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What Do Graphic Designers Do?

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When people ask me what I do, they often follow up with the questions “What do graphic designers do?”. Some of you might think it’s a stupid question, but honestly, I was at that point some time as well, so, let’s talk about it.

My Story

I decided to become a graphic designer when I was around 15. Before that, I was considering fashion designer, and before that astronomy, but that’s another story for some other day! I loved drawing and coloring since I was a child, doodling on my notebooks al the time, and by the time I was 13, I was that strange girl that carried drawing notepads everywhere. Like, literally, I would carry my pad to recess and that’s what I’d do during every bit of free time.

When I was around 11, I was exposed to the “having your own website” trend and started my own websites, hosted on beepworld.de (I can’t believe that page still exists!). When I was around 13, I got tired of free template websites, and started learning HTML on my own. And that’s how I first dipped my toes in web design.

Now, I didn’t know I could have a career by mixing these two. I had never heard about the term “graphic designer”, so, I figured I would just study fashion design and bring my designs to live through it, and having website making as a useful skill on the side. And then a friend introduced me to Photoshop, and told me that’s what graphic designers used, and I was like “What kind of designers? Graphics designers? I have to look into that!”. And indeed, it was what I had been looking for, a career where I got to draw stuff, make it into graphics, and put it on websites. It was pretty much what I was already doing for fun, but I could make a career out of it!

Fast Forward…

When I finally started college and was aiming for my Graphic Design degree. I was already doing some freelancing, based on the HTML and Photoshop skills I had taught myself. I was pretty sure I was going to breeze through the career because, you know, I was already a designer. With my HTML and Photoshop I was unstoppable. Well, my first digital graphics class was a vector-based curriculum, all on Illustrator. I had never touched Illustrator, and I had no idea what a vector was! Composition, Geometry, Typography, Art History, what was I getting myself into?

And that was my introduction to real Graphic Design. It’s a field that it’s so big, you don’t really know that it’s all around you. Look at your screen, you’re on a website, right? Buying yourself a snack, see its packaging? What about labels? A flyer? That pretty cool shirt that guy was wearing? All the bill boards and logos you see on your commute to work, oh, and the street signs too! There was a semester-long class on signage! Everything you see was designed, and a lot of it was by graphic designers.

Graphic Designers Everywhere!

Graphic designers work in a great variety of fields: Marketing, Advertising, Illustration, Editorial Design, Visual Arts, Stationery, Lettering, Identity, Web Design, etc. These fields often overlap with other fields, even other careers. Depending on the institute, some of these are careers themselves, or may be taught within the curriculum of graphic design.

My degree was actually in Visual Arts, with an emphasis in Graphic Design, which was great because it allowed me to explore all types of creative outlets within the field. I got to have classes on branding, packaging, art history, photography, and even a bit business.

Design is a matter of skill, creativity and practice; and since no human lives (usually) depend on it, it’s a field that people from other backgrounds can migrate from, as they realize they want to work with something more creative. You don’t need a formal education in design, but you definitely should learn about design principles and take at least some courses that can become a base for your work.

Graphic Design Project from my Freshman or Sophomore Year
Studying graphic design forces you out of your “design comfort zone” – you don’t get to choose your projects, your professor does. And maybe you’ll find through it that you enjoy something more than you thought! (Graphic Design Project from my Freshman or Sophomore Year)

Design Everything?

Since there is so much within this field, there’s no way a designer can be good at everything. Yes, when you are fresh out of college you might be willing to take a job doing any and all of the skills you learned during school. But there are some we like more than others, and some we are better at than others.

Just because I learned how to use movie-editing software at some point, doesn’t meant I’m good at it; if I wanted to, I could get back into it, practice more, and get better, but honestly, right now it’s really not an area I want to follow. Or just because I liked drawing when I was little and got good at it, does not mean that I want to do illustrations now. I still doodle, paint, and occasionally draw, but those are things that I want to keep as a hobby and separated from my work.

But we can transition, and change things up every once in a while. When I first started my business, I was only offering digital graphics and web design, and only did branding if strictly necessary within a bigger project. I wasn’t very confident with my branding skills, and much rather worked on graphics for social media or for website. But I decided I wanted to give branding a try again, practiced in my own time, improved, and discovered I actually enjoyed it more. So, I’ve transitioned my business and am doing less social media, and way more branding.

Do everything, even non-design?

There are false expectations that clients have sometimes related to tasks that are close to what we do. I have experience working with web developers, content creators, copy writers, social media managers, and more, but that doesn’t mean I can do them. Most of these skills don’t even have a graphic design factor! Some designers may add a few non-design skills, but not all of them. What about virtual assistants? They don’t do it all either, that’s another title that is very general. But ask them, they usually specialize in a few specific things as well.

What about this and this designer that offers web design, branding, SEO, social media, etc? Yes they exist, and they usually have a good team in place to fulfill all of those needs—that’s actually one of my goals for someday!

When you’re working with a one-woman company like me, just ask us, we will tell you what we can do and what we can’t, and we will probably be able to connect you to someone who can help you finish up that project.

So, I hope you have a better understanding of what graphic designers do.

If you are looking for a branding and web designer, then I might be able to help. Let’s jump on a free consultation call, let me hear about your project, and determine if I can make it come true for you.

And if you are interested in design and want to learn more, reach out and let me know! I’d be glad to connect you with some good resources.

Laptop, notepad and glasses over a desk


Whether you want a new brand, a new website, or both, I can help you! All my projects are customized to fit my clients’ needs, so, reach out, tell me about your plans, and I will help you bring them to life. WORK WITH ME

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Welcome to the Stargazed Studio Blog!
A space where we expand on topics relevant to our business and our clients, dive deep into our resources and work systems, share tutorials, prompts, parts of our business journey, and recommend you things we love to use ourselves.

Sara Obando

Date October 15, 2018

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