The illustrative abilities of a graphic designer tend to vary. We’re not talking about photoshop or other digital means of creativity but of old fashioned pencil and paper drawing abilities.

Whilst some would strongly advocate hand-drawing skills, some graphic designers don’t buy into the necessity of them. Despite holding a degree in graphic design, Chelsey Motar, a digital analyst for seoWorks says she cannot draw

She believes that in her experience, ‘composing good art has little to do with drawing. You can apply your creative vision just as successfully with design software.” If drawing isn’t wholly necessary, then what skills are when looking at graphic designer roles?


You need to convey your ideas through image and text, so you need the communicative skills to do this. You have to create a powerful message that will immediately resonate with the viewer, but also allow them to understand the message and tone of what you have created.

It is also essential to relate the style of the brand you are creating for; are they a playful company? A serious one? You have to capture this. It is also important to be able to communicate your message to the client or the employer. 

Your design will represent their needs so you should to be able to create something that can be universally understood by their market. It is better if you’re a novice drawer that can really get your message across, than being an amazing illustrator that can’t put across what they want to say. 


The typefaces you use are crucial to the message you send. For example, a tall and thin typeface can be used to show a classical style, whereas a thicker font might be used to portray modernity.

Knowing about the different messages that different fonts can send is an essential part of creating a text that will become the essence of a brand. It is also good to know a little about colour theory, as this too is a key part of brand recognition.  

Design applications.

Knowing your way around various design applications is an essential part of the job. In an analysis of 46,000 graphic design job postings, eight of the top 10 skills in highest demand were associated with design software. 

Most employers will require the use of at least one or two and the most common are Illustrator, InDesign and Photoshop. Staying on top of newer technologies entering the industry will give you an edge over applicants as it shows adaptability and a willingness to learn. 

It’s also worth noting that technology like Illustrator is used for vector-based designs like logos and, even when paired with a graphics pad, is still very different from freehand drawing as you use anchor points. Even the most talented artist would have to learn the use of this tech. 

Don’t need to be Da Vinci, but...

You need to be creative and be able to think outside the box when it comes to your designs. Many clients are after a fairly minimalist style, so it takes a lot of creative thinking to convey subtlety whilst keeping the tone of the company.

Creative ideas can come from an understanding of both classical and modern artwork, so being well versed in your understanding of what makes art impressive and engaging is an advantage. You don’t have to be the next Da Vinci, as many of the designs you’ll create will be using design software, but getting a draft done by hand can be a huge advantage when mapping out your creation. 

Good design is often based on good drawing so practice is key for this, do a little bit every day. It’s about learning what works for you, try simple sketching, whiteboards, paint or felt tips.

The ability to draw can be an advantage when searching for a graphic design role, but this isn’t always the standard. The roles of graphic designers and illustrators tend to be distinct professions and many projects often require the use of both. 

A graphic designer’s role falls under the same ‘creative industry’ category as marketing, photography, videography and other similar jobs. Rather than being fine artists, they take elements of photos, illustrations, font and colour and combine them to make a powerful message or brand. 

You don’t need to be a fantastic artist, you just have to be able to sketch what you’d like to include in your design content.