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8 Graphic Design Skills High School Students Should Learn

High school students with a flair for technology who also have a creative streak might find themselves being drawn to a career in graphic design once they graduate. Many lucrative careers require this type of creative background, and the skills you’ll acquire on this career path can be transferred to many other jobs in the future.

Becoming a successful graphic designer requires that you develop a solid foundation of both hard and soft skills. Hard skills are specific and measurable, like the ability to use Photoshop or proficiency in a particular programming language. Soft skills are harder to measure and harder to teach; they usually include qualities such as communication, teamwork, and creativity.

While you may have an idea of what hard skills you’ll need to become a graphic designer, you may not have considered which soft skills would be beneficial. Technical knowledge is undoubtedly important, but it will only get you so far. Technologies and trends used in the graphic design industry can change over time, but strengthening your soft skills will help you adapt and be a valuable member of any team. Below, you’ll find examples of both hard soft skills that are particularly relevant to graphic design. 

Hard Skills

  1. Adobe Creative Cloud: This software is an industry standard in the graphic design business. Becoming a graphic designer without a solid proficiency in Adobe software is nearly impossible. There are some design competitors out there, but none compare to the unique capabilities and vast selection of options that Adobe provides. The most commonly required tools within the Adobe line are Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. These three programs give you endless options in terms of fonts, effects, and filters to make your designs stand out.

  2. HTML/Web Design: While most graphic design jobs don’t expect you to know how to design an entire webpage from start to finish, it is becoming more common that job postings require knowing at least the basics. If your designs need to be specifically formatted for display on the web (and there’s a good chance they will be), the ability to be able to make even simple fixes can go a long way toward impressing a potential employer when compared to other candidates for a job. There are plenty of resources and tutorials online to help you practice if this is a skill you’re still unfamiliar with.

  3. Typography: Not all of your designs may contain text, but a good portion of them likely will. This is where the study of typography comes into play. It might sound surprising, but selecting a font for your designs is a real art that is influenced by many factors. Even the smallest of details can make a huge difference in the overall appeal of your finished product. For example, to improve the readability of your text, the spacing between letters should be tighter for large signs but looser for smaller signs. There are also plenty of ways to design typography that is more whimsical and unique if that is what your assignment calls for.

  4. User Interface/User Experience (UI/UX): These are two key elements that inform how a person interacts with a design. Interface deals with the visual appearance of the application while experience focuses on how a person interacts with the product. A graphic designer would greatly benefit from having experience in this area since such a big component of their job is to visually communicate with a user or a potential customer. Graphic designers who already understand ways to make a product more engaging or more intuitive would be a stellar addition to their company.

Soft Skills

  1. Creativity: It may seem obvious to include creativity as a skill that a graphic designer needs, and you also may not think it’s something you can practice and improve. Anyone working in an artistic industry needs to be creative. But how can you be sure that you’ve developed a process that allows you to consistently come up with innovative ideas rather than random strokes of inspiration? Creative professionals usually have a method that helps them keep track of their ideas, as well as a means to regularly execute and evaluate their ideas to see if they’re successful. If you struggle with thinking of creativity as a structured practice, there are ways to boost your creative thinking skills. There are plenty of TED Talks and apps out there to guide you along your way.

  2. Time Management: It is common for graphic designers to have to juggle multiple deadlines from multiple clients at once. Graphic designers who are just starting also tend to commit themselves to more projects than they can realistically handle, especially if they are freelancing and trying to build their client base. Keep in mind that producing quality work requires a significant time investment, and getting a reputation for being unable to meet deadlines would be a tremendous blow to your fledgling business. If you’re looking for ways to improve your time management skills, you might want to first determine which aspect of time management you struggle with the most. After all, a person who tends to procrastinate will require different types of support than a person who has a hard time saying “no” to projects even when they’re already overworked.

  3. Communication: As we lean further into remote work and the total digitization of the workplace, this can be a skill that gets harder to hone. Even though you’re not typically interacting with your clients and teammates in person, this doesn’t mean communication skills aren’t a vital tool for any graphic designer. Good communication in graphic design combines several different elements including processing and implementing feedback, active listening, and explaining your design to those without a graphics background. Communication is also key when discussing timelines and deadlines; you need people to have a clear understanding of what to expect from you and when. Graphic designers must also learn to communicate within a team of other professionals like programmers or printers to ensure that the published result reflects what the designer and their client agreed upon.

  4. Problem Solving: From troubleshooting the technology you use to create your work to managing the expectations of your clients, you’ll get to practice your problem-solving skills daily as a graphic designer. And no matter how talented and experienced you are, you’ll likely have to make edits to your designs after making an initial presentation to a client. You’ll need to tap into your problem-solving skills to quickly make these revisions and look at your design in a new way.

Learn Graphic Design with NextGen’s Summer Classes

If you’re a high school student looking to get a jumpstart on a career in graphic design, NextGen Bootcamp offers graphic design courses for high schoolers. There are in-person graphic design classes available at NextGen’s New York City location. The school also offers virtual graphic design courses, which can be taken remotely from anywhere in the world.

Learn more in these courses

  • Graphic Design Classes for High School Students
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