Where do Communication Designers Work?

In some cases, designers are hired as in-house staff by a business, corporation, or non-profit organization. They are responsible for printed, online, and/or broadcast communications that support business operations and represent the company to the public. They typically manage the organization's brand identity and may direct the work of photographers, illustrators, or videographers in executing projects consistent with the communication aspects of the system. More recently designers play a strategic role in businesses, contributing to management decisions about products and services as well as communication. A number of designers prepare for this strategic role by combining studies in design with studies in business administration.

Designers also work for design consultancies, with a range of clients who contract the firm for services on a project-by-project basis. These design offices range in size from a few employees to hundreds of designers. In larger offices, a designer may focus on a particular kind of client work. The firm may be hired to create a branding strategy that is later managed by the client's in-house designers. It may consult on the design of online services. Or it may be contracted to develop a wayfinding system for a client's facilities. Some consultancies become known for particular kinds of work, while others accept a variety of projects.

Institutions and government often employ staff designers for communicating to specific audiences for their programs and services. Museums, colleges, and associations have specific philosophies or missions that they express through a variety of messages and activities. Designers for institutions become experts in communicating the abstract qualities of these missions, as well as the obvious content of their activities. Government agencies often explain complicated concepts, policies, and procedures to a diverse audience. Work for institutions and government often has a social, cultural, or educational role to play in design for the public good.

Advertising agencies create and manage the production and placement of commercial messages across media (print, online, outdoor advertising, radio, etc.). Advertising campaigns are a coordinated series of messages delivered over time that may be directed to a specific audience or use a recurring theme. Designers in these agencies work with marketing professionals to deliver promotional messages that are measured by their effect on sales and the stature of companies in the marketplace, as well as their creativity. In contrast to design consultancies, project work in advertising agencies is often distributed across different types of employees, including: account managers, who are the agency's link with clients; copywriters; creative directors; designers; and production staff.

The publishing industry (books, magazines, and newspapers) employs designers. Increasingly, publications exist in printed and online versions that include video and interactive graphics. Publishers may or may not separate the design of covers and interior layouts under different designers. Magazine and newspaper designers determine both the recurring visual aspects of the system (typographic specifications, grids, and photographic treatments) and the layout of individual articles and issues. Dynamic information graphics play an increasing role in online newspapers and magazines.

A number of design practices require specialized understanding of environmental or three-dimensional concepts. Exhibition design combines graphic communication with the organization of structures and spaces that direct audience behavior. Wayfinding systems guide the movement of people through indoor and outdoor settings, usually through signage or other directional elements within the environment. Both exhibition design and wayfinding systems involve narrative communications, an unfolding of information across time. Packaging addresses the three-dimensional experience of objects and their display on retail shelves. It is tactile as well as visual. These designers may collaborate with architects or industrial designers, as well as content experts.

Other designers work in the entertainment industry; in on-air graphics for television, main titling for film, and computer games. In these practices, storytelling and time-based visual strategies define the nature of the work. Mastery of animation software and an understanding of video and film play important roles in this type of work. Solutions to these projects may be typographic, photographic, or illustrative.