Is Graphic Design a Dying Career?

Graphic Design is not dying, but it is changing at a rapid pace and even though the industry is set to grow as it recovers from the pandemic, it is estimated to shrink by 4% by 2029. Graphic Designers are mainly concerned about DIY programs like Canva or Wix and the decline in demand for print and publishing design. But as digital advertising increased and diversifies, there are new opportunities for the designer who is willing to look.

What Is Changing In Graphic Design

The industry is estimated to decline by 4% between 2019 and 2029. Graphic design is an umbrella term that includes many branches and fields, including traditional graphic design like signage, billboards, newspaper, and other print-related designs. These contribute the largest to the estimated decline.

Online companies are also less likely to have in-house designers compared to printing companies, and therefore rely more on the services of freelancers. Freelancers contribute up to 90% of the industry currently. In permanent employment, income is regular, while a freelancer has to consistently scout for clients that vary in pay and time frames. Finding clients as a freelancer requires good promotional and communication skills and building a network of clients takes time.

Do It Yourself Software like Canva

You have most likely heard of Canva and maybe even used it. Canva is an easy-to-use online program that allows anyone with an internet connection to design their own logo, poster, social media graphics, and any other visual content. Users do not have to work with complicated tools and features, as it uses a drag and drop functionality to create designs.

It is easy to see why this is a threat to graphic designers, considering that the program is free and the premium subscription is still more cost-effective than getting a graphic designer.

Canva vs. Professional Graphic Designers

Canva is easy to use but it still isn’t as good at customizing designs to the client’s needs as a graphic designer can. Because Canva uses pre-made templates, the end product is generic and won’t stand out from a crowd of similar designs.

The client/user is also depending on their own intuition and “feel” to drag and drop elements that make up the design. As much as they will like the design (because they made it), they may have gone for aesthetics rather than purpose and function. Professional graphic designers are aware of the principles of form over function, and the main goal is to communicate through design and achieve your marketing goals rather than just make something that looks nice.

Designs From DIY Software Like Canva vs Graphic Designer’s Work

It takes a lot of practice and learning to design with the consumer in mind rather than the client. Canva is a very long way from achieving this. A graphic designer doesn’t just design, but they build a brand. And in the end, the professionally designed work will be more identifiable and will go further in helping the business achieve its goals.

So is Canva stealing graphic design jobs? Most likely not. The kind of work people goes to Canva for is a quick logo for cash-strapped and very small businesses or someone needs to make a Pinterest pin or Instagram post. But this is work a graphic designer could have done? Yes, but probably for less than R100, but small to medium-sized businesses that need to establish a strong brand and promote their products and services, still see the value in hiring a graphic designer and paying good money. Many small to medium-sized businesses still think graphic design is important to their success.

Canva is mostly getting customers that would not have hired a graphic designer in the first place, or couldn’t afford one. It has saturated the market and may have done harm to people’s views on graphic design and reduce its value, but as technology develops and AI gets better and somehow they are able to develop creative and intuitive programs, then maybe a graphic designer will become absolute.

When that time comes, it is likely that there will be new fields in graphic design that AI might not be able to accomplish, or even better, the value of man-made graphics increases like pottery did, or free-range chicken eggs.

Reasons to be Optimistic about the Future of Graphic Design

1. Growth In Computer-Based Design
Digital Graphic Design is still growing as more businesses transition from print advertising to digital and online marketing. There is also an increase in demand for social graphic assets for visual sharing platforms like Instagram and Pinterest. Almost everyone seems to be selling something, not just established businesses.

Graphic Designers can make a lot of money selling social media design services and templates. Computer-based design offers endless possibilities for graphic designers to specialize in.

2. Emerging fields and trends
A few years back, virtual reality and UI/UX were emerging trends, and now they have established fields. Now we have artificial intelligence gaining speed, and DIY programs like Canva will not be able to manage these, and this is where graphic designers can be more efficient.

Another emerging field among many others is Sensory Design. This involves design that goes beyond visuals, it incorporates touch, taste, and smell. Every logo and infographic made by a graphic designer could in the future become tactile. There are Smartphone manufacturers that have been researching and developing screens that warp and distort to make images on the screen more tangible.

3. Demand for Custom Professional Design
Business marketing is now more competitive than it has ever been. Because of this, the value of customised marketing strategies to maximize increase is on the rise. Even the local grocery store requires a website, Instagram, and Facebook account. Graphic Designer is able to craft an identity that will be used consistently throughout the company’s marketing platforms. Branding materials are specially designed to grab the attention of the target audience and lead them to inquire about the busyness’ and make purchases. DIY programs won’t do this for you. The work of a professional graphic designer working on your brand will shine through and become a significant part of your business’s success.

How to Survive in a Changing Graphic Design Industry

1. Keep Up with Trends
To get new clients in a crowded graphic design marketplace, you need to keep up with emerging trends and new design techniques. Your style is never constant and will transform with experience and different projects, that is what built your style in the first place.

2. Learn New Skills
This is slightly different from keeping up with trends. It is separate from what you currently do. If you are a Logo Designer, for instance, try learning coding or even oil painting. Do you wonder how this might help? You don’t know what you could learn, but science says you will develop new pathways in your brain. You can develop more critical thinking skills, a new workflow, a deeper understanding of topics, or even just a hobby to relax your mind.


Graphic Designers who specialise in specific fields are more successful at targeting clients and also become experts in their fields, therefore they are able to up their pricing. Rather than casting a wide net and doing various items, pick one you enjoy doing most and focus on it.

It may seem like it is more of an advantage to be a jack of all trades, especially in a competitive industry, but specialiseing in a skill will help you understand your craft on a deeper level, get higher paying clients and earn a reputation.

Graphic designers who work at agencies or at full-time companies and studios will find it harder to specialise because they get all kinds of work and no company is going to get someone to do billboards and a different person to do posters. But for freelancers, it is easier to pick a field because you have more control over the jobs you take. Don’t feel pressured to specialise or diversify, let nature take its course and go with your gut feeling. And what will be better is to do something no one else is doing.

Sell Digital Assets

With so many customers, businesses, and graphic designers opting to search and download graphic assets, selling digital products is a great opportunity for graphic designers. It may not be your main source of income but can generate some good passive income. That is never a bad thing and that could help you through the months when you don’t get any work.

Promote Yourself

Everyone tells you this, but it is hard to dedicate so much time to put out your work and all you get is 10 likes (all from your family). It can also be frustrating choosing which platform will be best for you.

Post a few times a week, even once a week is fine. Slowly build a portfolio so that when an opportunity comes, you are ready to share your work.

Is A Graphic Design Degree Worth It?

Yes, there is a lot you can learn at a school that can help you in your career. The most important part of school is working alongside other designers and learning from them. You will develop communication skills, learn how to defend your work and take criticism, collaborate in projects, and time management.

However, you do not need a degree to become a graphic designer. There are many self-taught designers who are successful and you won’t be able to tell their work apart from those that attended school.

Final Word

Graphic Design isn’t dying. In fact, it is growing with emerging technologies so there will always be new opportunities for you to specialise in. The traditional print design may be on the decline, but even these have a market in audiences like print enthusiasts.

DIY programs are no threat to Graphic Designers that keep up with trends and are always learning new skills.