A beginner’s guide to understanding graphic design and how great design can help you succeed online.
You’ve probably seen the term floating about on various parts of the internet, but do you know what it actually means? Do you know all the ins and outs of it? Yes, what is graphic design?
The question is on everyone’s minds – except the experts who know what they’re doing. When you think of graphic design, you may think of just drawing – but it’s so much more than that. It’s time to shed some light on this elusive industry.
What is graphic design?
Put simply, graphic design is the creation of, well, graphics. Brand logos, artwork on websites, magazines, books – graphic design is an art and is everywhere. It takes years of practice and an unmatched creative flair to master and execute design efficiently and effectively. Essentially, it’s the combination of text, images and artwork into one design.
Not to be confused with illustration, it is the ultimate form of visual communication because it’s easy to understand by all. In its most basic form, it can be signs that have warnings or information on, to the likes of advertisements in print or online. The marriage between text, images and symbols that embodies the intended message for an audience. Whether it’s a disabled toilet sign or a 4-page spread in a magazine, graphic design is created for the purpose it is intended for.
Graphic Design vs. Illustration
Whilst there is some crossover between the two, it is minimal. Think of illustration as the creation of the materials a graphic designer will use in their work. Like a gardener supplying the turf and gravel for a landscape gardener to do their design work. It’s the meeting of different elements to form one well crafted outcome. Illustration reflects an idea, or is inspired by one, whereas graphic design is the communication of an idea, visually. Graphic design inspiration is information or a purpose, a graphic is specifically created to convey an idea or a message.
What is graphic design used for?
Graphic design projects range from anything in print; newspapers, magazines and posters, to digital; advertising, websites, informational graphics and much more. Currently, there are many graphic design agencies out there that can put their spin on a businesses brand and identity, the likes of Cefar are officially recognised as a top design agency over in the UK for instance. As previously mentioned, graphic design is intended for a purpose. Created to convey information or a message to an audience. But graphic design can do so much more. It can cement a brand in people’s mind. By incorporating recognisable and signature colours or details, a brand can become immediately recognisable. So, graphic design always begins with a purpose in mind. What is the message? Who is it for? How is the message going to be conveyed? Who is the intended recipient of the message or information? After that is established, then comes the design stage. Typography, illustration and photography merge into one, to form the perfect design.
Branding is the meeting point of marketing and graphic design. Any graphic design agency will establish a client’s intended audience, what a business/service is – in order to create a logo design that is in line with the business and brand. Fonts, colours, images, all of these need to have a consistent theme throughout. Websites, business cards, posters, flyers, adverts – the whole works!
Graphic design is in every industry around the world. From print t-shirts in fashion to interior décor, there is no industry that has been untouched by it. From politics to culture, designs are educational, informational or promotional, graphic design is in every aspect in life. Truly great graphic design can not only inform, but influence as well.
One of the most important uses of graphic design is in web design. An excellent website is imperative for a business’, or any other website’s, success. Users that come across a poor website are more than likely to leave in the first 10 seconds of seeing it. The basics of graphic design for websites are essential for users to interact with a site. A website needs to remain up to date with latest design trends, and engage and interest it’s intended audience. This requires a strong sense of branding, consistency and appealing, effective graphic design.
The Basics of Design
Lines – Lines are usually present in most designs, from a solid block line to a dotted minimal one, nearly every design you see will incorporate a line of sorts, in the work. They curve, they come in different colours, but they are all a line, and they are always present in design work. The bolder the line, the more the eye is drawn to the work, boldness accents and defines, the same as darker and bolder colours. Softer colours and curved, minimal lines give the design a different feel to the graphic that keep the audience engaged.
Colours – Different colours convey very different things, so it’s important to understand what they mean to an audience. Red can embody passion or anger, lust and love, whilst yellow is mellow and soft. Blue is calming, and monochrome colours can convey a minimalism. What colours graphic designers use on a site, can vastly affect the way consumers view it.
Textures – The background of a website is just as important as the navigation and the foreground. It can emphasise content or create a different feel to a website. Textures such as paper, stone and marble can convey a different message dependent on the site.
Space – Everything has a purpose in graphic design, so if there’s a white space in the work, it’s meant to be there. Graphic designers use techniques such as ‘negative space’, which became popular due to the fact it allows the audience to read it more easily. Google utilise this on their home page. Well used space is one of the most important elements in the design stage.
When graphic designers tackle any project, they use all of these aspects to create one fully formed and realised graphic, that conveys the right message for the intended audience. Be it a website that conveys a business to an informative poster on the street, graphic design is prevalent in every aspect of society and life. It can dictate or inform, convey or advertise, it’s power has no limits. Never skimp on design when creating anything visual. Make sure all graphic design is well thought out, well designed and conveys the right message.