Graphic Design Is a Low-Stress Job? Ha!

October 7, 2009

The stereotypical graphic designer thrives on coffee and deadlines, has a cluttered desktop, keeps late hours and often has demanding clients who think they’re the only ones who matter. It’s understandable, then, that the average graphic designer undergoes a lot of stress. Which is why I was surprised to read an article that cites graphic design as one of six low-stress career options.

“Creativity abounds for the graphic designer,” the article states, “and that can open doors to fun and relaxation even while you are hard at work.” While I wholeheartedly agree that a main reason for choosing a career in graphic design is the opportunity to be creative, let’s be realistic – for every project that calls for an original, engaging and fulfilling design, there are tons of jobs that call for mind-numbing tasks such as minor Photoshopping or cutting and pasting of text. And relaxing? I’ve known several graphic designers who’ve developed stress-induced ulcers stemming from mounting deadlines, gallons of coffee and after-hours drinks and cigarettes. Not to mention the pressure the freelance artist is under to find ample work. I recall the friend whose doctor diagnosed his ulcer and gave him the death blow: “No more coffee, Guinness or gumbo.” That friend eventually switched to the less-stressful career of teaching at an inner-city high school. Speaking of teachers, their average salary in the United States is $50,528, according to, compared with $46,095 for graphic designers. That’s right – teachers, who are famous for being underpaid, make more than graphic designers. Despite all my seeming complaints, I understand why people choose deadline-driven careers such as graphic design – after all, I’ve made that choice, too. There is a great sense of satisfaction when a project is completed. There’s the matter of pride upon seeing your name attached to it. And there is the bounty of ideas for future jobs that are born from the previous. Low stress? I think not. But rewarding? Definitely.

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About Jennifer Moline

Jennifer Moline writes for the PsPrint Blog as well as maintains its Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus and Pinterest presences. She also guest-blogs for such notable graphic design blogs as Fuel Your Creativity and Inspiredology. She’s previously written about technology and small business for news websites, magazines and newspapers. In her off-hours, Jennifer can be found roughing it in the mountains or tucked away in a movie theater.

Anonymous's picture
January 07, 2016 03:21 am #

[...] couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how I disagreed with an article that claimed graphic design is a low-stress job. All those deadlines and self-obsessed clients can really get to you, after all. And despite it [...]

Anonymous's picture
January 07, 2016 03:21 am #

I agree this article you reference is seriously misguided. You can find the real average salaries at the US Dept of Labor and Statistics website. And you can talk with people you know to find out that neither artists nor teachers enjoy much job security or benefits as a result of frequent layoffs.

Although computers have liberated the artist from the drudgery and expense of the cut and paste days with their toxic chemicals, monstrous type costs, and supplies overhead, they have also ushered in an age where everyone thinks they can set type, regardless of their training. Technology has also quickened the pace of deadline pressure, and eroded the budgets accordingly. People want things now, they think everything can be done at the push of a button.

It is much harder to be paid what you are worth under these circumstances. Further, there is a myth that artists have a fun job all day long. Nothing could be further from the truth! In addition to having to justify every move and decision we make repeatedly, today's graphic designer has to know how to do everything from estimating, selling, and copywriting, proofreading to layout, design, prepress, photography, typesetting, and print production management.

I moved away from a steady diet of deadlines after 5 pm when I had my first child. I need to be a mom and come home after work, not work till 3 am at the drop of a hat. Now I have a 40 hr job with web design, writing, project management and graphics mixed together. It may not be the hottest creative I ever did, but it is less stressful and I can have a life.

I sometimes miss the freedom of the freelance days, but I don't miss the cash flow nightmares. I can do art and design all day and not have to do sales and accounting half the time.

Jennifer's picture
Jennifer January 07, 2016 03:21 am #

I've had the discussion many times with people who want to leave the corporate grind and work for themselves. A lot of those people don't realize how many hats you wear to be your own boss: bookkeeper, HR, sales -- in addition to the design job. Sometime sacrificing the creative part for a dependable job is what's needed for a work-life balance. And getting those hours back when you leave the office is a pretty awesome thing.

Anonymous's picture
January 07, 2016 03:21 am #

I can tell you from 8 years working as a graphic designer in a variety of companies and as freelance - sometimes you wake up in the morning and just live the motto: Good Morning - Let the Stress Begin!

It's a daily battle between concept and execution, all the while balancing fragile customer ego's and ridiculous deadlines.

I can't count how many cups of coffee it's taken to keep me going after working days on a project, only to find out the customer has forgotten some key piece of information they wanted to include, or decided they really want something else entirely & it's up to me to re-do the entire thing!

But on the rare occasion you get that free creative moment of genius, and the customer says 'no changes - I love it!' You feel an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and it recharges your battery to continue on! :)

Graphic Design for less stress - NO WAY! Graphic Design is for only the Brave and Patient!

Jennifer's picture
Jennifer January 07, 2016 03:21 am #

There's a reason people who work in deadline-oriented jobs are prone to ulcers: It's all that coffee and stress! And mistakes are glaringly apparent, while good design, though appreciated, often goes unnoticed. However, getting lost in a creative project beats a lot of other dull desk jobs.

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