Learn about the top graphic design skills you need to get hired by clients. Also, discover why you should possess these skills and how to improve them.
There are several reasons the computer graphic design field is thriving, and more people are interested in becoming graphic designers: The pay is good, there's a ton of work, and you get to work from the comfort of your own home.
While everything seems amazing about this niche, the big question remains: How can you land freelance graphic design jobs and stand out with so many graphic designers competing for projects? In this guide, we'll cover the top 12 graphic design skills you need to get hired. We’ll also share tips on developing and improving them.
Why do graphic design skills matter? 🤔
Every business now, and for the foreseeable future, needs graphics designers to shape their visual identity. Everything is (and will be) visual, from posters and logos to social media posts and newsletters, meaning there wouldn’t likely be a short- and long-term work shortage.
That said, as of 2023, there are more than half a million graphic designers globally, with 265,000 in the U.S. alone, according to ColorLib. With all this competition, it's more important than ever to develop the skills you need to stand out and get hired by clients.
Technical graphic design skills 🖌️
To distinguish yourself from the crowd, you need a few graphic design skills. And this starts with knowing the technicalities. Here are six technical graphic designer skills required to carve your niche in the field:
1. Ideation 💡
This is all about researching or coming up with possible ideas and evaluating their relevance to your projects. You might collect many visual elements to create a mood board to determine what ideas to go with and develop rough thumbnails to structure a design’s main aspects.
2. Design principles 🎨
Design principles are the foundation of your skills. You'll need to understand things like:
- White space
- Balance contrast
You may need more if you want to create specific designs. Understanding these technical principles will help you effectively communicate ideas and guide your graphic design process.
3. Digital design 🖥️
Digital design is both user interface (UI) (what the actual design looks like) and user experience (UX) design (how usable the design is/the experience users have with it). This is essential if you want to expand your portfolio to design websites or apps.
4. Typography ⌨️
Another vital skill you'll need is typography, which is about arranging characters, styling type, symbols, etc. This is necessary for drawing readers' eyes to certain elements, improving the readability of logos or information, and understanding the moods of different typefaces or fonts.
5. Photo editing 🖼️
Some graphic designer skills don’t just relate to creating visuals but also enhancing them. Only some stock images you use will match the design style you have in mind, while some might need some modifications. Photo editing is of the utmost importance to round out your professional repertoire and not rely on finding the perfect stock photo.
6. Adobe Creative Suite 🏺
For most of your work, you’ll use graphic design software, like one of the many Adobe Creative Suite apps, such as:
- Adobe Express
You’ll have difficulty completing most graphic design work without knowing how to use these applications.
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Soft graphic design skills 🫂
Next on the list of must-haves? Soft skills that allow you to effectively communicate with clients and solve problems. Here are six of soft skills to get started:
1. Emotional intelligence 🫀
This is essential for dealing with conflict, but understanding what your client wants is most beneficial, primarily if they don't communicate their ideas well. It's also needed to create designs that inspire a specific emotion and to interpret client feedback.
2. Time management ⏲️
Besides creating unique designs, you should be able to complete work within deadlines. Often, the client may want to make last-minute changes or share feedback later than anticipated. If you have excellent time management skills, you can handle such situations.
3. Creativity 🧠
It goes without saying that to be a graphic designer, you need to create original, impactful designs. This, unfortunately, isn't possible if you aren't creative. In other words, you can’t study graphic designing in a book. Your creativity skills are also valuable for communicating with clients and solving problems.
4. Collaboration 🤝
Sometimes, you'll work alone, but often, you'll work with marketing teams or consistently with a client to get work done. For this, you'll need to collaborate, incorporate others’ feedback and opinions, and understand that everyone is working together to achieve a common goal.
5. Storytelling 💬
Whether you create logos or maintain a brand's image, your designs must be able to captivatingly tell a story. Of course, understanding visual storytelling is one thing, but you must also be aware of an audience, the client and their preferences, and the underlying message.
6. Problem-solving 🤓
You'll encounter many challenges as a graphic designer, from resolving a layout issue to creating a memorable logo that stays true to a brand's personality while still resonating with an audience. Sometimes, you might have a client with unreasonable expectations. Coming up with solutions to these problems requires problem-solving skills.
How to develop and improve your graphic design skills 🥳
Now that you know some of the skills needed to become a successful freelance graphic designer, it’s time to create a strategy to develop them. Here are a few tips to do just that:
- Take online courses: You have many options for online education at platforms like Udemy, Dribbble, and some universities offer online certification courses. With these, you can learn how to use the necessary software tools and, most importantly, design principles.
- Seek feedback: Client feedback is a great start, but you should look for a third opinion from working professionals or a mentor. Submit your work to online communities or look for someone to critique your work using a freelancing platform.
- Research and practice: To learn more skills, read up on popular graphic designers and check out their work. Practice the new skills you learn, and continue perfecting the skills you have by using them daily.
Showcase your skills in a digital portfolio 📑
If you want a job as a graphic designer, you need solid visual proof to authenticate your talent and expertise. After all, a picture’s worth a thousand words.
To land more freelance graphic design jobs, create a portfolio containing examples of your work. With Contra Pro, you can customize your graphic designer resume, which clients will see when using our commission-free platform. This means you can both find work and create, update, and perfect your portfolio on the same platform. Of course, you should also list your graphic design skills in your resume to let potential clients know all that you can do.
Put your graphic design skills to work with Contra 🔧
Ready to start working as a freelance graphic designer? Join Contra and find remote graphic design opportunities with a minimum wage of $25/hour. All you need to do is create a profile, and we’ll match you with clients needing your creative talent.