Becoming the Business-Minded Designer: Graphic Designer Career Spotlight | Weatherhead

Becoming the Business-Minded Designer: Graphic Designer Career Spotlight

Posted 12.7.2016

When graphic designers start their careers, becoming business leaders might be the last thing on their list of goals. They graduate expecting to work as artists, often freelancing full time or on the side of their corporate jobs. Their design training and natural creative skills make them successful artists and workers. They meet deadlines, surprise clients and supervisors with excellent designs, and feel fulfilled by the creative aspects of their job.

Once they’ve gained a few years of experience, though, they begin to feel burned out by repetitive work and processes. They’re ready to evolve into leaders – by growing their freelance business or managing a team of likeminded individuals at their organization. They need to move beyond churning out designs, but they don’t feel confident in their ability to step into business leadership.

Despite their doubts, graphic designers are natural problem solvers. Every day, they find new ways to effectively, visually communicate clear messages to an audience, including by:

  • Brainstorming content ideas
  • Working between multiple software programs
  • Using color theory to influence an audience’s emotions
  • Creating opportunities for audience members to take an action

With the right training, graphic designers can use these problem-solving skills to lead a team and even a business. They can apply their brainstorming skills to improve team processes, use their understanding of design software to optimize tool costs, and use their emotional and professional growth knowledge to support their team members. But how do they begin to fulfill these leadership roles with confidence?

How Graphic Designers Can Learn Leadership Skills

Design learning is a creative method of problem solving that graphic designers have mastered. It starts with gathering all possible solutions by doing qualitative research to gain multiple perspectives. Then, the team uses the results of that divergent brainstorm and research to work toward practicality. Eventually, the best possible solution for all stakeholders is achieved. 

Graphic designers can take their expertise in design learning and apply those skills to leadership. Below are a few methods of applying design learning to graphic design leadership, all of which are taught in Weatherhead’s design-centered MBA programs:

  • Understand team dynamics by learning how to facilitate healthy, crucial conversations.
  • Use appreciative inquiry to inclusively brainstorm solutions for both the internal team and the design work it delivers.
  • Apply a deep knowledge of art and design principles to achieve business success.
  • Discover and pursue creative opportunities other leaders in the organization aren’t able to see.
  • Build trust and improve team collaboration with empowering management practices.
  • Help other graphic designers achieve their personal and professional goals.
  • Improve productivity through deeper insight into team processes and business goals.

Graphic designers don’t have to limit their creative skills to the same work throughout their entire career. They can find a flourishing career path by influencing others to harness their design potential – all without giving up their passion for creative thinking and graphic design.

If you’re ready to pursue your future in design leadership, consider our Create Change Challenge. Apply by December 15th for a chance to:

  • Compete for a scholarship and spot in our design-centered MBA program
  • Show off your vision for change
  • Experience Case Western Reserve University’s campus in Cleveland
  • Meet Weatherhead faculty, alumni, and like-minded potential employers


Interested in learning more about Weatherhead programs? Request more information or apply now, or register for one of over 70 open enrollment courses through Executive Education.

Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University cultivates creativity, innovation, and purpose-driven leadership to design a better world.