Layout Designer Job Description
Layout designers are graphic designers or artists who work with text and images on printed pages or screens, ensuring that these elements are balanced and readable. In this role, layout designers carefully consider composition and page elements, including font sizes, styling, and spacing and image size and position to create a clear flow of information for the reader.
Layout designers can work in various fields, including advertising, marketing, and publishing. In any field, they may work with writers, editors, photographers, and graphic artists to make changes to page elements and ensure a cohesive and aesthetically-pleasing design. Full-time designers generally work in-house at an agency, whereas freelance or part-time designers may work remotely.
Layout Designer Duties and Responsibilities
A layout designer’s specific duties can vary depending on the field in which they work, but many of the essential responsibilities remain the same:
Arrange Page Elements
The most significant duty of a layout designer is to arrange page elements for advertisements, books, web pages, and magazines. Most layout designers work on computers, using both layout and image editing software to place page elements including images and text, ensuring that these elements work together on each page and create a clear flow of information.
Design Text Elements
Layout designers also make decisions about text sizes, styles, and fonts, including text spacing and arrangement. This aspect of the role requires a high level of familiarity with the principles of typography and knowledge of how specific fonts can influence a reader and inform how they approach the page. In many cases, layout designers consider how to ensure readability both online and in print.
Modify Page Graphics
In addition to working with text, layout designers also modify the graphics on a page. This can be as simple as resizing an image and can include cropping a photograph or illustration to improve the overall look and flow of a publication. They also consider principles of composition, ensuring that the graphics do not overshadow the text or vice-versa.
Examine Page Proofs
Before sending a project to press, layout designers check page proofs to eliminate errors and make sure that the design looks right. While most layout work is done on the computer, designers who work with printed materials may also need to examine printed proofs. Layout designers then make corrections and sign off for printing or online publication.
Coordinate with Publication Team
Layout designers tend to work with other publication professionals to prepare materials for publication, including writers, editors, proofreaders, photographers, and illustrators. The layout designer works across teams, coordinating layout elements and providing general direction as well as making changes to text and images throughout the publication process.
Layout Designer Skills and Qualifications
Layout designers balance text, graphics, and other elements on a page or screen. Employers look for layout designers who have at least a bachelor’s degree and the following skills:
- Composition Skills – An eye for composition is one of the key skills in this role, as layout designers need to ensure that page elements are balanced and work with one another to guide the reader
- Typography Skills – This role also requires a strong grasp of typography principles and a keen understanding of how font sizes and styles affect the way readers engage with information
- Drawing Skills – Before creating a layout on a computer, a layout artist frequently needs to draw mockups to show the relative positions of page elements, so some drawing or drafting skills are necessary
- Image and Text Editing – In many cases, layout designers need to edit captions, adjust photos, or alter text to make these elements fit the page, so they should be able to effectively make changes to page content
- Communication Skills – Because layout designers frequently work with artists and editors, they should be able to effectively communicate ideas, questions, and suggestions
Tools of the Trade
Layout designers tend to work in office settings, so they are familiar with standard computer software and equipment along with:
- Layout Software – (Adobe InDesign)
- Graphic Editing Software – (Adobe Photoshop)
Layout Designer Education and Training
Typically, layout designers have at least a bachelor’s degree in a field such as graphic design or visual art. In addition, layout designers need a high level of familiarity with layout and image-editing software. Many of these designers work on a freelance basis as they gain expertise in the field and build a portfolio before moving on to find full-time employment with a publication or advertising agency.
Layout Designer Salary and Outlook
Because layout designers work in various fields, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not provide salary estimates for this role. However, their data for graphic designers and desktop publishers may provide a helpful starting point. The BLS found that graphic designers earned a median annual salary of $48,700 as of May 2017, with the highest-paid 10 percent of workers in this field earning more than $83,140 per year and the lowest-paid earning less than $28,560. Desktop publishers earned a median annual salary of $42,350, with the bottom 10 percent earning less than $23,300 and the top 10 percent earning over $71,280 per year.
The BLS estimates that employment for desktop publishers will decline 14 percent between 2016 and 2026, while graphic designer employment will grow at a slower-than-average rate of 4 percent.
Interested in pursuing this visual career? If so, check out the following books and blogs to learn more about working as a layout designer:
“How to Create Balanced Page Layouts” – This blog post explores balanced layouts on both page and screen, examining the how elements work together to achieve a desired aesthetic effect.
Design School: Layout: A Practical Guide for Students and Designers – Read this guide by Richard Poulin to learn the principles behind effective layout and design for printed and digital compositions.
“10 Rules of Composition All Designers Live By” – Read this blog post to learn about essential composition practices that you can incorporate into your own layout design work.
Layout Essentials: 100 Design Principles for Using Grids – This book by Beth Tondreau explains the use of grids in layout and graphic design and provides real, helpful examples of grids in action.
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