Climbing the Hierarchy of a Graphic Designer

As a student that will eventually graduate and join the 9-5 job force, it is hard to imagine the future and where life after education will take you. The classes and tracks in school were not created with the design to lead you to the top position, but instead, they prepare you for junior and entry-level positions. If any, there is little conversation about where your junior position will lead you and how to get there. This career guide will lead a Junior Graphic Designers or anyone that doesn’t know the lifecycle of designers, to the top.


Junior Graphic Designer


With any job and little experience outside of your college education (that is if you went to college, props to the self-taught), the placement will be as a Junior Graphic Design position. This position will last for 1-3 years with the subordinate work of the designer. Starting at this position and learning to grow from your work and experiences is vital for optimal growth.


Related tasks that are assigned at this position would be to create layouts, redrawing logos, correcting typography, and overall creating mock-ups of designs. This position will fall under the leadership of the Senior Designer, if not the Mid-Level Designer.


Graphic Designer


The next step up from a Junior designer is a Mid-Level Graphic Designer will have experience of 3-5 years, whether that’s an agency, freelance, or in-house. They will work with both the Junior and the Senior designers to complete work. As the designers grow, they will be given larger tasks and will work more independently. The designer will have more experience speaking directly with the clients.


Senior Graphic Designer


The position above the Mid-Level designer is the Senior Designer with 5-8 years of experience. Coming out of the Mid-Level position, this person will take on more responsibilities and have the duty of overseeing the work of the Junior and Mid-Level designers while the directors at the company will oversee their work.


A person with this title will have the responsibility of taking the lead of advertising campaigns and designs they will have a one-on-one relationship with the clients their work will focus on the start of a project to the result (rather than a small portion).


Art Director


If not the most, the Art Director is the closest position to the top as a Junior Designer can climb. The Art Director is responsible for overseeing the work of the lower-positioned designers. This role is less design work and hands-off but focused on leadership and guiding the team to create a successful and creative campaign.


The Art Director will work closely with the Senior Designer to focus on the advertisement campaign as a larger whole and work both separately and together to speak with the client(s). The main focus of the director is to work the overall aesthetics of the project and hand out responsibilities it takes to get there to the Junior, Mid-Level and Senior designers.


Continuing Onward: Creative Director


Although the track for a Graphic Designer stops at an Art Director, there are still higher positions to achieve that may come from a different background. The Creative Director works as a whole to oversee the entire creative department and experience. Less focused on design techniques, the Creative Director focuses on implementing strategy and big ideas.


One of the friendliest faces to the name is Don Draper. He oversaw the entire creative team as a whole and helped implement how things were going to come together while assigning smaller roles to complete the greater whole. The Creative Director is the top leadership placement will come around 10+ years of experience towards the end of your career.


Learning about the hierarchy and different positions of a Graphic Designer can be confusing, especially when you went to school to be a Graphic Designer but never learned what comes next. We hope this helped you understand where you want to take your career in the upcoming years and work hard to one day be at the top!