Four images next to each other show the typical roles of a graphic designer, a UX designer, a fashion designer and a product designer.

What Does a Creative Designer Do?

by Cynthia Salgado | | 17 min read

Designers seem to find new ways to confuse people about the work we do! Different companies might list widely different responsibilities for the same role, and sometimes different roles will have an identical description. Here, we’ll look closely at one role, the creative designer, the responsibilities of the role and what it takes to become one.

Creative designers play a critical role in shaping our experiences and perceptions, from the products we use to the advertisements we see. Here is all there is to know about creative designers.

A creative designer is much more than someone who knows how to use design software. They work with clients to understand their needs and expectations and then create designs that communicate a message or solve a problem in a visually appealing way.

One of the most important skills a creative designer must have is the ability to think outside the box. They must develop unique ideas that stand out in a crowded marketplace, which requires creativity, imagination, and the willingness to take risks.

Additionally, creative designers must have excellent communication skills. They must clearly and persuasively explain their design choices and rationale to clients and team members and actively listen to their feedback to incorporate it into their designs as needed.

“Designers actually can change the world for the better by making the complicated simple and finding beauty in truth.”

— Michael Bierut, graphic design critic at Yale School of Art and author of “79 Short Essays on Design”

What Is a Creative Designer?

A creative designer is a professional who uses their skills and expertise to create visual concepts that communicate ideas and messages. They are responsible for the aesthetics of a project, taking into consideration color schemes, typography, layout, and other design elements to produce a visually appealing product. As a creative designer, you will collaborate with others, including clients, team members, and stakeholders, to understand their or the target audience's needs and develop a design that meets them. Ultimately, the creative designer brings a unique perspective to any project they work on, making it stand out from the crowd.

Creative designers deliver a range of design assets to their clients, depending on the project. Here are some typical deliverables you can expect to hand off as a creative designer:

  • Logos and brand identities: Creative designers may develop a logo and overall brand identity for a company or product.

    Image capture showing Pfizer's website

    Pfizer uses a dedicated website to distribute their brand assets.

    © Pfizer, Fair Use

  • Print and digital marketing materials: This includes things like brochures, flyers, posters, social media graphics, and email newsletters.

  • Website design: Creative designers frequently collaborate with web developers to create aesthetically compelling and user-friendly websites.

  • User interfaces (UI) and user experience (UX) design: Designers may create interfaces for mobile apps or websites that are easy to use and navigate.

  • Packaging design: Creative designers can also work on product packaging, ensuring it is aesthetically pleasing and functional.

In addition to these specific deliverables, creative designers may guide the branding strategy and provide support as needed.

What Is the Difference between a Creative Designer and a Graphic Designer?

Meme showing  a group of people making requests to a designer

© Reddit, Fair Use

There is some overlap between these two professions. The main difference lies in the specific types of design tasks they are responsible for and their level of involvement in the conceptualization process.

  1.  Both professions require a strong sense of creativity and an eye for design, but graphic designers typically create artwork specifically for print or digital media. They may design logos, advertisements, brochures, or websites. Creative designers have a broader scope of work and may be involved in a wider variety of design tasks. Additionally, they may create print or digital media pieces, design physical products or interior spaces, and even be involved in planning and project management.

  2. Creative designers often have a more conceptual role in the design process. They may develop a project's overall look and feel, choose color schemes and typography, and create sketches or mockups to communicate their ideas to clients or other team members.

You can learn more about the role of Graphic Designers here.

Responsibilities of the Creative Designer

The roles and responsibilities of a creative designer vary widely from company to company and project to project. You will likely find some combination of the following tasks in the job description:

  • Collaborate with clients, stakeholders, and other team members to understand project requirements, goals, and objectives and translate them into design briefs.

  • Research to gather information about the target audience, industry trends, competitors, and other relevant factors to inform design decisions.

  • Develop unique and innovative design concepts that align with the client's brand identity and vision and present them to clients for feedback and approval.

  • Create sketches, prototypes, wireframes, or mockups to visualize the design concept before finalizing it.

  • Create high-quality designs for different media such as print materials, websites, mobile apps or games.

  • Ensure the final design meets technical specifications such as file formats or color profiles.

  • Test designs for usability and functionality by conducting user testing and analyzing metrics such as engagement or conversion rates.

  • Iterate designs based on feedback from clients or users until the final product is achieved.

  • Collaborate with team members, such as copywriters, web developers or marketing specialists, to ensure consistency across all aspects of the project.

  • Maintain complex projects at the same time, all the while meeting deadlines and providing client support as needed.

As a successful creative designer, you should balance creativity with technical expertise and collaboration skills. You must be able to think critically about design challenges while remaining flexible and adaptable as projects evolve.

Creative Designer Career Paths

As a creative designer, you will have a range of career paths that you can pursue based on your interests and skills. Some creative designers may choose to specialize in a particular type of design, such as web design or fashion design. Others may work in a specific industry, such as advertising or architecture.

Some common career paths for creative designers include:

  • Graphic designer: As mentioned earlier, graphic designers focus on creating designs specifically for print or digital media. They may work in advertising agencies, publishing companies, or other organizations where they are responsible for creating promotional materials and marketing campaigns.

  • Web designer: Web designers create designs for websites and other online platforms. They must be familiar with web development technologies such as HTML and CSS and user experience (UX) design principles.

  • Fashion designer: Fashion designers create clothing and accessories that are both functional and aesthetically pleasing. They must be knowledgeable about textiles, color theory, and fashion trends.

  • Interior designer: Interior designers create designs for interior spaces such as homes, offices, and public spaces. They must balance functionality with aesthetics while considering lighting and acoustics.

  • Product designer: Product designers create designs for physical products such as electronics, furniture, or household appliances. They are proficient in aspects such as ergonomics and manufacturing processes.

Regardless of their career path, creative designers can expect to work in a fast-paced environment where they must constantly adapt to new challenges and technologies. With the right skills and experience, however, they can enjoy a rewarding career that allows them to use their creativity to impact the world.

Skills and Education Required to Be a Creative Designer

To become a successful creative designer, having a combination of technical skills and artistic ability is crucial. This includes a strong understanding of design principles and techniques and preferably proficiency in design software.

Many creative designers hold a degree in graphic design, fine arts, or a related field. However, many successful designers are self-taught or have pursued alternative educational paths.

In addition to technical skills and education, several key personal qualities can help make someone a successful creative designer. These include:

  • Creativity: Creative designers must be able to think outside the box and produce unique and innovative solutions to design challenges.

  • Attention to detail: Design work often involves working with tiny details that can significantly affect a project's overall look and feel. A good creative designer should be able to pay close attention to these details and ensure that everything looks exactly right.

  • Flexibility: Design projects can change rapidly based on client feedback, budget constraints, or other factors. A successful creative designer must be able to adapt quickly and remain flexible throughout the design process.

  • Communication skills: Designers must be able to express themselves clearly, both in written form and verbally. Communication is crucial as misunderstandings can be expensive—you may need to iterate more times than necessary or even redo everything from scratch, which will cost you time and money and strain client relations. 

  • Passion for design: This means staying up-to-date with the latest trends and technologies in the field while pursuing your interests and passions in design.

To become a successful creative designer, you must work hard, be dedicated, and be willing to learn and grow as a designer and as a professional. With these qualities, however, anyone can succeed in this exciting field!

Creative Designer Salaries

Creative Designer salaries can vary widely depending on factors such as location, industry, and level of experience. In the United States, the median annual wage for a graphic designer, as per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, was $52,110 as of May 2019.

However, creative designers working in industries such as advertising or software development may earn significantly more than this, with top earners making upwards of $100,000 per year.

In addition to base salaries, many creative designers also receive benefits such as health insurance, retirement savings plans, and paid time off. Freelance designers may also have the potential to earn more per project compared to those working full-time for a company.

Other Benefits and Compensation for Creative Designers

In addition to base salaries and benefits, creative designers may receive other forms of compensation. For example, some companies offer bonuses or profit-sharing plans based on performance or company profits.

Creative designers may also work on high-profile projects that boost their portfolio and reputation within the industry. This can lead to increased job opportunities and higher earning potential in the future.

Finally, creative designers may have access to additional resources, such as professional development opportunities or networking events. These resources can help them stay up-to-date with the latest trends and technologies while expanding their professional network.

How to Become a Creative Designer

You can take several steps to become a creative designer:

  • Gain experience: There is nothing better than real-life experience to help you learn and grow in this profession. You can start with freelance projects or internships to build your portfolio and gain hands-on experience working with clients.

  • Develop your skills: Take courses or workshops in design principles, software applications, and other areas to help you develop your skills as a creative designer. The IxDF platform offers access to various online courses in creativity, visual design, and UX management.

  • Build your portfolio: Your portfolio is essential to demonstrate your skills and abilities as a creative designer. Make sure to highlight projects that demonstrate your versatility as a designer.  The IxDF shows you how to create a portfolio to land your dream job.

Network: Attend industry events, join professional organizations, and network with other designers to build relationships and learn about new opportunities in the field. Our ever-growing online community is an ideal place for you to find inspiration and support from people who understand what it means to be a creative problem-solver, showcase your work and connect with other designers.

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Adesh Shah explains the importance of networking and how IxDF local groups help him achieve his professional goals.

© Interaction Design Foundation, CC BY-SA 4.0

  • Stay up-to-date: The design world is constantly evolving, so it is important to stay aware of the latest trends, technologies, and techniques in the field. Attend conferences, read industry publications, and subscribe to publications such as our weekly newsletter.

Follow these steps and continually refine your skills and portfolio to pursue a successful career as a creative designer.

The Take Away

In a nut-shell, creative designers are problem-solver visionaries that bring life to an idea through design. They must have the ability to think outside the box and excellent communication skills. A typical day in a creative designer's life includes collaboration with clients to conceptualize and design logos and brand identity guidelines, create print and digital materials, design websites or user interfaces, or dabble with packaging design.

If you have a knack for creativity and a passion for design, you are well on your way to becoming a creative designer. Then, all you have to do is develop your skills, network with fellow designers, and, more importantly, build a portfolio that you can show proudly to potential employers.

References and Where to Learn More

Understand what graphic design is and how it shapes visual UX.

Read this interesting report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics about employment and wages for creative professionals.

Have a look at Michael Bierut’s excellent advice in his book, 79 Short Essays on Design:

Bierut, Michael. 2012. Seventy-Nine Short Essays on Design (Princeton Architectural Pr).

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© Interaction Design Foundation, CC BY-SA 3.0

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