Graphic design is a highly competitive field.
With so many talented designers out there, you need to have a strong and diverse skillset to stand out and get hired.
Employers look for designers who excel across many different abilities beyond just knowing design software.
Here are 13 of the most important graphic design skills you should have to impress hiring managers and boost your chances of landing your dream design job:
1. Strong Visual Design Sense
One of the most fundamental skills any graphic designer needs is an excellent visual design sense.
This refers to your overall taste and intuition for visual aesthetics, layout, and composition.
Successful designers have an innate ability to use elements like color, typography, spacing, imagery, shapes, and more to create designs that are eye-catching, memorable, and effective.
Hiring managers will assess your visual flair right away based on your portfolio, so you need to showcase strong abilities to combine fonts, colors, graphics, and other elements in aesthetically pleasing ways.
2. Expertise With Design Software and Tools
While creativity and vision are crucial, you also need the software skills to execute your ideas.
Proficiency with design programs like Adobe Creative Cloud is a basic requirement for most design jobs.
You should feel comfortable using Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign since they are industry standards.
Many employers also appreciate experience with other programs like Sketch, Figma, and Affinity.
Showcase your software skills by highlighting program icons on your resume and demonstrating capabilities through your portfolio pieces.
3. Drawing and Illustration Ability
Even with design software, the ability to draw and illustrate concepts manually is still hugely beneficial for graphic designers.
Hand drawing skills allow you to rough out ideas and iterate concepts rapidly.
Illustration abilities also let you communicate vision accurately to others.
Increasingly, illustration skills are becoming more important even for digital and UI/UX design roles.
Hiring managers will look for at least basic drawing aptitude so you can draft out wireframes, storyboards, prototypes, and other preliminary concepts.
Show off life drawing skills, product sketching abilities, and manual illustration techniques through your portfolio.
4. Strong Knowledge of Design Principles and Best Practices
Understanding key design principles and best practices is vital for creating effective, functional designs.
You need to comprehend fundamentals like balance, contrast, emphasis, hierarchy, grids, white space, and more to lay out elements appropriately.
Knowledge of principles shows hiring managers you can follow proven formulas to develop organized designs that meet objectives.
Study principles extensively and demonstrate your command by calling out examples in your portfolio descriptions.
5. Excellent Typography Skills
For most design roles, advanced typography skills are absolutely essential.
The fonts, sizes, arrangement, spacing, and other textual elements of your designs have immense visual impact.
You need to be able to select, utilize, and combine typefaces in ways that make text highly readable, compelling, and on-brand.
Show that you understand principles of typographic contrast, experimentation, and hierarchy.
Include samples of strong typography in your portfolio, calling attention to choices in your descriptions.
6. Strong Layout and Composition Skills
Being able to arrange design elements neatly, effectively, and aesthetically within a given space is key.
You need composition skills to thoughtfully place visual components in ways that make designs feel cohesive and balanced.
Understand compositional principles like the rule of thirds and leading lines.
Study how other designers create polished layouts and practice improving your eye for positioning elements.
Showcase your layout abilities through portfolio samples.
7. Branding and Style Skills
Designers must be able to create designs that align closely with a brand's personality, style, tone, and messaging.
Familiarity with fundamentals of branding and identity design is key.
You should feel comfortable using principles like color psychology, typography, and image choice to reflect brands appropriately.
Any branding work, identity design, or rebrand projects in your portfolio will boost your appeal to employers.
8. Print Production Skills
Many design roles still involve print deliverables like brochures, posters, packaging, etc.
For print projects, designers need knowledge of prepress needs like bleeds, trim lines, color separations, file exporting, and other technical specifications required for professional printing.
Include examples of print projects in your portfolio and list print production skills on your resume.
9. Digital and Web Design Skills
As more design goes digital, knowledge of tools and principles for web and mobile is increasingly a must-have.
You need familiarity with both UI (user interface) and UX (user experience) to create designs optimized for digital.
Showcase any web design work, app design, responsive design, or basic HTML/CSS knowledge to prove you can effectively handle user-centered digital projects.
10. Creativity and Original Thought
While technical skills are crucial, employers still look for creativity and ingenuity above all else.
The most coveted designers are those who think beyond trends to develop fresh design ideas and concepts.
Portfolios with boring or derivative samples won’t grab attention.
Solve briefs creatively and ensure your style shines through.
Discuss the inspiration and strategy behind your ideas in descriptions.
Demonstrating original perspectives gives designers a major advantage.
11. Strong Communication and Collaboration Abilities
Designers can’t work in isolation.
You need to collaborate and communicate ideas effectively to clients, coworkers, stakeholders, developers, and others.
Verbal skills, presentation abilities, and written explanations of concepts are key.
Show that you can clearly discuss and sell your solutions to others.
Also highlight teamwork, clarity of communication, and ability to incorporate feedback on your resume or in interviews.
12. Business Acumen and Problem Solving Skills
Designers are now expected to think beyond aesthetics - you need business savvy and problem solving skills.
Successful candidates show they grasp audiences, user needs, market challenges, brand positioning and can design strategically.
Demonstrate you know how to solve problems visually and help brands succeed.
Call out strategic thinking and measurable results in your portfolio.
13. Organization and Time Management Abilities
Designers must juggle multiple projects, shifting priorities and tight deadlines.
Strong time management and organizational skills are a must.
Show you can scope and schedule projects efficiently.
Prove you can deliver quickly without sacrificing creativity and quality.
Being accountable, organized and meeting deadlines will set you apart.
Graphic design is an extremely competitive field, so standing out to employers requires demonstrating skills across a diverse range of areas.
Beyond just software expertise, designers need strengths like visual design sense, drawing ability, knowledge of principles, typography skills, composition skills, branding abilities, print production skills, web design skills, creativity, communication abilities, business acumen, and organizational skills.
Developing an expansive skillset and showcasing strengths through a compelling portfolio gives designers the best chance to impress hiring managers and land their dream jobs.