What Is a Visual Designer? (+ How to Become One in 5 Steps)

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Learn about the role and career path of a visual designer with this article.

[Featured Image] A visual designer looks over sketches and drawings of a website or application design.

What is visual design?

Visual design focuses on enhancing the aesthetic and usability of a digital product. It is the strategic implementation of images, colors, fonts, and layouts. Although many visual design elements deal with the look of a product, the feel of the product is equally important. The goal of visual design is to create an interface that provides users with the optimal experience. 

Visual design vs. graphic design

Visual design and graphic design have many similarities. However, there are some critical distinctions between visual designers and graphic designers. First, graphic design may encompass print publications and other non-digital media forms. Visual design typically refers to web-based and digital product enhancement. The goal of graphic design is to communicate a specific idea or message. In contrast, visual designers are responsible for shaping the larger brand image. 

Visual design vs. UI design

User interface (UI) design is the creation of an application’s visual elements. It has two primary focus areas—interaction design (how elements are organized in an interface) and visual design. UI designers tend to focus on creating a seamless, visually pleasing user experience. Conversely, the primary goal for visual designers is to effectively demonstrate the image a brand wants to convey to its consumers through its digital designs. 

What is a visual designer?

Visual designers work in many different industries across various platforms. Companies or organizations may hire them to design websites, games, movies, and other digital design projects. Accordingly, certain specializations require knowledge of a specific business sector. The following section is a sample job description for a visual designer role. 

Visual designer job description

  • Work with a brand’s guidelines to establish the look and feel of their digital interfaces.

  • Source image and video assets.

  • Collaborate with marketing, development, information technology (IT), and operations teams.

  • Create and manage data visualization, production assets, interaction models, mockups, and more. 

  • Manage multiple projects and strategize deadlines.

  • Design logos, infographics, and icons.

Visual designer salary

The average annual salary for a visual designer in the US is $69,278. According to Glassdoor, visual designers report an additional yearly pay of $5,380 [1]. Combined, these figures equal a total annual compensation of $74,658. Several factors can influence the salary of a visual designer, including industry, specialization, expertise level, and company. 

How to become a visual designer in 5 steps

In the US, 75 percent of visual designers hold a bachelor’s degree, and 12 percent have an associate degree [2]. Common areas of study include visual communication, graphic design, and fine arts. You can learn more about pursuing this career path in the following walkthrough. 

1. Build the essential skills. Creativity is a critical component of a visual designer’s role. You must be able to strategize the use of color, lines, typography, and white space. Since visual designers often work closely with design teams and companies to create brand imagery, you must also possess excellent written and verbal communication skills. 

2. Familiarize yourself with visual design tools. A few of the most popular visual design tools include Figma, Adobe Photoshop, and Canva. You can get started with Canva and practice creating your own digital products for free with the following Guided Project:

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guided project

Create and Design Digital Products using Canva

By the end of this course, you will create templates for digital products that you can sell in the marketplace using Canva. You will be able to incorporate ...

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ADVANCED level

Average time: 1 month(s)

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Marketing, Graphic Design

3. Enhance your resume. Transitioning into a new role can be intimidating when you haven’t yet gained on-the-job experience. In lieu of experience, visual designers can build portfolios of their best work. These portfolios provide job seekers an opportunity to showcase specific skills and knowledge. You can build your portfolio by working on projects independently or enrolling in a Guided Project like the one mentioned above. 

Read more: 10 Ways to Enhance Your Resume

4. Choose an area of focus. Another way to increase your competitiveness as a candidate is to choose a specialization. For example, suppose you plan to become a visual designer specializing in UI design. In that case, you may consider earning a UI/UX design certificate from the California Institute of Arts or a UX Design Professional Certificate from Google.

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professional certificate

Google UX Design

This is your path to a career in UX design. In this program, you’ll learn in-demand skills that will have you job-ready in less than 6 months. No degree or experience required.

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Average time: 6 month(s)

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Skills you'll build:

User Experience (UX), UX Research, Wireframe, Prototype, User Experience Design (UXD), Usability Testing, mockup, Figma, Adobe XD, UX design jobs

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specialization

UI / UX Design

Design High-Impact User Experiences. Research, design, and prototype effective, visually-driven websites and apps.

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Average time: 4 month(s)

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Website Wireframe, strategy, User Interface Design (UI Design), User Experience (UX), User Research, Graphic Design, Adobe XD, Adobe Illustrator, InVision, Marvel, Adobe Indesign, Treejack, Sketch, HTML/CSS, Balsamiq

5. Stay current with the industry. When you stay up-to-date with the visual design industry, you can demonstrate expertise to employers and learn about the latest trends and technologies. You can follow industry experts on social media or subscribe to relevant blogs and YouTube channels. In the field of design, you may check the professional association for design (AIGA) website. You’ll find updates on design industry events like upcoming conferences and awards. For peer-to-peer connection, check out relevant Slack channels like the Designed Slack discussion to explore design process and tools, visual design jobs, and more.

Learn more about visual design with Coursera

Continue building your visual design expertise by enrolling in The Language of Design: Form and Meaning, a course from the California Institute of the Arts, or explore a specialization with the UX Design Professional Certificate from Google.

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The Language of Design: Form and Meaning

In this course, critique is defined as a detailed, objective analysis of a work of graphic design and its effectiveness. Critique is an integral part of the ...

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73,829 already enrolled

BEGINNER level

Average time: 1 month(s)

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Visual Communication, Graphic Design

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professional certificate

Google UX Design

This is your path to a career in UX design. In this program, you’ll learn in-demand skills that will have you job-ready in less than 6 months. No degree or experience required.

4.8

(53,163 ratings)

648,917 already enrolled

BEGINNER level

Average time: 6 month(s)

Learn at your own pace

Skills you'll build:

User Experience (UX), UX Research, Wireframe, Prototype, User Experience Design (UXD), Usability Testing, mockup, Figma, Adobe XD, UX design jobs

Article sources

1

Glassdoor. “How much does a Visual Designer make? https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/visual-designer-salary-SRCH_KO0,15.htm.” Accessed September 21, 2022. 

Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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