What Does a Creative Designer Do?

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Discover what a creative designer does and the different career paths in this field, from a graphic designer for a marketing company to a freelance t-shirt designer.

[Featured image] A female creative designer, wearing a white top, is working on her laptop and writing information in a notebook as she holds a pen.

A creative designer produces artwork and design concepts that can take on many different forms. For example, you might create visuals, brainstorm concepts, work with team members to develop concepts, and ensure that the final product is aligned with the company or client standards.

Many creative designers work in the marketing and advertising industry and often create brand assets, such as:

  • Printed brochures

  • Online banners

  • Social media ads

  • Product packaging

  • Brand identity assets

In these roles, you would often collaborate with colleagues, clients, or a marketing team to generate artistic elements used to promote a brand and attract customers’ attention. 

The role of a creative designer

As a creative designer you’ll typically be producing art to promote a company or specific services and products. A ‘creative designer’ is an umbrella term that multiple creative professions across a variety of industries fall under, including fashion designers, photographers, artists, and graphic designers.

In this role, you can expect to help create a brand identity and enhance profitability for your employers. You’ll typically work in a team setting and be tasked with generating ideas and artistic concepts. For instance, a creative designer might collaborate with an online education platform to create promotional materials. In an attempt to draw more parents to the platform, the creative designer might create a printed postcard, matching social ads, or layout a digital newsletter. 

As a creative designer, you must be able to take direction, turn concepts into visuals, communicate with clients, and implement feedback to create a final product. At times, you may brainstorm and implement your own unique ideas. In other instances, you’ll be responsible for building upon others’ ideas. 

Is a graphic designer the same as a creative designer? 

A graphic designer is a type of creative designer, but it's just one job that falls under this category. While graphic designer and creative designer are sometimes used interchangeably, they aren’t the same. 

Creative designer is a broad term that describes designers who work with a variety of different mediums in several different industries, including but not limited to graphic design. As a graphic designer, you are responsible for creating physical or digital visuals to communicate a specific idea. In a creative designer role, you won’t just be tasked with just creating visuals, but often also the ideas, concepts, and innovations of it.    

What are the duties and responsibilities of a creative designer?

A creative designer spends a lot of time generating artistic concepts, but there are additional responsibilities that coincide with this job. You’ll work directly with clients, create visual assets, and often collaborate with other creatives to finish a project. 

More specifically, the daily duties of a creative designer include: 

  • Interacting with clients to understand their campaign, goals, and desired deliverables

  • Generating design quotes 

  • Turning a client’s ideas into a comprehensive creative brief

  • Thinking creatively to generate visuals that connect with an audience

  • Conducting market research

  • Working with different mediums and identifying the best option for each project

  • Using computer-aided design (CAD) and software like InDesign to generate visuals

  • Working on layouts and the overall presentation of a campaign

  • Coordinating with other creatives like artists or photographers for necessary elements

  • Presenting drafts to the client and making requested updates to the design

  • Providing files to necessary vendors like a printer or web designer

What skills do you need to become a creative designer?

There are several technical and workplace skills that you may need to develop for a successful career as a creative designer. Technical skills are skills that are teachable and quantifiable, such as understanding design principles and layout. Meanwhile, workplace skills are innate and learned from experience, such as strong communication and project management skills. 

Requirements vary among employers and industries. In general, if you want to become a creative designer, the following technical and workplace skills are helpful: 

Technical skills

  • Design principles: As a creative designer, you’ll need to know how to bring elements together, like color, imagery, and text, to convey a message. 

  • Ideation: You’ll generate and develop new ideas that align with the client’s needs.

  • Branding: You need to understand key components that make a brand and how they work together to communicate with an intended audience.

  • Designing for different media: You should be familiar with techniques and materials for designing digital and print media.

  • UX: You’ll likely need base knowledge behind a “user experience” that impacts a visitor’s time spent on a website.  

  • Design software: Many creative designers use Adobe Creative Cloud, which includes Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. 

Read more: What Are Technical Skills?

Workplace skills

  • Creativity: As a designer, you may need strong creative skills and a desire to produce attention-grabbing, effective visuals with regularity.

  • Communication: From client meetings to coordinating photoshoots, a creative designer may have to communicate with a variety of different people. Additionally, you must be able to use designs to convey the intended message. 

  • Project management: You will likely be working on multiple projects at one time, so you’ll need to manage each one accordingly. Some companies use project management software too, like Monday.com or Asana. 

  • Problem-solving: You may need to troubleshoot challenges. When a client isn’t pleased with a design or a photographer misses a deadline to provide assets, you’ll need to manage these issues and find quick solutions.

Read more: Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills: What’s the Difference?

Where do creative designers work?

Creative designers can work in a variety of different industries. Some are self-employed and provide freelance creative design services, others work directly for an organization or agency.

Many businesses, no matter their location or product, needs creative design. Whether the creative designer is responsible for working on the company’s brand or directly on a product, this career has many different paths. Some common industries you may work in as a creative designer include:

  • Design service agencies

  • Consulting services

  • Advertising

  • Cosmetics companies

  • Motion pictures and videos 

  • Public relations

  • Print marketing 

  • Colleges and universities

Examples of creative roles

When you search for a position as a creative designer, you’ll likely find a variety of job titles since it’s a broad term. Job titles are more specific, each requiring a slightly different skill set. Examples of job titles that fall under creative designer include: 

Graphic designer

A graphic designer is a visual communicator that turns an idea into a visual concept. A graphic designer might create artwork for ads, design and layout a magazine, craft a direct mail campaign, or produce digital pieces for websites. 

Multimedia designer

As a multimedia designer you will use art, sound, and design to create animations or videos. In this role, you’ll typically be less focused on static pieces and more focused on concepts with moving parts. Multimedia designers often work in TV, film, set design, or animation.

Web designer

In this role, you’ll focus on the website visitor’s experience. As a web designer, you’ll create the layout and visuals that impact a user’s experience. Web designers could work for a company or work as a freelancer, creating sites for multiple companies. 

T-shirt designer

As a t-shirt designer, you will create specific ideas for shirts. Everything from brand logos and inspirational quotes to images and vintage graphics become wearable art. T-shirt designers might work for a clothing company or offer their skills to companies as a freelancer.

Creative artworker

In this role, you’ll be a go-between between creatives and clients. Common tasks you can expect include finalizing designs and putting them on the final product. As a creative artworker, you might take a design from a graphic designer and fit it to a specific product package, for example. To do so, you may need to tweak the design to fit and to create a polished finished product. 

Brand designer 

In this role, you'll contribute to creating the visuals associated with a brand, that help build brand identity and help consumers recognize and remember the brand more readily. As a brand designer, you’ll likely work on or create anything that falls under the brand’s aesthetics, including the logo, brand colors, typography, wall decor, and letterhead. 

What education level is required to become a creative designer?

For most entry-level design jobs, you may need a bachelor’s degree in a design-related field like graphic design, visual design, or multimedia design, although it isn’t required. Having a degree not only helps you build foundational design skills, but it also gives you an opportunity to start a portfolio to show potential employers. 

Read more: What Is a Bachelor’s Degree? Requirements, Costs, and More


What do you need to study to work as a creative designer?

To become a creative designer, consider choosing a bachelor’s degree that’s specific to the type of designer that you’d like to be. Areas of study could include graphic design, multimedia design, or website design. Ideally, the program will include coursework in visual design, studio art, computerized design, typography, and commercial graphics production. Having a background in design theory and principles, marketing, art history, and fine arts can also help you become well-rounded and prepared for your future industry.

You can also go into this field with a degree in marketing, advertising, or public relations. Since many graphic designers work in these industries, employers see the value of these skills combined with artistry. If you have a degree in a different field, completing a training program in design can help you hone the necessary skills.

How much do creative designers earn?

A creative designer’s salary depends on a variety of factors, including the industry you work in and your geographic area. For example, some of the highest-paid creative designers work in New York and New Jersey. The salaries for creative designers vary for example: 

  • Graphic designer: $50,710 [1]

  • Digital designers and web developers: $77,200 [2]

  • Special effects artists and designers: $78,790 [3]

Is there good career progression for creative designers?

A creative designer usually starts in an entry-level position such as an assistant designer. After gaining experience, you may move up to a mid-level one, followed by a senior-level role such as senior designer before becoming a creative director. As a creative director, you oversee a small team of artists, designers, and other creatives within a company. The director level is usually the highest rank available for creative designers. 

Designers may also opt to freelance. A designer might work for a company for a few years to build a portfolio and then start their own design business. For salaried designers, freelancers tend to migrate towards a specialty, like print design, graphic design, or website design.

Next steps

Start building job-ready design skills to start your career as a creative designer. Consider taking online courses on Coursera like Graphic Design Specialization from the California Institute of the Arts or Modern and Contemporary Art and Design Specialization from The Museum of Modern Art. These classes can provide a window into the industry and allow you to figure out if this is a career path for you.



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Article sources

1. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Graphic Designers, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/graphic-designers.htm#:~:text=%2449%2C600.” Accessed June 15, 2022. 

2. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Web Developers and Digital Designers, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/web-developers.htm.” Accessed June 15, 2022. 

3. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Special Effects Artists and Animators, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/multimedia-artists-and-animators.htm.” Accessed April 25, 2022. 

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