What is graphic design? Many people have a very basic idea about what a graphic designer does. do they create logos for companies? do they produce ads for the internet and magazines? do they edit images with Photoshop?
Well, yes. Sure, designers do all that. But if we want to fully explain what graphic design is, we must go into a much broader context. For wherever you are on your graphic design journey, you’ll need guidance from time to time as you navigate the unpredictable waters of creativity.
Some terms like visual design and visual communication are often used synonymously. However, in line with what has been written so far, it’s worth starting this guide with a very apt definition from the AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Design), loosely translated here.
Graphic design is defined as “the art and practice of planning and projecting ideas and experiences with visual and textual content.” That said, if you want to put graphic design to work for you, this article is for you. Join us on this fascinating tour of what graphic design is and everything it takes to be a good designer. Let’s continue!
what is graphic design?
As we mentioned at the beginning, the right answer to the question what is graphic design is not an easy task. Graphic design is an art and a profession that is related to many other disciplines and, at the same time, is autonomous.
In a broad concept, the term graphic design refers to two-dimensional material or virtual (computer-generated) surfaces, visual media and information carriers through typography, image, color and material.
Likewise, graphic design is a means of visually representing language and thoughts, as well as making theoretical connections visible, legible and communicable. today, graphic design is a mediator in almost all areas of life:
Science, art and culture
Now, if we refer to the graphic design services that exist in the market, we can mention, for example, planning, design and creation of:
user interfaces and interiors,
television and film graphics,
websites or newspapers
Keep in mind that regardless of whether the above is material, virtual (digital graphic design), moving or static, or has craft, economic, academic or creative value and utility, it all fits within the concept of what graphic design is.
why is graphic design important?
Starting from the definition and description of what is graphic design that we taught you before, it is key to understand the importance of graphic design today, as this can help you achieve all kinds of goals by improving communication with other people.
The scope of things you can create by learning the basics of graphic design is huge. It ranges from company presentations to simple brochures to modern websites. Graphic design allows you to, for example:
Make a good first impression.
Distinguish yourself from the competition.
Project an image of professionalism and confidence.
Make your ideas have greater reach and resonance through language and visual communication.
In short, graphic design is a very powerful art that plays a prominent role in such important areas as digital marketing.
Successful companies use it time and time again to give their profile and brand a contemporary and modern expression. However, the basics of graphic design are not only relevant for commercial purposes, but also in the field of art and painting.
Graphic design basics
The basics of graphic design are the foundation of any visual medium and the key to understanding what graphic design is. Even the smallest details, such as typefaces, play a role in the success of the composition. Any well-done image, illustration or design is based on the correct use of the basic design elements presented in this section:
At first, you’ll probably find them underpowered on their own, but the right combination of these basic elements of visual communication are an essential part of almost everything designed today.
Many years ago, psychologists had already established a connection between human emotions and colors. Thus, color psychology investigates which colors evoke certain types of emotions. And although people’s reactions vary from person to person, there are certain universally valid laws about the effects of color. Especially in visual design.
In fact, according to research conducted by the secretariat of the Seoul International Color Expo, 92.6 percent said they place greater importance on visual factors when buying products. Only 5.6 percent said that physical sensation through the sense of touch was most important. Hearing and smell each attracted 0.9 percent, mentions a Colorcom article on the relationship between color and marketing.
Therefore, color matching is not only crucial for graphics, but above all for building an appealing and consistent brand identity.
Textures are an important and fundamental element of graphic design, as they can enhance the visual presence or weight of other elements of the overall composition. They even describe the surface quality of artwork and design elements.
Also, they are directly related to how things would look or feel if we could touch them. For example, have you noticed how some pieces of visual communication show up things that look smooth, others rough, others smooth, etc.?
Well, textures serve to add a special touch to your design. As well as to enhance elements, create visual balance, balance or contrast.
Taking into account the shape of the lines in a design is another fundamental aspect to know what graphic design is and what are its bases. why? Well, a line is a shape that connects two or more points, isn’t it? It can be thick, thin, wavy or curved. Each of these types of lines creates a different feeling for the viewer.
With lines you can convey the energy of what you want to communicate by creating movement, something no image should be without. The line is made up of several points, an infinite number of them, and they can help you draw or delimit your plan.
Lines are very common in design. For example, in drawings and illustrations, but also in graphic elements such as textures and patterns. They also play an important role in text composition.
To continue this tour about what is graphic design and its main elements, let’s now talk about dots. no! They are different from those that serve to close sentences. Rather, as a visual element of which all shapes are composed (more on that later).
Well, dots are the basis of graphic design, since several dots can form a line, and with a very large group of dots you get a textured shape.
Space in design describes the distance between objects and design elements. It is often also referred to as white space or empty space.
A simple example is when you paste a picture on a sheet of paper. The space that is not covered by the image is white space. And although it may seem trivial, the design of white space is one of the most important tasks that characterize professional graphic design.
From the viewer’s satisfaction point of view, sufficient space is very important because it allows him to rest his eyes in one place. Therefore, it is part of the concept of a solid visual design.
Even the simplest shapes are often unconsciously associated with certain characteristics, images and feelings of the most diverse kind. As with colors, there are also basic laws for shapes.
For example, a square may tend to have a masculine effect on most people, while a circle seems to have a feminine effect.
Designers, in particular, tend to talk over and over again about design trends, as well as other elements of graphic design. Some shapes are fashionable, for example, because they better reflect a current theme or mood. Now that we’ve seen what graphic design is, why it’s important and its basics, let’s move on to look at the types of design that exist so you can decide which one is yours. it’s worth going for a drink before we continue!
what are the types of design?
Before knowing the types of design, let’s see what the definition of design is. According to the RAE, design is the “original conception of an object or work”. In other words, it is a previous configuration that seeks a solution in one of the fields linked to creativity. These fields are none other than the types of design we know today.
It is one of the types of graphic design that is responsible for the design, layout and composition of publications (print or digital) such as books, magazines, newspapers, etc.. Editorial design creates designs with content, form and the reader in mind.
It is a type of design that focuses on the process of designing web pages and web applications, but also on attracting leads (users who leave their data on a landing page in exchange for content of their interest, usually free). This process also includes making the user experience more user friendly, which is known as UX Design.
what is industrial design? It is one of the types of design oriented to the creation and development of objects, products and services, which can be mass-produced or produced on a large scale. Industrial design has a diverse field of work: toys, vehicles, cosmetics, artifacts, technology, decoration, etc.
It is responsible for the creation of clothing and accessories according to the influences of the context or according to the designer’s style. The fashion design professional masters textile processes such as pattern making and professional and industrial tailoring, and is capable of creating and managing brands. One of the specializations of fashion design is textile design.
It is one of the types of design that is responsible for designing functional and aesthetic spaces with innovative and integral proposals. These spaces can be commercial, corporate or residential.
In general terms, graphic design consists of communicating an idea or message visually. Go back to the beginning if you need to keep in mind a broader concept of what graphic design is. Here is the history of graphic design for children and adults.
History of graphic design for children and adults
You may ask, why is this history of graphic design for children and adults? simple, because graphic design is for everyone, and it has its origins in that premise. If we go back to the Paleolithic era we would see how cavemen communicated in the most natural way possible through paintings on rock walls.
At that time there was no language as we know it, they used figures representing hunting scenes to communicate or express something. What we know today as “Rock Paintings”.
Although cave painting could not be considered within the current definitions of graphic design, this type of artistic manifestation is part of its origin. Communicating through images is something we do since we were children, since it is the simplest and most natural way to make ourselves understood. When we are children we are beginning to discover the world and to express ourselves, and somehow there is present the graphic designer that we all have. Ancient man was also discovering the world and finding the ways he had to communicate with his environment.
Thousands of years had to pass until a formal language was known, by codes instead of representations (the hieroglyphs of Ancient Egypt are part of that transition) it is a question that could generate controversy, but it would be fair to give the title of “first designers” to those who carried out a graphic activity with the intention of transmitting information.
With the invention of writing, graphic language acquired new resources to communicate. By the Middle Ages, religious books had colorful graphic ornaments accompanied by text, with the purpose of making the message much more visual and eye-catching. Very similar to the work of the graphic designer, don’t you think?
Images enriched the collective imagination, giving rise to artistic creation by inspiration or reference. with the advent of the printing press in 1440, the publication of books and images became popular, thus creating a new industry around graphics that gave birth to new professions, among them the printing press in the 1440’s gave birth to new professions, among them the technician in charge of the layout of the content using the machine and its tools, and the profession of the person in charge of carrying out the printing.
Since the 18th century and with the industrial era, the demand for visual content oriented to the promotion of mass products required specialists trained in color and form to generate images oriented to a very specific public. It is from that moment on that the image of the graphic designer is already taking shape.
Frequently asked questions about graphic design
1. in what areas can graphic design be applied?
Currently the applications of graphic design are very varied, ranging from publishing (books, magazines, almanacs, etc.) to digital (web pages, applications, virtual catalogs, video games).
Nowadays it is very difficult to find something that does not have graphic design (even if it is badly designed and it hurts us), you can even find it in the elements of your life.you can even find it in the elements of your daily life such as the glass of your coffee every morning or the traffic signs you see on your way to work (they didn’t come out of nowhere, someone had to design them).
2. what are the types of graphic design?
With the development of graphic design as a profession in the nineteenth and twentieth century, categories related to the field but focused on specific sectors were appearing.
One of them is persuasive graphic design, which aims to generate a change in the perception of the audience, motivating a behavior linked to the consumption of goods or services.
We also find the graphic design of administration, which is intended for corporate work that includes the preparation of invoices, forms, documentation, among others.
Another type of graphic design, and the one we live with every day, is graphic design for information. It includes everything related to magazines, newspapers and any other media used to inform about facts, or specific situations such as traffic signs or warning signs, for example.
We could name other types of graphic design such as educational, but as you can notice, the application of design corresponds to every area of daily and professional life. Make the exercise of finding another specific area and you will notice that you could even find a type of graphic design that you did not imagine.
3. how did digital graphic design come about?
Since the end of the 20th century, communication has been completely transformed by modern computing and the accessibility of computer tools to the general public. This also gave a new twist to the activity of the graphic designer, who, provided with the facilities of computer technology, was able to find his way to the digital graphic design.the new era of communication, leaving aside the manual art of graphic design for the modern but increasingly accessible digital graphic design, has been a new era for the graphic designer.
Since Gutenberg with his printing press, the publishing industry did not have such a great impact as with the electronic age and later with its culmination in the Internet age. Now the graphic designer not only had a tool, but also the means to control the creative process, storing images, transforming them, even finding the inspiration needed to complete a project.
4. what are the main design programs?
The graphic design programs that should not be missing -at all- in your creative arsenal are: Adobe Photoshop (for image manipulation such as photographs), Adobe Illustrator (vectorial design), Corel Draw(vector creation and image editing), SketchUp (for 3d designs) and GIMP (free image editing program).
Some of the programs mentioned are paid or subscription-based (like Adobe products) and are geared towards a professional audience, but you also have free graphic design options like GIMP, where you don’t have to be an expert to produce visual content that meets your expectations.
5. what is the role of the graphic designer today?
As designers, it is part of our mission to know why this beautiful profession exists, because that way we will know where we are going and what the future holds, since we not only make images with the purpose of selling a product, we are also communicators with social responsibility. Every image produced with the help of design has an impact on society and culture.
Now, do you know what kind of graphic designer you are?
6. what do you study in graphic design?
The graphic design career includes a curriculum based on the fundamentals of design, the use of digital tools, web design, animation, photography and audiovisuals. It also includes a series of general or basic courses such as language and mathematics, but this depends on the curriculum of each university and institute.
If you are wondering what is studied in graphic design, here is a list of the courses or subjects that are usually taught in the graphic design career.
Introduction to drawing
History of graphic design
7. why study graphic design?
Graphic design is a profession that combines artistic techniques and aesthetic concepts focused on communicating visually. In that sense, graphic design is a very versatile career in its learning process and in its professional application. Precisely, this versatility makes it a very interesting and exciting career.
Although being a graphic designer requires certain artistic skills, it is essential to have creative and strategic thinking in order to fulfill the main role of this profession: to solve problems. But not communication problems, but visual communication problems.
For example: if a company needs to build its brand and make itself known, it will require a logo and different graphic pieces to solve that problem. If a publishing house needs to publish a book or a magazine, a graphic designer (specialized in editorial design) will be able to solve the communication problems through the design of the cover and the layout of the publication.
8. what is the field of graphic design?
As the years have gone by, the job field of graphic design has expanded. Today, graphic designers can work in Design and Advertising agencies, but also in other areas that are not so well known. Get to know them:
Digital media agencies
Digital marketing agencies
Photography and post-production studios
Media (TV, newspapers, websites)
Fairs and exhibitions
Communication and marketing departments
Private and public institutions
Another important advantage of graphic design is that you can work independently, that is, as a freelance graphic designer. If you choose this path, you will be able to develop your own portfolio of clients to solve their visual communication needs.
9. what is the relationship between graphic design and advertising?
The relationship between graphic design and advertising is the same that we can observe between engineering and its application in different fields: mechanical, industrial, systems, sound, etc. engineering.
So advertising is one more field of application of graphic design, among the many in which design can be applied (editorial, identity, marketing, press, digital environments, etc).
Only in this case there is a closer relationship, since advertising requires to communicate and persuade with those elements that graphic design develops in a visual and aesthetic way: image, color, typography, balance and visual harmony, etc. That is why some educational institutions teach the specialty of ‘advertising design’.
We can say that they are very complementary specialties, but they do not always have the same purposes. Let’s remember that every piece of advertising may contain graphic design, but not all graphic design is necessarily advertising.
10. what is the difference between an illustrator and a graphic designer?
Illustration and graphic design are interdependent specialties and have the same relationship that exists between mathematics and engineering. One enhances and optimizes the effect or work of the other.
In graphic design, the use of illustrations is very common, precisely to complement or better communicate a message. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that in many graphic design curricula there is an illustration course. Although it does not always appear under that name.
The origin of graphic design has illustration among its first tributaries. The first illustrators were artists who mastered drawing and painting, and when their work was required for editorial or commercial environments, they adapted their technique to graphic processes and mass production, as in the case of printing.
However, over time, graphic design added different specialties to its process, and evolved in techniques and concepts until it became one of the main specialties of visual communication.
11. how to get a job as a graphic designer?
With everything we have told you about graphic design you are already one step ahead in your job search, but to complement your efforts, we will leave you with a list of tips that you can apply to get a job as a graphic designer in no time.
Decide what area to specialize in
Folk wisdom is not something that can be easily discarded, in fact, it is possible that when you have heard the saying “he who covers a lot, squeezes little”, without realizing it, you have received valuable advice for your graphic design career.
What we mean is that you should decide which area of graphic design you are going to pursue, because this will facilitate your professionalization and your job search.
If you need help, you can go back and read our point about the graphic design career field, and choose the sector that interests you the most.
Create a graphic design portfolio
To get a job as a graphic designer it is important that your profile is attractive to recruiters of any company linked to the medium.
Making a resume is not enough to show your graphic design skills to those who could give you a job, it is important that you show all your skills through a portfolio.
Don’t worry if you have no idea where to start, we will explain in detail how to create a graphic design portfolio later on.
Search on Freelance job sites
Another way to make yourself known to the world with your graphic design skills is to work freelance.
There are many indispensablesites for a graphic designer to get a job quickly, here we mention some of them so you can start your search.
By the way, before moving on with the job search sites, we recommend you to get trained with our free Ebook about the essential freelance rules.
Fiverr is one of the favorite sites for freelancers, especially because to get a job you do not have to apply in the traditional way, but you can offer particular services, and those looking for a graphic designer to design a logo, for example, can contact you directly.
The Freelancer portal has helped more than one to solve their economic situation, on this page you can also find work as a freelance graphic designer, the only difference with Fiverr, is that you do not directly offer a service, but you must apply to the projects that are looking for collaborators.
12. how to create a Graphic Design portfolio?
The graphic design portfoliois a professional letter of introduction, where you showcase your best projects (yes, the designs you spent hours working on and we know they deserve to be seen).
If you want to attract potential clients, whether you work in an agency or you are a freelance graphic designer, it is important that more people know about your work, and without a doubt, a portfolio will be your ally to highlight your experience.
There are several websites you can use to create your first professional portfolio, but don’t know how to get started? here are some tips to make your design book more attractive!
Highlight your style as a graphic designer
When you create a graphic design portfolio, you will surely want to show your best works; but why not take advantage of it to show your style?
Therefore, it is necessary that you know your differential value and transmit it in your design book.
Choose your best works
We know it is difficult to choose among all the designs that have cost you hours of sleep. Remember that your graphic design book must show the best of you, and for this you must select the projects with which you obtained the best results. These works, by themselves, have to show your skills and the type of work you specialize in.
Show the design process
have you ever been asked by a client to make adjustments to your design? We’re sure it’s happened to you more than once. The good news is that you can include a graphic piece of that process in your graphic design portfolio. This way you can show how the first proposal was modified until you get the version that the client chose as their favorite.
This way, you will be able to show your creativity in the other changes. It is a plus for your graphic design portfolio, since they will see the effort and perseverance you put in to achieve the design that meets the client’s objectives.
So much for our 2022 guide on what graphic design is and how you can use it in different specialties. As you noticed, graphic design combines elements of traditional art, creativity and modern technology, and is one of the fastest and most effective forms of communication.
We hope this article has motivated you and has given you the important basics to use graphic design in your communication. Well understood, graphic design makes the world a much more beautiful and valuable place for many people.