5 Must-Have Soft Skills All Graphic Designers Need

See also: Marketing Skills

Graphic design, also known as communication design, is the art of bringing the senses through visuals. It involves working with images and text, communicating messages via elements like space, shape, color, size, line, form and texture. Given that humans are visual creatures, graphic design appears to be the essential element for our interaction with the outside world.

Specialists with graphic design skills work in many niches, ranging from advertising and animation to public relations and marketing. They bring together art and technology, often collaborating with clients on different projects. Such various attainments require graphic designers to develop a skill set that goes far beyond knowing typography and specific software.

Who is a Graphic Designer?

A graphic designer is a specialist creating visual concepts using computer programs or by hand, aiming to communicate ideas that inform and engage consumers.

Graphic designers develop layouts for print applications like brochures, logos, reports, advertisements, and magazines. They use images, texts, space, and colors to transform complex data and ideas into more accessible and visually pleasing forms.

"Some graphic designers specialize in experiential graphic design. These designers work with architects, industrial designers, landscape architects and interior designers to create interactive design environments, such as museum exhibitions, public art exhibits, and retail spaces." Truity

For a graphic designer, it's critical to keep up to date with the latest computer technologies and software. They create design online, by hand, and via programs like Adobe Creative Suite or CorelDraw Graphic Suite.

Responsibilities of a graphic designer include but aren't limited to:

  • Creating visual elements like logos, custom images, and other types of illustrations
  • Designing layouts
  • Reviewing designs for errors before publishing
  • Presenting design concepts to clients
  • Meeting with clients and colleagues from other departments to discuss projects


Top 5 Soft Skills to Become a Stellar Graphic Designer

The work of graphic designers necessitates intensive communication, teamwork, and flexibility. They collaborate closely with people in public relations, advertising, and marketing. So, while hard skills like knowledge of design principles and specific technologies are vital for graphic designers, they also need a set of soft skills to succeed.

Below you'll find five soft skills for a graphic designer to master for a successful career in the industry.

#1 Creativity

It stands to reason that many graphic designers draw inspiration from established patterns or their colleagues' works. But for a designer to succeed, they should be able to come up with unique, creative ideas that are innovative and influence others in the industry.

A graphic designer needs to develop the skill of conveying ideas and generating solutions through creative means. All this involves innovative thinking capabilities and creative problem-solving skills.

So, do your best to develop aesthetics, brainstorming, keenness, and attention to detail.

There are many ways to boost creativity. You can start with approaching problems from different angles or incorporating design thinking into other aspects of your everyday life.

#2 Emotional Intelligence

The term "emotional intelligence" (EI) refers to the ability to perceive, control, and evaluate your own emotions, together with understanding, interpreting, and responding to the emotions of others.

Oxford Languages describes it as...

"...the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one's emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically."

Why is it so essential for graphic designers?

The work of graphic designers requires an understanding of human psychology, including what motivates consumers to choose or buy particular things. Also, this skill is critical for effective collaboration with clients and team members, leading to harmonious working relationships.

There are five characteristics of emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills.

For a start, graphic designers can focus on social skills that will enhance their work effectiveness:

  • Communication: Graphic designers often need to explain their decisions to people with no design background.
  • Active listening: Graphic designers need to understand a client's vision to translate it into a visual message later.
  • Conflict resolution: Graphic designers work with people from different niches, and disagreements are a standard issue here. Conflict-resolution skills will help all remain calm and move forward to a solution.

#3 Time Management

Most graphic designers manage several projects simultaneously, so balancing workloads and prioritizing tasks to meet deadlines are critical. Strong time management skills can help here and allow designers to dedicate more time to productive work.

Time management is not only about deadline management and flexibility. It's a set of skills like goal-setting, organization, problem-solving, critical thinking, focus, and stress management. When mastered, this soft skill makes you more innovative and successful, influencing the overall performance and life.

Time management skills allow graphic designers to stay decisive, develop long-term design strategies, prioritize tasks, and work with no rush but better quality.

#4 Growth Mindset

It's critical for a graphic designer, especially for an experienced one, to support a growth mindset when working. Otherwise, there's a risk of being stuck in the "I know all the possible solutions to this problem" approach and missing new, innovative ideas.

A growth mindset refers to the concept that there's always room for improvement. It helps graphic designers and other specialists develop ideas they never tried and consider solutions from broader sources. It impacts creativity and innovation directly.

People with growth mindsets aren't afraid of challenges and view failures as a chance to learn. For graphic designers, it's even more essential, given how fast design and technologies evolve today: What was new a year ago is old hat now, so a fixed mindset would be a great mistake to support here. If a designer is stuck implementing the same old patterns, one cannot speak of any professional development.

#5 Networking

Networking rules in every industry, and the sphere of graphic design isn't an exception. While some designers find it challenging to collaborate with colleagues and participate in niche events, this skill is a sure-fire way to pave your road to success.

Networking means connecting with other creatives globally, finding and meeting new clients, learning from colleagues, and making valuable connections for further professional growth. For designers, it's essential to stay active online and offline to keep up with trends and draw inspiration for future works.

This vital soft skill "teaches" designers to give and take constructive feedback, communicate in both oral and written forms, work in a team, and address the needs of their clients. And while the pandemic has made its adjustments to traditional networking tactics, the virtual world is still here to assist. You can:

  • Boost your graphic design portfolios and social media platforms.

  • Visit online classes and webinars.

  • Create online groups and communities to collaborate with peers.

  • Subscribe to industry blogs and newsletters.

  • Attend online conferences and message other participants for networking.


Final Words

Now you can see that, for a successful career, a graphic designer needs more skills than you might have thought before. Hard skills like knowing the principles of typography or mastering the work with specific software matter; but they'll serve to the full only when combined with stellar communication, time management, and a growth mindset.

In this article, we've covered the top five soft skills for graphic designers to develop. And while they may vary from employer to employer, these five are an excellent basis to start. So, keep working on these skills – and the result won't take long in coming.


Anastasiia Polokhlyvets

About the Author


Anastasiia Polokhlyvets is a digital marketing expert in VistaCreate with a background in content, SEO, PR, email, and social media marketing. You can contact her on LinkedIn

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