Want to learn more about the job of a graphic designer? Graphic design is sometimes thought of as a single discipline, but there are actually a variety of different specializations within the field. While some graphic designers are generalists and may work on multiple types of projects, others specialize in a particular type of graphic design.
Whether you’re a beginner who’s curious about how to become a graphic designer or want to learn more about the different skills graphic designers have, keep reading to learn the eight main types of graphic design careers to explore. Let’s get straight into it.
- 1. Brand Identity Design
- 2. Marketing & Advertising Design
- 3. Packaging Design
- 4. Web & User Interface Design
- 5. Print & Publication Design
- 6. Lettering & Type Design
- 7. Graphic illustration
- 8. Data Visualization & Infographic Design
1. Brand Identity Design
When most people think about graphic design, they immediately associate it with designing logos. However, logo design is only one aspect of a broader specialization of graphic design which is brand identity.
Beyond logo design, identity designers also create the entire look and feel of a company’s visual presence. As part of this, they create color palettes, decide on the types of images a company will use, determine the typography, and create other accompanying visual elements.
Brand identity designers are responsible for crafting the visual identity of the companies they work for. Because of this, they’re generally responsible for creating brand style and usage guidelines that direct the work of other designers, including marketing designers and web designers.
Graphic designers specializing in branding work typically work on things like:
- Brand Strategy
- Color Palettes
- Logo Design
- Business Cards and/or Stationary
- Icon Systems
- Brand Guidelines
“I focus on guiding clients on a journey to develop and share their brand’s story in a clear and authentic way. From big-picture thinking to tiny details, I aim to connect meaningful storytelling with compelling visuals to create unforgettable experiences.” — Emily Johnston, Brand Designer
2. Marketing & Advertising Design
Whether appearing online or in print, marketing and advertising designs are key elements of any company’s promotional strategy.
Since the goal of marketing and advertising is to prompt consumers to make a purchase or sign up for a product or service, graphic designers working in these areas need to have a firm understanding of behavioral psychology when it comes to purchasing behavior.
Graphic designers specializing in advertising & marketing focus on creating assets such as:
- Print & Digital Advertisements
- Social Media Graphics
- Podcast Cover Art
- Marketing emails
- Brochures & Posters
- Vehicle wraps
- Pitch Decks & Presentations
3. Packaging Design
Physical products need packaging. Everything from cereal boxes to tags on designer clothing needs to be designed by someone. That’s where packaging designers come in.
These types of graphic designers need to have a strong grasp of branding as well as consumer behavioral psychology to create packages that make customers want to make a purchase.
They need to be proficient at color theory and typography, as well as any laws or regulations about the information that needs to appear on packaging (such as nutrition information).
4. Web & User Interface Design
Web and UI designers create designs for websites and apps. They need to have a solid grasp of design principles, as well as an understanding of user experience design and basic coding principles.
While web and UI designers may not actually do any coding, understanding the capabilities and limitations of the code that powers websites and apps makes them a more valuable part of any design team.
If you’re a graphic designer specializing in web design or user interfaces, you might find yourself working on projects like landing pages, marketing websites, app designs, game interfaces, WordPress sites, etc.
“UI Design is a form of Graphic Design. It works within the principles of Graphic Design in terms of grid, composition techniques, color, typography, and so on. UI Design is not only the appearance of a product and its aesthetics, but it’s also a product’s character and emotion.” — Viacheslav Olianishyn, Founder @obys Creative Agency
5. Print & Publication Design
Graphic designers used to work entirely in the print world, and there are still plenty of opportunities for this kind of print design work in 2021.
Graphic designers in the print and publication industries need to understand the principles of good design, as well as the technical specifications of creating print-ready files. They also need to have a firm grasp of color theory and typography, as well as what types of images work best in print vs. digital environments.
Print & publication designers typically have their hands in all sorts of print-related projects such as:
- Book covers
- Magazine & Newspaper layouts
- Menu Design
- Album Covers
- Merchandise & Apparel
- Brochures & Flyers
6. Lettering & Type Designer
An often-overlooked specialty of graphic design is lettering and type design. These graphic designers create everything from typefaces and fonts to hand-lettered designs.
Type and lettering designers need to have a thorough grasp of typographic principles, what makes a typeface legible, how concepts like kerning and line-height play into a typographic design’s overall readability.
Lettering designers often create things like signs, flyers, murals, and even wordmark logos. They may create designs either by hand or digitally.
On the other hand, type designers often focus more on creating typefaces (though they may also create one-off custom projects). There’s a lot of overlap between what lettering and type designers do.
7. Graphic illustration
When you think about graphic design, you may not immediately think about illustration. However, graphic illustrators are in-demand in 2021 as brands continue to seek out custom illustration work for their online presence.
Graphic illustrators are usually tasked with creating illustrations for commercial and editorial purposes, as well as illustrations that live on web designs and social media. These types of graphic designers will often create their illustrations digitally, but some may also use more analog tools and then digitize their images.
As a professional graphic illustrator, you’ll work on all kinds of imagery spanning the gamut of:
- Digital Products
- Blog post & articles
- Books & Magazines
- And so much more…
If you’re a graphic illustrator, you might also create stock illustrations for wider use. This can be a good source of additional income as well as a way to build a reputation as an illustrator.
8. Data Visualization & Infographic Designer
Data visualization and infographic designers need to have a solid understanding of how to represent data accurately and in ways that make it easier to understand.
Working in this type of graphic design role means you need to understand how to work with large data sets and how to make that information digestible for people who aren’t data scientists.
It’s helpful for data visualization and infographic designers to have at least some background knowledge and experience with data science. The better they understand the data they’re presenting, the more equipped they are to translate that data into easy-to-understand visuals.
Infographics and data visualizations may be static or interactive (such as those used in dashboards).
“One of my favorite things about data viz design is being able to take something complex and communicate it in a clear, engaging, and beautiful way.” — James Round, Data Visualization Designer
Which type of graphic design career is for you?
Whether you choose to specialize in a particular type of graphic design or become a jack of all trades, it’s useful to keep in mind that those who do have a focused specialization can often command higher prices and are typically more in demand for the work that they do.
About the Author — Cameron Chapman: Editor. Blogger. Author. Designer. Copywriter. Marketer. Entrepreneur. Speaker. Consultant. Coach. I wear a lot of hats. What most of them have in common, though, is storytelling.