Clearing up 5 misconceptions about graphic designers

Nicole Steinberg
Dec 18, 2023

If I had a dollar for every time someone assumed I’m a great artist because I’m a designer, well, let’s just say I’d be a lot happier with the state of my bank account. Yes, I can scribble out a sketch good enough to get my ideas across, but I’m far from being great at drawing and am always surprised to find that’s an assumption most people have about designers. I’ve come to realize that most misconceptions about my job come simply from not being familiar with what graphic designers actually do. With that in mind, I thought I’d take a stab at myth-busting a few of the biggest misconceptions I and I’m sure many other graphic designers have run into when talking about what they do for a living.

Graphic designers are anyone with a computer and an Adobe subscription

The venn diagram of people who think design begins and ends with “photoshopping” and those who say, "Oh, I know a web guy,” upon finding out what I do is a circle. Now, I don’t personally take issue with this way of thinking because it would be bold of me to assume that I’m not ignorant about someone else’s profession. While design doesn’t necessarily require formal education, the job is much more than knowing your way around the toolbar in Illustrator. An understanding of design theory and strategy is what sets a designer apart from someone who just knows what buttons to push. Graphic designers have a firm grasp on the why and how of what they do, not just an eye for what does or doesn’t look good.

Graphic designers can read minds and make magic

While I don’t think anyone actually believes designers possess magical abilities, I’ve certainly dealt with client expectations that would require attending Hogwarts in order to reach them. Yes, I could design a logo or a website for a client with a tight deadline and a general idea of what they’re looking for, but it wouldn’t be my best work and it probably wouldn’t fully solve the issue at hand. There are processes like asking discovery questions, moodboarding, and narrowing in on a target audience that mean the difference between a client being satisfied and them actually receiving the right design solution. Just like brewing up a potion, designers need the proper ingredients and time to put them all together in order to create "magic.”

Graphic designers just recycle existing ideas

There is some truth to this misconception—all designers take inspiration from existing work and might even repurpose elements of design work they’ve seen or done in the past. The reality is that there are only so many shapes, colours, and letterforms to work with, and, just like with music, repetition is bound to happen. What sets designers apart from being considered “recyclers” is the ability to apply new meaning or context to a design while altering the elements to fit the particular brief they’ve been given. Where this misconception really becomes a problem is when clients outright ask a designer to rip off an existing logo or website. While we’re certainly happy to look to other work for inspiration, plagiarism just isn’t part of the gig.

Graphic designers know every design software inside out

It should absolutely be an expectation that designers are skilled in a variety of programs, but no one is a master of any design software, and if someone claims they are, they might be in need of a reality check. Design is an ever-evolving field, and the same goes for the tools and software at our disposal. To declare oneself a 5 out of 5 in any design program is to declare that you have nothing left to learn, which will never and should never be the case. Just like the programs we use, designers should be receiving regular updates and installing new plug-ins by way of reading books, watching tutorials, and learning from other creatives.

Graphic designers just make things look good

Of course, designers make things “look good,” but the job of a designer extends far beyond focusing only on aesthetics. Design is just as much about functionality as it is about how things appear. User experience and audience perception are considered just as carefully as the space between letters and the roundness of a corner. Every element of a design, both visually and practically, is measured against the brief we’ve been given and the client’s ask and expectations. A successful design is often one that “looks good” to an untrained eye because the designer has taken the time to consider every detail with purpose in order to find the right solution.


People in all professions deal with misconceptions about what exactly they do, and graphic designers are no exception. The issue with these assumptions is that they often lead to discrediting or completely misunderstanding what someone does for a living. Designers aren’t just pixel pushers concerned only with aesthetics, but rather skilled problem solvers who take the time to understand their clients just as much as their craft. You’d probably be surprised to learn a lot of things about different occupations, so don’t be afraid to ask questions when you meet someone with a job you’re unfamiliar with. They’ll more than likely be happy to clear up any confusion and avoid further misconceptions going forward.

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