What programs is a professional graphic designer expected to know?

Discussion in 'Design and Graphics' started by Chris7, Mar 10, 2010.

  1. Chris7 macrumors 6502

    Aug 8, 2008
    Lost in Thought

    Got a friend who's interested in going back to school to become a graphic designer. Wondering what programs graphics pro's are expected to know.

    Thanks for your time,

  2. LeviG macrumors 65816

    Nov 6, 2006
    Norfolk, UK
    does really depend on which area of graphic design they will be working within but... adobe - indesign, photoshop, illustrator, maybe quark depending on which you prefer would be the obvious ones.

    You can add in 3d apps and also a basic knowledge of web design techniques/apps/code if they intend to do graphic work in/for those areas.
  3. AdeFowler macrumors 68020


    Aug 27, 2004
    Photoshop and Illustrator are absolutely essential. I'd recommend a sound knowledge of Indesign and at least some experience with Quark. Some understanding of colour management is also useful.
  4. covisio macrumors 6502


    Aug 22, 2007
    A few years ago you could have confidently said that Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and either/or Quark and InDesign.
    These days, you would probably be expected to have at least some internet related knowledge. And if you're starting out you'd be ill-advised to ignore it because any real growth will be in 'design for screen', not print.
    3D in my view is a different skill, requiring a different part of the brain (well, my brain at least). Yes of course there's people who do both professionally but I'd wager not many who do both well.
    The main requirement is to be adaptable and focus on creativity. Apps come and go, creativity is a constant requirement.
  5. GeraldButton macrumors member

    Feb 16, 2010
    Newfoundland, Canada
    Photoshop is industry standard. It's a gurantee you will need to know how to use Photoshop. Illustrator would be good to know, extremely good to know, but for some of the clients and companies I have done work for it was not required (it was for some though).

    Most companies will actually ask you for a confirmation of your license from Adobe when they hire you to make sure your running legal software so that should be a large indication that most companies, or graphic design related companies are very Adobe based.
    ^ One of the best quotes for Graphic designers new and experienced.
  6. opeter macrumors 65832


    Aug 5, 2007
    Slovenia, EU
    Here where I live, CorelDRAW suite is one of the industry standards.
    Also, Macs are very rare, because, they are very expensive.

    And I also have, to quote this:
    Thats true. Creativity is not measure, how good you perform on computer, or how many shortcuts you know, but how good your ideas are and of course if these ideas can be realized somehow.
  7. alexlovesmacs macrumors 6502a

    Apr 23, 2008
    Photoshop and Illustrator are the most used by graphic designers.
  8. ezekielrage_99 macrumors 68040


    Oct 12, 2005
    I would also suggest PowerPoint and Publisher because I can always guarantee one idiotic client who will always send creative in this format...

    Also learn to love animated GIFs....

    But seriously Photoshop, Illustrator, a 3D app (3DSMAX, Maya) and something like FCP is a good thing to know.
  9. ILikeTurtles macrumors 6502

    Feb 17, 2010
    Animated GIFs? I seriously hope you were making a joke there.
  10. Thirteenva macrumors 6502a

    Jul 18, 2002
    Creativity is a large part, but still only a part. If you work in any sort of fast paced environment, you want to know that people know their way around the current software.

    To the OP. When I hire, i look for more in-depth knowledge of Photoshop and Indesign, and a working knowledge of illustrator. BUT, it's also important the the person understand when to use each tool, and why. Some people only want to work in photoshop and nothing else.

    Also, since we also do web, I require designers to be familiar with dreamweaver and understand HTML/CSS. But this is going to be company dependent.
  11. decksnap macrumors 68040


    Apr 11, 2003
    Must know:
    Type manager software (FontXplorer, Suitcase, etc)
    FTP clients

    Should know if you actually want a job:
    Dreamweaver and the like
    Keynote & Powerpoint

    I would say though that learning the programs is the easy part and doesn't really qualify you for any job above straight production.
  12. lucidmedia macrumors 6502a

    Oct 13, 2008
    Wellington, New Zealand
    I agree with this post.

    Due to the current economy, the market (at least my market) is saturated with laid-off print designers who have between 3-10 years of experience.

    So, if you plan on competing against them, you have to know your print software well.

    Of course, competing against them is not a smart thing to do, as they are out of work because there is less of a demand for those skills.

    Entry-level designers getting work these days have experience in print, web, and interaction design.

    Having some HTML/CSS/JS/PHP under your belt as well as some Flash/As3 is a smart idea...

  13. Thirteenva macrumors 6502a

    Jul 18, 2002
    I can second this. Only what i'm seeing is two types of people. The first is people with 7+ years experience in only print. The second group is people right out of college with no web experience at all because only some colleges even offer a course in basic HTML.
    I would say that If you want to compete, simply be well rounded. Specialize later in your career. But at an entry level, be able to do a variety of things well, because you'll be unlikely to be very good at any one thing when you're just starting out. Let's face it, how many new designers have great portfolios? They may show some promise, but they don't blow anyone away. Your edge will be your ability to go from print to web, or to design a site and develop the HTML/CSS on your own. Some company's will take someone "green" over someone seasoned if the difference is a wider spectrum of skill that they can mould.

    I think we're making the same point but I disagree on the words. There's demand for these skills, but there's also a need to know web was well, especially at smaller companies.

    I agree here. The more you know the better off you are. But definitely make sure you know HTML/CSS and Flash at a minimum.
  14. Chris7 thread starter macrumors 6502

    Aug 8, 2008
    Lost in Thought
    Thanks LeviG, AdeFlowler, covisio, GeraldButton, opeter, alexlovesmacs, ezekielrage 99, ILikeTurtles, Thirteenva, decksnap, and lucidmedia.

    Very helpful. You’ve listed some programs that I didn’t even know existed.


  15. GeraldButton macrumors member

    Feb 16, 2010
    Newfoundland, Canada
    Actually, some clients you will find will have some really old lame animated GIF files they will want you to add to there website. And whats worse is you will know it will look stupid and tacky, but hey the customer is always right!
    Interesting you bring up some 3D applications there. While it would be good to know a slew of those, really when a company is hiring for 3D Artists I have only ever seen a listing for training/expierence/certification in Maya, only TWICE did I ever see anything different. One for 3D Studio Max, and, I kid you not, someone looking for an artist with training etc. etc. in Bryce.

    Learning to use Maya in the field of 3D is the best way to go, so many companies use it but the learning curve is not the nicest.
    Your welcome sir.
  16. RebootD macrumors 6502a


    Jan 27, 2009
    NW Indiana
    If you want to just fiddle around go non-Adobe but if they are serious you have-to-know-Adobe-apps period. That means mastering Photoshop and Illustrator at the least, but moving into InDesign and the dreaded QuarkXPress is a must if you will be doing any page layout. (Most shops have moved to InDesign but some still cling to the archaic Quark 4.5)

    Another point is don't do what I did and not learn HTML/CSS from the outset. The job market is fierce and most employers won't even consider you unless you know how to code/update code from at least a basic level.
  17. decksnap macrumors 68040


    Apr 11, 2003
    Larger point maybe - the tools (programs) are always changing. The creative fundamentals aren't. On some level, you will always be learning, and relearning, different tools to express that creativity. Comes with the territory. The creative bit is the real focus.
  18. definitive macrumors 68000


    Aug 4, 2008
    photoshop, illustrator, indesign, bridge, acrobat reader pro, quarkxpress, keynote, ftp software, font management software, ms office (mainly powerpoint and word), flash with actionscript, dreamweaver (html/css with advanced being javascript, php and mysql).

    with just photoshop and illustrator you'll be greatly limiting your job opportunities.
  19. ezekielrage_99 macrumors 68040


    Oct 12, 2005
    Just talking from experience, the idea of dumb out of date client requests from a professional standpoint.

    It really depends on print, broadcast or web and which specific area you are going into... I am a senior designer who works with both broadcast and web, thus I use 3d apps and Photoshop 90% of the time hence why I suggested 3d as a good thing to get into (well depending on patience and interest).

    But the knowledge of extra package other designers don't know will always help in getting a job even if it's a basic knowledge.
  20. ChicoWeb macrumors 65816


    Aug 16, 2004
    You guys forgot, Word. Word is good for effects and logos. Also, Powerpoint is good for re-sizing and sending images to clients. MS Paint, especially the pencil tool. I'd say anything Microsoft related is a must these days.
  21. adelaidelopez macrumors newbie

    Mar 16, 2010
    You need to know lots of programs which are somehow related to each other if you don't know anyone than you will be struck in between. This are the programs you need to know Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, CorelDRAW, Adobe InDesign; Microsoft PowerPoint; Macromedia Dreamweaver, Fireworks, Flash, and Director.
  22. jeremy h macrumors 6502

    Jul 9, 2008
    When you leave college you're going to still be inexperienced - but the most valuable thing an employer can get from you is the assurance you're a fast learner. (Many employers will want a certain level of knowledge but with junior positions they will expect to have to bring you 'on' - the classic line 'Don't worry we can teach you that bit' will often come out if the prospective employee looks like they'll be a fast learner.)

    So to demonstrate that, in addition to knowing the specific applications mentioned I'd also add that the op's friend should try and learn/research the why's of software. I think these days inexperienced people rush to do tutorials in specific tasks in specific software suites without understanding how the software works on a most basic level.

    I would rather take someone on who has taken the trouble to learn the fundamentals on what a vector graphic is, resolution, why CSS is better than tables, what a renderer does in a 3d program etc etc than someone who has picked a couple of bits of software and parroted a few specific techniques in an attempt to wow me.

    I've found that people who demonstrate an intellectual curiosity as to why things happen are often then very fast at learning the 'how'.
  23. kernkraft macrumors 68020


    Jun 25, 2009
    Apparently, they were huge in the last millennia!
  24. MattSepeta macrumors 65816


    Jul 9, 2009
    375th St. Y

    Haha, my company LOVES the animated GIFS. I have been working on google ad campaigns with animated GIFs, its so tedious!

    As far as the original question goes, I have different advice.

    Become well rounded in ALL electronic media production.

    I got my job because I knew FCP, Photoshop, Some Flash, and was all-around good at computers.

    Instead of bouncing around between three different freelance contractors, they hired me on full time as "Creative".

    Now, in my day-today, I will use Photoshop, Indesign, FCP, After Effects, Filezilla, Pro Tools, Audacity, and Illustrator from time to time. When I am not in front of a computer, I am filming interviews, promos, etc. When I am not filming, I am taking product photos, promo photos, etc. When I am not doing that, I am tweaking copy text for online content.

    In this day and age of over-saturated markets, you just need to find a way to make yourself marketable. Either do everything, or do something REALLY well. I found it was easier to do everything, now, through on the job passive "training", I can do it all really well.

    I probably could not get a job as a "Graphic Designer" if were to lose my job tomorrow, BUT, I am 100% confident that I could find another job, because I consider myself incredibly well rounded, and a very fast/enthusiastic learner.

    Tell your friend not to limit themself to Graphic Design courses. Tell them to take some video production, some photo, some english, etc.

    Employers are going to be trying to cut corners everywhere these days, so If they can hire one person to do 3 peoples work, they will.
  25. ezekielrage_99 macrumors 68040


    Oct 12, 2005
    Unfortunately they still are... I can guarantee I have at least one client a month either ask for something as an animated GIF or send me an animated GIF for artwork...

    1995 still lives on through out-of-date clients...

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