Explore Careers - Job Market Report

Report Header

Graphic designers and illustrators  (NOC 5241)
Cape Breton Region
Description |  Titles |  Duties |   Related Occupations
Included Cities in Region | Service Canada Offices

Education and job requirements can vary by region. Workers in regulated occupations require a licence to work legally. Workers in non-regulated occupations do not require a licence, but employers may have other certification requirements.

Employment Requirements

Employment requirements are prerequisites generally needed to enter an occupation.

  • A university degree in visual arts with specialization in graphic design, commercial art, graphic communications or cartooning or Completion of a college diploma program in graphic arts is required.
  • Experience or training in multimedia design at a post-secondary, college or technical institution may be required.
  • In addition to the arts, training in biology, engineering, architecture or a scientific field is usually required for medical, technical and scientific illustrators.
  • Creative ability and artistic talent, as demonstrated by a portfolio of work, are required for graphic designers and illustrators.

Regulation by Province/Territory

Some provinces and territories regulate certain professions and trades while others do not. If you have a licence to work in one province, your licence may not be accepted in other provinces or territories. Consult the table below to determine in which province or territory your occupation/trade is regulated.

Table of job opportunities for your chosen occupation at the provincial or territorial level.
Location Regulation
Regulated (voluntary)
British Columbia
Regulated (voluntary)
Regulated (voluntary)
New Brunswick
Regulated (voluntary)
Newfoundland and Labrador
Regulated (voluntary)
Northwest Territories
Regulated (voluntary)
Nova Scotia
Regulated (voluntary)
Regulated (voluntary)
Regulated (compulsory)
Prince Edward Island
Regulated (voluntary)
Regulated (voluntary)
Regulated (voluntary)
Regulated (voluntary)

Essential Skills

How Essential Skills Profiles can help you!
The essential skills profiles can:
  • Help determine, based on skill sets, which career may best suit a particular individual.
  • Assist job seekers to write a résumé or prepare for a job interview.
  • Help employers to create a job posting.

Employers place a strong emphasis on essential skills in the workplace. Essential skills are used in nearly every occupation, and are seen as 'building blocks' because people build on them to learn all other skills.

Each profile contains a list of example tasks that illustrate how each of the 9 essential skill is generally performed by the majority of workers in an occupation. The estimated complexity levels for each task, between 1 (basic) and 5 (advanced), may vary based on the requirements of the workplace.

Graphic Designers and Illustrators

This profile has been developed by Skills Compétences Canada.

Graphic designers conceptualize and produce graphic art and visual materials to effectively communicate information for publications, advertising, films, packaging, posters, signs and interactive media such as websites and DVDs. They are employed by advertising and graphic design firms, by establishments with advertising or communication departments and by multimedia production companies, or they may be self-employed. Graphic designers who are also supervisors, project managers or consultants are included in this unit group. Illustrators conceptualize and create illustrations to represent information through images. They are almost solely self-employed. This NOC also includes 2D/3D Animators.

  • Read short notes. For example, graphic designers read notes on graphics from copywriters that describe changes. 2D and 3D animators read comments on shots from directors. (1)
  • Read emails from co-workers and supervisors, for example, requests for information or changes to a project, critiques on work and suggestions for fixing a problem. (2)
  • Read project proposals that include overviews, project details, deliverables and timelines. (2)
  • Read company style guides and branding manuals so that designs are cohesive and consistent in style and theme. (3)
  • Read client websites to research companies. For example, graphic designers and illustrators gather information to help define the company’s needs and to develop a style guide. (3)
  • Read magazines, trade journals, blogs, forums, and Wiki pages to learn new techniques, shortcuts in software programs and about trends in graphic design and animation. For example, graphic designers read to learn how to fix design problems or special interests, such as fonts and typography. 2D and 3D animators read to learn about animation principles, such as techniques for moving characters, and to learn from more experienced animators. (3)
  • Read technical updates. For example, graphic designers read about software updates. 2D and 3D animators may read technical updates to learn about gamers’ likes and dislikes, or recent changes in technology. (3)
  • May read episode scripts. Graphic designers and illustrators in the movie industry read scripts to visualize what the audience will see in the film. 2D and 3D animators may read scripts to learn about characters and storylines. (3)
  • Read software and hardware manuals, both online and paper-based, to locate instructions for specific tasks, troubleshooting information, or more efficient ways of performing tasks. (4)
Document Use
  • Scan lists of employee phone numbers and email addresses. (1)
  • Study screenshots that are used to illustrate processes in online tutorials. (2)
  • Locate and enter information in spreadsheets, such as work schedules that include assigned tasks, timelines and deadlines. For example, graphic designers in the movie industry use call sheets to locate when specific scenes will be shot. 2D and 3D animators read work schedules to plan and organize tasks, and may update information as they complete tasks. They track design changes, such as when and how problems were fixed. (2)
  • Locate information in specification sheets. For example, graphic designers in print shops read forms that give dimensions of graphics, font sizes, colours and quantities. 2D and 3D animators read model packs that give specifications for characters. (2)
  • Complete and verify information in forms. For example, graphic designers in printshops complete customer quotes. They check off items and enter details, such as descriptions of work to be completed, timelines and cost comparisons. (3)
  • Develop master sheets with the design elements, such as headers, footers, and page numbering for page layout in publications. There may be multiple master sheets depending on size and complexity of publication. (3)
  • Locate and review specific data on graphs such as bar and pie charts. For example, 2D and 3D animators in the gaming industry review data about gamer preferences to make decisions about game features. (3)
  • Refer to sketch layouts for information on how the space and colour create a specific effect for the scene in the storyboard. These details affect other features that are added to the scene later. (3)
  • Locate information in scale drawings. For example, graphic designers in the movie industry use floor plans, profile and section drawings to locate measurements, and information about colours and textures. (3)
  • Constantly “read” and pay attention to the world around them. For example, graphic designers read street signs, store signage, advertisements, logos, and banners to get ideas and to note trends in graphic design. (3)
  • Write notes. For example, graphic designers write notes on layouts to mark changes, or to remember key points and decisions made during a client meeting. 2D animators may write notes on storyboards for how to move the camera or to mark fade out points. (2)
  • Write emails and text messages to coworkers, supervisors and customers. For example, they email customers to update them on projects or to ask for information. They email coworkers to share problems and solutions, and to brainstorm ideas. (2)
  • Enter text into log books. For example, graphic designers may use log books to track customer jobs and clarify priorities. 2D and 3D animators may use logbooks to document assigned and completed tasks. (2)
  • Enter text into work orders and job quotes to provide a description of the work to be completed including quantities, materials, labour hours, and job details. (2)
  • May write captions. For example, graphic designers may write captions and titles to help steer the development of a logo, banner, or brochure. (2)
  • May write lists of revisions. For example, 2D and 3D animation supervisors may write lists of revisions that need to be made to different shots and scenes, such as changes to lighting or adding shots to make a transition smoother. (2)
  • Write steps to outline a process. For example, the animated lighting artist may write steps on screenshots to outline the lighting process. (3)
  • Write proposals that include a detailed description of the project and project details, delivery and timeframes, cost, terms and conditions, and confidentiality clauses. (4)
  • Write specification and design documents. For example, 2D and 3D animators in the gaming industry may write game design documents that provide a detailed outline of a game and design goals including the story, characters, level and environment design, art samples, ideas for sound and music, game rules, user interface including wireframes, screen dimensions, and game controls. Criteria for completion and milestones are included. Amendments and clarifications are made to the document as the project progresses. (3 or 4)
Numeracy Money Math
  • May calculate expense claim amounts for travel expenses, such as car expenses and meals using established meal and established per kilometre and per diem rates. (2)
  • Calculate costs on invoices and quotes. For example, graphic designers calculate costs of materials, time, and taxes. They include cost comparisons, for example, between different weights and types of paper or different types of binding. (3)
Scheduling, Budgeting and Accounting
  • Schedule staff to meet deadlines and remain within budget. (2)
  • May monitor project schedules. For example, lead animators ensure projects are progressing on schedule. They adjust schedules, such as approving overtime or increasing staffing because of unexpected problems or events. (2)
  • Develop and monitor budgets for large and small projects. For example, they calculate the cost for labour, taxes, materials and supplies, and other services such as photography and printing. (2)
Measurement and Calculation
  • Calculate the number of frames required. For example, 2D and 3D animators, may calculate the number of frames needed for a 4 second shot. They multiply the number of frames per second by the length of the shot. They count, add and subtract frames to match character movement to sound or to show a specific emotion. (1)
  • Use the SI and imperial measurement systems. For example, graphic designers add and subtract fractions of an inch to determine the fold lines for brochures. Graphic designers in the movie industry may convert SI measurements to imperial measurements, or feet and inches to inches. (2)
  • May calculate the amount of copy that can fit on a page. For example, graphic designers multiply the number of characters in an inch by the line length by the number of lines on a page. (2)
  • Calculate real measurements using scales in drawings. For example, graphic designers in the movie industry use scales such as 1/8 of an inch equals one foot to calculate lengths and heights of objects. (2)
Data Analysis
  • Compare data about usage trends for different consumer groups using statistics for video games. For example, 2D and 3D animators in the gaming industry compare demographic data, such as who is playing, player ages, and percentage of male to female players. They draw conclusions about trends and make decisions about projects, for example, structure of user interfaces or developing a game that will appeal to females. (1)
Numerical Estimation
  • Estimate time. For example, they estimate the number of hours it takes to complete a series of tasks to meet a deadline. (2)
  • Make estimates when developing budgets and schedules. For example, they may estimate the cost of materials and supplies, the time required to complete tasks, and the staffing requirements.(3)
Oral Communication
  • Listen to actors’ voices to get a feel for and help with inflection and timing. (1)
  • Speak with co-workers to ask for help with specific tasks, for example, 2D and 3D animators ask co-workers for help with specific animation difficulties. (2)
  • Speak with workers from other departments. For example, graphic designers may consult with the copywriter about text. 2D and 3D animators may ask computer programmers for code to do something specific, or with storyboard artists to clarify something. (2)
  • Speak with supervisors and project or team leads. They may ask to be assigned to new or different tasks to learn more and gain experience. For example, 2D and 3D animators ask the team lead for help with a problem, such as a broken “puppet” or a missing “asset”. (2)
  • Interact with clients to provide information about the project or to ask for information or feedback. For example, graphic designers meet with clients to listen to their vision, to gather and clarify information, and to negotiate changes. They may need to explain why it is not possible to use certain types of paper for a brochure due to budget limitations, or make suggestions for improvement to a layout. (3)
  • Speak with internal and external management. For example, a 3D animator in a small gaming company may need to convince management that making significant changes are not worth the cost, or that something is not possible because of limitations of the gaming platform. (3)
  • Attend team meetings. They discuss progress, deadlines, task assignment. They may discuss problems and limitations of software and hardware. For example, graphic designers for the web may need to explain the “visual” to the rest of the team including the HTML coder, copywriter and project manager. (3)
  • Mentor and instruct new and junior workers. For example, 2D and 3D animators explain software shortcuts and techniques, such as different ways to set up a shot to junior animators. There may be designated mentoring times for senior animators to teach junior animators about specific topics, such as time management. (3)
  • Deliver presentations to explain and discuss design elements. For example, graphic designers defend their choices about graphic elements and negotiate changes and alterations. They may need to convince managers why the choice of font and colour in their design works. (3)
  • Network to build clientele. For example, graphic designers who own their own business network with clients and colleagues to get referrals. (3)
Thinking Problem Solving
  • Solve design issues with clients. For example, graphic designers explain to clients why they should choose a fabric banner instead of a vinyl one. (2)
  • Anticipate possible challenges and have alternate plans. For example, equipment malfunctions, or communications breakdown with clients. Graphic designers may offer the client a break on the price, something extra or something redone. (2)
  • Resolve issues with series of shots not connecting smoothly or flowing well. For example, 2D and 3D animators may have to change the order of shots, add new shots, or delete shots. (2)
  • Bring animated characters to life. For example, 2D and 3D animators figure out how to add personality, facial expressions, movement, and physical looks based on the story. They consider the speed of the animation, facial expression and personality of the character. In gaming, they have to consider the limitations of the gaming platform. (3)
  • Resolve differences between client expectations and actual outcomes. For example, the client may want a specific look to a book but the graphic designer needs to convince them the design will not work. (3)
  • Solve design, budget and timeline conflicts with clients. For example, graphic designers negotiate with clients who ask for major changes to a design just before production. (3)
  • Figure out how to design, lay out and produce print and electronic media that meets the client’s needs and expectations. They consider colour, fonts, illustration, photography, animation, and different layout and print techniques. They must find effective solutions to getting the client’s message across to the public. (4)
Decision Making
  • Decide when to ask for help with a problem. They consider time constraints and the time needed to complete other tasks. (2)
  • Decide if a new or different asset is needed. 2D and 3D animators present reasons for changes to their supervisor who makes the final decision. (2)
  • May decide if changes to a project can be made. They consider the budget and deadlines. (2)
  • Decide how a shot should look based on the reason for the shot and how it relates to the scene. 2D and 3D animators also consider the technical capabilities for making the shot. (3)
  • Decide on materials, colours, fonts, graphic elements, layouts and other design aspects to create a specific look. For example, they consider customer specifications and budget. (3)
Critical Thinking
  • Evaluate the needs of clients. For example, graphic designers listen carefully to clients during initial meetings and ask questions to help clients articulate ideas. (2)
  • Make judgements when manipulating and combining elements of design. For example, contrast, scale, colour, pacing, and typography are combined to develop effective and appropriate visual solutions. They analyze visuals considering what works and what does not work, and how the visuals fit into the overall purpose of the project. (3)
  • May evaluate the performance of new and junior workers. For example, senior animators and team leads assign tasks to junior animators and assess their creativity and ability to meet deadlines. Their goal is to build an animation team with strong skills. (3)
  • Evaluate the quality of products to determine marketability. For example, a senior animator in a small gaming company considers the story, characters, level and environment design, and user interface. (3)
Job Task Planning and Organizing
  • Graphic illustrators and designers schedule their own job tasks to meet project deadlines. They often have to coordinate and integrate tasks with others. They schedule time to attend meetings with clients, coworkers, managers and other others. Often there is a queue of projects and they may need work overtime or reprioritize tasks to meet deadlines.
  • Graphic illustrators and designers may assign tasks to junior members of the team.
Significant Use of Memory
  • Remember “tricks” for the software to do something quickly and easily.
  • Remember client history and background when making decisions about what clients may want in a design or animation.
  • Remember specifics about products they use, such as standard paper sizes or typical film sizes.
Finding Information
  • Consult with coworkers, supervisors, managers and colleagues. For example, 2D and 3D animators learn new skills by networking. They may use social media such as Facebook and LinkedIn to network and find information about industry related issues. (2)
  • Meet with clients to get information on the client’s background and ideas for projects. For example, graphic designers meet with clients to get information on the client’s budget and vision for the product. (2)
  • Observe what they see around them for ideas. For example, graphic designers note trends in colours being used for designs and may recommend these colours to clients who want a similar product. (3)
  • Access forums and blogs as part of research. For example, 2D and 3D animators visit forums for answers to technical questions about software and to get help with solving a problem. They may look for reviews on games and learn more about their competition. (3)
  • Conduct online research to locate information for specific projects. For example, graphic designers and illustrators in the movie industry may research specific time periods to check signage and font styles. (3)
  • Watch movies, TV shows, animated films and cartoons, and ads as part of research to stay current in technology and trends. 2D and 3D animators may watch a film frame by frame to learn new animation techniques. (3)
  • Use manuals, trade journals and magazines to find information about what they are designing. For example, 2D and 3D animators look at comic books and graphic novels while working on a project involving superheroes. (4)
Digital Technology
  • Use communications software. They email attachments with graphics files, PDFs and Word documents. They may use file transfer protocol (FTP) sites to download and upload large files. (2)
  • Use search engines to research projects and find websites that have information on how to troubleshoot software problems. (2)
  • Use spreadsheet programs like Excel to keep track of project information, such as completed tasks or issues with game levels. (2)
  • Use online project management programs such as JIRA to track bugs, how they were fixed, and whether further testing was done. (2)
  • Use social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, and Tumblr to network with colleagues. (2)
  • Use computer graphics. For example, graphic designers use raster images in designs where photography is required, or when designing web pages. (2)
  • Use CAD software to produce computer animation in movies and games. For example, 2D and 3D animators use CAD to design buildings and rigid structures or the background scenes of games. (3)
  • Use word processing software to write documents. For example, 2D and 3D animators write outlines of the lighting process to other artists using descriptions and screen shots. (3)
  • Use graphic design software such as Adobe Illustrator, InDesign, Photoshop and Pagemaker to design banners, logos, brochures, manuals, and other publications and products. (3)
  • Visit forums and read blogs for industry-related questions, answers to issues, and keep up on trends. (3)
  • Use animation software such as Maya to create 3D computer animation, modelling, simulation, rendering, and compositing. (4)
Additional Information Other Essential Skills:

Working with Others

Graphic designers and illustrators often work as part of a team that include other designers, copywriters, art directors, production artists, set designers, director and computer programmers depending on which part of the industry they work in. They complete tasks independently and then coordinate and collaborate with team members to complete a project. They may meet with clients and suppliers. Self-employed graphic designers and illustrators also spend time networking to increase their client base.

Continuous Learning

Graphic designers and illustrators must keep up to date with trends and changes in industry and technology. They research tends online by reading articles on websites and blogs to learn about graphics and design. They join forums to learn about competitors in the industry and find answers to issues. They read technical manuals, read online Wiki pages, or watch videos at the start of a project to learn about technology. Co-workers and supervisors answer questions about how to perform tasks or solve problems. Those who work for large companies may receive in-house training. 2D and 3D animators watch animated films and movies to spark ideas and find elements that can help with a current project.

Impact of Digital Technology

All essential skills are affected by the introduction of technology in the workplace. Graphic designers and illustrators’ ability to adapt to new technologies is strongly related to their skill levels across the essential skills, including reading, writing, thinking and communication skills. Technologies are transforming the ways in which workers obtain, process and communicate information, and the types of skills needed to perform in their jobs. In particular, graphic designers and illustrators need to use computer software to create animations for movies and computer games, or designs for electronic and paper-based products. They require greater oral communication and writing skills to communicate with clients and team members about project updates and issues, either by using communications software, or sending and sharing electronic files.

Technology in the workplace further affects the complexity of tasks related to the essential skills required for this occupation. Graphic designers and illustrators need the skills to use complex and specialized software. New developments in technology require these workers to keep current with computer software and technological trends in movie making, gaming, and publishing. On the other hand, the use of technology will have a strong impact on the industry, as changes in computer technology affects how games and electronic publications are designed.

Apprenticeship Grants

There are two types of Apprenticeship Grants available from the Government of Canada:
  • The Apprenticeship Incentive Grant (AIG) is a taxable cash grant of $1,000 per year, up to a maximum of $2,000 per person. This grant helps registered apprentices in designated Red Seal trades get started.
  • The Apprenticeship Completion Grant (ACG) is a taxable cash grant of $2,000. This grant helps registered apprentices who have completed their training become certified journeypersons in designated Red Seal trades.
[ Source: CanLearn - HRSDC ]
Information for Newcomers

Fact Sheet for Internationally Trained Individuals

Are you an internationally trained individual looking for guidance on foreign credential recognition in your profession in Canada? This occupational fact sheet can help you by providing information on:

  • the general requirements to work in your profession
  • the steps that you can take to find the most reliable sources of information

Information and Communications Technology (PDF Format - Size: 717 KB)

Credential Assessment

Provincial credential assessment services assess academic credentials for a fee. Contact a regulatory body or other organization to determine if you need an assessment before spending money on one that is not required or recognized.

The assessment will tell you how your education compares with educational standards in the province or territory where you are planning to settle can help you in your job search.

Please consult the Cape Breton Region and Nova Scotia tabs for more useful information related to education and job requirements.
Date modified: