Study, study, study

Almost every designer you will have met will has spent a number of years studying their trade, gaining their qualifications. To create successful design work it is important to understand the basic principles of design and the psychology behind how it all works.

The amount of theory and study that goes into the work behind the design process is enough to weed out the truly committed designers from the ones that thought this would just be a fun art project. The understanding of design principles is the most important part of a designers job, it’s what differentiates those in the industry from the self taught Adobe Suite hobbyists. There is a mantra that is drilled into every design student, ‘form follows function’. These three words are a constant reminder of all those hours spent studying theory and bring home the purpose of their work.

Design work isn’t as simple as drawing an image on photoshop and printing it onto a coaster.

Secondary to the understanding of design principles, comes the knowledge of the software and tools used to implement them. The software that is used in design is capable of doing almost anything, as long as you know how to use it. It’s the learning to use it part that takes a lot of time and practice. Perfectly smooth graphics, versatile designs and perfect colour matchings come from a sound knowledge of how to use this software.

Just as important as a strong knowledge of software, psychology and basic principles, is the need to stay on top of current trends. Designers are the experts in what looks good, and to keep this reputation they need to be keeping up with their industry trends.

Luckily, most designers are designers because they love design. So maintaining their taste and style to be up there with the most popular and current trends is not a chore.

Staying up to date with current trends also means constantly learning new skills and tools within the software of the trade. As we’re sure you’re aware, technology moves fast, software is always changing, updating and adapting to the needs of a fast paced society.

Graphic designers, as with all industries that use technology and psychology as tools, are always having to update their skills. It is an important part of the job to be constantly learning.


As a designer the biggest thing that you have to understand and come to terms with is that your design work is not your own. You are working for a client, creating someone else’s vision. This is one of the first lessons of design life.

There is also a responsibility to the client that you will present your professional opinion and guidance.

Say a client comes in wanting a new logo for their plumbing business. They specify that they want a picture of a horse in a colour palette of green and pink, because those are all their favourite things. It’s your job to gently guide them in a different direction, explaining that customers need to be able to relate a logo to the business it belongs to, to create a strong brand.

It is a designer’s job to understand the needs of the client, better than they might themselves. Adding to the notion that you are not designing for yourself, but for your client - you are in fact not just designing for your client, but for your client’s client. A designer needs to be able to interpret a brief into a workable design, suiting the clients requirements and how they want it to look. The design needs to communicate its message clearly to the intended audience. Designers need to be able to create a strong design out of what might initially be a vague concept.


Sometimes you will design something that you think is an absolute masterpiece, your best work yet, only to have your client rip it to shreds.

Everyone has different tastes, everyone has different opinions. It can be hard not take it personally when someone hates something that you’ve put so much effort into. That’s part of being a designer. Learning to take these things on the chin and move on with a different design that will better suit your client’s taste.

In such a subjective field of work, it is essential to be able to get past offense and use your industry knowledge and creativity to understand a different point of view.

The pay off

Through all the complexities of design work, graphic designers (or at least the ones we have at bellette) take great pride in their work. Any offence over differing opinions is turned into a challenge and determination to create a design that the client is truly happy with.

One of the greatest joys of being a designer is to create something out of nothing. Seeing how everything comes together with the input of both client and creator. Being able to use the skills you’ve worked so hard to develop is what makes it such a satisfying experience.

Graphic designers take great joy in making the world a more beautiful place, and they work bloody hard to do it.