Graphic designers and illustrators (NOC 5241)

About this job

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Source: WorkBC’s Career Trek

Graphic designers:

  • conceptualize and produce graphic art and visual materials to effectively communicate information for publications, advertising, films, packaging, posters, signs and interactive media such as Web sites and CDs.
  • work for advertising and graphic design firms, by establishments with advertising or communications departments and by multimedia production companies
  • may be self-employed.

Graphic designers who are also supervisors, project managers or consultants are included in this unit group.


  • conceptualize and create illustrations to represent information through images.
  • almost solely self-employed.
Common job titles
  • 3D artist
  • 3D modeler
  • advertising art director
  • designer, communication
  • designer, cover
  • designer, electronic / video games
  • 3D artist
  • 3D modeler
  • advertising art director
  • animated cartoon artist / colourist
  • animation artist / layout designer
  • animator, 2D / 3D / animated films


Annual provincial median salary


Source: 2016 Job Bank Wage data

Note:Estimated median employment income based on 2016 Job Bank median hourly wage rate (median annual salary = hourly wage rate x 40 (hours per week) x 52.14 (weeks per year))

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Source: 2016 Job Bank Wage Report


Graphic designers:

  • work with clients to establish the overall look, graphic elements and content of communications materials
  • determine strategies and the media best suited to produce the desired visual effect and the most appropriate communication materials
  • prepare sketches, layouts and graphic elements using traditional tools, multimedia software and image processing, layout and design software
  • estimate the cost of materials and time to complete graphic design projects
  • use either existing photograph and illustration banks and typography guides, or hire and act as creative directors of illustrators or photographers
  • coordinate all aspects of production for print, audio-visual or electronic materials, such as websites, CD-ROMs and interactive terminals
  • may also conduct marketing and public relations work, coordinate and manage sub-contracting, and supervise other graphic designers or technicians
  • develop the graphic elements that meet the clients' objectives
  • establish guidelines for illustrators or photographers


  • work with clients to establish the nature and content of illustrations required
  • develop and produce realistic or representational sketches and final illustrations, by hand or using computer-assisted design (CAD) software, for printed material such as books, magazines, packaging, greeting cards and stationery
  • research illustration concepts and employ traditional methods such as pen and ink or watercolour for book illustrations
  • help develop storyboards for electronic productions such as multimedia, interactive and digital products, and television advertising and productions
  • produce 2-D and 3-D animated drawings or computer illustrations

Work environment

Graphic designers and illustrators usually work in studios or offices, but increasingly work from home. Work hours tend to be Monday to Friday; however, some jobs demand more flexible hours or overtime.

Self-employed graphic designers or illustrators may be required to work longer hours, in part because they want to establish themselves or because they cannot afford to hire assistants or clerical staff. They may also adopt flexible hours in order to meet with clients in evenings or on weekends.

Because graphic artists and illustrators often spend a significant amount of time on computers and do work that requires intense concentration and hand-eye coordination, eye and wrist strain are possible.

Graphic designers and illustrators frequently work hard to meet deadlines, so they need to be able to handle stress.

Job requirements

Education, training & qualifications

Graphic designers and illustrators are required to have a university degree in visual arts with specialization in graphic design, commercial art, graphic communications or cartooning. Other professional requirements may include:

  • a college diploma in graphic arts or certification by the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada (GDC)
  • two years of design training
  • experience or training in multimedia design at a post-secondary college or technical institution
  • some training in biology, engineering, architecture or a scientific field for those interested in medical, technical or scientific illustration
  • a well-developed portfolio so clients and prospective employers can view the designer's abilities

Certification with GDC requires a confidential portfolio review of the person's work by the local GDC chapter. A designer must also have five to seven years of combined education and professional practice to receive a licentiate (LGDC) designation or have more than seven years of combined education and professional practice to receive a professional (MGDC) designation.


  • Motor Coordination
  • Innovative
  • Social
  • Verbal & Written Comprehension
  • Spatial Perception
  • General Learning Ability
View skills definitions

Education programs in B.C.

The following program areas are related to this occupation:
  • Animation, Commercial Art & Illustration
  • Communication Design
  • Design (General)
  • Graphic Design
  • Integrated/Multimedia
  • Pre-press/Desktop Publishing/Digital Imaging Design
  • Visual Arts
  • Web Technologies

For more information about programs offered specifically for this career, visit EducationPlannerBC.

Select a region to view regional outlook
Vancouver Island / Coast Mainland / Southwest Thompson-Okanagan Kootenay Cariboo Northeast North Coast & Nechako
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N/A - Data not available

Source: B.C. Labour Market Outlook

Insights from industry

Most job opportunities will arise within urban centres, where employment is typically more common. Digital animation continues to be a large and growing field. The television and film industry employs a large number of animators. In the illustration field, there is an expanding demand for digital artists; however, there is currently a surplus of artists to fill these positions.

An increasing desire for visual and “brand” appeal for information, goods and services means that graphic designers and illustrators will be wanted by product designers and by advertising and marketing firms. As a result, more and more designers are undertaking marketing and public relations work.

Specialized services in urban centres, including Flash web designers, Web 2.0, dynamic web developers, and in particular, sustainable design practitioners, are in demand. Sustainable design practice is relatively new, but growing quickly, so there is currently a demand for knowledge in this area for consultants and designers alike.

Many short (one year or less) training programs are offered. However, graduates from these programs do not fare as well in the labour market, since candidates with more extensive education have a greater chance of being hired.

Individuals beginning a career as an illustrator may wish to consider joining an illustrator or graphic arts organization for access to workshops, peer mentoring and opportunities for employment-related networking.

Career paths and resources

Career paths

Junior positions are open to recent graduates in different design sectors, such as with advertising agencies, communication design firms and newspapers. Many entry-level illustrators choose self-employment as an option.

With experience and further education, workers in this group may progress to management or senior positions such as senior designer, art director or creative director.

Additional resources