The Calculated Creative

Is Graphic Design a Good Major?

Graphic design can be an excellent college major and rewarding career for visual learners who are creative, tech-savvy, and detail-oriented.

Graphic design is the art and practice of visual communication and problem-solving through the use of typography, photography, iconography, illustration and layout techniques.

Graphic designers combine creative flair with technical skills to convey engaging messages and experiences through both digital and print media.

From marketing materials to product packaging to mobile apps and websites, graphic designers work on diverse projects across many sectors.

It is an increasingly popular major for college students considering creative careers.

Here is a more in-depth overview of factors to consider when deciding if graphic design is a good major for you:

The Pros of Majoring in Graphic Design

  • Unleash and grow your creativity - Graphic design allows you to flex your creative muscles daily. As a graphic design student and professional, you will conceptualize visuals, art direct projects, and bring ideas to life through color, shape, imagery and more. If you love art, photography, drawing, visual storytelling and visual communication, graphic design can be a highly rewarding outlet for your creative talents. You will be able to ideate, experiment, iterate and turn imagination into reality.
  • Gain a diverse and marketable skillset - The skills you gain as a graphic design major transfer well to many fields and industries. There is a growing need for graphic design skills in our increasingly digital world. Graphic designers work in marketing, advertising, publishing, web design, UI/UX design, branding, packaging design, motion graphics, environmental design and more. The projects you work on and software skills you gain make you an asset to all types of companies and organizations. Your graphic design knowledge will be valuable and give you great flexibility in your career.
  • Varied and exciting work - As a graphic designer, rarely will you be bored. Every new project brings fresh challenges and opportunities to problem solve. One day you may be designing a logo and brand identity, the next you could be art directing a photo shoot, and the next you may be building a website. Graphic designers work on diverse projects across multiple sectors. There are opportunities to specialize in areas you are passionate about, whether it is branding, UI/UX, illustration, packaging, motion graphics, or another subset of graphic design.
  • Lucrative creative career - The median pay for graphic designers in 2023 in the United States was over $66,000 per year. And that number is increasing over time. With some years of experience under your belt, it is possible to earn upwards of $100,000 as an in-house or agency graphic designer. You can also strike out on your own eventually and freelance, giving you freedom and flexibility in your work life. Compared to many careers in the arts and humanities, graphic design offers ample opportunities for well-paying, stable jobs and careers.

The Cons of Majoring in Graphic Design

  • Highly competitive field - There is a lot of competition for graphic design jobs and internships, especially at top design firms and agencies. You will need an outstanding portfolio that demonstrates your skills, style and versatility as a visual communicator. Gaining relevant internships and networking while in college are key steps to landing your first job. You will have to work hard to make your abilities and portfolio stand out from the crowd.
  • Requires staying on top of technology - You'll need to be proficient in industry standard design software like Adobe Creative Suite products including Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. Knowledge of HTML, CSS and UI/UX principles is also becoming increasingly important as designers work on digital products and platforms. Design trends and technologies change rapidly, so you must be committed to continually learning new programs, skills and best practices.
  • Tight deadlines and quick turnarounds - The fast-paced nature of graphic design means you will frequently encounter tight deadlines and quick turnarounds. Clients often change direction or feedback at the last minute. You'll need to handle pressure well and juggle multiple projects at once. Meeting deadlines while delivering quality, creative work is imperative.
  • Long hours at times - Many graphic designers work longer than 40 hours per week, especially those at design agencies. Freelancers also end up working long hours to please clients and manage their business. You should be prepared for occasional late nights and weekends spent perfecting client projects.
  • Handing criticism and critique - Developing a tough skin is a must as a graphic designer. You will have to present work and accept critique from clients, design professors, class peers and colleagues. Not everyone will like your work or see your creative vision. Being able to handle feedback and criticism with grace is crucial.

Key Considerations for Prospective Graphic Design Majors

When deciding if graphic design is the right major and career path for you, reflect on these key points:

  • Do you naturally have strong artistic abilities and a good eye for design? Do you think visually and in a creative problem solving way?
  • Are you willing to put in long hours and extra effort to constantly improve your skills? Great designers never stop learning and perfecting their craft.
  • How do you handle tight deadlines, quickly bouncing between projects, and handling rapid feedback? Can you maintain calm and deliver quality work under pressure?
  • Are you drawn to digital technology and interested in channels like websites, mobile apps, social media, and emerging platforms? Do you adapt well to new software and design trends?
  • Will you thoughtfully build a well-rounded portfolio that demonstrates your unique design perspective, visual style, communication skills, and professionalism?

The Takeaway

Graphic design can be an excellent college major.

And rewarding career choice for visual learners who are creative, tech-savvy, detail-oriented, and passionate about design.

Carefully weigh the pros and cons based on your own skills, interests, and professional goals.

Reach out to professors and working graphic designers to gain further insights.

With passion and dedication, a graphic design degree can open the door to an exciting and creative career that leverages your visual talents.

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