Design is an integral part of everyday life. Media and consumer goods all require design of one type or another as do buildings of all kinds. Thus the various branches of design have become well established, each with its own requirements, regulations, and practices.
Graphic designers determine the look of magazines, books, and other reading matter; Web pages; interactive displays; advertising billboards and brochures; and product packaging. They design logos for companies. Their designs need to be eye-catching and memorable, and they must communicate the information or emotions that are intended. The expense of reproducing the design may also be an issue; for Web pages and interactive displays, technical decisions may be necessary.
Almost one-third of the industry's revenues are earned from providing businesses with design services such as logos; about one-fifth are from advertising designs. Significantly, Web sites now provide slightly more design work than publications.
Firms that offer graphic design services tend to be small with few employees. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 22 percent of graphic designers are self-employed.
Employers prefer to hire those who hold a bachelor's degree in graphic design or a related subject. Many art schools and other postsecondary schools offer programs accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).
Industrial designers develop the concept for a manufactured product and collaborate with engineers, marketers, and other specialists to refine the plans and to test the technical and commercial viability of the product. They often specialize in a particular type of product, such as electronics, automobiles, or sports equipment.
About 23 percent of industrial designers were self-employed in 2018, and about 31 percent are employed by manufacturers. Many work for small, specialized firms offering design services. Historically, these firms have earned more than half of their revenue from providing product designs. Designing and fabricating models is a noteworthy, but smaller, revenue source.
Most industrial designers have a bachelor's degree in industrial design, engineering, or architecture. The NASAD accredits many postsecondary programs in this subject. A master's in business administration can be a useful additional credential because product development involves many business decisions.
Interior designers have many materials to work with to create an effect: furniture, appliances, paints, fabrics, tiles, wood, and lighting fixtures, among others. The designer is guided among all these choices by a budget, input from the client, a knowledge of various styles, good taste, and skill with technical issues. To ensure that these workers have the level of knowledge needed to handle all of these concerns, many states require licensure for those who want to advertise themselves as registered interior designers. Licensing requirements vary, but most mandate a combination of education (often a bachelor's degree) and experience (often two years), plus passing the National Council for Interior Design Qualification exam.
About 18 percent of interior designers work in firms that offer architectural, engineering, and related services. However, almost twice as many work in firms offering specialized design services.
In 2018, about 23 percent of interior designers were self-employed. Most interior design firms have fewer than 10 employees. Unsurprisingly, much of the revenue earned by these businesses is from interior design services, while the resale of merchandise is a much smaller revenue stream.
Landscapes that are designed by professionals include parks, golf courses, the margins of highways and airports, and the green spaces among residential and commercial developments. Designers select plant materials based on their appearance, costs, suitability for the site and the local climate, and maintenance requirements. They analyze reports on land conditions, such as drainage. They may suggest moving earth to reshape the contours of the land, perhaps to alter the flow of water. They confer with engineers, discuss plans with clients, and work with landscaping contractors.
State laws require licensure for professionals who call themselves landscape architects. The usual path to qualification is to earn a bachelor's or master's degree in the field from an accredited school, get a few years of work experience with a licensed architect, and pass the Landscape Architect Registration Examination. In some states it is possible to sit for this exam with less schooling but more work experience.
Design work is also handled by another class of workers, landscape designers. In most states, they do not need to be licensed, although they often work under the supervision of landscape architects or for licensed landscape contractors who implement the designs. Some learn their skills on the job by working for contractors. Others get formal training, often a two-year degree in landscape design.
Approximately 54 percent of landscape architects were employed in the architectural, engineering, and related services industry in 2018. The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not provide data for workers who call themselves landscape designers. The largest share of the landscape architecture industry's revenue comes from services for nonresidential projects, followed by about one-quarter that comes from services for residential projects. Many firms in this industry are solo ventures; in 2018, nearly one in five landscape architects were self-employed.
Workers in all of these design fields have largely moved away from drawing boards and now develop their plans within computer applications. Many graphic designs are intended to be displayed on computers or printed from digital page layouts. Designs for industrial products, interiors, and landscapes are now created in computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) software. The software can create renditions for sharing with clients and collaborators, and in manufacturing the digital design often can control the tools that fabricate the object.