Sign designers are hired to create a wide array of signage and displays for events, businesses, charities, government agencies, schools and other organizations. Work might range from a short freelance assignment for a local shop to a full-time, 40-hour per week job creating nationwide billboard campaigns. Regardless of the job's size and scope, sign designers are highly creative individuals who excel at turning a marketing need into a visual reality.
You must first seek to understand the needs of your client or employer through detailed discussions. Decide on the best type of sign for the job and then provide them with rough sketches that convey your ideas. Create a quote that details all costs associated with the design work. Once a basic design is selected, you will use modern computer software to produce lettering, images and layouts as part of the customized design process. Several rounds of revisions may be necessary before a final composite is approved. The final steps will then involve laying out print measurements and specifications for production and checking the printer's work for quality. Some designers at larger companies may also be responsible for creating full print production budgets, advising the sales team, selecting print materials and assisting with installation requirements.
You must be artistic, creative and have a strong eye for detail. You should have normal color vision and be knowledgeable about the effective use of typography, color and visual space. You should be able to produce quality drawings by hand and possess solid experience with graphic design programs like CorelDRAW, Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. Additional skills include self-motivation, an independent work ethic, strong verbal and non-verbal communication, and the ability to effectively manage time, meet deadlines and work within a budget. Many larger employers also want you to have working knowledge of internal and external sign illumination, methods of construction and types of sign support.
Training & Education
Many sign designers have a bachelor's degree in commercial art, advertising, graphic design, product design, multimedia, visual communications or a related field. However, a sizable portfolio demonstrating proficiency in sign design is often more important than a four-year education. Many designers take classes in order to learn the newest design software available, and join local trade associations to boost the viability of their resumes. Larger firms may provide some on-the-job training for entry-level designers. Experience can also be had by working as an apprentice for a local sign designer.
Salary & Economic Outlook
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2010, industrial designers – a group that includes sign designers – earned a median annual wage of $58,230, or roughly $28 per hour. This assumed the worker had a four-year college degree and no previous relevant work experience. During that year, 40,800 industrial design jobs existed in the U.S., making the marketplace extremely competitive. Additionally, the economic outlook appears modest at best, with an expected overall increase of just 4,300 jobs between 2010 and 2020. This 10 percent growth rate is slightly below the national average of 14 percent for all occupations.
2016 Salary Information for Industrial Designers
Industrial designers earned a median annual salary of $67,790 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, industrial designers earned a 25th percentile salary of $50,350, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $87,750, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 39,700 people were employed in the U.S. as industrial designers.