6 Non-Design Skills a Graphic Designer Needs

When studying to be a graphic designer, you likely practiced a number of skills that would benefit your career as a creative, like color psychology, presentation best practices or smart Photoshop techniques. But I've found there are so many other skills my classes didn’t cover that are critical for doing my job well. If you’re an aspiring (or practicing!) designer, here are some skills that have nothing to do with design but you should consider adding to your repertoire to improve your work and boost your resume.


You might think, “I’m a creative, I don’t need to know math!” — but you would be very, very wrong.  While you may not need to know advanced calculus, an understanding of geometry is crucial when designing brochures, packaging or any piece that will exist in the physical world. It’s also helpful when designing on a grid or using the Golden Ratio to improve your design.


The line between the world of print and digital design is becoming increasingly blurry and it’s one that a good designer needs to straddle effortlessly. Having a basic understanding of HTML code and how popular content management systems like Wordpress function will go a long way when it comes to working with websites, email campaigns and social media platforms.


Depending on your role within the creative team, you may be responsible for collecting production quotes or filing billing reports. Take some time to familiarize yourself with the way your company’s purchase order and invoicing system works and make sure you know your company’s tax exemption status. When working with vendors, don’t be afraid to ask about shipping and other fees upfront — most reps are more than happy to work with you!


When you’re designing a logo, does it need to have a TM, SM, R, C, or nothing at all? While trademarking is a legal matter and should be left to the experts, it’s helpful to know what each mark means and when to use it. Wikipedia gives a succinct overview, and you can learn more at the United States Patent and Trademark Office.


If you’re working with copy editors or journalists, you’ll likely get feedback in the form of #, ^, triple underlines and other notations you may not have seen since writing a high school research paper. This cheat sheet from the Chicago Manual of Style will help you decipher the symbols and be more fluent in writer lingo.


I’ve found that as a designer — especially in a boutique agency business — I’m often consulted for IT help, whether it be for software issues, printer jams or spotty internet connection. Get familiar with the quirks of your office’s technology and do as the experts do: Google it. Check online help guides and forums to find the best way to solve the problem.

Polish up on your skills beyond traditional graphic design and you may find yourself on the way to becoming a unicorn designer.

What other skills does a graphic designer need? Let us know what’s worked for you in the comments!