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A Designer’s Many Hats

By James Caldwell | Published: March 4th, 2009

Lately I have heard a lot of people describe and define what it means to be a leader, an entrepreneur, an innovator and a designer. Each of these requires various skills to succeed and each is hard to master. To an extent, each seems too complex to properly describe.

Then the other day I was asked by a young designer what it takes to be successful and when I was thinking about my reply, I realized how much the requirements for success have grown over the years. So I told him to visit 418QE in a couple of days and this is my reply.

I have performed some due diligence and researched the qualifications for a ‘graphic designer’ on several employment boards and I have come up with the following list of descriptors, tasks and technologies that must be part of one’s abilities to be considered qualified.

  • Descriptors: have initiative, be imaginative, be cooperative, be creative, be diplomatic, be a leader, be a good communicator, have good time management skills
  • Tasks: be able to create groundbreaking designs; be able to understand and produce in the following formats which include magazine and newspaper layouts, brochures, print ads, banner ads, websites, e-newsletters, interactive and promotional collateral; understand digital and print production preparation; understand usability, information design, and GUI guidelines; have a thorough understanding of typography
  • Technology: PC and MAC competent, proficient in QuarkXPress, InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, Acrobat, Flash, Dreamweaver, PowerPoint, Word, be fluent in HTML, CSS, XML and Javascript

To be assured the abovementioned skill base is important but not the end of it. The designer must also network. In order to network, it is best if they have a mobile number, an email account, and also communicate on LinkedIn and Twitter. There is an advantage to those who join their local provincial/state graphic design guild as these organizations arrange conferences and networking events. And last but not least, the designer may also want to have a regularly updated blog with their latest case studies and articles that best showcase their various ideas about the world of design.

Have I left out anything? Of course, but it suffices to say that the list of abilities that a great designer needs is going to be fairly long if they want to succeed. Thankfully time and experience takes care of most of these issues. Just ask anyone in the field with greying or no hair.


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