Graphic design can be a stressful career in some sectors like marketing or entertainment, although there are plenty of graphic design jobs that aren’t as stressful. A graphic designer at a large advertising agency might find daily deliverables that are highly scrutinized by many stakeholders, while a graphic designer at a small web design company might not have tight deadlines or heavily critiqued work. Generally, a graphic designer will feel more stressed at a larger company, especially in a job with daily deliverables.
As someone that has worked in multiple production environments as a designer and artist, I can attest that there are both graphic design jobs that are very stressful and others that are more laid back.
A graphic designer with his hand on his head looking stressed.
Being a graphic designer should be enjoyable. After all, even if you’re making icons or editing pictures, you’re still being creative.
There are job environments that literally require you to show your work 3 to 4 times a day. Sometimes these places, such as an advertising agency, have a pit of desks with all the designers encircled.
The art director literally paces behind the desks and evaluates work one after another. Making pixel scrutinizing and knit picky comments. And you as the graphic designer must eat the critique and fix your work. And fix it quickly, because the art director will be back in a few hours to see if the fix is done.
Or maybe you are working for yourself. You own a graphic design business. If that’s the case, then the client is the end-all critic. This can be the most stressful type of graphic design job, because keeping your clients happy ensures you keep getting paid. Whereas at a fulltime job, the paycheck keeps coming.
Fulltime, Contract, & Freelance: Which is more stressful
Whether you select a job that is either full time or contractual will likely determine if the graphic design job is stressful. A full time job ultimately gives you the luxury of time, and you have more time to turn around work for deadlines. The fulltime job, if we are considering a common 40 hour work week, will have deliveries to show. These deliveries will probably be more spaced out and generally managed by an art director or supervisor.
Contract and freelance work on the other hand can be more hectic. Deadlines can pop up quickly, iterations can be requested daily, and you’ll be at the mercy of your client. As a contractor or a freelance graphic designer, your time on a project is limited. Therefore, you’ll be required to deliver in short order.
The work environment
The work environment for an artist is often notoriously crappy. It is. Trust me, I’ve seen it first hand. When you go in for an interview, take a hard look at the office space. Examine how artists are sitting. How much privacy do they have? Are there any common areas? Does it seem overly quiet?
Trust your gut when you visit an office for the first time. There’s nothing worse than having to do creative work in a stifling environment. After all, you’re supposed to come up with unique visual solutions.
Remember the pit I mentioned above at the advertising agency. Often you’ll see an encircling of desks, and all the artist’s backs will be facing the center of the circle. If you see someone pacing around these artists in constant evaluation, run. You’re most likely dealing with a nitpicky manager or art director.
A very white and boring looking office space. Lots of desk filled in with a few workers.
Take a look at the office environment you’ll be working in. Ask yourself, is it a creative environment? If you can’t create unique work that you’ll be proud of there, you might be setting yourself up for failure. It’s very common for some offices to sit a designer in the middle of a common area.
Take a real close look at it. Are the common areas used? What’s the general feeling? Quiet? Art is about collaboration, so you should take a look if anyone is interacting while you’re there.
Career path stress & workload
To paint a broad stroke and say the career of a graphic designer is stressful would be inaccurate. Graphic design is a job that is very diverse, and the role can be found on teams ranging from the architecture to the health field. Almost every team out there has needs for a graphic designer.
Being an artist comes with inevitable moments of anxiety. There are daily stressors triggered by creative block, studio mishaps, and deadlines; overarching personal concerns related to relationships, rent, and procuring the next paycheck; and those broad sources of unease that affect us all, like the political climate and, generally, the future.
Graphic Design in Small Business: Not Stressful
So many companies need a graphic designer. Companies like law firms or even pharmaceutical companies need a designer to help update their brand, keep the website current, and even help with PowerPoint decks for presentations. While the pay at these companies for graphic designers might be on the lower end, the stress will also be minimal.
What type of graphic design work is stressful
Let’s face it. The more fun your project or work is, the less stressful it can seem. If your contributing to a project you’re passionate about, you’ll be more inclined to ignore a stressful environment. These are the type of projects that maybe you dream about at night, and they often occupy your mind when you’re not even working on them. It’s interesting work and you’ll probably put it into your portfolio to get future work.
But if you’re color correcting hundreds of photos or maybe making very basic icons, then you might find the work less challenging over the long run. These responsibilities might not be as rewarding. If you couple this with a stressful work environment, maybe a challenging boss as well, then you might find it even hard to roll out of bed in the morning. It’s important to be challenged and feel like the project isn’t a waste of time. This will motivate you and ultimately inspire you to do your best work