What Does a Marketing Designer Specialize In?
Learn how to become a marketing designer, what makes this career distinctive and what are the essential skills to have.
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Considering hiring a marketing designer for your business? Or, perhaps trying to learn how to become one yourself? This article will cover the basics and offer knowledge in what a marketing designer specializes in.
Marketing design is a lot more than just creating visuals for marketing purposes. It is a profession in which one must understand the thinking of the target audience, follow trends, know basic psychology and, on top of that, follow the basic rules of graphic design.
A marketing designer that works for one company in-house will be in charge of creating the visual assets for advertising, marketing pitches, publications within the needs of the company, and possibly work on web design and landing pages too.
A marketing designer working in an advertising agency, on the other hand, most commonly works on the requests of the clients: digital and print ads, brand identity, packaging, out-of-home advertising and other projects.
No matter the environment and products or services they might be working on, marketing designers need to produce effective and good design.
Let’s go through the types of marketing materials they will work on in their regular day-to-day job, as well as the different skills they need to have.
As the name of the position suggests, a marketing designer creates plenty of visual images for marketing campaigns and internal optimization, business ventures and similar projects.
If we are talking about an in-house marketing designer, you can picture that person as the caretaker and guardian of the visual identity of the company they work for.
Apart from evolving and adapting the branding, they also need to infuse it in every single project of theirs and make sure everything is unified, close to the brand values and always with the user experience in mind. So, they create designs that represent the company well but also are easy to use, understandable and enjoyable in the eyes of the final user.
If the designer’s job is in an agency, they need to be swift, adaptable and easily pick up a different company’s brand. They would be in charge of creating many design elements for different brands, so a different pace is also expected of them.
However, in terms of what they produce, both types of employment envelop the following design projects.
If a marketing designer is with a company from the very beginning or is working for a client that still doesn't have a developed visual brand, they might be assigned to work on building the brand identity from scratch.
This includes prototyping and working on multiple variations of logos and brand marks, designing or combining existing typographies, creating a color palette, textures and patterns, symbols, iconography, and other design elements.
Social media graphics
A lot of a company’s digital marketing today happens on social media platforms, and they have to have a regular presence that also keeps up with the design trends.
Whereas on Facebook and LinkedIn you can post non-visual content too, they also have many requirements when it comes to sticking to the rules.
Instagram on the other hand is a very visually-based platform, so posts there need to be perfectly designed and catchy.
Social media design entails feed posts, stories, ads, carousel posts, in-stream banners and plenty of other post formats, so a marketing designer would have to know the technical specifications, styles and trends of all of them.
Apart from social media ads, a company might require pay-per-click ads, native ads or other forms of digital advertising.
For this, marketing designers also need to develop a plethora of different formats, sizes and styles of visual images that will improve the digital marketing efforts of their client or company.
Publication design and print materials
Within their own marketing needs, companies often require brochures, books, ebooks, flyers and catalogs to be designed too.
For this reason, a marketing designer should also be able to work in a publication design tool such as InDesign and have knowledge of printing techniques, colors and bleed and safe areas.
Email marketing is still incredibly important for every business, and the better designed and more personalized newsletters are, the better chances are of recipients converting into customers.
For these reasons, designers often have to design custom emails, banners, as well as responsive elements such as CTA buttons or gifs to be included in them.
Branded merchandise and stationery
A respectable company nowadays also has its branded stationery and merchandise like notebooks, pens, tote bags, key chains and many other trinkets that in the long run help with brand awareness.
A designer might also be requested to design many of these cool branded objects.
For the needs of a good PowerPoint or Google Slides presentation, a company might decide to skip the boring free templates and go for a custom design. For this, a designer might also have to create slides or a sales deck.
Web design projects
Although a marketing designer isn’t always also versed in web design, in some contemporary companies, that position also entails taking care of the website and landing pages, as well as other responsive elements that are included in the company website.
For a SaaS, e-commerce or any other type of company that doesn’t have a brick and mortar store, the website is the first touchpoint with the potential customers. It is the public-facing front of the company and it must be perfectly aligned with the branding, as well as intuitive and easy to use.
So, the in-house designer is in charge of these tasks too.
As I mentioned before, the website is the first thing that customers see out of a company. It is where they come to discover details about the products or services, and possibly where they make a purchase too.
That is why the in-house marketing designer also needs to be involved in creating and updating the website with features and new looks.
Although the website isn’t something that can easily be tweaked and changed on a whim every couple of months, trends change and with it also the focus of viewers.
The home page, CTAs, value propositions and testimonials, for example, need to be visible and immediately tell the viewers everything there is to know about the company. The branding of the website also needs to resonate with the target audience, and stay true to the values of the company.
The marketing designer needs to be the helmsman in charge of all these visual updates on the most important business asset of a virtual company.
Although a part of the website, it is also important to mention that responsive elements such as pop-ups, buttons, message bubbles and custom cursors are also in the marketing designer’s domain.
These elements can also be added to custom emails, blog articles, knowledge centers and many other pages or additional projects such as lead magnets.
A landing page for a side project or a lead magnet that isn’t placed on the main website is also a web design project that a designer might take on.
Although side-projects don’t necessarily need to be branded on the foundation of the company’s brand guidelines, it needs to relay the values and characteristics of the company at least.
That is why the designer needs to create from scratch a simple website that will attract a wider audience and convert it to qualified leads.
Skills that every marketing designer must have
One doesn’t become a designer with a lot of responsibilities and a wide range of projects that easily. It takes a lot of studying, practice, artistry and time-management skills to get to that point.
But, when it comes to basic skills and software that a marketing designer needs, here are the most crucial ones we could name.
Graphic design (obviously!)
Every game has its own rules, and graphic design is no stranger to that. There are basic rules and conventions that a graphic designer follows in creating their products, and when that is combined with artistic skills and the ability to design something that resonates with the audience, you can consider a graphic designer good and ready to take the helm of a company.
From color theory to basic design principles, as well as following trends within the industry, these are essential skills that a designer should have. We’ve already mentioned all the different digital and physical products they might have to design, so this entails knowing how to design all of those products and possibly more.
In order to create effective, good-looking and well-branded products, a good designer must be able to do their own research. They should know how to study:
- The values and characteristics of the company they work with
- Their target audiences
- Their competitors
- The trends and tendencies of the industry
Branding and brand nurturing
Although it technically falls under the graphic design knowledge, branding and brand nurturing are more than just being able to create logos, typography, color palettes and other branding elements.
Branding is a more holistic practice, in which the designer needs to be able to ask the right questions, give their own ideas and perspective, and research all the crucial factors in designing a company’s brand.
They also should be able to develop and maintain that brand identity throughout the years, campaigns and growth of the company, in every single visual asset that is created in the future.
You might stick to the rules, design the most perfect visuals, and those designs at the end might not convert audiences into customers. Why? Because there are no precise rules when it comes to marketing assets that resonate with people.
For this, a marketing designer must also have at least a basic understanding of marketing principles and practices, as well as spending habits, trends and demographics. After all, most of the time they will be designing for the target audience, and they need to create assets that will attract them, not only assets that look good.
For the needs of the aforementioned web design projects, the marketing design department probably needs to have prototyping skills as well.
It is very hard to design whole web pages from scratch, so defining what exactly needs to be created, where its position will be, all the way to the colors, elements and length of copy, goes into a phase of prototyping first.
Yes, we know it’s obvious. But if your marketing designer isn’t a team player, you’re gonna have a lot of issues. It is a position that is closely working with the marketing team, manager, web development team, all the way to the business and operations department if needed.
So, your designer should be a person that can work well with others, be open to constructive criticism, receptive to feedback and other people’s ideas, and most importantly, able to self-manage their time and project when under pressure.
Software a marketing designer should know how to work in
They say that a craftsman is only as good as their tools, and this saying applies to marketing design too. Just ask any designer how hard their life is when software isn’t responding or is lagging.
Although there are dozens of design software programs, at the end of the day, most projects are created in a handful of them. We picked the essential ones that a good designer must know.
Photoshop is so omnipresent, that editing a photo nowadays is known as “photoshopping”. It is one of the most widely used and basic design tools that has features that make photo editing, manipulation and multi-layering very easy.
Few solutions can compete with this vector graphics editor when it comes to graphic creation. It can be used to create a variety of digital and print output graphics, but logo design and custom illustrations (duh!) is where it really shines.
Figma is a browser-based online application mostly used in web design, app design and prototyping.
Designers nowadays need to know how to work in order to be able to present their projects and solutions, since it is a collaborative tool.
InDesign is where most publication design is created. When it comes to designing pages and developing visual layouts for both print and digital media, it is inevitably the most useful software.
InDesign can handle a variety of fonts and big sections of text, as well as managing linking files (such as photos) from other programs. For example, you can use Illustrator to produce vector images that you can then quickly import into InDesign.
After Effects is a tool that enables designers to create motion graphics and animations.
As motion graphics are more and more used in marketing, whether in web design, as gifs or even in blogs, it is becoming a more important tool to know by the day.
What is the goal of a good marketing designer?
Since it is very hard to measure the effectiveness of marketing design quantitatively, the goal of a marketing designer would be to nurture and evolve the visual identity of the brand they work with within every project that they create.
In marketing, there are many indicators that a campaign is successful, but there are also many elements that decide that, including the visual assets. So, the marketing designer needs to have it as their goal to develop assets that promote and present the brand in its best light, at the same time staying true to its values.
Journalist turned content writer. Based in North Macedonia, aiming to be a digital nomad. Always loved to write, and found my perfect job writing about graphic design, art and creativity. A self-proclaimed film connoisseur, cook and nerd in disguise.