Excelling as a Graphic Designer

By Win Naing
New York City College of Technology, CUNY

Author Note

Win Naing, Department of Communication Design
Win Naing is pursuing a B.S degree in Communication Design. He is currently working as a Graphic Designer/illustrator at The Vyater Group advertising agency.

This report was prepared as a major assignment in ENG2570 E282 led by Professor Dr. Jason Ellis. Correspondence concerning this report should be addressed to Win Naing,
who is reachable by email at win.cuny@gmail.com.


This report is about excelling in life a graphic designer. In this report, I will describe the aspects of how to become a graphic designer, about the work environment, education and skill needs, pay and job prospects in the future, and how graphic designers maintain the work-life balance in this challenging career. This report is based on my various research, a personal interview with a senior graphic designer, and from my own working experience as a graphic designer for more than ten years.


When I went to the Morgan Library Museum in Manhattan, I saw old medieval era illuminated manuscripts and I clearly understood the concept of graphic design must be rooted from those days or even earlier. Definitely, Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of the letterpress was an explosion for the designers. For last half a century or more, graphic designers are the people who deal with book layouts, magazines, advertisements, posters and signs to communicate ideas, and inform public, or make an attractive design to promote sales. Now a day, graphic designer’s job extends to the webs and apps we used on our digital devices, or for all beautiful package designs on every store shelves. The print industry is shrinking and so the job prospect for the graphic designer are decreasing, but on the other hand, demands for graphic designers who can handle the web and various digital platform are increasing too. Life of a graphic designer is quite challenging because he or she has to be ahead of design trends, software, and learning process, but it is also rewarding career.


The graphic design is a very interesting type of job, especially for the person who love art and design. “Graphic designer create visual concepts, using computer software or by hand, to communicate ideas that inspire, inform, and captivate consumers. They develop the overall layout and production design for various applications such as advertisements, brochures, magazines, and corporate reports.” (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2015, What Graphic Designers Do) Graphic designer these days have to work on digital marketing materials like creating email templates, and web design templates, and apps design. A graphic designer has to create new and beautiful things using design software package like Adobe Creative Cloud, which is the best part of this career.

Typical entry level education for a graphic designer is a Bachelor degree (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2015, Quick Facts) And even if he or she had that degree, the graphic designer have to keep on learning. In my interview, Mr. Wynn said, “It only rely on you, even if you finish from school, you can still improve yourself by learning new things all time, keep in touch with latest trends and latest technologies.” (N. Wynn, personal communication, February 2017). Which clearly shows that keeping up to date in this field is very important to survive as a graphic designer.

One great chance to be a graphic designer is favorable to work from home or running a small business as a self-employed freelancer. High -speed internet connection also favors the designers to upload or download larger files from remote offices. According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, “In 2014, about 1 in 5 graphic designers were self-employed.” (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2015, Work Environment) Some company also allows designers to work from home, such as my previous job. Some designers like Mr. Wynn works for short term contracts which are 2-3 months long. So his official position may change frequently, as well as skills and requirements may also change. It all depends on the company he works for. This is also kind of refreshing as well as keeping the designer with fresh idea and challenges all the time.


The job outlook for the Graphic designer position is only 1% for 2014-2024. (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2015, Quick Facts). But, there is still some hopes for me since I do illustration and photography too. In most cases, graphic designers have to rely on photography and illustration. As an illustrator/photographer myself, it is very helpful to have a multiple skill set to help my career as a graphic designer. All round ability to do photography or illustration to support graphic design process, cut off time and also increase productivity. From my experience, the employers are looking for multi-talented graphic designers.

The earning of a graphic designer is not very high compare to similar jobs like web designers and animators. Based on 2015 statistics, the median annual wage for graphic designers was only $46,900. (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2015, Pay). Even if the pay is not the top on the chart, money isn’t everything in life. So, as far as we love the creative nature of the job, it is still a great job to work with.


In the old days, many graphic designer jobs need a good portfolio, but this is no longer possible at present. You will need a Bachelor degree, it is almost impossible to get a standard designer job without it. For me, I already have an Associate in Graphic Design, and persuading my Bachelors in Communication Design. I only need to finish my senior project next fall. I am already working in an advertising agency as a graphic designer and looking for a more secure position after achieving my degree.  For next ten years, I see myself as a senior graphic designer or to work as a freelancer for my own graphic design firm.


  1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Graphic Designers, Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/graphic-designers.htm
  2. Heller, S. (2013). My Son, the Art Director My Dad, the Illustrator. Print, 67(1), 68-75.
  3. Illuminated manuscript, Book of Kells, Retrieved from http://www.designhistory.org/BookHistory_pages/Manuscripts.html
  4. N. Wynn, recorded personal communication, February 2017