By Betty Boyd | Photo by Thomas Skernivitz
Walker wondered if the teacher was telling the truth. A guidance counselor seconded Mr. Applebaum’s words, and soon enough, Walker had enrolled at the University of Akron, where she earned an associate’s degree in applied business and a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in graphic design.
Walker now has more 15 years of design industry experience. She has worked as an in-house graphic designer while mentoring many young people. The more she mentored, the more similarities to her art teacher she noticed.
A number of colleagues suggested to Walker that she pursue graduate school to help make a difference. Currently she is pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in design research and development at Ohio State University.
Walker chose to study the lack of diversity in the design disciplines. According to her research, for every 100 designers, only five are African-American and nine are Latinos.
“My area of focus examines the lack of diversity in the design disciplines and how to expose African-American and Latino youth to design-related careers,” she says. Walker’s research reveals a lack of diversity in digital media, which is the use of computers and other tools that will expose students to design-related careers. Today many schools are cutting their art programs, so there is not a lot of variety of art being taught in the K-12 area. These students are not learning all that art can teach a young person, including critical thinking, communication, problem solving, compassion, and an appreciation of the humanities.
As an advocate of young people, Walker mentors young designers on portfolio presentations, professional development, and career advice. In August she participated in a panel discussion — Weapons Declassified: Race in Design and Creativity— at the Weapons of Mass Creation Festival at the Cleveland Public Theatre.
“I do not feel successful if I have not done something to support these young people,” she says. “I am involved in diversity building initiatives. I do not feel we are having enough conversations with our young people. These young people are going to be leaders in this industry. Diversity is good business, and exclusion is simply not profitable. We need to provide more diversity initiatives in companies, organizations, and schools.”
Quick Facts: Graphic Designers*
2012 Median Pay – $44,150 per year – $21.22 per hour
• Entry-Level Education – Bachelor’s degree
• Number of Jobs, 2012 – 259,500
• Job Outlook, 2012-22 – 7% (Slower than average)
• Employment Change, 2012-22 – 17,400
What Graphic Designers Do?
Graphic designers create visual concepts, by hand or using computer software, to communicate ideas that inspire, inform, or captivate consumers. They develop the overall layout and production design for advertisements, brochures, magazines, and corporate reports.
Many of these workers are employed in specialized design services, publishing, or advertising, public relations, and related services industries. In 2012, about 24 percent of graphic designers were self-employed.
How to Become a Graphic Designer
Graphic designers usually need a bachelor’s degree in graphic design or a related field. Candidates for graphic design positions should demonstrate their creativity and originality through a professional portfolio that features their best designs.
The median annual wage for graphic designers was $44,150 in May 2012.
Employment of graphic designers is projected to grow 7 percent from 2012 to 2022, slower than the average for all occupations. Graphic designers are expected to face strong competition for available positions.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Graphic Designers,
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