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types of design careers

one of the coolest things about being a graphic designer is the many, many, many paths you can take in your career. since design is quite literally everywhere, the possibilities are kinda endless. so there’s no shortage of clients in need, or customers looking for the next cool thing to buy.

if you’re looking to become a #designboss — i.e. be your own boss and own your days while doing design work that you love—there are a plethora of possibilities! two general design paths are: FREELANCE and PRODUCT DESIGN. if you’re not quite sure which is the right path for you…read on! plus, SPOILER, you don’t have to pick one focus. BUT, if you’re just starting out, i do recommend sticking to one for a bit while you perfect your skills.

ok, onward!


as a freelance designer you can work on an endless variety of projects only limited by the type of jobs your clients need help with. you can even pick the clients you want to work with! that being said, you still need to pay the bills, soooo, like anything in life, there will be times you have to do something you don’t 100% love. (life, right?) but i digress…generally speaking the beauty of freelancing is the “free” part…you’re free to work on the projects you choose and during the hours/days you want. as long as you do your job well and make your deadlines, everyone is happy!

some examples of freelance work would be:

  • print ads
  • branding
  • catalogs/brochures
  • websites
  • digital ads
  • social media graphics
  • infographics
  • flyers
  • direct mail
  • trade shows
  • outdoor
  • and more!

and for these types of clients:

  • other small businesses
  • corporate clients
  • advertising/marketing agencies


if you’d rather take working directly with clients out of the equation, consider creating a product line! taking this path also offers endless design possibilities, plus you’re truly 100% in charge. woot!

nothing is totally perfect, so this route has its benefits and hurdles, too. but as far as creativity goes, sky’s the limit on a daily basis here folks.

here are just some examples of common product design businesses and types of products:

  • stationery/paper goods
    • greeting cards
    • notecards
    • notebooks
    • notepads
    • planners/calendars
    • and more…
  • home goods
    • tea towels
    • throw pillows
    • mugs/glassware
    • candles
    • and more…
  • gifts + accessories
    • tote bags
    • desk accessories
    • pencils
    • pouches
    • enamel pins
    • patches
    • and more…


a sort of combination of the two paths above is doing custom projects for clients—like, creating custom invitations or licensing your artwork to companies to use in their projects/products. it’s a hybrid in that you are working with clients but they are essentially hiring you for your unique style or existing work. sometimes they’re looking for exactly what you’ve already created but customized for their event/project. so in this model, you’re (mostly) in control creatively, but still working directly with a client. make sense?

the great thing about being a designer is your skills and talent can translate across many types of projects, mediums, and industries (of course with some extra skills needed depending on the job, i.e. the basics of design apply whether you’re designing for print or web, but web design has additional principles, software etc.). but once you’ve mastered design, either path is a possibility. so there you have it! 2 paths (or i guess, 2.5?) for becoming a design boss!

which type of design career path are you on? let me know in the comments, i’d love to hear!

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