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4 Creative Ways to Use Your Graphic Design Degree

If the thought of strict studio production work or creating endless brands in an advertising or marketing agency leaves you cold (and okay, admittedly, you did choose that graphic design degree program) you'll be pleased to know there are some other jobs you can do with your degree.

If you enjoy detail, story, a fast-paced environment, working with stimulating and challenging data, or are the type of designer who likes to control your own destiny instead of having an art director do it for you, these career fields might be intriguing to you after you earn your graphic design degree. Let's take a look at four unique and under-the-radar careers.


different kinds of maps and gps

What does a cartographer do?

As a cartographer or map maker, you'll precisely collect and interpret data culled from aerial photographs, satellite views, geodetic surveys and other geographic systems. Your graphic design skills will come into play as you use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software, and import the data into a graphics design package such as Illy, Corel Draw, or Inkscape to create accurate, detailed maps for travel, GPS systems, mobile platforms, engineering and environmental studies.

Where can a cartographer work?

The beauty of a cartographer's job is the variety of work environment. You'll work in an office no matter if you're employed by an architectural or engineering firm, the government, or in a scientific consulting capacity, but you may also be required to travel to the physical locations you're documenting in order to understand the topography.

Graphic Novelist

supa fight

What does a graphic novelist do?

Short and simple, you'll create iconic comic books for grownups, kids and young adults. If you've long aspired to become the next Frank MillerAlan Moore or Marjane Satrapi, chances are you've had this career in mind throughout your graphic design degree program. You'll need to be a gifted storyteller as well as artist to write and storyboard and then flesh out your creations (though you may also work with a writing partner), and you'll need tenacity and a thick skin to see your little darling through to its actual publishing (an agent may be in your future), but seeing your first graphic novel for sale on Amazon or at the local Barnes & Noble will be its own reward.

Where can a graphic novelist work?

You'll become part of that cliché about the writer's life being a lonely occupation if you choose to tackle every aspect of graphic novel creation by yourself. But those who have a more gregarious nature may find work in animation shops and publishing houses, where they may handle one or two facets of production—such as inking or storyboarding—or in a small shop do everything that a solo graphic novelist does.

Journalism Graphic Designer

newspaper with graphic design images

What does a journalist graphic designer do?

Journalist graphic designers must be able to quickly and accurately tell or support news stories visually, for both print and online outlets. This may include charts, infographics, video and graphs, or other original design elements that convey news or information in a way that will attract readers. You may also manage the newsroom digital and physical graphics and photo morgue.

Where can a journalist graphic designer work?

Most journalism graphic designers work in large and small newsrooms, for news, sports or aggregate news websites, such as MSN, or as freelancers for several outlets.

Medical Illustrator

antique medical illustration of brain cross section

What does a medical illustrator do?

You'll use your design skills, excellent communication abilities, and precision to create images that help advance medical science and educate the public in textbooks, on websites, health apps, courtrooms and professional journals, among other media. You'll need to distill complex information into an image that is easily digestible to all levels of user. You may need to take classes in science, anatomy, biology and medicine to support your expertise in design, as you may be required to collaborate with highly-educated stakeholders such as doctors and scientists, as well as other content creators.

Where can a medical illustrator work?

Many medical illustrators are self-employed and contract their skills to various markets. Those employed by an institution or business generally work in university medical centers, research firms, publishing houses, medical law firms and in government agencies.

So, if you've been considering a graphic design degree program, why not also consider using the skills you'll learn in a way you may never have thought? These (and more) unique design careers could be yours if you'll just think outside the box.

Graphic Design Degree & Career Guide