Gorgeous visuals, stunning product design, artistic images – these are all thanks to the creative talents of the graphic designer.

A graphic designer is so much more than just someone who uses digital tools to create beautiful pictures.

They are critical to the success of an advertising campaign, a product, a website, and a brand. Their talents transform the mundane into the extraordinary and the memorable and the type of person drawn into this career needs to be determined, painstaking, focused on attention to detail and, above all, highly creative and visual.

It is a demanding profession, but it is also one that allows you to move into different layers of the business and to even successfully strike out on your own.

A graphic designer’s role can be quite varied. Like many careers, you don’t have to be stuck in one job for the rest of your life, you can evolve as you discover which areas of the profession you love and which you don’t. That said, the most basic description of a graphic designer would be to say that they work with visual concepts to create visually inspirational ideas that capture a brand’s communication, the customer’s attention, and the user’s imagination. They develop the layout and the design for websites, adverts, brochures, magazines, corporate communications, reports and so much more.

As a graphic designer, you will need to develop a fairly rich skill set as you won’t just be sitting in front of the computer playing around with software, you’ll also be working with other people and collaborating with them to come up with ideas and to build campaigns. You can work in-house at a company or an agency, you can go freelance and run your own business, or you can temp your way around the industry. No matter which direction you choose, you will soon build a portfolio that you can use to enhance or sell your skills.


As a graphic designer you will need to know:

  • The principles and applications of graphic design
  • Fonts, principles of design, typography and colour
  • The latest in design software and how to use it effectively such as Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator and InDesign
  • Digital and print design methods
  • How to conceptualise ideas
  • Work with other people to build campaigns
  • Understand how to interpret and apply a brief
  • Capable of taking criticism and managing high stress

The type of person who would thrive in this profession will be creative, interested in developing technical and computer skills, have good industry software knowledge, enjoy working with other people, be prepared to always work towards, and deliver on, deadlines, and enjoy challenging, highly stressful environments.

According to Payscale, the average graphic designer salary is R135, 251 per year.


Boost your skills while at school

For anyone interested in improving their skills and their chances of getting into a graphic design course you need to focus on getting a matric exemption as this will allow you to gain entry into some of the country’s best graphic design courses. You will also need a portfolio which will require many hours of design and art time on your side and there is no time to start like the present. Take a look at this guide on how to build a design portfolio early in your career so you can get going in the right way.

To kick off, take a look at which subjects you are struggling with and then use free education portals such as the Vodacom e-school portal or Top Dog to boost your skills and really get great marks. Both these portals offer you really excellent skill building courses and tests that will allow you to push yourself to achieve the marks you need. It’s a good idea to go over the Communication modules at Vodacom e-school to build your collaboration and communication skills, and to grow your expertise in more than one language.

Vodacom e-school does ask you to register first but the process is as simple as entering your name, a password of your choosing, and the one-time-pin that they send you. Then select your grade (you can change this at any time) and start learning. Read our comprehensive breakdown of the accountancy profession below to find out which role best suits you and your career aspirations and to help you choose the right subjects at school.


The graphic designer career paths explained

Graphic design is a very varied and interesting career that can evolve and change as you grow your skills and become more involved in the industry. When you undertake a course in graphic design, you generally learn how to use colour and design and how to apply these principles to things like adverts and company communications and publications. You will learn how to use fairly complex software applications such as InDesign and Adobe and you will also build up a portfolio that will allow you to apply for jobs and showcase your skills.

Many of the lessons learned as a graphic designer can be used in other areas of your life and business. For example, you’ll build up your creativity which can be used to help brands launch new products or build your own business. You will develop a keen eye for aesthetics and colour and can move into a career such as interior design or fashion design. You will also learn how to speak to different markets, people, demographics and audiences in completely different ways.

As a graphic designer you may well end up working on a variety of different things such as:

  • Brochures
  • Posters
  • Business cards
  • Flyers
  • Banners
  • Magazines
  • Websites
  • Packaging
  • Branding

Regardless of where you work or which direction you take, you’ll find the role challenging, exciting and always changing. Yes, you may be working on the same types of content every day, but the different people, brands and ideas will make every design exciting.


Further information and education institutions:


Professional Bodies