5 Complimentary Skills to Graphic Design

Articles January 7, 2009

In today’s economy competition is rougher than ever and even before this economic down turn I had mentioned how competitive the field of graphic design was getting and how more and more job listings were looking for multi-talented designers. By this I mean many employers want you to not only be a graphic designer, but also a web designer with knowledge of multiple coding language and much more.

If you are freelancing from home than you will need even more skills to make the most of your home business so you can bring in as much steady income as possible. Below are some areas I recommend designers branch off into once they have a solid foundation in design. Even having basic skills in these areas will help a ton!

1. Web Design

Web design is probably the most valuable skill to have as a graphic designer. It will open up a large new client base for you, allow you to create and update your portfolio site and much more. Being fluent in web design and multiple coding languages will not only make it easier to keep steady work from home, but will make you much more attractive to potential employers who are looking to cut costs by finding multi-talented designers.

2. Illustration

Designers often have backgrounds in fine art such as drawing and illustration, but end up putting their focus on commercial graphic design which can create a disconnect from their fine art origins. Keeping your illustration skills sharp or becoming a better illustrator will allow you to create more creative designs, do freelance illustration work and even sell stock illustrations online! Plus you can save money doing your own illustrations for your graphic and web designs.

3. Online Marketing

Online marketing is an essential skill for anyone looking to make the most of their freelance design business. Knowing the latest marketing tactics will help you gain exposure, name recognition and more clients. There are dozens of easy ways to increase traffic to your portfolio site and not taking advantage of them would be a very big missed opportunity!

4. Search Engine Optimization

This is an often over looked skill for any business. Anyone who has an online business presence should research search engine optimization and even if you pay some one its good to know what its all about and how to do it correctly. Bad search engine optimization tactics can hurt your site badly and produce no results, but good SEO can provide you with a steady stream of new clients and really take you to the next level

5. Blogging

Starting a blog is probably the easiest and best thing you can do to increase awareness of your portfolio. Knowing about web design, online marketing and search engine optimization, which we mentioned above will help you turn your blog into a powerful and useful tool as opposed to a waste of time. You need to research blogging before hand, optimize your blog, post regularly and promote your blog posts in order to achieve maximum results.

Hope you enjoyed these tips and suggestions! Which skills do you find most useful as a graphic designers in today’s market?

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Cadence is You The Designer's senior blogger, and the most jack-of-all-trades of the staff. She's always trying out something different every day, some of which fuels her posts here on the blog. Let her know if you want us to post more about your favorite topic - she might know more than a thing or two about it!

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  • http://www.joyoge.com/ joyoge designers’ bookmark

    helpful post thanks..

  • http://www.davidairey.com David Airey

    Hi Gino,

    I’m a firm believer in the more you know about the world, the better your designs will be. This can encompass the additional skills you mention above, and seemingly less-related topics, such as economics, environmental policy, health issues etc.

    I hope you’re keeping well.

  • http://www.logodesignguru.com Nikki – Logo Design Guru

    Thanks for the great list. This is very helpful and so true. I have recently just learned several of those skills and I see exactly what you mean on how important they are to keeping a company afloat. I guess the best thing we can do in a slow economy is adapt to it and do whatever we have to in order to survive. Good luck out there designers.

  • http://www.timothybsmith.com Tim Smith

    I agree with David, the more you know, the better designer you can be. Thanks for the post, it was very informative.

  • http://www.tobogan.wordpress.com Mela

    Great article, I think could be also helpful to know a good copywrighter.

  • Kendell

    thanks alot with the advice. I’m still very new to this field in many ways yet a veteran to it in other ways. This helped a whole lot.

  • http://www.gariphic.com/ gary

    There’s a saying that goes: “Jack of all trades, master of none”.

    In today’s tough economic times, employers want the most bang for their buck, it’s an unfortunate trend. I’m a firm believer that the more skills you have the better designer you are and the more you can offer. As a freelancer it’s almost become a necessity to know a little of each discipline. However, having said that, I still believe each discipline has it’s own skill set, and that it’s still best to be strong and specialize in just one.

  • http://comeuptomyroom.com Jeremy

    Thanks Gino! Diversity is always more stable than homogeneity in the long run. The evidence is that because of the economic downturn large businesses are shutting down and generally small ones staying afloat.

  • http://www.presidiacreative.com/ Eric Shafer
  • http://klucid.com J – Klucid Graphic Design

    Great article, however I think SEO and “Online Marketing” should fall under a web design category.

  • http://www.1stwebdesigner.com Dainis Graveris

    Good pointing out the skills. It’s essential..and in design community we never stop learning. And I agree that blogging is great self promotion way.

  • http://dzyneweb.com Helena Denley

    Hi Gino,
    Interesting post.
    I have a different situation that I need some help with.
    I am a self taught web developer – developer not designer in that I can take a graphic designers image & create a website or customise a blog – I am not a graphic designer by any stretch of the imagination – I can resize images, alter basic images for navigation or heading elements in Photoshop & that’s about it. I can do pretty reasonable wordpress theme customisations that involve those basic skills in photoshop, but anything overly graphically creative is out of my league – although I do appreciate great design.

    So are there graphic designers out there that don’t want to multi-skill as you have suggested, like Gary mentions in his comment “I still believe each discipline has it’s own skill set, and that it’s still best to be strong and specialize in just one”. Graphic designers that would be prepared to team up with someone like me to do the graphical component of a site, so I can do the coding and construction aspect of web development?


  • Gino

    Helena – Yes i think its of course possible to team up with others i did a lot of freelance work with a web designer in the past. My partner would code the sites and i would do the design. It can just be easier to work for yourself and not have to rely on other people.

    Stick to what you are good at for now and just keep improving and branching off when you feel comfortable. Just be sure to keep your original skills sharp and keep improving.

  • http://www.sidelanes.com John B.

    I also find it useful to use online networking sites such as facebook and linkedin to keep your contacts within reach. You don’t have to be active with these services, but having an account and updating it once in a while can be invaluable. Thanks for the post!

  • http://www.associatedesign.co.uk Grenville Hamlyn

    I loved this quote that I heard at a recent Apple design presentation.

    “Totally into design. Totally into technology. Totally into everything that can be done today”

    Grenville Hamlyn, a Surrey-based web and graphic designer

  • http://projectautomatika.blogspot.com projectautomatika

    Very helpful article for newcomers in the freelance business. Thanks

  • http://www.youandigraphics.com Irene Demetri

    @ Helena,

    Well I belong in the category of designers that are just …designers. My background is Visual Communication Design and I have specialized in web design, but coding is something that doesn’t interest me (at least not at the moment). I do like to develop my design skills and become really good at what I do best.

    Having said that I would like to show you my website http://www.youandigraphics.com where you can see samples of my work. I dont know if you are still looking for a designer to work with, but I am interested in hearing from you if you are.

  • http://www.crearedesign.co.uk Victoria Blount

    Very insightful article. Doing a Graphic Communications degree we covered all aspects of design, but were encouraged to develop just one that we were most interested in. I work in web design but i am keen to learn any other aspects of suggested in the article. As the broader your knowledge the further you will go.

  • jessica

    thanx this was very helpful

  • http://www.absolutecovers.com Ovi Dogar

    I totally agree with you… All this skills are needed for an expert graphic designer.

    By the way, great post! ;)

    Ovi Dogar

  • http://www.after5pc.net Bryan – After5PC.net

    Great post!

    I am a freelancer myself… and have branched off to other niches/departments for some time now.

    I suggest others to do the same, starting with the 5 suggestions posted on this article.

  • http://www.ronarts.com Ron Arts Web Design

    These skills are very necessary for an expert graphic designer. This post can help a lot of designers. Thanks for sharing it!!!