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Graphic Designer

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

  • Avg. Salary $56,601.00
  • Avg. Wage $29.13
  • Minimum Education 4 years post-secondary
  • Outlook below avg
  • Employed 6,800
  • In Demand High
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: Graphic Designers (5241.1) 
  • 2006 NOC-S: Graphic Designers and Illustrators (F141) 
  • 2011 NOC: Graphic designers and illustrators (5241) 
  • 2016 NOC: Graphic designers and illustrators (5241) 
Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

44%
44%
Average Wage
Starting
Overall
Top
  • 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
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

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

Duties
Updated Mar 31, 2019

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 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 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 approval, ranging from simple sketches to full-colour layouts
  • Develop first drafts of approved concepts, in consultation with clients
  • Prepare artwork or digital files for production in the form of final proofs, from which the client approves the design before it becomes a product
  • Proofread to ensure accuracy
  • Direct photographers, illustrators and other creative professionals
  • Co-ordinate 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 logos 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

On smaller projects, a typical timeline could be days or weeks. Larger, more complex projects can take months for final approval. Most design studios are set up for everything 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 31, 2019

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

  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
Skills & Abilities
Updated Mar 31, 2019

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

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
Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2019

Most graphic designers have post-secondary education in visual communication design or graphic design. Having a strong portfolio makes all the difference for 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.

The Society of Graphic Designers 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 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.

Academy of Learning - Calgary NE

Academy of Learning - Calgary South

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

Bow Valley College

Cambrooks College - Downtown Campus

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

Visual College of Art and Design of Calgary

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

Certification Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2019

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

Employment & Advancement
Updated Mar 31, 2019

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

  • Corporate or government communications or public relations departments
  • Graphic design studios
  • Film and television studios
  • Advertising agencies
  • Hospitals and other institutions
  • Industrial design studios
  • Architectural firms
  • Newspapers and magazines
  • Printers
  • Web and digital agencies
  • Not-for-profit associations

Typical career progression starts with a junior position. Designers advance into intermediate and senior graphic designer roles and then to art director after 10 or more years managing designers.

For advancement, self-employed contractors need to build a larger clientele. Bigger opportunities for other graphic designers depend on their qualifications and the size of the organization. Advancement means that 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 [pdf] 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 (when people leave existing positions)
  • Occupational growth (when new positions are created)
  • Size of the occupation

In Alberta, the F141: Graphic Designers and Illustrators occupational group is expected to have a below-average annual growth of 1.6% from 2016 to 2020. In addition to job openings created by employment turnover, 98 new positions are forecasted to be created within this occupational group each year.

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

Wage & Salary
Updated Mar 31, 2019

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

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
Starting
Overall
Top
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $15.00 $37.96 $23.28 $21.58
Overall $18.00 $53.13 $29.13 $26.93
Top $18.10 $58.85 $33.99 $31.10

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

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

44%
44%)

Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties

25%
25%

Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months

5%
5%

Vacancy Rate

3%
Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Communications
  • Fine Arts and Performing Arts
Other Sources of Information
Updated Mar 31, 2019

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

Society of Graphic Designers of Canada website: gdc.design

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

Updated Mar 31, 2019. 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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