Where Art and Design Training Can Lead: 14 Popular Career Areas
People who think that art school can't lead to success are sadly mistaken. Our world simply wouldn't be the same without the creative pros who've attended colleges for art and design. Their work touches or influences nearly every aspect of our lives, including what we buy, where we live, what we enjoy for entertainment, and how we make sense of life itself.
Artists are essential to the vitality of our economy, our communities, and our collective future. And according to a report from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), about four out of every 10 artists are designers. Through design, elegant solutions are found to all kinds of problems. From communications that cut through the clutter to products and services that enrich our everyday activities, good design often results in positive change and inspiring progress.
That's why many of the most successful organizations now embrace design more than ever before. A lot of businesses are hiring their own in-house designers as well as other professionals with creative talents. They recognize the power of having people on their teams who can conceptualize new solutions and help guide their development. You can even find a lot of design jobs at Google.
So what can you do with an education in art and design? Check out these common career areas:
1. Graphic Design & Visual Communications
Getting your message across can be a tricky task in today's world. And presenting complex ideas or information in a way that makes sense can be equally challenging. As a result, organizations of every variety rely on creative experts who specialize in using the power of visual design to make their communications get noticed and understood. According to IBISWorld, the global graphic design industry generated $46 billion in revenue in 2018 alone.
Graphic designers and art directors add their talents to a remarkable range of projects. Many of them design printed materials such as brochures, posters, book covers, editorial layouts, and product displays or packaging. Others focus more on designing graphic elements for film or digital and interactive media. And still others specialize in creating logos and brand identities. Some designers even do all of the above.
2. Visual Arts
From fine art to commercial illustration, people with visual arts training can make an impact in several ways. After all, the ability to conceptualize and execute new ideas is increasingly valued and appreciated by potential employers and art patrons alike.
And developing skills like drawing, painting, or sculpting is good for a lot more than self-expression. It can help you build great mental focus and problem-solving abilities while also providing a meditative way to reduce stress and increase your overall sense of connection and well-being.
Each year, photographers in the U.S. collectively generate $10 billion in revenue, according to IBISWorld. It's easy to understand why. Our culture is very image-oriented. Photos are everywhere. And we can't seem to get enough of them.
So professional photographers often get opportunities to take still or moving pictures at weddings, sporting events, fashion shoots, and other special events. But many of them are also involved in portrait photography, commercial photography, and photojournalism. Plus, professional photography skills are great to have if you want to bring extra value to employers in almost any other design or marketing-related field.
This industry offers some of the highest-paying job opportunities for talented designers and other creative professionals. That's because advertising is still a dominant form of marketing, and organizations are often willing to invest a lot of money in it. In fact, between 2015 and 2022, spending on advertising in the U.S. is projected to grow by almost 60 percent to over $289 billion, according to Statista.
Most of that growth will be in the area of mobile and online advertising. But you also can't overlook the fact that print, radio, TV, and outdoor advertising still plays a big role in how companies and other organizations get their messages out.
Buildings are essential for the productivity, comfort, and well-being of people. But they are also important for other reasons. Buildings account for almost 40 percent of yearly carbon dioxide emissions, which contribute to global climate change. So architects, designers, and drafters will continue to play vital roles in transitioning to a more sustainable future. It's one reason why, between 2018 and 2028, the employment of architects is expected to rise by eight percent in the U.S., according to projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
But architecture isn't the only industry that benefits from the skills of professional drafters and designers. People who know how to use computer-aided design and drafting (CAD or CADD) software are also needed in the manufacturing, electronics, and civil engineering industries. In fact, the BLS says that an average of 10,700 jobs for civil and architectural drafters are expected to become available each year between 2018 and 2028.
In this vibrant and growing field, the focus is on planning and overseeing the creation of inviting, stylish, comfortable, and functional indoor spaces. Interior designers get to devise customized approaches that meet the specific needs of their clients while following local building codes and other regulations. And the architectural interiors and furnishings that they design can range from private residences to healthcare settings to restaurants and hotels to corporate offices and retail stores.
The BLS notes that America has more than 75,000 interior designers. And between 2018 and 2028, the number of jobs in this field could grow by four percent.
7. Industrial Design
Most of this field involves designing products that are mass-produced such as consumer electronics, furniture, appliances, hand tools, cars, toys, and medical equipment. Industrial designers help make decisions about what products are made of, how they're constructed, how they work, and what they look and feel like. In short, many of them are inventors. As a result, they are vital contributors to the professional services and manufacturing sectors.
But many of today's industrial designers do a lot more than develop commercial products. They also work on projects that are intended to have wider social impacts or that are focused more on creating good user experiences or innovative systems and processes. The NEA report indicates that the U.S. is now home to more than 1,570 industrial design establishments. Collectively, they generate revenues of $1.5 billion a year.
Globally, the apparel market is worth more than a trillion dollars, according to Statista. In America, women's clothing alone accounts for over $120 billion in annual revenue. So fashion designers are part of a large and thriving industry that always needs fresh looks and new styles. And fashion design jobs aren't just found in large or independent studios. They can also be found with fashion wholesalers, retailers, and manufacturers.
9. Floral Design
Who doesn't love flowers? They have the power to add joy to almost anyone's day. After all, they represent life and vitality. And they activate our senses with their lush colors, scents, and textures. Statistics from the Society of American Florists show that Americans purchase more than $35 billion of floral products.
So can you imagine having the career of a floral designer and getting to create attractive and meaningful arrangements every day? The Society of American Florists notes that more than 13,000 retail florist establishments in the U.S., so a lot of opportunities already exist. And many floral designers successfully operate their own businesses.
10. Media Arts
The popularity of digital media continues to grow at a rapid pace. From mobile web apps to interactive video games, the demand for electronic media is staggering. At the same time, other types of media such as film, music, publishing, and broadcasting also continue to have a large presence in many people's lives. In fact, America is the largest market in the world for media and entertainment. Industry data from SelectUSA reveals that the nation's film and TV sector alone is worth over $190 billion, and its recorded music industry is worth about $22 billion.
11. Animation & Special Effects
The most successful movies at the box office are often the ones that utilize a lot of animation and visual effects (VFX). Animated films, TV shows, and videos are the products of a global industry that is now worth hundreds of billions of dollars. And technological advances are pushing the envelope of what's possible in the world of special effects.
As a result, almost anything that can be imagined can now be put on screen. But it still takes talented and skilled VFX artists and animators to make it all work. The BLS says that, between 2018 and 2028, about 8,300 jobs could open up each year in the U.S. for creative pros in this fun occupational category.
With each passing year, recorded music is reaching more people around the world. Most of that expansion is due to the Internet and digital music services. In fact, according to SelectUSA, the U.S. recording industry now generates about $22 billion a year, largely from digital music channels such as downloads and streaming services. But music doesn't record itself. In addition to musicians and songwriters, it also takes professional music producers and sound engineers to create the recordings we all love.
Digital gaming is one of the most popular forms of entertainment in the world. Its popularity in America is especially widespread. The facts are astonishing. According to one report, about 65 percent of adults in the U.S. play video games, and 57 percent of parents play video games with their children at least once a week. Plus, 75 percent of American households are home to at least one gamer.
So video game designers, artists, and programmers get to be part of a successful and growing industry. And they get to collaborate on projects that are highly imaginative, interactive, and, most of all, fun.
14. Web Design
Billions of people around the world are already connected to the Internet. Yet billions more will be connected in the coming years. And the things that can be done online only continue to rise in number. As a result, huge demand exists for web developers and designers who have the up-to-date skills to create, modify, and maintain websites for organizations, groups, and individuals.
Already, the market in the U.S. for web design services is worth $38 billion, according to IBISWorld. But as demand keeps growing for those services, it could become worth a lot more. And job opportunities in this field could also expand. In fact, the BLS says that from 2018 to 2028, the employment of web developers and designers could increase by 13 percent. On average, about 15,100 jobs should become available each year over that decade.
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