What is graphic design?

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This is a common question I get when I tell people I’m a graphic designer, “Well, what is it exactly that you do?” For many people, graphic design is a mysterious land of Photoshop magic where leprechauns and unicorns live. Let me tell you it is not.

Graphic design is a very real thing. It is all around you like the air you breathe. Stop and look around. I’m sure that as you’re reading this you are seeing many items that have been created by a graphic designer (a magazine, a cereal box, all of your mail, logos on everything, etc.). There was much blood, sweat and tears that went into creating everything you see that is beautifully designed.

According to the American Institute of Graphic Artists, “Graphic design is a creative process that combines art and technology to communicate ideas. The designer works with a variety of communication tools in order to convey a message from a client to a particular audience. The main tools are image and typography.”

Some may say it all began with cave paintings and has evolved over centuries with the development of new technologies (i.e. the invention of paper, the Gutenberg press, computers, etc.). The first goal of a good designer is to communicate a message as clearly and effectively as possible. Today, the computer is a graphic designer’s primary tool (Don’t get us started on Mac vs. PC). It is used to accomplish the same task as ever before, only faster and more efficiently.

Back in the day before computers, I’ve heard, people would have to literally cut and paste type and photos by hand with an Exacto knife and rubber cement to create their layouts! I have never had to do this and I can’t image doing it either. Designers that have been around since the 80s love to tell about how different things used to be and how “easy” we have it today. They also claim they had to walk to school up hill both ways.

As technology evolves, so does the field of graphic design. After computers, the Internet is the latest and greatest influence on design. It too, is faster and less expensive than print. Print is still very much alive and well, but more people are on the web than ever before, which has created a big demand for web design. Graphic design has been around since the beginning and will always be around in one form or another. As long as there is a need to communicate, there will be a need for good design.

To read more about graphic design in practice today, visit: AIGA

To read more about the history of graphic design, visit: Moore College of Art and Design

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