Okay, so you know Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign inside out. You’re au fait with all the design techniques and principles. I guess you’re going to be able to walk into a job, right?
To make it as a professional graphic designer you need to have all of those technical skills, but they’re going to be looking for a number of ‘soft’ skills too. After all, employers want to hire a new member of their team, they don’t just want a tool in a box.
Let’s take a closer look at five of the most important soft skills recruiters and employers are looking for.
We’re artists. We communicate through our work, but unfortunately we can’t participate in meetings through the medium of JPEGs, as entertaining as it would be to try.
Communication is key to successful projects, both internally and with the client, and this requires strong verbal and written skills. You need to be able to listen closely to what’s required and articulate what you think the solution should be, as well as any potential stumbling blocks.
It’s all well and good knowing how to use graphic design software and how to achieve certain results, but your work needs to do more than simply look polished — it needs to solve a problem.
Your client is trying to achieve an objective with the design. They want the user to purchase a product, find out more about a service, or educate them on a subject. As a graphic designer you need to know what the goal of the work is, understand the target market and figure out how best to meet the objective.
Junior designers might not have to do much of this as an account manager or more senior designer will probably be making these decisions, but as you gain experience you’ll get better at knowing how to solve design challenges yourself.
With any project, the graphic design stage is just one piece of the puzzle. Perhaps its designs for a new website that’ll be going over to a web developer, or images for social media or blog posts.
Whatever you’re designing, you need to be able to work with the rest of the team to make sure the client ends up satisfied.
Let’s imagine a client requires a new web page that needs to be designed from scratch..
Between you, the account manager and web developers you need to:
understand the objective of the page;
identify what’s required from a content perspective;
design a web page that flows and leads the user towards the call-to-action;
build a functioning web page.
This process requires input from all team members at each stage. If you don’t work together, you could end up with a design that doesn’t suit the content, or that isn’t achievable based on the limitations of the website’s content management system.
Don’t just follow a brief to the letter; think critically about what’s being asked of you, and whether or not it’s the best solution.
As you get more senior, initiative becomes even more important, as you’re going to be responsible for deciding on how to do things, not just assigned tasks to complete. However, it’s still a really important soft skill even for junior designers — and it will be really appreciated by your line manager and other members of the team.
For example, if you don’t have a full pipeline of work, ask if there’s anything you can help with. Even if there isn’t, putting yourself forward as a willing team player will get noticed.