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Graphic Designer

Graphic designers translate verbal and abstract concepts into meaningful visual communication.

  • Avg. Salary $58,099.00
  • Avg. Wage $29.82
  • Minimum Education 4 years post-secondary
  • Outlook below avg
  • Employed 6,100
  • In Demand Lower
Also Known As

Artist, Commercial Artist, Designer, Graphic Artist

NOC Codes

In Canada, the federal government groups and organizes occupations based on a National Occupational Classification (NOC) system. This alis occupation may not reflect the entire NOC group it is part of. Data for the NOC group can apply across multiple occupations.

The NOC system is updated every 5 years to reflect changes in the labour market. Government forms and labour market data may group and refer to an occupation differently, depending on the system used. Here is how this occupation has been classified over time:

  • 2006 NOC: Graphic Designers (5241.1) 
  • 2006 NOC-S: Graphic Designers and Illustrators (F141) 
  • 2011 NOC: Graphic designers and illustrators (5241) 
Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

Average Wage
  • Certification Not Regulated
  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
Interest Codes
The Graphic Designer is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).
Graphic Designers

Interest in synthesizing information to prepare sketches, layouts and graphic elements of the subjects to be rendered using traditional tools, multimedia software and image processing, layout and design software; and in determining the medium best suited to produce desired visual effects and most appropriate vehicle for communication


Interest in precision working to co-ordinate all aspects of production for print, audio-visual and electronic materials such as Web sites, CD-ROMs and interactive terminals; and in estimating costs of materials and time to complete designs


Interest in consulting with clients to establish the overall look, graphic elements and content of communication materials in order to meet their needs; in supervising other graphic designers or graphic arts technicians, in co-ordinating the work of sub-contractors, and in working in a multidisciplinary environment

Reading Interest Codes
A Quick Guide

The interest code helps you figure out if you’d like to work in a particular occupation. 
It’s based on the Canadian Work Preference Inventory (CWPI), which measures 5 occupational interests: Directive, Innovative, Methodical, Objective and Social.

Each set of 3 interest codes is listed in order of importance.

A code in capital letters means it’s a strong fit for the occupation.

A code in all lowercase letters means the fit is weaker.

Learn More

Updated Dec 15, 2016

Graphic designers are problem solvers who research and manage visual design projects. Working directly with clients in a studio environment or with teams in advertising agencies, graphic designers develop creative concepts and choose appropriate media to meet desired objectives. They may focus primarily on electronic media such as the Internet or print media such as brochures, packaging, promotional materials and annual reports. For information about visual communication designers who work primarily in electronic media, see the AnimatorInteractive Media Programmer and Web Designer occupational profiles.

In general, graphic designers:

  • consult with clients to establish project objectives, target market, budget and schedule
  • analyze needs/problems and develop visual solutions
  • prepare concept presentations for client approval, ranging from simple sketches to full colour layouts
  • develop approved concepts in consultation with clients
  • prepare artwork or digital files for production
  • proofread to ensure accuracy
  • direct photographers, illustrators and other creative professionals involved in the project
  • co-ordinate the production of print, electronic or audio-visual media.

Graphic designers may produce design products such as:

  • trademarks, corporate logos and brand logos
  • stationery and corporate identity materials
  • annual reports and investor relations materials
  • packaging and image design for consumer products
  • advertisements
  • promotional posters
  • sign and wayfinding systems
  • film and video graphics
  • diagrams, maps and graphs
  • publication design for books and magazines
  • flyers, brochures and promotional literature.

On smaller projects, the design process may take days or weeks; larger, more complex projects can take months to complete. Most design studios have the capacity to produce everything from the initial concept to finished artwork. Some designers concentrate on a particular aspect of the design process (for example, design concept or layout production) or on a particular type of product (for example, corporate identity, marketing communications or packaging design).

Working Conditions
Updated Dec 15, 2016

Self-employed (freelance) graphic designers divide their time between studio work and meeting with clients, photographers and other professionals involved in the design process. Some travel may be required.

Designers employed by advertising agencies or design studios spend most their time in the agency or studio, occasionally attending meetings with clients. In advertising agencies, account executives or directors may act as liaisons between clients and designers.

Most graphic designers work a standard weekday schedule. Overtime and weekend work is required if necessary to meet project deadlines.

  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
Skills & Abilities
Updated Dec 15, 2016

Graphic designers need the following characteristics:

  • self-discipline
  • creativity
  • the ability to work effectively as a member of a team in a competitive industry
  • the ability to interpret client needs and develop communication strategies and creative visual solutions
  • drawing ability
  • strong writing and oral presentation skills
  • good listening and analytical skills
  • the ability to pay close attention to details
  • good negotiating and marketing skills
  • the ability to learn from constructive criticism
  • good organization and time management skills
  • the ability to deal with the pressure of constant deadlines
  • a willingness to keep up to date with new developments in the graphic design field.

They should enjoy synthesizing information and finding innovative ways to present ideas, taking a methodical approach to tasks requiring precision (for example, preparing specifications, estimating costs) and consulting with people.

Educational Requirements
Updated Dec 15, 2016

Most graphic designers have post-secondary education in visual communication design or graphic design. Developing a strong portfolio of work is essential for finding employment as a graphic designer. Computer skills are required.

The Society of Graphic Designers of Canada recommends a three or four year program in visual communications or graphic arts. Graduates of one year certificate and two year diploma programs may be employed as graphic artists, production artists or graphic arts technicians.

Related Education

The following schools offer programs or courses that are related to this occupation but are not required to enter the field.

CDI College of Business, Technology and Health Care - Edmonton West

Grande Prairie Regional College

Grant MacEwan University

Northern Alberta Institute of Technology

Reeves College - Calgary City Centre

Southern Alberta Institute of Technology

For a broad list of programs and courses that may be related to this occupation try searching using keywords.

Certification Requirements
Updated Dec 15, 2016

Certification is not required, as there is currently no legislation regulating this occupation.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Dec 15, 2016

Graphic designers may be employed by or work on a contract basis for:

  • corporate and government communications or public relations departments
  • graphic design studios
  • film and television studios
  • advertising agencies
  • multimedia companies
  • hospitals and other institutions
  • industrial design studios 
  • book publishing firms
  • architectural firms (signage, wayfinding, information design)
  • newspapers and magazines
  • printers.

Career progression stages usually proceed from junior, intermediate, to senior graphic designer and then to art director (10+ years managing designers).

Advancement for self-employed contractors takes the form of building a larger clientele. Advancement opportunities for other graphic designers depend on the size of the organization and the designer's qualifications. Opportunities become greater as the designer manages more people, and larger projects.

Graphic designers are part of the larger 2011 National Occupational Classification 5241: Graphic designers and illustrators. In Alberta, 76% of people employed in this classification work in the following industries:

The employment outlook in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the industries listed above)
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions that never existed before)
  • size of the occupation.

Over 6,100 Albertans are employed in the Graphic designers and illustrators occupational group. This group is expected to have a below-average annual growth of 1.6% from 2016 to 2020. As a result, 98 new positions are forecast to be created each year, in addition to job openings created by employment turnover. Note: As graphic designers form only a part of this larger occupational group, only some of these newly created positions will be for graphic designers.

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.

Wage & Salary
Updated Dec 15, 2016

Salaries vary depending on geographic location, experience, reputation and the ability of the designer.

Graphic designers and illustrators

Survey Methodology

Survey Analysis

Overall Wage Details
Average Wage
Average Salary
Hours Per Week

Hourly Wage
For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $14.00 $49.29 $24.00 $21.79
Overall $16.00 $55.31 $29.82 $27.08
Top $16.00 $60.21 $35.13 $32.00

Swipe left and right to view all data. Scroll left and right to view all data.

* All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production) and other forms of compensation.

A: High Reliability
Data Reliability Code Definition

High Reliability, represents a CV of less than or equal to 6.00% and 30 survey observations and/or represents 50% or more of all estimated employment for the occupation.

Industry Information
Educational Services
Public Administration
Professional, Scientific & Technical Services
Finance, Insurance, Real Estate, Leasing
Other Services (Repair, Personal Services and Related)
Information, Culture, Recreation

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years


Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties


Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months


Vacancy Rate

Related High School Subjects
  • Fine Arts
    • Visual Arts
  • English Language Arts
  • Business, Administration, Finance and IT
    • Management and Marketing
  • Media, Design and Communication Arts
    • Communication Technology
    • Design Studies
Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Communications
  • Fine Arts and Performing Arts
Other Sources of Information
Updated Dec 15, 2016

Canadian Association of Professional Image Creators (CAPIC) website:

Society of Graphic Designers of Canada website:

Technology Alberta website:


For more information on career planning, education and jobs call the Alberta Supports Contact Centre toll-free at 1-877-644-9992 or 780-644-9992 in Edmonton, or visit an Alberta Works Centre near you.

Updated Mar 30, 2015. The information contained in this profile is current as of the dates shown. Salary, employment outlook and educational program information may change without notice. It is advised that you confirm this information before making any career decisions.

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