Working in Advertising as a Graphic Designer

Ad Agencies Require Persuasive Designs, not Just Artistic Ones

Like many graphic design fields, working in advertising includes far beyond creating designs and page layouts. While a specific job may be to create a print ad for a campaign or design a logo, this field also requires an understanding of marketing, public relations and consumer trends and habits. In addition to the business side, a designer in advertising needs to be an expert in digital and print design and production and in preparing works for publication in various formats.

Understanding Consumers

Advertising design is all about persuasion: you are selling a product, so you need to understand consumer psychology and be aware of market trends and research. While you may not be performing the research yourself, you will need to work with marketing departments and professionals to understand who the target market is. You also need an understanding of the agency's clients and how they position themselves in the market.

Mastering the Tools and Techniques

It's a given that, if you are a graphic designer, you are expert at creating eye-catching visuals: you know about typography, you get ​color theory, and you can actually draw something, even if you prefer using your digital tools. You're a wiz at Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign and possibly Dreamweaver, Flash and even straight-up HTML and CSS.

But to use these tools in the service of selling a product, you need an understanding of how to organize and arrange elements on a page so that users go in the direction you want.

Guiding a viewer to click a button, visit a website or make a phone call means that every element on the page works toward that end. 

Working with Clients

As a graphic designer for an advertising agency, you'll probably meet with clients directly to determine the scope of a project and to refine the message the design should communicate.

You'll help develop strategies for reaching the target market. Once you have created a draft, you'll present it and get feedback, and then incorporate changes until you end up with the final design. Alternatively, you may work directly with the art director rather than the client.

Types of Work

Ad agencies develop a wide array of products from ads (either print or digital) and brochures to logos and entire branding strategies. 

A graphic designer needs a thorough understanding of the full design-to-production phase. If this is an online project, that means understanding web-based design concepts such as low-bandwidth graphics, scalable images, and how to design a page for viewing on a range of devices including those with tiny screens. 

If this is a print project, that means familiarity with printing concepts such as DPI, inks, page bleeds, cut sizes and possibly saddle stitching. Every printer has different requirements in terms of the format of the artwork, but most accept high-quality PDFs. 

Jobs and Education

To get a graphic design job at an advertising agency, a bachelor's degree in graphic design is usually a requirement, although if you have a bachelor's in a different field, consider some other kind of technical training to earn the skills required.

Consider breaking into the industry as an intern if you have no experience.