Guidance

Graphic designer

Find out what a graphic designer does and the skills you need to do the job.

This describes the role of a graphic designer and the skills required, including:

  • an introduction to the role, telling you what you would do in this role and the full list of skills
  • a description of the levels in this role, from associate graphic designer to head of graphic design, specifying the skills you need for each level and the corresponding skill level (awareness, working, practitioner, expert)

This role is part of the Digital, Data and Technology Profession in the Civil Service.

Introduction to the role of graphic designer

A graphic designer creates graphic elements that underpin interaction and service design. You will use layout, spacing, colour, type and iconography to ensure that content is legible and readable and that users see and understand interactions.

Skills required to be a graphic designer

You will need the following skills for this role, although the level of expertise for each will vary, depending on the role level.

  • Agile working. You know about agile methodology and can apply an agile mindset to all aspects of your work. You can work in a fast-paced, evolving environment and use an iterative method and flexible approach to enable rapid delivery. You are unafraid to take risks, willing to learn from mistakes and appreciate the importance of agile project delivery for digital projects in government. You can ensure the team knows what each other is working on and how this relates to practical government objectives and user needs.
  • Communicating information. You can communicate effectively across organisational, technical and political boundaries, understanding the context. You know how to make complex and technical information and language simple and accessible for non-technical audiences. You can advocate and communicate what a team does to create trust and authenticity and can respond to challenge.
  • Community collaboration. You can contribute to the work of the community, building successful teams through understanding team styles and influencing as well as motivating team members. You know how to give and receive constructive feedback, facilitating the feedback loop. You can facilitate conflict resolution within teams, ensure the team is transparent and that the work is understood externally. You can help teams maintain a focus on delivery while being aware of the importance of professional development.
  • Digital perspective. You understand how the digital economy is changing user behaviour and the government landscape. You can make informed decisions based on user needs, available technology and value for money. You know about the wider digital economy and advances in technology.
  • Evidence- and context-based design. You can visualise, articulate and solve complex problems and concepts, and make disciplined decisions based on available information and research evidence. You know how to move from analysis to synthesis and/or design intent. Such skills include: demonstration of the ability to apply logical thinking, gathering and analysing information and evidencing key performance indicators (KPIs).
  • Experience of using tools and software. You have worked with industry-standard software, such as: Adobe creative suite, presentation software, social media platforms, animation software. You have knowledge of printing techniques and paper stock.
  • Experience of working within constraints. You understand and can work within given constraints (including but not limited to technology and policy, and regulatory, financial and legal constraints). You know how to challenge constraints that can be changed. You can ensure compliance against constraints by adapting products and services where needed.
  • Leadership and guidance. You can interpret vision to lead on decisions. You can create a collaborative environment and sustain a good service. You can understand and resolve technical disputes across varying levels of complexity and risk. You can solve issues and unblock problems. You know how to drive teams and set the pace, ensuring teams are delivering. You can manage risk, including effectively managing and tracking the mitigation of risks. You can manage various dependencies across teams, departments and government as a whole.
  • Prototyping in code. You understand the limitations of internet technology and why code is important. You can prototype a code, but you don’t need to make production-ready code. You know how to talk to developers and know when to switch code. You understand security, accessibility and version control. You can use ‘what you see is what you get’ tools.
  • Prototyping. You can apply technical knowledge and experience to create or design workable prototypes, both programs and physical outputs. You understand parameters, restrictions and synergies.
  • Strategic thinking. You can take an overall perspective on business issues, events, activities and discuss their wider implications and long-term impact. This could include determining patterns, standards, policies, roadmaps and vision statements. You know how to focus on outcomes rather than solutions and activities.
  • User focus. You understand users and can identify who they are and what their needs are, based on evidence. You can translate user stories and propose design approaches or services to meet these needs. You can engage in meaningful interactions and relationships with users. You put users first and can manage competing priorities.

Associate graphic designer

As a trainee in an entry-level position, who will work under supervision, you will need aptitude, potential and an understanding of the role.

Skills needed for this role

  • Agile working. You know about agile methodology and the ways you can apply the principles in practice. You can take an open-minded approach; you know why iteration is important and can do it quickly. (Relevant skill level: awareness)
  • Communication skills. You know about the need to translate technical concepts into non-technical language and understand what communication is required for internal and external stakeholders. (Relevant skill level: awareness)
  • Community collaboration. You understand the work of others and the importance of team dynamics, collaboration and feedback. (Relevant skill level: awareness)
  • Digital perspective. You demonstrate an awareness of design, technology and data principles. You are engaged with trends in design and know how to set priorities. You understand the internet and the range of available technology choices. (Relevant skill level: awareness)
  • Evidence- and context-based design. You know about the value of evidence-based design and that design is a process. (Relevant skill level: awareness)
  • Experience of using tools and software. You can use the most appropriate tools and software for a for a for a particular job. (Relevant skill level: working)
  • Leadership and guidance. You are committed to agreed good practice for the team, teaching new starters and challenging substandard work by peers. You can recommend decisions and describe the reasoning behind these. You can identify and articulate technical disputes between direct peers and local stakeholders. You know about the importance of team dynamics and collaboration. You understand the importance of feedback. (Relevant skill level: awareness)
  • Prototyping in code. You have a basic knowledge of how the internet works. You can use tools and change text. You can edit existing code and ‘re-use’ it. (Relevant skill level: awareness)
  • Prototyping. You know about prototyping and can explain why and when to use it. You know how to work in an open and collaborative environment- for example, by pair-working. (Relevant skill level: awareness)
  • Strategic thinking. You know about the strategic context of your work and why it is important. You support strategic planning in an administrative capacity. (Relevant skill level: awareness)
  • User focus. You can identify needs and engage with users or stakeholders to collate user needs evidence. You understand and can define research that fits user needs. You can use quantitative and qualitative data about users to turn user focus into outcomes. (Relevant skill level: working)

Junior graphic designer

A junior graphic designer is a graduate with a degree in a relevant subject or an individual with some relevant work experience, or both. At this level, you can:

  • explain design decisions
  • work collaboratively
  • take responsibility as part of a service
  • work independently after being given direction by more senior designers
  • identify user issues and important needs

Skills needed for this role

  • Agile working. You know about agile methodology and the ways you can apply the principles in practice. You can take an open-minded approach; you know why iteration is important and can do it quickly. (Relevant skill level: awareness)
  • Communication skills. You can translate technical information and communicate effectively with technical and non-technical stakeholders. You know how to facilitate discussions within a multidisciplinary team, with potentially difficult dynamics. You can act as an advocate for your team. You are good at managing differing perspectives. (Relevant skill level: working)
  • Community collaboration. You can contribute to the work of others while having the ability to motivate and empower teams. You know how to create the right environment for teams to work in and can facilitate the best team make-up depending on the situation. You can recognise and deal with issues. (Relevant skill level: working)
  • Digital perspective. You are responsive to changes in technology, adapting your approach accordingly. You can make decisions to meet user needs in the government context. You understand the importance of assisted digital and can design services and make decisions to meet users needs. (Relevant skill level: working)
  • Evidence- and context-based design. You can generate multiple solutions to a problem and test them. (Relevant skill level: working)
  • Experience of using tools and software. You are proficient, fast and fluid in the use of software. You know shortcuts and tricks as well as what not to do. You can choose appropriate technology and outputs, for example, paper size, weight. (Relevant skill level: practitioner)
  • Experience of working within constraints. You understand the value of policy, legislative, regulatory and operational constraints and find the simplest, shortest and fastest solution for users. (Relevant skill level: awareness)
  • Leadership and guidance. You are committed to agreed good practice for the team, teaching new starters and challenging substandard work by peers. You can recommend decisions and describe the reasoning behind these. You can identify and articulate technical disputes between direct peers and local stakeholders. You know about the importance of team dynamics and collaboration. You understand the importance of feedback. (Relevant skill level: awareness)
  • Prototyping in code. You can write HTML and add new tags. (Relevant skill level: working)
  • Prototyping. You know when to use a specific prototyping technique or method (for example, sketch, code, Loc2). You can show the value of prototyping to the team. (Relevant skill level: working)
  • Strategic thinking. You can work within a strategic context and communicate how activities meet strategic goals. You can contribute to the development of strategy and policies. (Relevant skill level: working)
  • User focus. You can identify needs and engage with users or stakeholders to collate user needs evidence. You understand and can define research that fits user needs. You can use quantitative and qualitative data about users to turn user focus into outcomes. (Relevant skill level: working)

Graphic designer

A graphic designer is a confident and competent designer who is able to develop designs based on evidence of user needs and organisational outcomes.

At this level, you:

  • can be trusted to make good decisions
  • can recognise when to ask for further guidance and support
  • will contribute to the development of design concepts
  • should be able to interpret evidence-based research and incorporate this into your work
  • will support the quality of design delivery across teams
  • can lead multiple or highly complex services

Skills needed for this role

  • Agile working. You have experience of working in agile, including an awareness of agile tools and how to use them. You can advise colleagues on how and why agile methods are used and be able to provide a clear, open and transparent framework in which teams can deliver. You can adapt and reflect and be resilient. You have the ability to see outside of the process. (Relevant skill level: working)
  • Communication skills. You can listen to the needs of technical and business stakeholders, and interpret them in a way that is clear for both audiences. You know how to manage stakeholder expectations. You can be flexible and you are capable of proactive and reactive communication. You know how to facilitate difficult discussions within the team or with diverse senior stakeholders. (Relevant skill level: practitioner)
  • Community collaboration. You know how to work collaboratively within a group, actively networking with others and varying feedback for the appropriate time to ensure the discussion sticks. You can use your initiative to identify problems or issues in the team dynamic and rectify them. You can pull out issues through agile health-checks with the team to provoke the right responses. (Relevant skill level: practitioner)
  • Digital perspective. You are responsive to changes in technology, adapting your approach accordingly. You can make decisions to meet user needs in the government context. You understand the importance of assisted digital and can design services and make decisions to meet users needs. (Relevant skill level: working)
  • Evidence- and context-based design. You can absorb large amounts of conflicting information and use it to produce simple designs. (Relevant skill level: practitioner)
  • Experience of using tools and software. You are proficient, fast and fluid in the use of software. You know shortcuts and tricks as well as what not to do. You can choose appropriate technology and outputs, for example, paper size, weight. (Relevant skill level: practitioner)
  • Experience of working within constraints. You can identify constraints and can communicate about these and work within them. You know how to challenge the validity of constraints. You can ensure standards are being met. (Relevant skill level: working)
  • Leadership and guidance. You contribute to best-practice guidelines. You understand the sustainability and consequences of your decisions and can make decisions characterised by managed levels of risk and complexity. You can resolve technical disputes between wider peers and indirect stakeholders, taking into account all views and opinions. (Relevant skill level: working)
  • Prototyping in code. You can create static HTML and CSS prototypes. You know how to code for different screen sizes. You can version and host a prototype. (Relevant skill level: practitioner)
  • Prototyping. You approach prototyping as a team activity, actively soliciting prototypes and testing with others. You can establish design patterns and iterate them. You can use a variety of methods of prototyping and choose the most appropriate ones. (Relevant skill level: practitioner)
  • Strategic thinking. You can define strategies and policies, providing guidance to others on working in the strategic context. You know how to evaluate current strategies to ensure business requirements are being met and exceeded where possible. (Relevant skill level: practitioner)
  • User focus. You know how to collaborate with user researchers and can represent users internally. You understand the difference between user needs and the desires of the user. You can champion user research to focus on all users. You can prioritise and define approaches to understand the user story, guiding others in doing so. You can offer recommendations on the best tools and methods to be used. (Relevant skill level: practitioner)

Senior graphic designer

A senior graphic designer is a designer who works with minimal support and can influence and mentor others. At this level, you:

  • work with service managers and programme directors to develop design concepts
  • may have responsibility across complex services
  • help set direction and embed good practice within teams
  • make important decisions based on research and understand how this research impacts others

Skills needed for this role

  • Agile working. You can identify and compare the best processes or delivery methods to use, including measuring and evaluating outcomes. You know how to help the team to decide the best approach. You can help teams to manage and visualise outcomes, prioritise work and work to agreed minimum viable product (MVP), print and scope. (Relevant skill level: practitioner)
  • Communication skills. You can listen to the needs of technical and business stakeholders, and interpret them in a way that is clear for both audiences. You know how to manage stakeholder expectations. You can be flexible and you are capable of proactive and reactive communication. You know how to facilitate difficult discussions within the team or with diverse senior stakeholders. (Relevant skill level: practitioner)
  • Community collaboration. You know how to work collaboratively within a group, actively networking with others and varying feedback for the appropriate time to ensure the discussion sticks. You can use your initiative to identify problems or issues in the team dynamic and rectify them. You can pull out issues through agile health-checks with the team to provoke the right responses. (Relevant skill level: practitioner)
  • Digital perspective. You have the ability to apply a digital understanding to your work. You can identify and implement solutions for assisted digital. (Relevant skill level: practitioner)
  • Evidence- and context-based design. You know how to design systems for use across multiple services and can identify the simplest approach out of a variety of approaches. (Relevant skill level: expert)
  • Experience of using tools and software. You can create tools for other designers to use and can teach others. You know how to work with tools that have an impact on other designers. (Relevant skill level: expert)
  • Experience of working within constraints. You can identify constraints and can communicate about these and work within them. You know how to challenge the validity of constraints. You can ensure standards are being met. (Relevant skill level: working)
  • Leadership and guidance. You can make decisions characterised by medium levels of risk and complexity and recommend decisions as risk and complexity increase. You can build consensus between services or independent stakeholders. You can identify problems or issues in the team dynamic and rectify them. You engage in varying types of feedback choosing the right type at the appropriate time and ensuring the discussion and decision sticks. You can bring people together to form a motivated team and help create the right environment for a team to work in. You know how to facilitate the best team make-up depending on the situation. (Relevant skill level: practitioner)
  • Prototyping in code. You can create static HTML and CSS prototypes. You know how to code for different screen sizes. You can version and host a prototype. (Relevant skill level: practitioner)
  • Prototyping. You are experienced in using a variety of methods of prototyping. You know how to share best practice and can coach others. You can look at strategic service design end to end. (Relevant skill level: expert)
  • Strategic thinking. You can lead the design and implementation of strategy, directing the evaluation of strategies and policies to ensure business requirements are being met. (Relevant skill level: expert)
  • User focus. You know how to give direction on which tools or methods to use. You are experienced in meeting the needs of users across a variety of channels. You can bring insight and expertise in how user needs have changed over time to ensure these are met by the business. You know how to apply strategic thinking in how to provide the best service for the end user. (Relevant skill level: expert)

Lead graphic designer

A lead graphic designer is an expert practitioner who influences and mentors others. At this level, you will:

  • work with service managers and programme directors to develop design concepts
  • set direction and assure the quality of design delivery across teams
  • lead multiple or highly complex services

Skills needed for this role

  • Agile working. You know how to coach and lead teams in Agile and Lean practices, determining the right approach for the team to take and evaluating this through the life of a project. You can think of new and innovative ways of working to achieve the right outcomes. You are able to act as a recognised expert and advocate for the approaches, continuously reflecting and challenging the team. (Relevant skill level: expert)
  • Communication skills. You can mediate between people and mend relationships, communicating with stakeholders at all levels. You know how to manage stakeholders’ expectations and facilitate discussions across high risk and complexity or under constrained timescales. You can speak on behalf of and represent the community to large audiences inside and outside of government. (Relevant skill level: expert)
  • Community collaboration. You know how to work collaboratively within a group, actively networking with others and varying feedback for the appropriate time to ensure the discussion sticks. You can use your initiative to identify problems or issues in the team dynamic and rectify them. You can pull out issues through agile health-checks with the team to provoke the right responses. (Relevant skill level: practitioner)
  • Digital perspective. You have the ability to apply a digital understanding to your work. You can identify and implement solutions for assisted digital. (Relevant skill level: practitioner)
  • Evidence- and context-based design. You know how to design systems for use across multiple services and can identify the simplest approach out of a variety of approaches. (Relevant skill level: expert)
  • Experience of using tools and software. You are proficient, fast and fluid in the use of software. You know shortcuts and tricks as well as what not to do. You can choose appropriate technology and outputs, for example, paper size, weight. (Relevant skill level: practitioner)
  • Experience of working within constraints. You can work with and challenge senior stakeholders. You know how to prioritise and mitigate constraints and can turn them into an advantage. You can adapt the approach depending on the constraints. (Relevant skill level: practitioner)
  • Leadership and guidance. You can change organisational structures to fixable and sustainable designs. You know how to lead on the strategy for the whole organisation, marrying business needs with innovative analysis. You can make and justify decisions characterised by high levels of risk, impact and complexity. You know how to build consensus between organisations (private or public) or highly independent and diverse stakeholders. You can solve and unblock issues between teams or departments at the highest level. You understand the psychology of a team and have strong mediation skills. You can coach the organisation on team dynamics and conflict resolution. (Relevant skill level: expert)
  • Prototyping in code. You can create static HTML and CSS prototypes. You know how to code for different screen sizes. You can version and host a prototype. (Relevant skill level: practitioner)
  • Prototyping. You are experienced in using a variety of methods of prototyping. You know how to share best practice and can coach others. You can look at strategic service design end to end. (Relevant skill level: expert)
  • Strategic thinking. You can lead the design and implementation of strategy, directing the evaluation of strategies and policies to ensure business requirements are being met. (Relevant skill level: expert)
  • User focus. You know how to give direction on which tools or methods to use. You are experienced in meeting the needs of users across a variety of channels. You can bring insight and expertise in how user needs have changed over time to ensure these are met by the business. You know how to apply strategic thinking in how to provide the best service for the end user. (Relevant skill level: expert)

Head of graphic design

A head of graphic design is an expert practitioner with broad industry experience, who can define and assure best practice while influencing, leading and mentoring others. At this level, you will:

  • influence both design and organisational strategy and priorities
  • collaborate with counterpart colleagues across government
  • focus on ensuring the right conditions and environment for designers to work effectively

Skills needed for this role

  • Agile working. You know how to coach and lead teams in Agile and Lean practices, determining the right approach for the team to take and evaluating this through the life of a project. You can think of new and innovative ways of working to achieve the right outcomes. You are able to act as a recognised expert and advocate for the approaches, continuously reflecting and challenging the team. (Relevant skill level: expert)
  • Communication skills. You can mediate between people and mend relationships, communicating with stakeholders at all levels. You know how to manage stakeholders’ expectations and facilitate discussions across high risk and complexity or under constrained timescales. You can speak on behalf of and represent the community to large audiences inside and outside of government. (Relevant skill level: expert)
  • Community collaboration. You know how to solve and unblock issues between teams or departments at the highest level. You understand the psychology of the team and have strong mediation skills. You can coach the organisation on team dynamics and conflict resolution while also building and growing the community. (Relevant skill level: expert)
  • Digital perspective. You know about the wider digital economy and advances in technology; you understand how these impact on a government context. You can make decisions that set the standards for others to follow. You understand working using agile methodology at an organisational level. You know how to create an environment for success. (Relevant skill level: expert)
  • Evidence- and context-based design. You know how to design systems for use across multiple services and can identify the simplest approach out of a variety of approaches. (Relevant skill level: expert)
  • Experience of using tools and software. You are proficient, fast and fluid in the use of software. You know shortcuts and tricks as well as what not to do. You can choose appropriate technology and outputs, for example, paper size, weight. (Relevant skill level: practitioner)
  • Experience of working within constraints. You know how to influence, challenge and coach. You can anticipate how constraints might change and know where to challenge or remove constraints. (Relevant skill level: expert)
  • Leadership and guidance. You can change organisational structures to fixable and sustainable designs. You know how to lead on the strategy for the whole organisation, marrying business needs with innovative analysis. You can make and justify decisions characterised by high levels of risk, impact and complexity. You know how to build consensus between organisations (private or public) or highly independent and diverse stakeholders. You can solve and unblock issues between teams or departments at the highest level. You understand the psychology of a team and have strong mediation skills. You can coach the organisation on team dynamics and conflict resolution. (Relevant skill level: expert)
  • Prototyping in code. You can create static HTML and CSS prototypes. You know how to code for different screen sizes. You can version and host a prototype. (Relevant skill level: practitioner)
  • Prototyping. You are experienced in using a variety of methods of prototyping. You know how to share best practice and can coach others. You can look at strategic service design end to end. (Relevant skill level: expert)
  • Strategic thinking. You can lead the design and implementation of strategy, directing the evaluation of strategies and policies to ensure business requirements are being met. (Relevant skill level: expert)
  • User focus. You know how to give direction on which tools or methods to use. You are experienced in meeting the needs of users across a variety of channels. You can bring insight and expertise in how user needs have changed over time to ensure these are met by the business. You know how to apply strategic thinking in how to provide the best service for the end user. (Relevant skill level: expert)

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Published 7 January 2020