The typography in magazines, artwork on billboards and layouts on Web pages most likely spring from the creative minds of graphic artists. Sometimes called graphic designers, these art professionals communicate ideas through color, pictures, logos, fonts and multimedia. Most work a 40-hour week to earn their salaries, although schedules can run longer when tight deadlines approach.
Full-time graphic artists earned an average $23.41 per hour, or $48,690 per year, as of May 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The lowest-paid 10 percent made less than $12.60 per hour or $26,210 per year. The best-paid 10 percent received more than $37.20 per hour or $77,370 per year. The BLS predicts that jobs for the profession will increase at 13 percent from 2010 to 2020, which is close to the average 14 percent predicted for all positions in all industries. Computer systems design will show the biggest gains at 61 percent while non-Internet publishing industries will suffer declines of 4 percent.
Experience affects pay. Junior designers in printed, Web and interactive design earned a median $19 per hour or $38,000 per year, according to the 2011 Survey of Design Salaries compiled by the American Institute of Graphic Arts. They are defined as workers with up to three years of experience out of school who need supervision. Designers who worked independently made a median $22.50 per hour or $45,000 per year. Senior designers, who could lead projects and train junior employees, received a median $32 an hour or $64,000 per year.
The biggest employers of graphic artists in 2011, according to the BLS, were specialized design services, which included designers who worked for themselves. Average wages ran $24.59 per hour or $51,150 per year. Next were publishers of newspapers, periodicals, books and directories, where wages averaged $20.59 per hour or $42,820 per year. The highest salaries were in the federal government, with averages at $36.33 per hour or $75,570 per year. Amusement parks and arcades followed, with mean wages of $31.72 per hour or $65,980 per year. Third for compensation were monetary authorities, which offered an average $31.56 per hour or $65,650 per year.
A bachelor’s degree in graphic design is the usual minimum requirement for employment. This education is available in about 300 post-secondary colleges, universities and schools accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. Subjects include principles of design, studio art, computer art, website design, commercial production and printing techniques. Marketing, writing and business are important for those wanting to work for themselves. Students are able to build a professional portfolio that contains their best work. They can use this documentation to show their design skills when applying for jobs or looking for projects.