The 6 Qualities Employers Look For in Graphic Designers

The role of graphic designer today goes far beyond the scope of creating sales materials. Rather, graphic designers are now being looked upon to support, and even lead, marketing initiatives–using the rich media they create to drive revenue and new business.

But, what’s causing this shift? As we discussed in a recent post, there is an explicit link between great design and a company’s bottom line. In fact, according to a DMI study, over the last 10 years, design-lead companies outperformed their counterparts in the S&P 500 by nearly 228 percent.

As more and more companies look to graphic designers as drivers of revenue, competition in the marketplace will no doubt become stiffer. Therefore, it’s more important than ever that graphic designers understand the qualities employers are looking for in these roles.

To help shed some light on what this job search process looks like from an employer’s perspective, we picked the brains of our in-house experts, who help place graphic designers at some of the nation’s leading companies.

Here are the top six qualities employers are looking for today, when hiring a graphic designer:

  • The 6 Qualities Employers Look For in Graphic DesignersMastery of typography: Display advertisements and marketing messages have become so ubiquitous to consumers today, that a mastery of typography is needed to create “thumb stopping” content–or content that grabs the target audience’s attention in the face of the noise created by similar ads. Without a strong command of typography to catch the target audience’s attention, it may not matter how beautiful, well crafted or entertaining the content itself is. Therefore, if a graphic designer is unable to demonstrate the ability to grab the consumer’s attention and convey an easily understood message, then employers will often overlook the candidate and move on.
  • Diverse work experience: Brands today operate in a marketing landscape that is split between the digital and traditional. This means that, when they’re in the market for a graphic designer, they need an individual with a diverse breadth of experience that will allow them to support traditional and digital marketing campaigns. Graphic designers can convey their diverse work experience by prominently displaying the different mediums, industries and types of campaigns they’ve worked on through their portfolios.
  • A degree from an accredited design program: As brands begin to compete more vigorously for graphic design talent, they’ll want to know that the candidates they select are not only skilled, but disciplined as well. Even those with years of experience in the profession, can benefit from making their educational background easily accessible to employers viewing their resume or portfolio. A degree from an accredited design program gives employers greater belief in the abilities of the graphic designer they’re about to hire, and the confidence that they’ll be better equipped to take on new projects that may be outside of the designer’s core competencies.
The 6 Qualities Employers Look For in Graphic Designers

Screengrab via Apple

  • Command of white space: Whether we’re talking about traditional print design, digital banner ads, or social media graphics, there’s an infinite number of distractions vying for your target audience’s attention. Employers understand this, and therefore will gravitate towards graphic designers who are experts in using white space to draw the eye of the viewer directly toward their marketing message. Graphic designers looking to land new gigs will want to not only show a command of whitespace in past works, but will also want to use this skillset in designing their portfolio. Those who fail to use this skillset, or any other skillsets when crafting their portfolio, might be seen as having poor attention to detail and will get overlooked in the hiring process.
  • More leadership, less ego: Art is objective, and when opinions differ between talent and employer, emotions can run high. Employers are looking for individuals who can check their ego at the door and who understand that when their design isn’t right for the brand, it’s not a personal attack on the designer’s work. Rather, they prefer graphic designers that can listen to and understand a concept and lead an in-house team to make that concept a reality.
  • Clear, concise and updated portfolios: Think of your portfolio as a teaser of sorts. Essentially, it should demonstrate the above qualities and leave the hiring manager wanting more in the form of an interview. With that said, your portfolio needs to clearly display not just whom you’ve worked for and on which projects, but exactly what role you had on a given project. After all, at the end of the day, employers want to know exactly what you were responsible for so they don’t think they’re hiring an art director, when they are only getting a retoucher. Furthermore, keep it concise and updated. As our in-house experts put it: The best graphic designers have two portfolios–one with all of their work and one that’s targeted for whichever job they’re after that day. Know your audience and give them exactly what they’re looking for, but be ready to show more if need be.

As a graphic designer, adjusting your resume and portfolio to reflect the qualities above will help you become more competitive in the job market and will aide in landing gigs you may have previously missed. What would truly give you a competitive advantage is working with an industry specific recruiter with ties to some of the top companies in the nation.

Our team of industry specific recruiters work with graphic designers day in and day out, teaching them best practices, optimizing portfolios for the appropriate audiences and even coaching designers on how to nail their interviews. Contact Onward Search today to speak with one of our recruiters, and learn how they can help you land the job of your dreams now.

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