Graphic designer job role, duties and interviewing techniques

Breaking into the graphic design industry: how to work as a graphic designer from job search and interview to impressing your future employer. The road to career success as a graphic designer looks different for everyone. Working on design briefs from home on flexi-time for a busy mum could be the ideal situation for one person just as working across multiple in-house briefs full time might be for another. Or perhaps after you’ve thought about it you are unsatisfied with your current career now you realise that a career in the graphic design world is the way forward for you. But before you commit the effort, training, time and money that it takes to acquire the training and job search; you want to know what your job prospects will look?

This article set to looks at what to expect from an interview when applying for graphic design jobs? How to prepare for graphic design interviews? What questions will be asked for graphic designers? How to impress your employer as a graphic designer?

With just over 10 years teaching graphic design this articles demystifies preparation for a career in graphic design right from the source of Blue Sky Graphics most senior teachers. Let’s begin.

What does it mean to be a Graphic Designer?

This job title ‘graphic designer’ can cover a vast range of duties and may also include ‘Illustrator’ or ‘UX designer’ under its scope of duties and definitions. Working from approved design briefs, graphic designers deploy a clever combination of strategic text and images to present information and ideas. Graphic designers are communicators and visual artists who use their creative abilities to create and produce a variety of marketing material or products and displays for business-related purposes. You will need proficient knowledge in Adobe CS (InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop).

A graphic designer may create material for a new product or a unique logos for a product or company, or the visual design for a company’s branding for use in media products such as magazines, labels, advertising and signage.  They also work in publishing, developing the layout and design of books, magazines, and newspapers. Some create graphics for television. UX designers tend to develop designs for Internet Web pages, and multimedia app-based projects like mobile phone apps and tablet-friendly apps.

What are some of the most common activities?

Each organisation will usually specify what their aims for the graphic designer should be but here is a list of typical activities that a graphic designer job description may include:

  • liaising with external printers to ensure goals and deadlines are met and that material is printed to the highest quality so as not to damage company reputation.
  • design and produce various marketing materials.
  • managing client proposals journeys from plan through to design, print and finally production.
  • working with clients, briefing and consulting with them about design style, print production. and managing their time expectations.
  • liaising with clients to determine their realistic requirements and working with budgets.
  • developing concepts, graphics and layouts for company logos, products, multimedia, and websites.
  • creates and produces a wide range of web products HTML, Java scripts, WordPress, etc.

What are the working hours?

The good news is that graphic designers work mainly from nine to five, but deadlines may require working additional hours. Opportunities for graphic designers exist in cities throughout the country, although freelance designers can work from home.

What does a job spec look like?

A random search on monster.co.uk when searching for graphic designer job presented an In-House Graphic Designer post and all among its responsibilities were as follows:

  • Manage design requirements from across the business and provide production support.
  • Work with stakeholders to take briefs and produce concepts through to finished creative.
  • Produce print-ready artwork for publication across different media.
  • Supply artwork to advertising publications and print suppliers for production.
  • Prepares finished copy and art by operating typesetting, printing, and similar equipment.
  •      Experience creating wireframes, storyboards, user flows, process flows and sitemaps to effectively communicate design and interaction ideas
  • Good grasp of Microsoft Office (Word, PowerPoint and Excel) and/or iWork (Keynote, Pages and Numbers)
  • Experience in creating digital/interactive tools (i.e., Adobe DPS, interactive PDFs, AfterEffects, Articulate, etc.)
  • Work with suppliers to find appropriate production solutions to support stakeholders with requirements and quotes.
  • Manage the workflow system to brief work.
  • As a brand guardian, ensure all work remains true to brand guidelines.

Who employs graphic designers?

You may just be surprised to learn that nearly every type of organisation will have a graphic designer or access to one. Not just advertising agencies but banks, supermarkets, transportation companies, schools and petrol stations are just a drop in the ocean when it comes to where graphic designers work.  Think about it! Companies that interact with people and communicate will need to do so effectively and that is where graphic designers come in.

Of course, there is also what looks like a typical list of employers that use graphic designers which include:

  • Advertising or media agencies (the primary function is creating images and advertisements for companies to help them sell their products or services to consumers)
  • Book, magazine, newspaper and journal publishers
  • Multimedia companies that produce apps and software
  • Television and broadcasting (think of your fave cartoon or illustrations)
  • Print houses (think billboards, street posters and ads on transport)
  • Brand agencies
  • Marketing agencies
  • The packaging industry (think crisp packets, chocolate bars and cartons of juice)
  • In-house graphic design services (think international organisations)
  • Universities (they are businesses too)
  • Just about any other business, you can think of (they may employ or outsource)

You have been through multiple job boards and applied for many graphic design positions and there was no doubt probably a lot of choice and now you’ve just had an email that you have an interview. What is next?

What to expect from an interview when applying for graphic design jobs?

Graphic designer interviews are largely about finding the right candidate to do the work and to first the team so your teamwork skills will be assessed, and your portfolio will be scrutinised. You can be the most gifted graphic designer out there, but if you don’t do well in your job interview, it can cause you to lose out on that brilliant position that you want so badly.

How to prepare for graphic design interviews?

Here are some common questions that often get asked but it by no means an exhaustive list.

1. Tell me about yourself?

It might seem like a great question and a quick gain—after all, you know all about yourself!—but responding to this invitation to talk about you in the context of a job interview is a bit more complicated as it is a very broad open-ended question. This question whilst very generic carries an added weight for graphic designers because you represent your brand (from dress sense, portfolio and to way you enunciate your words).  They do not want to hear about what you ate this morning on the way in or your nickname as a kid (unless it relates to your graphic design aspirations perhaps). Important things to mention at interview are your recent creative successes, strengths, aptitudes and capabilities that relate to the job role or the organisation, and a statement on your current situation. That could be something a little like this:

“I’ve loved training as a graphic designer and after many months of thinking it through, I have now come to my proud third year in the field. My most recent project was with a local charity shop business – I was tasked with redesigning their in-store posters as well as their merchandise and carrier bag logos. The main task at hand was to execute a branding revamp which required my careful planning and research before execution. I spent a lot of attention to detail and a balance between retaining the original heritage with 16 years operating as a charity shop and updating it to a fresh, zesty and clean and modern 21st-century charity label appealing to more demographics including younger professionals. I am especially passionate for this creative industry because no two days are genuinely the same and I thrive off flexibility and uncertainty. If new projects or design briefs are handed to me, I would fully embrace this opportunity, hurl myself into the deep end and achieve great results. I have a relentless attitude and strive to be the best version of myself at work.” Noah, Course Coordinator at Blue Sky Graphics (and ex recruitment specialist for Reed.co.uk ) once had a candidate he interviewed that followed a similar statement and that candidate got the job.

Blue Sky Graphics Tip: Repeat your script until you know it by heart. First impressions count so if you do well during this typical first interview questions chances are you’ll do well on the rest of them. Also, if you answer it well, the interviewers will begin to find out why you’re the best candidate for this job, in terms of hard skills and experience as well as soft skills. It’s a great opportunity to demonstrate that you can communicate clearly and effectively, connect with and react to other humans, and present yourself professionally.

If you don’t have any formal graphic design training, think about taking an online course such as the Graphic Design Course at Blue Sky Graphics.

2.What makes you a good graphic designer?

This question is for the interviewer to frame you in the shoes of their company and assess what traits and skills a priority is when deeming what a good employee would like. Graphic design as a profession is a juggling act and a matchmaking business like a dating app in some ways. You’re working to create something that combines your client’s isolated goals and objectives (with usually no design background for these same goals) as well your own design feelings to please the client and their objective usually the end user. This is a careful game and ultimately what makes a good graphic designer among other skills likes teamwork, independent creative thinking and dealing with criticism.  Buzz words to include an interview include communication, passion, ability to take criticism constructively, ownership, problem-solving and dependability.

Blue Sky Graphics Tip: Tell the interviewer that as a student of graphic design you would always try to imagine and consider both what a client makes criticise and how you would portray a piece of work. A good graphic designer is considerate and sees things from several angles.

3. Why do you want to work for us?

Employers are usually business that worked very hard to get established and anyone joining their precious team needs to show they are worthy. Your interviewer wants to know that you are really interested in working with them- not just the remuneration package or company esteem but for them and their values. This is your opportunity to show them and that could be something a little like this:  

“THG Studios (London based) is a forefront leader in the advertising world. Among the research I undertook before applying for jobs I devised a list of which THG were at the top given your commitment for development and training provided. THG studios website inspired me and I decided I wanted to be part of the team.”

Blue Sky Graphics Tip: Research the organisation’s values and relate to these in your personal life. This is where you get to show that you’ve done your research – talk about your compatibility with the business culture or any projects they have done that you admire.

4. Where do you see yourself in five years?

Employers spend a lot of money recruiting, training and sourcing the right candidates so they want to make sure you will be an investment for them and not a liability. Your potential employer wants to hire someone that sees this role as a good career move. A happy and determined and hardworking employee for them means a beneficial and retentive prospect. This is your opportunity to show them in 5 years you plan on being nowhere else but there albeit up the career ladder and that could be something a little like this:  

“My objective for the next 5 years or more is to be settled in a company and flourish in that company. I want to progress around people I can learn from. Later down the line, I would like to hold more responsibility and one perhaps even one day sit in your team interviewing others to come on board.”

Blue Sky Graphics Tip: Notice how ‘team’ was used instead of ‘your seat’ – avoid telling the interviewer that you plan on “taking their job” as it comes across as slightly patronising.

5. Do you have any questions?

Professional interviewers will always give you a chance to ask questions, typically at the end of the interview. And you should ask them something, simply because it shows that you still want the job, after everything that has happened in the interview.

Perhaps you could ask them for their opinion of a piece of work you are proud of- show them your portfolio. Do not be shy about your portfolio and have a laugh with them if they are so inclined to do so. One of the most common mistakes in interviews is “when interviewees play down their work” says D&AD judge Ben Casey. “Practise your presentation and don’t say ‘this is only’. It may not be easy as you might be feeling quite nervous, but when you’ve spent weeks on a piece of work it would be a dishonour of your work not to frame it in the best light possible.

Another option is to ask them about one of their campaigns, or a design work that has caught your eye that has been in the press or media. Be interested, be curious, be motivated and engaged and if you can do those things together you are best prepared for good news.  Show them that you are an all-rounded candidate and that you have done more research than the person they interviewed before you and probably still after you.  

Blue Sky Graphics Tip: Absolutely without fail always have questions and if you need to make one up then think outside the box about what you’ll ask.

How to impress your potential new employer?

  • Get involved and be online. Creative agencies are usually incredibly sociable and like to share their successes on blogs, tweets, social media and LinkedIn. It pays to lick their butts here so mention that you liked their blogs and tweets and make intuitive comments by way of an opening towards the beginning of an interview.
  • Dress smart casual but avoid power dress. You need to be comfortable and you are applying for creative jobs, so no one expects you to dust off your power suit with shoulder pads and sharp black shoes. This is a creative interview, not a lawyer’s banquet or bankers office.
  • Do a dummy run and know where you need to be. It may not be their office or studio and could be at a coffee shop or similar venue.
  • Failing to prepare is preparing to fail (couldn’t resist it) Before your interview makes sure you have familiarised yourself and refreshed your best work in your portfolio. Think about why your best work is the best work and think about projects, typeface choices and most importantly the idea behind your design. For advice on Portfolio check out our blog on what clients look for on a portfolio?
  • Smile – it usually helps.
  • Timing is everything: Make sure you arrive 5-10 minutes before the interview even if it means hanging out in the shop next door before you get there early enough to knock.

Are you feeling confident?

You should be feeling miles more confident at this stage. Keep your eye on getting the Job. Be proud of who are today and all that you have learnt.  Remember that your portfolio is super important as all graphic designers must submit a portfolio containing samples of their best work to prospective employers. Illustrators and designers should develop and enhance their portfolios during their training. If you do not yet have a portfolio Blue Sky Graphics equips you with a commercial portfolio and training.

Junior graphic designers tend to start out with no prior work experience but generally come from a course they’ve taken and have made a commercial portfolio. The portfolio is indeed a crucial element of your success story. Rest assure that an interviewee who comes across as passionate and curiously creative who provides good interview answers (not excellent answers, but just good-enough), and brings a great portfolio to the interview (one that shows off their talent and will impress the company matches the job offer), will often get the job at the end of the hiring process.

If interviews are not for you and you do not want to work in a company, you may wish to consider freelancing. This is especially attractive for graphic designers that need to work on their own terms and enjoy the option of self-employment, or freelancing. Graphic designers that have a business spirit can build an empire of their own and maybe learn to interview others. There are many jobs available in today’s economy with the increased globalisation and digitalisation of everything and freelancers are in demand because they are more affordable for the ever-growing small business and start-up economy.

At Blue Sky Graphics we teach graphic design and prepare you for the real world with a commercial portfolio. We have enrolment intakes throughout the year. Get in touch to find out more.

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