Being a graphic designer can mean a lot more than creating logos or designing a poster for an event. With dozens of design types out there, graphic designers can hold a lot of different responsibilities in marketing agencies, web design agencies, and even gaming studios. 

If you’ve always been pulled towards graphic design but aren’t sure where exactly you need to go or how to get there, learning the fundamentals of graphic design and the skills you need to become a graphic designer can help you get there. 

Graphic Design: A Definition

At its core, graphic design is the art of creating visual content that communicates specific ideas through colors, imagery and text. Some essential elements of graphic design include line, shape, form, texture, space, imagery, typography and color. A graphic designer can use all or some of these elements to achieve a certain vision or goal like building the visual aspects of a website, designing a billboard, or creating wrapping paper.

Vector graphic design is a specific type of graphic design that uses vector graphics, which are points, lines and shapes based on mathematical formulas. A lot of brands use vector graphics for their graphic design because vector graphics can be infinitely enlarged or adjusted without becoming grainy or blurry. 

12 Types of Graphic Design

Having a strong understanding of the types of graphic design out there can help you better decide which path you’d like to take. You might have learned about graphic design because you’ve always liked to draw and you’re looking for a way to turn your craft into a career. Others who could be interested in graphic design are those who have a good eye for visual aesthetics, are interested in the creative side of marketing, or have always enjoyed playing video games. 

1. Marketing & Advertising 

The job of a marketing and advertising agency is to sell certain products or services to a specific segment of customers. As a graphic designer at a marketing and advertising agency, you’ll design advertisements for digital and print media, create marketing campaign visuals, and more.  

2. Art and illustration 

Some graphic designers choose to work in art and illustration if they’re more passionate about the artistic side of the craft. Graphic design art examples include creating t-shirts, book covers, stickers or other products that might be decorated in some way. 

3. Visual Identity

A purple rectangle with the words “Mysterious Energy Coalition” are visible in Adobe Illustrator. The text is separated by a hand-drawn flame and the words are written in white an an edgy, drippy font. To the right is a pop-up menu where the purple rectangle’s gradient can be adjusted. 
Still from Skillshare class Graphic Design for Beginners: Create Logos in Adobe Illustrator by Derrick Mitchell 
This graphic designer used edgy font and a moody purple to create a certain visual identity for this brand. 

When creating a brand, it’s important to form its visual identity so that potential customers can easily identify its values, overall energy and aesthetic. Visual identity includes graphic design elements like typography, logo, color scheme, web design, patterns and more. 

4. Packaging

A brown cardboard box portrays a different visual story than a package with a customized box, tape, and tissue paper. Packaging designers find unique ways to portray the brand’s visual identity and aesthetic through the packaging of their products. 

5. Corporate

A corporate graphic designer will likely create projects that overlap the business’ branding, advertising and communications. Some corporate graphic design examples include a PowerPoint presentation, social media graphic or a PDF handbook. 

6. User Interface

A User Interface (UI) designer designs websites, apps, and other devices where human-computer interaction will occur. They design their digital product with the human that is going to use it in mind. 

7. Environmental

While some graphic design skills are needed to become an environmental designer, this job requires a few extra capabilities. An environmental designer designs spaces like buildings, parks and sustainable products that are beautiful, environmentally-friendly and consciously-made. 

8. Publication

Designing the cover of a magazine, infographics for a newspaper, or the layout of an article are all materials that publication graphic designers can work on. They create the visual layout of magazines, newspapers, books, and other types of publications using typography, photography, illustration, and other graphic elements.

9. Web

Five different black and white logo variations for a brand called Jemaro sit together. Some include just the Jemaro name others include a stripey “J.” 
Still from Skillshare class Logo Design Workflow: Creating Timeless and Modern Logos by Robert Matyas 
A web designer might need to create multiple different logos for a brand to be used in different situations like a favicon, product packaging or brick-and-mortar signage. 

A web designer creates the look and feel of a website by using graphic design elements like logos, typography, photography, and illustrations. They design landing pages and entire websites. 

10. Motion Graphic

Designing the title sequence for a movie or TV show, developing a product demo for a Kickstarter campaign or creating a logo animation for a company are all things you might do as a motion graphic designer. Motion graphic designers use animation, audio, and visual effects to put graphics in motion for TV, movies, social media, and more. 

11. Game 

Video games are filled with thousands of graphic elements. If you’ve ever played games like Red Dead Redemption or other story-based games, you’ll know that every single object has been carefully designed by a graphic designer or animator. Game graphic designers create characters, props, environments and user interfaces for video games. 

12. Advertising

A poster that reads “Dessert Party” is open in Adobe Illustrator. A big icing- and sprinkled-covered donut sits in the middle of the page and small text providing more details about the event is visible at the bottom of the page. 
Still from Skillshare class Graphic Design for Beginners: Learn the Fundamentals through Poster Design by Smitesh Mistry 
If you work for an advertising agency as a graphic designer, you might need to make a poster for an event to get the word out about the product you’re working with. 

While advertising is only one part of the marketing process, there are entire agencies dedicated to advertising-only projects. Graphic designers working in advertising will design campaigns, brochures, catalogs, posters and flyers. 

The Skillset of a Professional Graphic Designer

Being a graphic designer requires certain skills that can take hundreds of hours to perfect. Some graphic designer skills like being innovative, creative, and able to work in teams are some skills you might already have even if you have no experience in the field. 

No need to get discouraged if you have no idea how to use essential graphic design software like Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator because there are a lot of classes and online resources out there that can help. You can even learn how to become a graphic designer without a degree like many other talented designers out there. 

Some key graphic design skills you should have before getting started are: 

  • Familiarity with design software like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign
  • Ability to be creative and innovative when conveying a visual message
  • A basic understanding of HTML and even C++ or Java 
  • Proficiency in User Interface and User Experience design
  • A solid portfolio with projects that align with your design style
  • A degree, certification, or letter of recommendation from a previous client
  • Ability to problem solve, manage your time and work with others
  • Understanding of color theory and typography
  • Ability to communicate well with coworkers and clients  

Jumpstart Your Graphic Design Journey

Now that you have a general overview of a lot of different graphic design types, take a moment to think about what stuck out to you most. If you’re serious about pursuing graphic design, you might take out your notepad or phone and write down some thoughts and ideas that came up while looking through these graphic design topics.

Later in the month, you might think about reaching out to a graphic designer and seeing if you could ask them some questions. You can also head to Skillshare where there are hundreds of classes on graphic design and opportunities to connect with other graphic designers. As you consider this new career path, keep your mind open and learn as much as you can before you get started.

Written by:

Calli Zarpas