Essential Skills for Landing Your First Graphic Design Job
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 10 min read


  1. Creative thinking and vision
  2. Technical proficiency
  3. Typography skills
  4. Understanding of layout and print production
  5. Branding and marketing knowledge
  6. Strong communication skills
  7. Project management abilities
  8. Adaptability
  9. Professionalism and business etiquette
  10. How to showcase these skills in your portfolio and interviews

If you're on the hunt for your first graphic design job, you might be asking yourself, "What skills are needed for an entry-level graphic design job?" You're in the right place because we're going to explore exactly that! From creativity to technical skills, we have the full rundown on what you need to get your foot in the door of the design world. So, let's dive in!

Creative Thinking and Vision

First up on our list is Creative Thinking and Vision. This skill is your secret weapon in the design world. Why? Because it's all about seeing what isn't there yet—imagining new concepts and bringing them to life.

But what does this look like in practice? Here are a few key aspects:

  • Original Ideas: This is all about coming up with fresh concepts that set you apart from the crowd. It's not just about being different, but about offering something new and exciting. It's like being a chef who invents a tasty new dish instead of just following recipes.
  • Problem Solving: Sometimes, you'll be faced with design challenges that require clever solutions. This is where your creative thinking steps in. It's like being a detective, finding clues and solving the mystery that is your design project.
  • Visualizing: This is where your vision comes into play. You need to be able to imagine how your design will look before it's even created. It's like being a film director, seeing the movie in your head before it's made.

So, if you're wondering "what skills are needed for an entry-level graphic design job?", creative thinking and vision is definitely one of the top ones. It's your golden ticket into the world of design. But remember, like any skill, it takes practice. So, keep dreaming, keep imagining, and keep creating!

Technical Proficiency

Next up on the list of skills needed for an entry-level graphic design job is Technical Proficiency. This is all about mastering the tools of the trade. It's like being a carpenter: you might have a vision for a beautiful piece of furniture, but without knowing how to use a hammer and nails, it's going to be pretty tough to build.

So what does technical proficiency in graphic design look like? Here are some of the key aspects:

  • Software Skills: This includes becoming a whiz at Adobe Creative Suite—specifically Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign. These are your paintbrushes and chisels in the world of graphic design. And just like any tool, the more you practice using them, the more skilled you'll become.
  • Coding Basics: While you don't need to be a full-blown programmer, understanding the basics of HTML and CSS can be a huge help. This way, you can communicate more effectively with web developers and have more control over how your designs come to life online.
  • Resolution and File Formats: Knowing how to save your work in the right file format and resolution is key. After all, you don't want your beautiful design to look pixelated or not open correctly on someone else's computer!

So, when it comes to what skills are needed for an entry-level graphic design job, technical proficiency is a biggie. But don't worry if you're not an expert yet! Just like any skill, it takes time and practice to develop. So keep learning, keep experimenting, and before you know it, you'll be a technical whiz!

Typography Skills

Imagine reading a book where all the text is in a whimsical, swirling script font. Or a road sign written in an intricate, hard-to-read Gothic style. Doesn't sound too appealing, does it? That's where typography comes in—one of the not-so-secret skills needed for an entry-level graphic design job.

Typography is all about making text not just readable, but visually appealing and impactful. Here's what you need to know:

  • Font Knowledge: There's a whole world of fonts out there, from Arial to Zapfino. Knowing the difference between them, and when to use each one, can make or break your design.
  • Understanding Spacing: This isn't just about the space between lines—known as leading—but also the space between letters (tracking) and the space between pairs of letters (kerning). Get it right, and your text will be a joy to read. Get it wrong, and it could end up looking like a jumbled mess.
  • Grasping Hierarchy: This is about making the most important text stand out. You can do this by playing with size, weight (how bold or light a font is), and color. So if you want to scream "Buy now!" without using all caps, typography can help.

So, if you're wondering what skills are needed for an entry-level graphic design job, don't overlook typography. It might seem like a small detail, but it can have a huge impact on your design—and your career.

Understanding of Layout and Print Production

Remember when you tried to print a school project, only to find half of your text cut off and colors looking nothing like they did on the screen? Well, that's because designing for print is a whole different ball game than designing for digital. That's why a solid understanding of layout and print production is another important skill for an entry-level graphic design job.

  • Page Layout: This is where you decide where everything goes on your page. It’s like deciding where to put your furniture in your room. But instead of a sofa and a bed, you're working with text, images, and whitespace. The goal is to guide the reader's eye in a logical and pleasing manner.
  • Color Models: Ever heard of CMYK and RGB? These are different color models used for print and digital designs. Knowing how they work is key to ensuring your colors look as good in print as they do on your screen.
  • Print Techniques: From offset to digital printing, each method has its pros and cons. The type of printing process can affect your design decisions and the final look of your project.

So, if you're wondering what skills are needed for an entry-level graphic design job, make sure you don't neglect layout and print production. After all, even the most beautiful design can fall flat if it's not well-presented and well-printed.

Branding and Marketing Knowledge

Okay, so you've nailed down the technical stuff. Great! But hold your horses. There's more to the question: what skills are needed for an entry-level graphic design job? Well, having a grasp on branding and marketing is also pretty important. Let me explain why.

  • Branding: Think of your favorite company. Got it? Now, picture their logo. That's branding. It's a company's visual identity. As a graphic designer, you'll often be asked to create or work within a company's brand. So understanding the principles of branding—like consistency, clarity, and impact—is pretty important.
  • Marketing: This is all about selling a product or a service. It's about knowing who your audience is and what makes them tick. A good graphic designer knows how to use visuals to make a product appealing to the right people. And this, my friend, requires some marketing knowledge.

So, if you're getting ready for your first graphic design job, don't forget to brush up on your branding and marketing skills. Not only will it make your designs more effective, it might just make you the company's new best friend. Now, wouldn't that be nice?

Strong Communication Skills

When asking what skills are needed for an entry-level graphic design job, people often overlook the importance of strong communication skills. I mean, you're an artist, right? Who needs to talk when you can express yourself through design? Well, not so fast.

Good communication is key in any job, and graphic design is no exception. Here's why:

  1. Understanding the Brief: Before you even start sketching, you'll need to fully understand what your client or employer wants. Misunderstandings early on can lead to a lot of wasted time and frustration on both sides.
  2. Presenting Your Ideas: Once you've created your designs, you'll need to explain your choices and sell your ideas. This is where persuasion and negotiation skills come in handy.
  3. Receiving Feedback: Let's face it, not everyone is going to love your work every single time. Being able to accept and respond to feedback in a constructive way is a valuable skill in any profession, especially in graphic design.

So, you see, being able to communicate effectively can really make a difference in your graphic design career. And hey, it might even save you from a few headaches along the way.

Project Management Abilities

Now, let's talk about project management. You might be thinking, "Wait, I thought I was training for a graphic design job, not a project manager role." And yes, while you're not wrong, having project management abilities can be an ace up your sleeve in the graphic design field.

Here's how this skill can benefit you in an entry-level graphic design job:

  1. Meeting Deadlines: From sketch to final design, you'll be juggling multiple tasks and projects. Being able to manage your time effectively ensures you meet your deadlines and keep your clients happy.
  2. Coordinating with Others: Often, you'll be part of a team, working with marketers, writers, and other designers. Knowing how to coordinate and manage tasks within a team setting can be a real lifesaver.
  3. Problem-Solving: Issues will arise—like a design not working out as planned, or a last-minute change from a client. Being able to navigate these bumps in the road is a big part of project management.

In essence, project management abilities help you keep all your creative plates spinning without dropping any. And trust me, that's a skill your future employer will appreciate.


Alright, next on the list is adaptability. We've all heard the phrase "roll with the punches," right? In the realm of graphic design, this couldn't be more true; being adaptable is a must-have skill.

Why is that, you ask? Let's break it down:

  1. Changing Trends: Design trends change faster than you can say "Helvetica." One day, minimalism is all the rage; the next, it's bold, vibrant colors. To keep up, you need to be adaptable and willing to learn new things.
  2. Feedback: Constructive criticism is part and parcel of any creative job. It can be tough, but being open to feedback and willing to make changes is key. Remember, it's all about making the design the best it can be.
  3. New Tools: The world of design software is always evolving. Just when you master Photoshop, a new tool like Figma or Canva emerges. Being adaptable means you're not afraid to learn how to use new tools.

So, if you're the kind of person who thrives on change and loves learning new things, you'll fit right into a graphic design job. Remember, being adaptable doesn't mean you have to know everything—it just means you're willing to learn and grow.

Professionalism and Business Etiquette

Alright, let's move on to something equally important but often overlooked: professionalism and business etiquette. Yes, even in the creative world, these matter a lot.

So, let's dive into what this entails:

  1. Respecting Deadlines: In the graphic design world, time is often of the essence. Clients want their designs yesterday, and you need to deliver. Always respect the deadlines and communicate openly if you believe a deadline might not be met.
  2. Clear Communication: Remember when we talked about strong communication skills? Well, this is where it comes into play. Be clear and concise, always making sure your client understands the work process and what they can expect.
  3. Respecting Opinions: Yes, you're the design expert, but remember that the client has the final say. This doesn't mean you can't voice your professional opinion, but it does mean respecting the client's decisions even if you disagree.

So, there you have it. Even if you're the most talented designer on the planet, without professionalism and proper business etiquette, you might find it hard to land or keep that entry-level graphic design job. Remember, it's not just about what you do, but also about how you do it!

How to showcase these skills in your portfolio and interviews

Alright, so you've got all these fantastic skills down for an entry-level graphic design job. Now, how do you show them off to potential employers?

Let's start with your portfolio:

  1. Show, Don't Tell: It's one thing to say you're creative, but it's another to prove it. Include a range of work in your portfolio that displays your versatility and innovation. If you have a project where you've solved a tricky design problem, don't be shy to include it!
  2. Case Studies: Have you had a project where you've used your project management skills or applied your marketing knowledge? Detail these experiences in a case study format. Explain the challenge, your approach, and the results. It's a powerful way to show you've got the skills needed for an entry-level graphic design job.
  3. Include Testimonials: If you have happy clients or colleagues who can vouch for your professionalism or communication skills, include their testimonials in your portfolio. It adds an extra layer of credibility to your claims.

Now, let's move on to interviews:

  1. Storytelling: Sharing specific stories about your work experience can be a great way to demonstrate your skills. For example, you could talk about a time you had to adapt to a client's sudden change in vision or how your understanding of typography helped improve a design.
  2. Ask Thoughtful Questions: This is a great way to show off your knowledge about the industry and the company you're interviewing with. It can demonstrate your marketing and branding knowledge, as well as your professionalism.
  3. Show Enthusiasm: Don't be afraid to let your passion for graphic design shine through. Enthusiasm can be a powerful indicator of your dedication and commitment to the field.

Remember, the goal is to make sure potential employers can see you're not just talking the talk, but you can also walk the walk. So, be ready to showcase these skills, and you'll be one step closer to landing that first graphic design job.

If you're looking to sharpen your skills and increase your chances of landing your first graphic design job, don't miss Jarrett Lampley's workshop, 'Creative Crossovers: Photography & Graphic Design.' This workshop will not only help you enhance your graphic design skills but also demonstrate how to effectively incorporate photography into your design projects, making you a versatile and sought-after designer in the job market.