What is Graphic Design?

In this article I'm going to discuss what graphic design is. From what graphic design is, skills to be a graphic designer, design theory, education you need, equipment you need, to the graphic design portfolio and interview advice, this series is for anyone at any level.

Hello and welcome to this beginner's guide series to graphic design. From what graphic design is, skills to be a graphic designer, design theory, education you need, equipment you need, to the graphic design portfolio and interview advice, this series is for anyone at any level.

In this article I'm going to discuss what graphic design is. Now if you google this it will tell you that:

Graphic design is the art or skill of combining text and pictures in advertisements, magazines or books. So quite a simple and accurate explanation there, though I happen to think there's more to it than that.

In this article I'm going to attempt to answer this question and give you my take on it from my experience.

beginners guide, graphic design,

So what is graphic design?

Well let's start simple. So with graphic design we have two things: We have graphic and design.
Graphic is visual, which is associated with art, imagination and expression, involving many mediums such as drawing painting engraving or lettering given clear and explicit detail. So the graphic part of graphic design is made up of visual elements, the building blocks of design.

The basic visual elements that combine to create graphic design include the following:

  • Line,
  • Colour,
  • Shape,
  • Texture,
  • Space,
  • Form, and
  • Typography.

Through the harness of our artistic expression we choose these visual elements and arrange them on a surface in a layout to convey an idea.

Now the second part is design, which is to decide upon the look and function of something before it is made.

So design is thinking, problem solving and practicality.... theory.

Infographic: 10 Basic Elements of Design
Infographic: 10 Basic Elements of Design
source: creativemarket

In graphic design there are rules that can be considered. These rules are called 'The principles of design'. These principles all have a relationship between each other and appear in every well designed piece of work you see.

So the design principles make the design in 'graphic design'. A good grasp of design theory will mean there is always substance behind your work.

The key principles of design are:

  • Contrast,
  • Hierarchy,
  • Alignment,
  • Balance,
  • Proximity,
  • Repetition,
  • Simplicity, and
  • Function.

When we bring both the visual elements and the design principles together we have graphic design.

Graphic design is not drawing, graphic design is not painting, graphic design is not creating a poster or a quick logo on your computer, these things are the means to the end and are skills in their own right.

Graphic design is not about making things look pretty, graphic design is the organisation and presentation of information, developed through a creative process for a particular function.

In graphic design we must first understand information, a message or a brief and then research, think, imagine and develop and create a solution, a concept in order to communicate that information, tell a story, a message or idea in a visual way.

It's only once we have a solid idea developed through the design process we can use our skills with layout, colour, typography and creative tools to bring that idea to life. Once upon a time that would have been with just the aid of a pencil or a paint brush on paper.

Today it's all those things and more. Today we also have cameras, computers and printers, since the invention of the print press which enabled reproduction on a mass scale graphic design has been used to communicate and spread messages worldwide.

Through the evolution of technology, today we are surrounded by an abundance of visual communication.

Today graphic design is implemented across a broad spectrum of media both print and digital such as:

  1. Advertising, 
  2. Branding, 
  3. Web design, 
  4. Interface design, 
  5. Magazine layout, 
  6. Paper engineering and packaging, 
  7. TV, 
  8. Motion graphics, 
  9. Infographics, 
  10. Signage, 
  11. Art and Installations, and 
  12. Digital art.

If you are looking to pursue a career in graphic design you will inevitably end up creating work across one of those sectors.

Over many decades in the past graphic design has shaped culture through pop art, political art and commercial art.

Today graphic design has a big commercial side, it's associated heavily with commerce and used to sell and advertise things, but that's not all it has to be.

The power of graphic design to inform, influence and instruct on a commercial level can also be used to educate and inspire a generation. I believe graphic design is the unity of two opposing forces, artistic expression and practical application, design theory.

As a graphic designer these two forces will always be at odds with each other in your mind. when you can harness these two forces together in harmony, then you can create great visual communication.

So that's an introduction to what graphic design is. For any of you that were unsure of what graphic design is. I hope that has helped to explain. In this article I mentioned that graphic design is made of two things visual elements and design principles.

Over the next i'm going to talk more about design theory and talk in detail about 'Visual elements' that make a piece of graphic design work. In the next article I'm going to start by talking about 'Line' as a visual element and graphic design, so see you in the next article!

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Dafi Deff Motion Graphics: What is Graphic Design?
What is Graphic Design?
In this article I'm going to discuss what graphic design is. From what graphic design is, skills to be a graphic designer, design theory, education you need, equipment you need, to the graphic design portfolio and interview advice, this series is for anyone at any level.
Dafi Deff Motion Graphics
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