There’s no doubt that graphic design is one of the most in demand design jobs out there.You’ll find an opening in just about every industry.
Now, there are nuances to working as a graphic designer in different industries – but what does it mean to be a graphic designer in fashion?
In this article, we’ll talk about the role of a fashion graphic designer – from their day to day work and responsibilities. And if you’re interested in becoming one, I’ll share a guide including the skills and qualifications needed, a sample job description, and explore the possibility of working freelance (and how much money you can make!).
Why am I qualified to write about this stuff? In my 15 years of experience in the fashion industry, I’ve journeyed from being an in-house designer, starting my own brand (yep!), to growing my freelance career to $100,000+. Now, with all the knowledge I’ve learned along the way, I want to help fashion designers (and PDs, TDs, etc.) like you make it in the industry.
Fashion graphic designers create images and designs that you see on clothing, websites, social media, and advertisements. Fashion graphic designers work closely with the design team, including fashion designers and marketers to make sure everything looks on brand and appealing to customers.
A fashion graphic designer’s scope of work may differ depending on the brand they’re working for, but here are the key aspects of what a fashion graphic designer does:
It sounds like a lot! And it can be. Depending on the size of the brand, a fashion graphic designer’s role may be more specific or more broad. In a smaller brand, you’ll likely be doing alllll these things. But in a bigger brand, there could be multiple fashion graphic designers, each responsible for a smaller subset of more closely related tasks.
It’s not uncommon to see a designer doing both jobs when working for a fashion brand or a freelance client – but in its essence, these two roles are entirely different.
Fashion graphic designers create visuals for fashion brands – which can include logos, website layouts, marketing materials, and garment prints. Their role is to make appealing and cohesive brand visuals that may be used online or printed on the garments themselves.
On the other hand, fashion designers design clothing and accessories focusing on style, silhouette, fabric, and functionality. They create garments that will be produced by manufacturers, ensuring they reflect the brand’s aesthetic and target customer’s preferences.
Fashion graphic designers and fashion designers work together closely. For example, while a fashion designer/fashion technical designer may create the garment specs for a t-shirt, a fashion graphic designer may create a logo or text print design for it.
You’ve probably found a garment with a silhouette you LOVED but then has a nasty print you would just never wear (and vice versa). This shows how important both fashion apparel designers and fashion graphic designers are in shaping the products that sell for a fashion brand.
Fashion graphic designers and fashion designers may also collaborate on other projects such as marketing materials, packaging, labels, and trims – making sure that the products reflect the visual identity of the brand and also meet the technical specifications needed.
I’ve met many graphic designers who are interested in entering the fashion industry. Now, getting your foot in the door isn’t always easy, but it’s definitely doable.
Getting a job as a fashion graphic designer involves a combination of education, skills, and networking within the fashion industry. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you pursue a career as a fashion graphic designer:
To become a fashion graphic designer, practical experience matters the most. While a degree provides a foundation, real-world opportunities like internships, freelancing, and even having some personal projects are essential. In this field, hands-on learning often beats formal education, so focus on building your skills through actual design work.
A lot of companies offer graphic design internships, but if it’s hard for you to find one, creating personal projects is always an option.
Become proficient in graphic design software such as Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign. Learning these tools is a must as they are industry standards and essential for fashion graphic designers.
Develop a portfolio showcasing a variety of work – this may include logos, marketing materials, digital content, and garment prints. If possible, focus your coursework or projects on fashion-related design to build a portfolio specific to the industry.
If you’re not sure what to put in your portfolio, then you can hop on over to my Ultimate Guide to Creating Your Fashion Portfolio. Although this is catered more towards fashion designers, you’ll surely pick up a thing or two in there.
If you come across fashion graphic job descriptions online, this is what you’ll probably see:
We are seeking a creative and experienced Fashion Graphic Designer to join our dynamic team. The ideal candidate will have a passion for fashion and a strong background in graphic design. As a Fashion Graphic Designer, you will be responsible for creating visually appealing designs, including logos, marketing materials, digital content, and garment prints. You will collaborate closely with our fashion designers to ensure our brand’s visual identity is cohesive and stylish across all platforms.
Now, let’s dive right into how much cash fashion graphic designers make.
According to Glassdoor and ZipRecruiter, fashion graphic designers working in the USA can earn around $40,000 to $66,000 annually (including cash bonuses) and charge an hourly rate of $27 on average. Of course, these figures can go up or down depending on the company, area, and also your skills and experience.
But there’s so much more opportunities (and earning potential) in fashion graphic design outside of corporate work.
If you’re curious to know more…
Even in freelancing, graphic design is still one of the most in-demand jobs in the design industry and this of course includes the fashion industry.
Working freelance means you can choose your projects, set your rates, and have control over your creative process (while working flexibly at home in your PJ’s!).
But of course, there are challenges too. Finding consistent work requires networking skills and self-promotion. Plus, dealing with client negotiations and managing finances is now part of your job description.
Here are a few tips to get you ahead in the world of fashion freelancing:
A rookie mistake (that almost everyone commits) when entering freelancing is offering too many services.
This is why my BEST tip for anyone wanting to succeed in freelancing is to carve out your niche – regardless if you’re a freelance fashion designer, pattern maker, etc. Find something that sets you apart from everyone else, so you don’t have to compete for spots with a thousand other freelancers offering the same services.
Sure, it might be hard to find a lot of opportunities quickly, but when it comes, your future employer doesn’t have to think twice about hiring someone who meets exactly what they’re looking for.
That’s exactly what Michelle Fifis did. Michelle works as a freelance textile designer and has partnered with renowned brands such as Columbia Sportswear, Lucy Activewear, Jantzen Swimwear, Perry Ellis, etc.
P.S. – I know these terminologies can get confusing, so if you want a little refresher, here’s my article explaining what a textile designer does (and fabric designer, print designer, etc.).
Working freelance offers more flexibility with earning potential. Some of my FAST grad fashion freelancers can make over $100 an hour while working at their own time.
And if you’re not convinced, here are actual invoices that my FAST grads freelancers have been earning.
Atara Himmel, a New York based graphic designer specializing in brand design (whom I’ve personally hired and RECOMMEND) landed a $1500 retainer just for a single client.
Arguably one of the biggest challenges of becoming a freelancer, finding clients may seem like a huge obstacle to overcome – but the truth is, there’s a bunch of ways to find clients remotely.
If you want more insider insights, in this podcast ep with surface pattern designer and pattern maker Vanessa, we talk all about practical tips for freelancers who want to reach out to clients (and get responses) – along with other helpful practices on navigating freelancing platforms like Upwork.
Finding success as a freelance graphic designer is no easy feat. However, with the right strategies, you’ll make progress.
Keep showcasing your skills, reaching out to clients, and learning from every experience.
It’s these small, steady steps that build your freelance career.
If you want the full step-by-step process, get started with my free guide to freelancing in fashion.