Your thoughts on my article about qualifications for a designer


New Member
Hi guys,

Would you be kind enough to have a read through an article I've written about what qualifications you need to become a designer. It's kind of aimed at students or people looking to get into design and or those that think they're designers when they're not haha. I will be adding it to my website but I just wanted some other experienced designers point of view on it and to see if you agreed with it really before I made it live.

What qualifications do I need to be a graphic designer?

Essentially you don’t need any qualifications to become a graphic designer but qualifications do certainly help. Most employers look for quality of work and expect to see examples of that in the form of a design portfolio. If you can showcase what you can do, a potential employer is more likely to hire you over having some letters after your name denoting a qualification of some sort. That being said you have to think from an employers point of view. An employer will probably receive many applicants for a single role and will use whatever they can to determine the best person for that role. If for example you and another person have a similarly well rounded portfolio of work examples and they are struggling to choose between you and the other candidate, having those qualifications would likely lead to you being chosen over the other candidate. Some companies however may have a policy whereby if you don’t have a recognised qualification then they may simply discard your application from the outset – it’s a very narrow minded view but it happens.

Aside from gaining qualifications, studying graphic design at college and then university is the best way to learn about the graphic design industry and pick up the technical knowledge required to become a professional graphic designer once you graduate. It’s not all about making things look good. There is a huge amount of technical knowledge required for a graphic designer to do their job properly. Knowing how to prepare artwork for print so what you get back from the printers is what you expected is a fundamental part of being a graphic designer. Knowing how to optimise imagery so that it displays clearly on different screens on different devices but still doesn’t take up too much bandwidth is another skill. Learning about different file formats and their pros and cons and when and where to use them as well as image resolution and colour matching skills and knowing the difference between CMYK, RGB and Pantone Spot Colours are all skills you need to learn before you can really start calling yourself a professional graphic designer.

When I studied graphic design my favourite classes were typography and print theory. Typography because type is basically what binds everything together and while it is mainly a conduit for content it is also an expressive creative form in its own right and understanding type and how it affects the reader and thus the design I found very interesting. Print Theory on the other hand was quite boring and initially quite difficult to understand especially from a hungover students point of view but I also knew the importance of how creating useful artwork over just pretty pictures on a screen would benefit me greatly in my coming career. Print theory was in-fact the most important class and as a designer entering the design industry you learn this pretty quickly – if you are unable to create artwork that can be used as intended then it doesn’t matter how good it looks. The same goes with web and digital design. You need to learn how to turn that great looking mockup into something useful and your best bet is studying at design college and university with the added bonus of a qualification at the end of it.

Simply knowing how to use graphic design software on your computer does not make you a graphic designer. Having a natural eye for design and composition while being able to visualise things before anyone else is a must for a designer of any type, be it a graphic designer, product designer, fashion designer, architect etc. The most important thing however is being able to work within constraints set by the design brief and coming up with effective creative solutions to problems that your clients have.

Graphic design is about solving problems not making things look good. We make things look good because as creative visual thinkers we appreciate the aesthetic but also understand that people recall things much faster when they are linked to positive and attractive things. Making something attractive makes it more memorable and what good is a message if you cannot remember it?


Staff member
Essentially you don’t need any qualifications to become a graphic designer but qualifications do certainly help. Most employers look for quality of work and expect to see examples of that in the form of a design portfolio.
I stopped reading here.

First thing any employer looks for is relevant qualifications.

Then portfolio

Then you as a person


Staff member
Wtf is this about? Why did you write it? Seems like a personal point of view rather than a scholarly or academic view point


Well-Known Member
Yeah, you basically go on to contradict yourself after that first paragraph.

Further education and qualifications first, always.


New Member
Thanks for the reponses although I don't appreciate the tone.

It is true you don't need any qualifications to be a designer and in my experience pretty much every designer, creative director, MD will say "As long as they can do the job qualifications don't matter".

The point I was trying to make essentially was that while you don't NEED qualifications they do help but not in the way say a law degree would help a lawyer. If you can demonstrate you can create a good body of work and you can artwork etc then that is the main thing people look for and not the qualification. I do then go on to advocate studying design so I appreciate the contradictory statement. While not technically contradictory, it is I suppose confusing and my point is lost.



Active Member
You may not NEED qualifications, but the reality is that the market is so saturated with have-a-go-heroes that the first thing employers will do to sort the wheat from the chaff is check for qualifications. I would. Also, if someone has a degree, you know, there is more of a chance that they have learned the right things in the right way, rather than leaned who knows what from the University of YouTube.

As an aside as far as I’m concerned, it should be a prerequisite, like almost every other professional field.

In terms of a critique of your article – remember, you asked – if you are going to publish this anywhere, setting aside any inherent oxymorons for a moment, I would perhaps think about asking an editor to refine it. Honestly, in its current state, it reads a bit like a school essay on ‘how to be a designer’, rather than an erudite, professional opinion, based on knowledge and experience. Much of what you say is not incorrect, but both the content and delivery feels unnecessarily flat and prosaic. I found myself skipping sentences fairly quickly. If you are aiming this at young people entering the industry, it needs to be more inspiring.

Of course blogs can help your online exposure and profile, but they need to be engaging, erudite and authoritative. I think if any of the editors I work with got their teeth into it, it would likely end up a between a third and a half of its current word count.

I am not trying to be damning, but I think such articles, which are fairly dry by nature, need to sparkle syntactically.

Hope this helps.