How to Excel In Your Graphic Design Career In a Digitally Competitive Age

By Farah Ahmed , May 31 2023
graphic design career

Featured Image: iStock/treety

Is AI going to take over my job? What does the future look like for me? If you haven’t thought about these two questions in the last few months, then you might be the only one! Or at least part of a very small group. Today, a lot of people in different fields, particularly, graphic design, are thinking about what’s next for them. Particularly with the AI race catching heat.

When it comes to graphic design, the industry is constantly evolving. So it has become essential for designers to be better than their competitors and stay one step ahead of all the new tools and technologies.

How to Get Started in Graphic Design

If you think about it, excelling in any field today requires a lot of effort and dedication. As a graphic designer, your journey may be a bit tougher than most others. Excelling in graphic design in a digitally competitive age is not just about getting the required qualifications.

To promote your graphic design career and rise to the top, you need to focus on many different factors. Now, I realize that things can be overwhelming for many people trying to excel in this field. Firstly, you have to figure out whether you want to work as a freelancer or join an agency to achieve career growth.

Both are great options for professionals and can lead to financial freedom as well. Once you have decided how you want to work, you should consider finding a niche such as logo design, web design, app design, or marketing and brand design.

graphic design career specializations

This could make it easier for you to hone your skills and keep improving in your chosen niche until you become irreplaceable.

Now, there is a lot of information that you will have to process here. To make this easier, I have created a guide that could help you excel in your graphic design career in a digitally competitive age. As we go further, you will discover the key practices, skills, and courses that could help you excel in your career.

Let’s get started and find out all that you need to know about making it in this field in a highly competitive age.

What to Know About A Career in Graphic Design

Whether you’re a seasoned designer looking to stay relevant or a beginner looking to start your professional journey, you always need more knowledge and insights to thrive in the digital age.

From learning about the latest software and staying updated with the latest trends to developing a strong design foundation and building an impressive portfolio, there’s a lot to do and understand. Before I go into the details, you need to know that excelling in a graphic design career is not just about technical skills.

A major part of your growth and success will also come from being creative, communicating effectively, continuously learning, and adapting to industry changes. Whether you’re working as a freelancer, in-house designer, or part of a creative agency, you need to stand out in the industry with the tools and insights that are necessary to excel in your graphic design career.

Before anything else, it’s important to build a portfolio to showcase your work and find clients as well. Here are a few platforms that can help you kickstart your career and take it to new heights in a short time:

It’s a good idea to keep looking and exploring different avenues so you can continue with career growth and take steps to secure your future. Other than a website or portfolio, it’s also a good idea to promote yourself on social media platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook.

Now, I have talked about the platforms where you can find work but what about the skills and resources that you may need along the way? Well, I have that covered too. Let’s take a look at some of the useful courses, both free and paid, that you can find online to learn and get better at your job.

Top Graphic Design Courses to Excel

For both experienced designers and novices, various resources can equip them with the required knowledge and skills. While it’s a good idea to invest in paid courses or certifications that you can feature on your graphic designer resume, you can always find free ones to get started. Here is a list for you to consider.

Paid Courses:

1. Graphic Design Masterclass

Learn about the fundamental design principles, color, and typography by registering for this Masterclass at Udemy. It’s an extensive paid course that covers color theory, spectrum, fonts, typography, and visuals that make an impact in graphic design.

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2. Graphic Design Specialization

You can almost consider this a sort of specialization in the field. Coursera offers this comprehensive resource to designers that include the fundamentals of design, insights on branding, and viewer psychology. It’s a great way to set yourself apart from other professionals in the industry and get a high-paying gig as well.


3. Graphic Design Basics

Where do you start from in graphic design? The basics. This course by Skillshare can just about point you in the right direction. It can help you learn the core principles of Visual Design and improve your skills with practice too.

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4. Become a Graphic Designer

Now, you might already be familiar with the endless resources that you can find with LinkedIn Learning. If you are then, this is probably not a surprise. But in case you are unaware, this is a great course (paid, of course!) that covers graphic design concepts in depth and includes popular software as well as pro techniques.

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5. Graphic Design Bootcamp

For professionals looking to break into the industry, this is a great resource offered by The Futr. You can gain experience with hands-on training and learn about various elements of graphic design like colors, imagery, and typography. The Bootcamp is also designed to help build and improve their portfolios.

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Free Courses:

1. Zillion Designs Blog

This is a great resource for both experienced professionals and aspiring graphic designers. You can find a range of different topics here on Logo Design, Graphic Design, Visual Marketing, and Branding. If you do a quick search with the relevant keywords, you can discover blog posts, tutorials, and infographics that cover everything from basic principles to technical insights into graphic design.

ZillionDesigns Blog
Image Source: ZillionDesigns Blog

2. Alison – Graphic Design

It is another free course that can help you become familiar with the key elements. This resource covers image editing, color theory, psychology, typography, and fonts. Once you learn about the fundamentals, you can easily hone your skills as you advance in your career.

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3. Introduction to Design

As obvious by the name, this course is perfect for getting an introduction to design. MIT Open Courseware offers it and gives professionals free access to tips, practices, and lectures on different aspects of graphic design. You can learn a lot about visual communication and using imagery to make the right impression on the audience.

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4. Graphic Design Essentials

Even if you are not in the graphic design industry, you may be aware of the amazing resources provided by HubSpot Academy. This is just another one that can be used to excel in a graphic design career in a digital competitive age. You can discover the essentials like balance, alignment, and white space that can help you become a better designer.

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5. Adobe Learn

Of course, this has to be here! As a graphic designer, Adobe may already be a part of your professional life. Why not take it one step ahead and start learning how to use software like Adobe Creative Suite with free resources and tutorials? You can find all that and more at Adobe Learn to get started.

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Tools and Software

Now, let’s move on to the tools and software that professionals use to create designs and deliverables. You might already be using or familiar with a few of them. Time to find out!

1. Adobe Illustrator

It is probably one of the most commonly used software by graphic designers everywhere. Adobe Illustrator is great for creating vector graphics, making changes or editing, and creating different formats of files as well.

2. Canva

This is an online design platform that offers a user-friendly interface and a wide range of templates, graphics, and tools for creating social media posts, presentations, and other visual content.

3. Sketch

You will find this popular vector-based design tool being used by UI/UX web designers for creating digital interfaces and interactive prototypes. It is quite easy to navigate and can help professionals design digital products for clients quickly.

4. Figma

It is a collaborative design tool that enables multiple designers to work on projects simultaneously and offers features for UI/UX design, prototyping, and editing in real-time.

5. Procreate

This may not be everyone but I have included this in my list for one major reason. It’s very easy to use! The digital illustration app for iPad offers a realistic drawing and painting experience with a wide range of brushes and artistic tools.

6. Affinity Designer

It is a professional software or tool you can say that allows designers to create vector graphics for logos, illustrations, and layouts.

7. CorelDRAW

This is another versatile vector graphics software known for its powerful design tools and extensive file compatibility.

8. SketchBook

You can find a range of brush tools and editing features to design digital graphics in SketchBook. It is easy to navigate and you can easily get the hang of it in a short time.

9. InVision

This prototyping and collaboration tool helps designers create interactive and animated prototypes for web and mobile interfaces. Both experienced professionals and beginners in the industry can use this platform to enhance their skills and improve their portfolios.

10. WordPress

This is probably one of the most popular platforms in design and technology. The content management system (CMS) has simplified a lot of tasks for designers by allowing them to create and customize websites with limited skills and knowledge.

How to Excel in Graphic Design Career

The global market for graphic design is valued at $45 billion. Now, this is a booming number and you can expect growth in the future too. Currently, you may feel like there are fewer opportunities in this field in the years ahead, mainly due to the rise of AI tools. But this is not entirely correct.

If you pay attention to the right factors, you can experience growth in your graphic design career and have a bright future as well. Worry about MidJourney or Adobe’s latest AI feature later! Here are a few elements that can help you succeed as a graphic designer.

Focus on Creativity

Have you ever thought about what sets humans apart from advanced machines? It’s the power of unique perspectives. The human touch! This is why people still believe that new technology cannot replace them. As yet. When it comes to the field of graphic design, one factor can make a difference and that is creativity. It can set you apart and take your career to new heights.

As a graphic designer, your ability to tap into your creative instincts is what leads to innovative and accessible designs. You can evoke emotions in logo design for instance with elements like color, typography, and icons. With creativity, designers can tell different stories and connect with their audience on a deeper level.

By being original and thinking outside the box, you can bring new perspectives and unique ideas to different graphic design projects. Think about how you can create visuals that send out the right message to the viewer. Take the example of one of the most successful graphic designers in the modern day, Paul Rand.


How did he manage to design timeless logos like that of IBM and NeXt? It was his creative instincts that helped him become launch the brand identity designs for global corporations.

Before you start showcasing your creativity in your work, you can start by expressing yourself with a stunning graphic design resume that instantly catches the eye of potential employers or clients.


In the world of graphic design, continuous learning, and upskilling are essential for staying ahead of the curve and driving personal and professional growth. The field is constantly evolving, with new tools, techniques, and trends being introduced in this profession regularly. This is where upskilling can help you survive and excel in your graphic design career in a digitally competitive age.

By accelerating your graphic design learning skills and acquiring new ones, you open doors to endless possibilities and gain more expertise as well. As a graphic designer, upskilling allows you to diversify your skill set, explore new technologies, and get an insight into new technologies for design too.

It is the one element that allows you to stay relevant in a dynamic industry and positions you as a valuable asset to clients and employers. By investing in your professional development, you equip yourself with the tools and knowledge needed to tackle complex design challenges and deliver promised results.

Upskilling also provides the opportunity to gain expertise and knowledge in niche areas of graphic design. You can learn about new software like Lunacy or Adobe Illustrator or move towards motion graphics and animations.


Many graphic designers become experts in UI/UX design or app development as well. By continually learning and upskilling, you can truly advance your career in a short time and not have to worry about being replaced with AI technology.

Build a Strong Portfolio

A strong portfolio is a powerful tool that you need to showcase your skills, creativity, and unique style. Think of it as visual storytelling and a way to establish your expertise. With a well-designed portfolio, you can leave a lasting impression on potential clients and employers. It’s important to invest time and effort into building an attractive portfolio that can bring new opportunities to you and help professionals excel in the graphic design career.

Your portfolio reflects your design capabilities and shows potential clients that you have experience in the field. It demonstrates your understanding of:

  • Various design principles
  • Software and tools
  • Problem-solving abilities

As you curate your portfolio, make sure that it showcases a diverse range of projects and highlights your professionalism too. With your portfolio, you can draw focus to your technical skills and your ability to communicate visually and tell stories with design elements.


Building a strong portfolio is a process that continues throughout your career. It is a good idea to update it regularly with your latest and best work, remove old projects and replace them with relevant ones.

Keep an Eye on Trends

This is another factor that can help professionals excel in their graphic design careers in a digitally competitive age. Now, you may hear a lot of people saying that it’s a good idea to stay away from trends in logo design for instance, or web and app design. While it may be solid advice, you still need to be aware of what’s going on within the industry.

And to think about it, research is already a part of a typical day in the life of a graphic designer. So, consider this as part of your work and keep an eye on the elements that are making the waves in different niches.

  • Graphic Design Trends

If you look at the last year, you will see that Y2K graphics are dominating illustrations, images, and brand icons as well. Minimalism is another trend that graphic designers have been following for a long time. You can see it in logos going back to the 1970s (Nike Swoosh)!

It’s hugely popular in web design today as the audience expects online platforms to be easy to navigate, clear, and mobile-friendly. In the end, it’s a good idea to understand the upcoming trends in your industry and incorporate a few elements in your designs.

  • Tracking the Latest

You can leverage social media platforms and follow industry experts on Twitter and Instagram. Design publications like AIGA’s Eye on Design can also keep professionals updated about the latest developments in graphics.


Adapt to Changes in Industry

As it is with upskilling, adapting to changes is also a crucial factor that you need to prioritize for career growth in graphic design. Before you find yourself overwhelmed and struggling to keep up, it’s important to consider how the industry changes every year.

I mean, adapting quickly is one of the secrets to becoming a graphic design superstar. Here are some of the key factors to pay attention to:

– New Mediums

With the progress of technology, new design mediums are being introduced to the world of graphic design continuously. AR and VR tools are now available to professionals who are looking to integrate the technologies with their designs.

– Advanced Tools

Yes, here it comes! AI, AI, and AI! You may be hearing quite a lot about the race that is dominating the field of technology these days. While artificial intelligence may not take over your job today, you can certainly leverage the tools to refine your work and get inspiration as well.

Adobe’s Firefly is one latest feature that can allow designers to use text-to-image prompts in their existing projects and make improvements in real time.

– Industry Standards

As trends change and the world moves ahead, you may find industry standards and practices also being redefined. So it’s always a good idea to keep up with rules, regulations, and practices that have been upgraded or changed according to technological advancements.

Towards the end, I would say that to truly excel in any career, you also need to know your worth. It’s always better to negotiate your graphic design rate, especially as a freelancer, and agree to work within a fair or reasonable budget.


When it comes to excelling in your graphic design career in a digitally competitive age, there are a lot of things you can do. Keep learning new things and diversify your skill set so that you can stay one step ahead of everyone in a competitive industry. Try to figure out what works best for you and apply your knowledge to the best of your abilities. You can also get inspiration by following some of the habits of highly successful graphic designers and adopting a winning mindset.

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Farah Ahmed is a content marketer who writes about branding and visual design for e-commerce and SaaS startups and SMEs. She has a keen interest in SEO techniques, analytics, and content strategy. Can talk endlessly about all things technology. Has a pile of books waiting to be read.