Graphic design is an excellent career choice for anyone who loves creating beautiful images that tell a story. There is an ever-increasing demand for marketing materials, publications, and other content. Plus, modern tools make possible designs that our ancestors could only dream of. There’s never been a better time to get into graphic design.
But how does being a graphic designer pay the bills? Can you get a job at a publishing house or marketing firm? Should you break out on your own as a freelancer? Most importantly: can you work from home?
Your Options as a Graphic Designer
First, it’s worth defining your goals as a graphic designer. Are you primarily interested in designing books and magazines? Do you want to work in marketing and branding, creating logos, brochures, and flyers? Or do you want to think bigger, designing vehicle wraps, event banners, and merchandising displays?
Your focus will guide your career choices. If you’d like to do publication design, you should seek a role in a publishing house. You’ll likely be part of a team of designers responsible for story art, cover design, and promotional posters. As you build up your resumé, you may achieve the position of art director, in which you work closely with the editorial staff to create the overall look and feel of a publication.
If you dream of creating a famous logo like Nike’s or Apple’s, you can join a branding and marketing agency. Some logo designers work on a freelance basis as well, but many of the famous designers are associated with a particular agency. Visual branding also includes creations such as wordmarks, marketing collateral, and environmental design.
Some graphic designers also take an in-house position as a company’s resident designer. Many small- to medium-sized enterprises need regular designs but don’t have the budget for an entire team. In-house designers are versatile enough to create everything from social media graphics to t-shirts. They also make sure that everything matches the company’s brand identity.
And of course, you can always create your own business. Many successful graphic designers launch their own firms. Often, these companies partner with marketing agencies or publishing houses that outsource their projects. If you don’t fancy becoming a CEO, you can sell your designs online (and participate in design contests) or operate as an artist-for-hire.
How to Work from Home as a Graphic Designer
Although many companies now have remote work arrangements, most graphic design jobs do require you to be onsite. This is especially true in publishing houses and branding firms where your work needs to be aligned with a larger project. For example, when you design a magazine, you’ll need to coordinate with the writers, editors, photographers, etc. It’s much easier to collaborate on page spreads when everyone is in the same place.
This is true for in-house designers for companies as well. As a key member of the team, you’ll be expected to maintain regular office hours and participate in project meetings. Your work and the overall brand development will go hand-in-hand, so you’ll become an expert in the company’s visual identity. Note that in-house designers are often not permitted to “moonlight” or do outside work for competitors.
If you really want to work from home, you’ll probably need to join an agency or create your own firm. This will give you the freedom to work remotely on various projects. As part of an agency, you’ll probably need to do some in-person activities such as pitch meetings and proof reviews, so be prepared to frequently leave the comforts of your home studio.
Of course, plenty of graphic designers are completely independent and conduct all business virtually. If you run your own firm or are a sole proprietor, it’s easy to work from home.
What’ll You Need to Work from Home
The main advantage of being an in-house designer is that your equipment and software will be provided by your employer. As these tools can be quite expensive, that’s a primary motivator for many designers to join an agency, business, or publishing house.
On the flip side, though, some in-house designers find it difficult to obtain the equipment they need. A request for a new computer or tablet may take days or even weeks to fulfill, or the company simply may not be able to afford the right tools. Independent graphic designers have a bit more freedom to purchase the software and devices they really need.
That said, if you do become a remote graphic designer, you’ll need a few things at a minimum: (a) a laptop or desktop computer that’s powerful enough for energy-intensive design programs, (b) your preferred design software, (c) an external hard drive to save large files, and (d) a good Wi-FI connection for remote meetings and quick file uploads. You may also need a drawing tablet or vector illustration program, depending on the type of design you do.
The world of graphic design is so vast that it provides endless job opportunities. However, many design positions do require in-office activities. If you’d like to work from home, you’ll need to find a role where you can tackle various projects that don’t require extensive in-person review. Many positions can work as a hybrid onsite/remote role. If you do end up working remotely, be sure that you have the tools you need to work comfortably and efficiently!