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6 Must-Have Graphic Design Skills for the Clueless Beginner

Daniella Alscher
Daniella Alscher  |  April 4, 2019

The graphic design industry is constantly evolving. Your skills should be too.

Looking for a job in graphic design can be intimidating. The creative field is extremely competitive, and it’s vital that you make yourself stand out. Whether you’re interviewing to design in-house, at an agency, or for a freelance gig, there’s a fundamental list of skills that every graphic designer needs.

Graphic design skills to add to your resume

There’s an endless amount of skills that graphic designers should have, and they’re all equally useful. However, some of the knowledge that is needed for one job may not be necessary for another. This article contains both the technical skills and the soft skills that graphic designers should have in their back pocket, no matter where they go.

Technical skills

Technical skills aren’t hard to prove. A graphic designer’s technical skills should relate to their ability to physically complete the task at hand. This could involve an understanding of design software, mastering hand lettering, or explaining your understanding of color psychology. These skills can be verified through examples in print or in a portfolio, as well as through certifications.

technical graphic designer skills

Adobe Creative Suite

This goes without question: knowledge of design software is a must. Today, a majority of companies hiring graphic designers require familiarity with Adobe software. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to be proficient in AfterEffects or Dreamweaver before applying, but keep an eye out for the number of job postings that request your knowledge of Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator. Hint: it’s the majority.

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HTML and CSS

In this day and age, it’s not unusual for employers to lump graphic designers and web designers into the same category. Because of this, learning to code can be extremely helpful. At the very least, understanding HTML and CSS can help graphic designers get a better idea of what goes into building the front-end of a website.

Even though a full-blown understanding of coding is not essential for every type of graphic designer, even basic comprehension could make you stand out from your competitors in the industry.

Related: Check out our tips for coding websites if you’re a beginner!

Typography

Typography can make an enormous impact on your design, which is why it’s another essential, technical skill for a graphic designer. Whether you’re designing for print or for the web, a graphic designer should know what typography is, the difference it can make in a design, and the terminology that surrounds it. Font pairing is another skill that, if gone without, could ruin an entire design. Further, understanding the difference between a typeface and a font is of importance, especially if you’re interviewing for a position in web design.

Soft skills

Like technical skills, soft skills aren’t too hard to prove. But they need to be proven in a different way. While soft skills can come off as generic, they are vital for the success of both the designer as well as the people around them in order to ensure the success of the final outcome. The following are some soft skills that no successful graphic designer goes without.

graphic designer soft skills

Communication

While it’s plain to see that the job of a graphic designer is to design, take some time to read between the lines of the job description. Ultimately, the job of a graphic designer is to communicate. Whether it’s communicating an idea through a picture, explaining details with an infographic, or translating a company’s values into a logo, communication is an absolutely essential skill for any designer to have.

The design is not the only thing that should be communicating clearly. The graphic designer must know how to communicate efficiently with others. Designers will have to communicate with developers, marketers, and – most importantly – the client. 

Briefs should be clear, meetings should have agendas, and emails should make sense. One little misunderstanding could result in a completely different outcome for the project. Be thorough, ask questions, and make sure you’re checking all the boxes.

Problem solving

A graphic designer’s ability to problem solve goes hand-in-hand with their communication skills. Not only should a designer be able to communicate with and listen to their clients, but they should also be able to then understand and solve the issues that arise.

Problem solving doesn’t always take extensive brain power. It may be as simple as changing a shade of green to make it a little lighter. Other times, a problem could come in the form of the client moving the deadline up a week, meaning that you’ll have to really step on it and get flexible. 

Regardless of how big or small the challenge is, remember to stay calm, open-minded, and creative. 

While this skill may be difficult to prove on a resume, interviewers may ask a question that’s just begging for you to brag about it. We know the “Tell me about a time when…” prompt all too well. Take advantage!

Creativity (duh)

This one may seem a little obvious, but it also embodies your entire career. As a graphic designer, you’re expected to come up with original ideas, think critically, and have a creative eye. You’ll be asked to make multiple versions of the same thing, to finish something much sooner than you anticipated, and to create something you’ve never tried before. It sounds like a lot of pressure… because it is. But if you can be innovative in your thinking and in your execution, it lessens the weight you might be feeling on your shoulders.

Polish off that resume

Of course, these are not the only skills a graphic designer needs, but they’re definitely a good foundation. Essentially, you should be able to use your creativity, problem solving skills, and communication to create gorgeous designs with the technical skills that you’ve acquired over time as a designer. If you’ve got these skills down, you’re definitely on your way! 

Looking to showcase some of these skills somewhere concrete? Start building a graphic design portfolio to show employers what you’re made of.  

Daniella Alscher
Author

Daniella Alscher

Daniella Alscher is a Content Marketing Associate for G2. When she's not reading or writing, she's listening to murder podcasts or sitting on the couch. Or both. (she/her/hers)