What is graphic design?

What is graphic design?

Graphic Design is art with a purpose, visually communicating a message or solving a problem.

On the surface you could consider graphic design as just making something look pretty. However, as you look deeper, true graphic design success is determined by the measurable outcome of what’s been created, how it affects your audience.

Graphic design has been about for centuries, but American type designer William Addison Dwiggins didn’t coin the term graphic design until 1922.

The London Tube map is an outstanding example of graphic design and the timelessness of good design. In 1933, Harry Beck created this imaginative and elegantly simple design. Initially, it was rejected by the publicity department who described it as too radical, too different to what other people were doing. But the trial print run was a great success, it was just what the public wanted. Harry Beck’s insights, his ability to see things differently won the day. Beck based his map on circuit diagrams; stripping the Tube network down to a neat diagram of coloured, criss-crossing lines. Very different from the usual map layout. It was easy to follow and easy to use.

Today, graphic design is just about everywhere you look. Your cereal box in the morning, the billboard advert on your way to work, the websites you visit during the day and your favourite iPhone app. Graphic designers use both the basic elements of design as well their own creative genius to create a specific product that is tailor made to meet a particular client’s requirement.

Here are the basic elements:

Typography: The typeface selection and the size and spacing of individual characters can enhance your message. For example, a heavy sans-serif font conveys authority however a thin-stroke scripted font is friendlier.

Shapes: Can cause your audience to react in different ways. Ovals tend to be welcoming, whereas square shapes present a tidier appearance. Placing these shapes on a page can create the feeling of order or chaos, draw your audience’s eyes to a specific point or lead their eyes along a journey.

Colour: Key weapons in the graphic designer’s arsenal. Colour choice will directly influence the audience’s emotional engagement with the finished product.

White Space: Knowing when to let elements ‘breathe’ on the page often only comes with experience. A graphic designer will have the confidence to reduce copy or leave out certain aspects in order to give the design piece white space, aiding the viewer to easily understand the message. Use of white or negative space can also add sophistication and refinement.

Imagery: A great image can truly make your piece stand out from the crowd. A graphic designer will be able to select or create an image to fit a particular setting or know when a photoshoot is needed to achieve specific results.

Texture: Consideration of the end design piece will determine how it is finished and thus add to your audience’s experience. Paper choice, embossing, UV varnishing are among the many choices a designer will determine, creating that wow factor for the end user.

In addition to these basic elements a designer will also have to consider specific, sometimes unique issues. For example, different publication types and printing processes may require a unique colour profile. This controls the ink saturation used in the finished piece making sure the document appears at its best.

As well as having amassed a wealth of design experience and industry knowledge a graphic designer will also be proficient in using the industry standard tools:

Adobe Illustrator: Supports vector graphics and scalable art. Graphic designers can build infographics, icons, logos and related other pieces with Illustrator. The beauty of vector graphics is that they can be scaled up to huge sizes with no loss of quality.

Adobe Photoshop: Features hundreds of specialty editing tools and filters to adjust photographs or similar image files. Complex montages and realistic photo compositions can be created - the only limit is your imagination.

Adobe InDesign: A frame-based layout program that helps designers compose the elements of their work into a single file. Often this is the culmination of hours of prep work in Illustrator and Photoshop. The artwork can be exported for print or online use.

Graphic design plays an essential role in conveying information correctly, clearly and in the most appealing way to your audience.

With the attention span of the general populace dwindling and the market place chocked full of your competitors jostling for position, can you afford to be ‘left on the platform’ and not to employ the skills of a graphic designer?

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