8 essential skills for graphic design jobs

From soft skills like communication and creativity to typography and coding, this is what you need to get an edge in today’s job market.

8 essential skills for graphic design jobs

Graphic design jobs are here to stay.

Enjoy using the right side of your brain? For the creative minded, graphic design jobs can be stimulating, fun, and potentially lucrative. Top performers earn more than $83,140 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In addition, graphic designers who climb their way to the position of art director—the person who is responsible for the visual style and images in magazines, newspapers, product packaging, movies, and TV shows—make, on average, $92,500 per year. It's definitely worth it (literally) to hone your graphic design skills throughout your career. 

Another reason to enter this field: Graphic design jobs are here to stay, says Kevin Jankowski, director of the Rhode Island School of Design’s career center. “In our visually saturated world, graphic designers are more important than ever, since they help filter the visual cacophony that we’re bombarded with every day,” Jankowski says.

In order to have a thriving career as a graphic designer, though, you need the right set of skills. Here is a list of the graphic design skills employers are looking for today.


You probably don’t need us to spell it out for you, but let’s drill this home: Creativity is one of, if not the most important skill for graphic designers. After all, it’s hard to come up with new ideas and innovative designs if you don’t know how to tap into your creative resources. Having a visual eye is essential no matter what medium you work in.


Understanding what a client wants from a design is the key to creating a successful product. But, “in today’s digital age, where everyone is so individually focused on their phones and electronic devices, a lot of people don’t know how to talk to clients,” laments Jankowski. Thus, being able to listen well, process feedback, and explain design elements—without getting technical—will give you a big advantage.


The ability to make written language not only legible but also visually appealing is “more important today than ever,” says Jankowski. “These days, pretty much anyone can access every kind of font imaginable online, but someone who has been highly trained and understands how fonts are made and utilized is going to be a more effective designer.”

Adobe’s creative apps

Knowing how to use Adobe’s creative software—specifically Adobe Illustrator, InDesign, and Photoshop—is a base requirement for many graphic design jobs. In fact, “it’s so integral to being a graphic designer that we’re now seeing students using the software in high school and even middle school,” Jankowski says.

Interactive media

“Interactive media” is a catchall term for design products that actively engage a user through mediums like text, moving image, animation, video, audio, or video games, says Sue Jenkins, a graphic design professor at Marywood University. “It’s best to be expose yourself to as many different types of media as possible,” she says.


Though you don’t need to be an expert at coding for most graphic design jobs, “having at least a basic understanding of HTML is important, since it teaches you how to understand what goes into creating a website,” Jenkins says. Learning the fundamentals of Java and C++ will make you even more marketable.


This business skill is critical for graphic designers. Indeed, to be able to understand a client’s needs, you have to first understand your client’s brand. Branding through social media, in particular, applies to many graphic design jobs right now.

Delivering presentations

Graphic designers are essentially storytellers, says Jenkins. So, having the ability to take complex data and present it in a clear, digestible way to customers or clients will make you a more valuable employee.

Treat your resume like a presentation

As a graphic designer, you know how important a clean, clear layout is to nabbing someone’s attention, and this holds very true for your resume. Your skills should be properly displayed to make sure hiring managers move you to the top of the pile. Could you use some help with that? Get a free resume evaluation from the experts at Monster’s Resume Writing Service. You’ll get detailed feedback in two business days, including a review of your resume’s appearance and content, and a prediction of a recruiter’s first impression.