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Graphic Designer

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

Also Known As

Brand Consultant, Commercial Artist, Designer, Graphic Artist, Graphic Consultant

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

  • 5241.1: Graphic Designers

2006 NOC-S

  • F141: Graphic Designers and Illustrators

2011 NOC

  • 5241: Graphic designers and illustrators

2016 NOC

  • 5241: Graphic designers and illustrators

2021 NOC

  • 52120: Graphic designers and illustrators

2023 OaSIS

  • 52120.01: Graphic designers
Duties
Updated Mar 22, 2023

Graphic designers are problem solvers. They research and manage visual design projects. Graphic designers put their creativity to work and apply it to the right media for the best effect. Their focus may be designing for a website or app, 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 Animator, Interactive Media Programmer, and Web Designer occupational profiles.

In general, graphic designers:

  • Consult with clients to establish project objectives, target markets, budgets, and schedules
  • Analyze needs and problems and develop visual solutions
  • Prepare concept presentations for client or stakeholder approval, ranging from simple sketches to full-colour layouts
  • Develop first drafts of approved concepts, in consultation with clients or stakeholders
  • Prepare artwork or digital files for production in the form of final proofs, from which the client or stakeholder approves the design before it becomes a product
  • Proofread to ensure accuracy
  • Direct photographers, illustrators, and other creative professionals
  • Coordinate the production of print or electronic media
  • Prepare specifications and estimate costs
  • Report to lead designer on a regular basis

Graphic designers produce visual products such as:

  • Corporate and brand logos
  • Stationery and corporate identity 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
  • Banners and large-scale printing
  • Websites and other digital products
  • Images for social media posts and advertising
  • Social media assets

On smaller projects, a typical timeline could be days or weeks. Larger, more complex projects can take months for final approval. Most design studios take projects from initial concept to finished artwork. Some designers put their skills toward a particular aspect of the design process, such as design concept or layout. Some focus on a specific type of product, such as corporate identity, marketing communications, or packaging design.

Working Conditions
Updated Mar 22, 2023
  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg

Graphic designers work directly with clients or with teams in a studio, an advertising agency, or a government or corporate setting.

Self-employed or freelance graphic designers divide their time between the studio and meetings with clients, photographers, and others in the design process. Travel may be needed.

A typical day for designers in advertising agencies or design studios is spent at their employer’s workplace. Occasionally they meet with clients. In advertising agencies, account executives or directors may act as liaisons between clients and designers.

A weekday schedule is standard. Overtime and weekend hours are not unusual to meet project deadlines.

Interests & Abilities

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2006 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Graphic Designers

2006 NOC: 5241.1

Interest Codes

Interest Codes for This NOC Group
INNOVATIVE

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

METHODICAL

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

SOCIAL

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

Your Interest Codes

To identify or change your interest codes, complete the Interests Exercise in CAREERinsite.

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 for this NOC group 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 About Interests

Abilities

Typical ability expectations for this NOC group
Your abilities

To fill in or change the values for your abilities, complete the Abilities Exercise in CAREERinsite.

Mental Abilities

General Learning Ability

Verbal Ability

Numerical Ability

Visual Abilities

Spatial Perception

Form Perception

Clerical Perception

Physical Abilities

Motor Coordination

Finger Dexterity

Manual Dexterity

Understanding Abilities

A Quick Guide

You are born with abilities that help you process certain types of information and turn it into action. These abilities influence which skills you can learn more easily.

The abilities or aptitudes shown for this NOC group come from the General Aptitude Test Battery (GATB). The GATB measures 9 aptitudes. It groups them into 3 categories: mental, visual, and physical.

The abilities scores range from 1 to 5, with 5 being stronger.

Learn About Abilities

Traits & Skills
Updated Mar 22, 2023

Graphic designers need:

  • Discretion in dealing with client information and industry secrets
  • Creativity
  • Self-discipline
  • Drawing ability and visual sense
  • Attention to detail
  • Analytical thinking
  • Communication skills
  • Time-management and organizational skills
  • Marketing skills
  • Resilience
  • Current computer skills

They should enjoy:

  • Synthesizing information and finding innovative ways to present ideas
  • Taking a methodical approach to precision tasks
  • Consulting with people
  • Learning from constructive criticism
  • Dealing with deadlines

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Top 10 Skills Employers Are Looking For

Graphic designers and illustrators

2016 NOC: 5241

This chart shows which job skills are currently in highest demand for this occupational group. It was created using this occupation's 159 most recent Alberta job postings, collected between Mar 11, 2024 and Jun 24, 2024.

Review these skills to learn:

  • Whether or not this occupation matches your skill set
  • What training you may need to get these skills
  • What skills to highlight in your resumé, cover letter, and interview.
Tasks: Prepare sketches, layouts and graphic elements
Tasks: Develop the graphic elements that meet the clients' objectives
Tasks: Consult with clients to establish the overall look, graphic elements and content of communications materials
Tasks: Co-ordinate all aspects of production for print, audio-visual or electronic materials
Tasks: Determine the medium best suited to produce the desired visual effect and the most appropriate vehicle for communication
Tasks: Estimate costs of materials and time to complete graphic designs and illustrations
Tasks: Consult with clients to determine the nature and content of illustrations in order to meet their communications needs
Tasks: Use existing photo and illustration banks and typography guides
Attention to detail
Tasks: Establish guidelines for illustrators or photographers
Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 22, 2023
  • Minimum Education 4 years post-secondary

Most graphic designers have post-secondary education in visual communication or graphic design. Having a strong portfolio makes all the difference in finding employment. Computer skills are a must.

Graphic designers also need to stay on top of new developments in their field. They should be knowledgeable to within the last 6 months of the latest software technology. As part of training, graphic designers will develop a portfolio to showcase their skillset and design style.

The Design Professionals of Canada recommends a 3- or 4-year program in visual communications or graphic arts. Graduates of 1-year certificate and 2-year diploma programs may work 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.

Academy of Learning - Calgary Central
Academy of Learning - Calgary NE
Academy of Learning - Edmonton Downtown
Academy of Learning - Edmonton South
Academy of Learning - Edmonton West
Academy of Learning - Medicine Hat
Academy of Learning - Red Deer
Alberta Paramount College
Cambrooks College - Downtown Campus
CDI College of Business, Technology and Health Care - Calgary North
CDI College of Business, Technology and Health Care - Edmonton West
Grant MacEwan University
Northwestern Polytechnic
Prairie College
Reeves College - Calgary City Centre
Southern Alberta Institute of Technology
Visual College of Art and Design of Calgary

To expand or narrow your search for programs related to this occupation, visit Post-Secondary Programs.

Completing a program does not guarantee entrance into an occupation. Before enrolling in an education program, prospective students should look into various sources for education options and employment possibilities. For example, contact associations and employers in this field.

Certification Requirements
Updated Mar 22, 2023
  • Certification Not Regulated

There is currently no provincial legislation regulating this occupation in Alberta.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Mar 22, 2023

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

  • Corporate or government communications or public relations departments
  • Graphic and industrial design studios
  • Film and television studios
  • Advertising, public relations, and marketing agencies
  • Hospitals and other institutions
  • Museums, theatres, festivals, and other cultural organizations
  • Industrial design studios
  • Architectural firms
  • Newspapers, magazines, and book publishers
  • Printers and signage companies
  • Web, social media, and digital agencies
  • Not-for-profit associations
  • Technology companies
  • Digital marketing studios

Typical career progression starts with a junior position. With experience, designers can advance into intermediate and senior graphic designer roles. After 10 or more years of experience, they may move on to a role as an art director. In general, the more senior the role, the more people the designer will manage.

After some experience, a graphic designer might decide to become self-employed. Self-employed designers advance by growing their client base. Larger clients often mean more complex projects and greater management responsibility.

Graphic designers can become more specialized over time as they gain experience with media they like to work in, or with a certain kind of client they like to work with.

Industry Concentration

This section shows the industries where the majority of people in this occupation work. The data is based on the 2016 Census.

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups.

In the 5241: Graphic designers and illustrators occupational group, 79.6% of people work in:

Employment Outlook

Employment outlook is influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • Time of year (for seasonal jobs)
  • Location in Alberta
  • Employment turnover (when people leave existing positions)
  • Occupational growth (when new positions are created)
  • Size of the occupation
  • Trends and events that affect overall employment, especially in the industry or industries from the previous list

In Alberta, the 5241: Graphic designers and illustrators occupational group is expected to have an above-average annual growth of 2.5% from 2021 to 2025. In addition to job openings created by employment turnover, 167 new positions are forecasted to be created within this occupational group each year.

Note
NOC groups often include several related occupations. Although there is labour market data for the larger NOC group, this occupation makes up only a part of that group. It means data for this occupation may be different than the data shown. For example, only some of the new positions to be created will be for this occupation. It also applies to other data for the NOC group such as number of people employed.

Source: 2021-2025 Alberta Regional Occupational Demand Outlook

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

Related Alberta Job Postings
Wage & Salary
Updated Mar 22, 2023

Salaries vary depending on location, experience, reputation, and ability. Self-employed graphic designers generally have higher earnings.

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Graphic designers and illustrators

2016 NOC: 5241
Average Wage
$29.09
Per Hour
Average Salary
$53,832.00
Per Year
Average Hours
36.5
Per Week
Average Months on Payroll
11.9
Survey Methodology Survey Analysis

Source
2021 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey

NOC 5241 Wage Profile

Unless otherwise noted, the data shown here is for all industries and all regions in Alberta.

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.

To see the full survey data for this NOC group, visit the wage profile.

Other wage sources
To make an informed wage and salary decision, research other wage sources [pdf] to supplement this data.

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.


Hourly Wage

For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median
Starting
Overall
Top

Hourly Wage

For full-time and part-time employees
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $15.00 $50.00 $25.08 $20.19
Overall $16.00 $53.48 $29.09 $25.00
Top $16.00 $56.01 $33.13 $29.40

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.

Pay brackets for hourly wages

  • Starting pay: average pay offered for entry-level positions
  • Overall pay: average pay across all employees in this occupation
  • Top pay: average pay offered to top-paid employees

Industry Information

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

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years
23%
23%)
Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties
30%
30%
Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months
7%
7%
Vacancy Rate
4%
Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Communications
  • Fine Arts and Performing Arts
Other Sources of Information
Updated Mar 22, 2023

Canadian Association of Professional Image Creators (CAPIC) website: capic.org

Design Professionals of Canada website: descan.ca

Get information and referrals about career, education, and employment options from Alberta Supports.

Updated Mar 22, 2023. 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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