As of recently I have been playing a lot of mobile games on my iPhone and asked myself, can graphic designers work on video games? Growing up as a child of the 90s I have played everything from the PC based FPS games to the first iterations of the Sony playstation and Microsoft Xbox. Video games have progressed so much over the years and now as a professional graphic designer, could I potentially work on one some day?
If you are a graphic designer and have an interest in the video game industry there are plenty of jobs available that require your specific skills. While it is easy to think you have to be well versed in game design, there are other elements that go into successfully launching a video game such as user-experience, interface design, marketing, social media and more. In the rest of this article I’ll go into detail about the roles available, how to potentially land one of these jobs and where to look.
If you are just starting off in your creative career it can definitely be a nerve racking experience but it doesn’t have to be. Since I’ve entered the professional industry I have had a ton of questions that I found really hard to find the answers to like how to ask for more money, and how to start that promotion conversation with your boss. That is why I went ahead and launched a Wellfed Creatives slack channel. There you can connect with creatives in a variety of roles from all over the world to help you on your creative speed bumps. If you would like to join go ahead and click this link here.
Design for Video Games vs Video Game Design
When you think of working on a video game the first thing that can come to mind is that you have to have this complex experience with 3D design, interaction, and a bunch of other specific skill sets. While that may be the case if you want to actually design a video game, it isn't the same if you want to work on a video game. Graphic design is still very much a part of the process when it comes to creating, developing and launching a video game.
Graphic design at video game companies can relate to a variety of assets needed for a video game to function. For example any screen prior to actually playing the game will most likely need a graphic designer for laying out any information, iconography, and menu items to navigate. Depending on the size of the company each of these categories could potentially have their own designated role. A company as large as EA Sports has a graphic designer work on all of these assets as well as marketing materials to promote the game as well.
If you are interested in developing the gameplay, story, or characters of a game then you may be looking for video game design. While you don’t have to have a specific degree in video game design you should definitely have strong experience conceptualizing and presenting relevant ideas in this area. It is also really helpful to have knowledge on the wider gaming industry, trends amongst players and gaming habits, as well as a perspective on the market’s future.
Types of video game graphic design jobs
After looking at some of the most popular gaming company job boards, it is easy to see there are a ton of available jobs for graphic designers. Below I have compiled a list of roles along with a short description and potential salary to give you a better idea of what to be expected.
Graphic designers can have anywhere from less than a year to 1-3 years of experience already on their resume. Graphic designers are expected to work alongside more experienced members of the team to help finalize projects and meet deadlines. They are able to demonstrate a variety of skills which can include working with typography, illustration, and iconography.
Senior designers can be expected to have 5-7 years of experience and be a role model for younger creatives on the team. Your job can involve creating print and digital assets such as posters, event materials, digital ads, and social media content. Since you are an experienced member of the team you can also be expected to train new joining members as well as coach junior members to success.
As a design manager you are a leader and source of inspiration for the team. You are a liaison between senior leadership and members of the team to help define career goals, review project work, and actively drive your team towards success. Having hands-on design experience isn’t needed to manage a team of designers however it is recommended to have strong people skills and the ability to multi-task.
User interface and user experience designers are needed to help shape how users interact with games. They are responsible for mapping and designing how a user navigates through the game outside of any levels or gameplay. They are also responsible for conducting user research to help refine and improve the game to reach its goals.
Art directors are unique roles in that you are a hybrid between supporting the team to maintain a high standard of output as well as sourcing world-class creators and artists to grow the capabilities for the team. Art directors are very much the curators and taste makers of the industry. You should have a strong perspective and a pulse on what is new, popular, and innovative in the space.
Creative directors can be experienced in a variety of the roles listed above. They have anywhere from 7-10 years of experience and have mentored members of a team before. Creative directors will help develop and lead major campaigns across the department and sometimes the company.
Salary: Not listed
Where to look for video game jobs
If you’re just starting your job search then you should definitely check out our friendly guide to 16 of the most popular sites to find design jobs here. In our guide you’ll find the most popular and regularly used websites that companies and hiring managers used to post job opportunities. After checking out our guide I strongly recommend visiting the websites of individual companies and searching for a careers page. I went ahead and compiled a list of the most popular video game companies below and included a link to their career pages to get you started.
How to become a graphic designer for video games
As with a lot of graphic design positions, most companies want to see a selection of work that directly relates to the responsibilities of the role. The work you might include can consist of character designs, menu interfaces, marketing campaigns, icons, packaging examples and more. Most companies will ask for links to your portfolio website but they will also accept PDF files. If you’re looking for tips to start your portfolio check out our article here that includes plenty of amazing portfolio examples.
Another step you can take that will definitely help you stand out is to connect with designers that already work at the company you want to apply to. Using LinkedIn you can message individuals that are already in the department or position that you are considering. Being polite and sending an authentic message asking to learn more about an open role, will allow you to learn a lot of valuable information that can be helpful for the application process.
Applying for any jobs can be an arduous process but the most important thing to remember is to stay persistent and continue to send applications. If you have any questions or would like to review your portfolio before you begin your application process you can sign-up for a 1-on-1 Wellfed creative session here. If you enjoyed this article consider signing up for our supper party newsletter below. Every weekend I send out our best content straight to your inbox.