This job is sometimes referred to by alternative titles
Graphic designers create artwork or designs for the promotion or development of goods, services and ideas. They may also design artwork and/or layout for fabrics, websites, magazines and other publications, or help to develop television advertisements.
Graphic designers with one to five years’ experience usually earn
$35K-$55K per year
Senior graphic designers with more than five years’ experience usually earn
$55K-$75K per year
Source: Designers Institute of New Zealand.
Current job prospects
How many people are doing this job?
Source: Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2003-2012 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2012.
Pay rates for graphic designers depend on their experience, skill and employer.
- When starting out, graphic designers or Mac operators usually earn $35,000 to $40,000 a year.
- Intermediate designers, with three to five years' experience usually earn between $45,000 and $55,000.
- Senior designers with more than five years' experience may earn $55,000 to $75,000.
Source: Designers Institute of New Zealand.
What you will do
Graphic designers may do some or all of the following:
- discuss and analyse requirements and purpose of the project with their client
- discuss how to approach the project with colleagues
- develop design ideas by researching and brainstorming with colleagues
- prepare sketches, instructions and layout diagrams
- suggest production methods, materials and costs
- show design ideas to the client
- receive client feedback and alter the design accordingly.
Skills and knowledge
Graphic designers need to have:
- knowledge of art materials and techniques
- the ability to use colour and design effectively
- expertise in printing and production methods
- knowledge of advertising and marketing, and how people think and react to visual images
- awareness of current market trends
- artistic ability, including good sketching, drawing and painting skills
- the ability to use computed-aided design (CAD) software
- the ability to understand clients' needs and turn them into suitable designs.
- usually work regular business hours, but may be required to work evenings and weekends to meet deadlines
- usually work in offices and studios, but may also work from home or travel locally to attend photo shoots
- work in conditions that may be stressful due to deadlines.
What's the job really like?
Calum Robb - Director, Graphic Design Company
Like many other design graduates, Calum Robb struggled to find a job after his degree. So he and a friend Ryan set up a design business with a couple of laptops – Calum doing design and Ryan doing website coding. They kept their hospitality jobs, working on the business in their spare time. Working mostly from home, they have low overheads, so can charge a competitive rate.
Doing what he loves
"I am mainly working on website design. It's the creative flow from it I like. Sometimes I regret studying design because of the lack of jobs there but then, I still love what I do, and I wake up every day and I'm happy with what I'm doing."
Business side tedious but vital
Calum says Ryan's business skills have been vital. "He did our partnership agreement and business plan. I find that side tedious – but I have to take responsibility as well, I can't just give it all to my partner.
"I'm proud of the business. We set it up when we were 22. I never would have thought it would last this long, and we've achieved a lot for how young we are."
To become a graphic designer, you usually need a tertiary qualification in graphic design, media arts, or visual communication.
You also usually require a portfolio of work to show prospective employers.
Four years of secondary education, to NCEA Level 2, is preferred. Useful subjects include art, art history, design, technical drawing, photography, English and maths.
Graphic designers need to be:
- accurate, with an eye for detail
- able to accept criticism
- able to work well under pressure
- good at communicating, and able to work well in a team.
Useful experience for graphic designers includes:
- art or design work or courses
- advertising or marketing work
- publishing or printing work
- media production work
- typographic work (for example, working with type, font and page layout).
Find out more about training
- Communication Agencies' Association of NZ (CAANZ)
- (09) 303 0435 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.caanz.co.nz/index.php
- Designers Institute of New Zealand (DINZ)
- (09) 529 1713 - email@example.com - www.dinz.org.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
The number of people employed as graphic designers increased by about 11% between 2010 and 2012, according to Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment estimates.
Competition for graphic design jobs high
Competition for graphic design vacancies is strong, so graphic designers in the early stages of their career need to be flexible. Your chances of getting a job are higher if you get experience working in one of the following areas:
- as a Mac operator, mainly working on existing designs, and preparing design work for publication
- as a freelancer on short-term graphic design contracts
- in an administration role in a graphic design company, to get industry experience.
Networking and web design skills help your chances of picking up work
Increasing numbers of graphic design and advertising firms are choosing to hire freelancers rather than full-time staff. Being able to market yourself and network with employers will give you a better chance of finding work.
Good web design skills will also help you find both freelance and full-time work, as more businesses are using the internet to promote themselves or their products and services.
Types of employers varied
Most graphic designers work for:
- design and advertising agencies
- print production and publishing companies
- film and multimedia companies
- web design companies
- signmaking companies.
Some graphic designers do freelance work.
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2003-2013 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2013
- Veninga, C, chief executive officer, Design Institute of New Zealand, Careers New Zealand Interview, February 2014.
Progression and specialisations
Graphic designers can progress into managerial roles at a graphic design company, or may start their own graphic design businesses.
They may specialise in a particular area, such as:
- print publishing
- web design
- corporate design.
Last updated 1 September 2015