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The Many Hats of a Graphic Designer

Let’s say a client has come to you (as a graphic designer) asking you to create a brochure containing a range of design elements. Is it the graphic designers job to draw any illustrations used in the brochure or is that down to an illustrator? What about the photography? Should it be the graphic designer who takes photographs for the project or should that fall into the hands of a photographer. How about the copy? Should that be written by a copywriter? The obvious answers to all of these are no, they are not the job of a graphic designer and in each case they should be handed to the specialists. So, if that is true, what is the graphic designers job? In this case the graphic designer could be seen as overseeing the whole project ensuring that everyone involved is working towards the same goal set out by the client. However, just to put a spanner in the works, couldn’t a marketeer or the client themselves manage the project if they have a clear understanding of what they are trying to achieve and what they need to do to achieve it?

Calling in specialists is great if you have the budget, but what if you don’t? I think this is where the many hats of a graphic designer may come in. When the brochure needs illustration the graphic designer puts on their illustrator hat and either starts scribbling or logs onto a stock imagery site and downloads some vectors. Again, for photography the graphic designer could take some bespoke shots or again source some stock photography. So if this is the case a good graphic designer needs to be proficient in all trades and specialities. But would you be spreading yourself too thin? Is it starting to look like a graphic designer is a jack of all trades and a master of none?

Every graphic designer has their strengths and weaknesses which can clearly be seen by their portfolio. Illustration, photography, typography, magazine layout, web design are all areas that graphic designers need to cover. Therefore, it might be a case of choosing the right designer for your project. I am always wary of freelance graphic designers who are not only all of the above they are also advertise themselves as copywriters, search engine optimisation specialists, marketing planners, programmers…. the list is endless. When it comes to sourcing a graphic designer for your project whether it be designing a website, brochure or logo, you need to check out their portfolio. Do you like what they’ve previously done? Have they completed anything similar to your project? If you’re not sure, talk it over with them on the phone or over a coffee.

So to sum up – what exactly does a graphic designer do… Which hat should they wear? To be honest, I really don’t know. However I do believe that a graphic designer can wear any hat they want to wear, as long as they wear it well, it does it’s purpose and looks absolutely amazing.

What do you think the definition of a Graphic Designer is?

Posted by Lu

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Posted on Sunday, April 27th, 2008 at 7:28 pm
Posted In Graphic Design | Tags: ,

4 Responses to “The Many Hats of a Graphic Designer”

  • Dot Design says:

    As I graphic designer I too have to wear different hats, but it usually depends on the clients budget.
    If they don’t have the budget for the use of a photographer for the day and for my time to art direct them then we need to look at other ways and means. This is where the creativity of the designer comes into play, I recently worked on a project where there was no budget at all for photography and the concept required alot of it. So I looked at ways around this and shot most of it myself, it does depend on whats need though in this case it was more everyday items/products if it had been a model shoot then a good photographer would be needed and there is no way around that. I really am i little concerned at the way the role of the graphic designer has suffered in the last 5-8 years, do you think it has suffered?
    Cheers Gareth.

  • Steve says:

    Hi Gareth – Thanks for your comments.
    I do agree that the role of a graphic designer has shifted recently although I mainly feel this is due to the lack of budgets. It is this that causes a graphic designer to adopt the ‘many hats’ approach and because of this I feel that the role of the graphic designer has been somewhat blurred. There are many people who use the term ‘graphic designer’ to broadly describe what they do. Whereas, they might actually be a web developer who can, if required, create a logo for a client, or an illustrator with some photoshop knowledge.

  • David Airey says:

    A graphic designer has 5 hats. 😉

    Hope you’re well, Steve.

  • Steve says:

    Hi David – thanks for your comments.

    I have had a look at your article and its interesting to see a different point of view on the subject. I completely agree with what you say about the ‘teaching hat’. We spend a lot of time educating clients on many aspects of the design process and I think the page on your website which explains the design process for print is an excellent idea.

    Also, your comments about ‘the graphic designer hat’ whereby you only actually spend 25% – 40% designing are very true. When we first started out we thought it would be great spending all our time designing. But as you rightly say, this is only one aspect of running a graphic design business.


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