There are no all-around great graphic designers (the same as it is with software developers, system admins or marketing specialists). Some will be amazing at designing logos, but won’t know how to design a beautiful website, others might be specialists at making great infographics.
But are there any general skills that are useful indicators of whether somebody is a good graphic designer?
For one, graphic design is a right-brain type of job, so the best designers will be more on the creative side, than the analytical side. Which means that, a lot of the times, good designers will be involved in artistic projects apart from marketing or product design, and will almost always have side-projects brewing in their pipeline.
Good designers keep learning new skills. They acknowledge the fact that there’s endless things to learn in this creative field, and so they keep absorbing everything they can.
They also need to be able to deal with criticism in a professional way. Criticism is too hard to bear for many creatives, and designers that can’t handle it should never work in a purely profit-driven business environment. It would drive them mad, and they would drive everybody they worked with mad as well.
On the other hand, they shouldn’t become comfortable doing anything that the project manager tells them to do. Great designers should know how to fight for their opinions.
Another important thing is keeping up to date with what’s new in the design world. If a designer isn’t constantly looking for inspiration, it might mean that he or she doesn’t find any pleasure in their work anymore, or that he or she has become complacent and stagnant.
Great graphic designers will go out of their way, and adapt to the needs of the project when necessary. They shouldn’t be afraid to do things beyond their expertise, and deal with design problems that they haven’t encountered before.
This also includes their stylistic preferences. Most designers have their own style, and favorite things that they feel the most comfortable creating. But if the project requires something completely different, they should be able to go beyond their style.
Great graphic designers need to be team players. Their job is important for almost everyone else in the project, so being flexible to changing project requirements, and maintaining good relationships with other team members, management and clients are crucial skills for a designer to have.
Also, it almost goes without saying, but needs to be said – great designers don’t steal other people’s designs. This is not just a creative problem, but this could cause serious copyright and trademark issues for a business, so it’s something that can never happen in a business environment.