You hear it thrown around as an important part of marketing and communications. But what does graphic design actually mean? What elements does it include, and what tools do professionals in this field use?
That’s what this guide will explore, starting with a simple graphic design definition.
Graphic design means using visuals to communicate a specific message. Anytime you’re thinking about more than text in communicating that message, graphic design can come into play. Individual elements might include:
In other words, it’s a broad field. So let’s get specific.
What does a graphic designer do? In truth, it depends. Most professionals break down the concept into seven distinct types. Graphic design is most often used for:
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This type describes the process of designing product packaging to make it more viable and attractive to customers. It can help packaged goods stand out on store shelves and position a product against its competition.
Almost 95% of a website’s first impressions are based on its visual elements. Web designers think through and execute the layout and visuals of both individual pages. They also think through and define the larger hierarchy that makes browsing a website a coherent, intuitive experience.
This is a broad category, encompassing any type of advertisements your business might run:
The main goal here is persuasion, catching your audience’s attention, and getting your message across quickly to make the ad worth the investment.
This type of design connects your audience directly with the place where it lives. Think of examples like wall murals, public transit signage, and even the interior design of stores. The purpose can range from functional (like navigational signs) to artistic (like wall murals).
Even publications based on text, like books, journals, and newspapers, still need graphic designers to get the look just right. Professionals in this field will focus heavily on typography, layout, and secondary accompanying artwork.
Every branding process needs at least one visual professional. Creating a visual identity for a business means creating a distinct brand image through a wide range of elements:
Creating a visual identity is not just about creating these elements, though. It’s about creating a comprehensive visual system in which every element works together towards a more coherent, persuasive brand image.
A more recent type of graphic design is the ability to create moving graphics. Animations can come into play in anything from digital ads and websites to videos and other areas in which the visual is not just static.
Professional designers tend to use a few analog and digital tools to help them get the job done:
For two decades now, Adobe’s Creative Suite has been the dominant software package among graphic designers. Even novices have heard of platforms like Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign (used largely for layouts).
Regardless of which among the seven types outlined above is the focus of a job, most graphic designers bring a particular set of skills to the job. That includes:
One final skill gets us to the final portion of this guide. Graphic designers have to follow current trends, getting constant inspiration from the work of others. There’s no better place to accomplish that than these five blogs, written directly by and for the profession.
There are countless others out there. But even following these fives will give you a great sense of any subtopics within this sprawling area. Use it for inspiration or to just understand the industry better, to immerse yourself deeper into a core part of the marketing and communications world.
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