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 and the corresponding skill levels (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 needed 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 can demonstrate knowledge of Agile methodology. You 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 can appreciate the importance of Agile project delivery for digital projects in government. You can be unafraid to take risks and willing to learn from mistakes. You can ensure the team knows what each other is working on and how this relates to practical government objectives and user needs.
  • Communicating between the technical and non-technical. You can communicate effectively across organisational, technical and political boundaries, understanding the context. You can make complex and technical information and language simple and accessible for non-technical audiences. You can advocate on behalf of a team and communicate what it does, to create trust and authenticity. You can successfully respond to challenges.
  • Community collaboration. You can contribute to the work of the community, building successful teams through understanding team styles and influencing and motivating team members. You can give and receive constructive feedback, enabling the feedback loop. You can moderate conflict resolution within teams. You can ensure that 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 can 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 can demonstrate knowledge of the wider digital economy and advances in technology.
  • Evidence- and context-based design. You can visualise and articulate complex problems and concepts. You can apply logical thinking and solve complex problems. You can make disciplined decisions based on available information and research evidence. You can move from analysis to synthesis or design intent (or to both). You can gather and analyse information. You can provide evidence for Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
  • 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 can lead 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. You can apply technical knowledge and experience to create or design workable prototypes, both programs and physical outputs. You can understand parameters, restrictions and synergies.
  • Prototyping in code. You can understand the limitations of internet technology, and why code is important. You can prototype in code, but you don’t need to make production-ready code. You can effectively talk to developers and know when to switch code. You can understand security, accessibility and version control. You can use ‘what you see is what you get’ tools.
  • Strategic thinking. You can take an overall perspective on business issues, events and activities, and discuss their wider implications and long-term impact. You can determine patterns, standards, policies, roadmaps and vision statements. You can effectively focus on outcomes rather than solutions and activities.
  • Tools and software. You can work with industry-standard software, such as Adobe Creative Suite, presentation software, social media platforms and animation software. You can demonstrate knowledge of printing techniques and paper stock.
  • User focus. You can understand users and 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 can show that you put users first and can manage competing priorities.
  • Working within constraints. You can understand and work within given constraints (such as technology, policy, regulatory, financial and legal constraints). You can challenge constraints that can be changed. You can ensure compliance with constraints by adapting products and services where needed.

Associate graphic designer

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

Skills needed for this role level

  • Agile working. You can show an awareness of Agile methodology and the ways to apply the principles in practice. You can take an open-minded approach. You can explain why iteration is important. You can iterate quickly. (Skill level: awareness)
  • Communicating between the technical and non-technical. You can show an awareness of the need to translate technical concepts into non-technical language. You can understand what communication is required with internal and external stakeholders. (Skill level: awareness)
  • Community collaboration. You can understand the work of others and the importance of team dynamics, collaboration and feedback. (Skill level: awareness)
  • Digital perspective. You can show an awareness of design, technology and data principles. You can demonstrate engagement with trends in design and can set relevant priorities. You can understand the internet and the range of available technology choices. (Skill level: awareness)
  • Evidence- and context-based design. You can show an awareness of the value of evidence-based design, and that design is a process. (Skill level: awareness)
  • Leadership and guidance. You can show commitment 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 them. You can identify and articulate technical disputes between direct peers and local stakeholders. You can show an understanding of the importance of team dynamics, collaboration and feedback. (Skill level: awareness)
  • Prototyping. You can explain what prototyping is, and why and when to use it. You can understand how to work in an open and collaborative environment (by pair working, for example). (Skill level: awareness)
  • Prototyping in code. You can demonstrate a basic knowledge of how the internet works. You can use tools and change text. You can edit existing code and reuse it. (Skill level: awareness)
  • Strategic thinking. You can explain the strategic context of your work and why it is important. You can support strategic planning in an administrative capacity. (Skill level: awareness)
  • Tools and software. You can use the most appropriate tools and software for a particular job. (Skill level: working)
  • User focus. You can identify and engage with users or stakeholders to collate user needs evidence. You can understand and define research that fits user needs. You can use quantitative and qualitative data about users to turn user focus into outcomes. (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 role level, you will:

  • explain design decisions
  • work collaboratively
  • have a 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 level

  • Agile working. You can show an awareness of Agile methodology and the ways to apply the principles in practice. You can take an open-minded approach. You can explain why iteration is important. You can iterate quickly. (Skill level: awareness)
  • Communicating between the technical and non-technical. You can communicate effectively with technical and non-technical stakeholders. You can support and host discussions within a multidisciplinary team, with potentially difficult dynamics. You can be an advocate for the team externally, and can manage differing perspectives. (Skill level: working)
  • Community collaboration. You can contribute to the work of others. You can motivate and empower teams. You can create the right environment for teams to work in, and can identify the best team makeup depending on the situation. You can recognise and deal with issues. (Skill level: working)
  • Digital perspective. You can demonstrate responsiveness to changes in technology, adapting your approach accordingly. You can make decisions to meet user needs in the government context. You can understand the importance of assisted digital and can design services and make decisions to meet user needs. (Skill level: working)
  • Evidence- and context-based design. You can generate and test multiple solutions to a problem. (Skill level: working)
  • Leadership and guidance. You can show commitment 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 them. You can identify and articulate technical disputes between direct peers and local stakeholders. You can show an understanding of the importance of team dynamics, collaboration and feedback. (Skill level: awareness)
  • Prototyping. You can understand when to use a specific prototyping technique or method. You can show the value of prototyping to your team. (Skill level: working)
  • Prototyping in code. You can write HTML and add new tags. (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. (Skill level: working)
  • Tools and software. You can use software proficiently, quickly and fluidly. You can use shortcuts and tricks, and know what not to do. You can choose appropriate technology and outputs, for example, paper size and weight. (Skill level: practitioner)
  • User focus. You can identify and engage with users or stakeholders to collate user needs evidence. You can understand and define research that fits user needs. You can use quantitative and qualitative data about users to turn user focus into outcomes. (Skill level: working)
  • Working within constraints. You can understand the value of policy, legislative, regulatory and operational constraints and can find the simplest, shortest and fastest solution for users. (Skill level: awareness)

Graphic designer

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

At this role level, you will:

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

Skills needed for this role level

  • Agile working. You can demonstrate experience working in Agile, and an awareness of Agile tools and how to use them. You can advise colleagues on how and why Agile methods are used and provide a clear, open and transparent framework in which teams can deliver. You can adapt and reflect and be resilient. You can see outside of the process. (Skill level: working)
  • Communicating between the technical and non-technical. You can listen to the needs of technical and business stakeholders, and interpret them. You can effectively manage stakeholder expectations. You can manage active and reactive communication. You can support or host difficult discussions within the team or with diverse senior stakeholders. (Skill level: practitioner)
  • Community collaboration. You can work collaboratively in a group, actively networking with others. You can adapt feedback to ensure it’s effective and lasting. You can use your initiative to identify problems or issues in the team dynamic and rectify them. You can identify issues through Agile ‘health checks’ with the team, and help to stimulate the right responses. (Skill level: practitioner)
  • Digital perspective. You can demonstrate responsiveness to changes in technology, adapting your approach accordingly. You can make decisions to meet user needs in the government context. You can understand the importance of assisted digital and can design services and make decisions to meet user needs. (Skill level: working)
  • Evidence- and context-based design. You can absorb large amounts of conflicting information and use it to produce simple designs. (Skill level: practitioner)
  • Leadership and guidance. You can contribute to best practice guidelines. You can 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. (Skill level: working)
  • Prototyping. You can 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 prototyping methods and choose the most appropriate. (Skill level: practitioner)
  • Prototyping in code. You can create static HTML and CSS prototypes. You can code for different screen sizes. You can version and host a prototype. (Skill level: practitioner)
  • Strategic thinking. You can define strategies and policies, providing guidance to others on working in the strategic context. You can evaluate current strategies to ensure business requirements are being met and exceeded where possible. (Skill level: practitioner)
  • Tools and software. You can use software proficiently, quickly and fluidly. You can use shortcuts and tricks, and know what not to do. You can choose appropriate technology and outputs, for example, paper size and weight. (Skill level: practitioner)
  • User focus. You can collaborate with user researchers and can represent users internally. You can explain 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 use. (Skill level: practitioner)
  • Working within constraints. You can identify, communicate and work within constraints. You can challenge the validity of constraints. You can ensure standards are being met. (Skill level: working)

Senior graphic designer

A senior graphic designer is a designer who works with minimal support and can influence and mentor others.

At this role level, you will:

  • work with service managers and programme directors to develop design concepts
  • potentially 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 level

  • Agile working. You can identify and compare the best processes or delivery methods to use, including measuring and evaluating outcomes. You can help the team to decide the best approach. You can help teams to manage and visualise outcomes, prioritise work and adhere to agreed minimum viable product (MVP), priorities and scope. (Skill level: practitioner)
  • Communicating between the technical and non-technical. You can listen to the needs of technical and business stakeholders, and interpret them. You can effectively manage stakeholder expectations. You can manage active and reactive communication. You can support or host difficult discussions within the team or with diverse senior stakeholders. (Skill level: practitioner)
  • Community collaboration. You can work collaboratively in a group, actively networking with others. You can adapt feedback to ensure it’s effective and lasting. You can use your initiative to identify problems or issues in the team dynamic and rectify them. You can identify issues through Agile ‘health checks’ with the team, and help to stimulate the right responses. (Skill level: practitioner)
  • Digital perspective. You can apply a digital understanding to your work. You can identify and implement solutions for assisted digital. (Skill level: practitioner)
  • Evidence- and context-based design. You can design systems for use across multiple services and can identify the simplest of a variety of approaches. (Skill level: expert)
  • 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 can engage in varying types of feedback, choosing the right type at the appropriate time and ensuring the discussion and decision stick. You can bring people together to form a motivated team and help create the right environment for a team to work in. You can facilitate the best team makeup depending on the situation. (Skill level: practitioner)
  • Prototyping. You can use a variety of prototyping methods. You can share best practice and coach others. You can look at strategic service design end to end. (Skill level: expert)
  • Prototyping in code. You can create static HTML and CSS prototypes. You can code for different screen sizes. You can version and host a prototype. (Skill level: practitioner)
  • 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. (Skill level: expert)
  • Tools and software. You can create tools for other designers to use and can teach others. You can effectively work with tools that have an impact on other designers. (Skill level: expert)
  • User focus. You can give direction on which tools or methods to use. You can demonstrate experience 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 they’re met by the business. You can apply strategic thinking to provide the best service for the end user. (Skill level: expert)
  • Working within constraints. You can identify, communicate and work within constraints. You can challenge the validity of constraints. You can ensure standards are being met. (Skill level: working)

Lead graphic designer

A lead graphic designer is an expert practitioner who influences and mentors others.

At this role 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 level

  • Agile working. You can 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 can act as a recognised expert and advocate for the approaches, continuously reflecting and challenging the team. (Skill level: expert)
  • Communicating between the technical and non-technical. You can mediate between people and mend relationships, communicating with stakeholders at all levels. You can manage stakeholder expectations and moderate discussions about high risk and complexity, even within constrained timescales. You can speak on behalf of and represent the community to large audiences inside and outside of government. (Skill level: expert)
  • Community collaboration. You can work collaboratively in a group, actively networking with others. You can adapt feedback to ensure it’s effective and lasting. You can use your initiative to identify problems or issues in the team dynamic and rectify them. You can identify issues through Agile ‘health checks’ with the team, and help to stimulate the right responses. (Skill level: practitioner)
  • Digital perspective. You can apply a digital understanding to your work. You can identify and implement solutions for assisted digital. (Skill level: practitioner)
  • Evidence- and context-based design. You can design systems for use across multiple services and can identify the simplest of a variety of approaches. (Skill level: expert)
  • Leadership and guidance. You can change organisational structures to fixable and sustainable designs. You can 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 can 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 can understand the psychology of a team and have strong mediation skills. You can coach the organisation on team dynamics and conflict resolution. (Skill level: expert)
  • Prototyping. You can use a variety of prototyping methods. You can share best practice and coach others. You can look at strategic service design end to end. (Skill level: expert)
  • Prototyping in code. You can create static HTML and CSS prototypes. You can code for different screen sizes. You can version and host a prototype. (Skill level: practitioner)
  • 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. (Skill level: expert)
  • Tools and software. You can use software proficiently, quickly and fluidly. You can use shortcuts and tricks, and know what not to do. You can choose appropriate technology and outputs, for example, paper size and weight. (Skill level: practitioner)
  • User focus. You can give direction on which tools or methods to use. You can demonstrate experience 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 they’re met by the business. You can apply strategic thinking to provide the best service for the end user. (Skill level: expert)
  • Working within constraints. You can work with and challenge senior stakeholders. You can prioritise and mitigate constraints, and turn them into an advantage. You can adapt the approach depending on the constraints. (Skill level: practitioner)

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 role 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 level

  • Agile working. You can 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 can act as a recognised expert and advocate for the approaches, continuously reflecting and challenging the team. (Skill level: expert)
  • Communicating between the technical and non-technical. You can mediate between people and mend relationships, communicating with stakeholders at all levels. You can manage stakeholder expectations and moderate discussions about high risk and complexity, even within constrained timescales. You can speak on behalf of and represent the community to large audiences inside and outside of government. (Skill level: expert)
  • Community collaboration. You can solve and unblock issues between teams or departments at the highest level. You can 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. (Skill level: expert)
  • Digital perspective. You can demonstrate knowledge of the wider digital economy and advances in technology, and understand how these impact in a government context. You can make decisions that set the standards for others to follow. You can understand working using Agile methodology at an organisational level. You can create an environment for success. (Skill level: expert)
  • Evidence- and context-based design. You can design systems for use across multiple services and can identify the simplest of a variety of approaches. (Skill level: expert)
  • Leadership and guidance. You can change organisational structures to fixable and sustainable designs. You can 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 can 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 can understand the psychology of a team and have strong mediation skills. You can coach the organisation on team dynamics and conflict resolution. (Skill level: expert)
  • Prototyping. You can use a variety of prototyping methods. You can share best practice and coach others. You can look at strategic service design end to end. (Skill level: expert)
  • Prototyping in code. You can create static HTML and CSS prototypes. You can code for different screen sizes. You can version and host a prototype. (Skill level: practitioner)
  • 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. (Skill level: expert)
  • Tools and software. You can use software proficiently, quickly and fluidly. You can use shortcuts and tricks, and know what not to do. You can choose appropriate technology and outputs, for example, paper size and weight. (Skill level: practitioner)
  • User focus. You can give direction on which tools or methods to use. You can demonstrate experience 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 they’re met by the business. You can apply strategic thinking to provide the best service for the end user. (Skill level: expert)
  • Working within constraints. You can influence, challenge and coach. You can anticipate how constraints might change and know where to challenge or remove constraints. (Skill level: expert)

Read more

Published 7 January 2020
Last updated 30 August 2022 + show all updates
  1. The ‘communicating information’ skill has been renamed ‘communicating between the technical and non-technical’ to ensure consistency across the DDaT Profession Capability Framework.

  2. First published.