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No One Understands Graphic Design

Graphic design is everywhere. Our work is seen by thousands. Often we’re uncredited and our role in the process is diminished. After all, we are hired to visualize another company or person’s vision. When you tell someone you’re a graphic designer, be prepared for the barrage of questions about exactly what that is. Part of it that is that our industry uses the term graphic design to refer to a wide variety of specialties. Sometimes that makes it easier for us to take on different types of work. Sometimes it makes it hard to tell people we specialize in print and not web…

You’re more function than form

Design has always been about functionality. Whether it’s to market a product or to help instruct on it’s use, what differentiates design from non-commercial art is that we have a function. Let’s take flat design, which web designer Luke Clum so eloquently deconstructed as a user friendly step forward in his beginners guide for Creative Blog. The premise of flat design is using simplicity to our advantage to grab attention and focus on the most basic elements. Solid blocks of color and simple type choices help using flat design very straight forward. This has become especiallyl useful in smart phone apps where designers attempt to balance branding with ease of use for consumers on the go.

You’re not in an art museum…yet

Graphic design needs it’s time in the spotlight,” writes Olly Wainwright for the The Guardian. While various museums and institutions are dedicated to architecture and crafts, we’re just starting to see graphic design rise. Wainwright tells us about initiatives in London and how design is seen in British culture specifically. As a print designer, I found it especially interesting that print is still a huge and growing part of the industry. As much as we are told about digital, there is still a big market for analog products. Are there any initiatives in your area that show off the art of design? How do you tell people about your job?

You’re not a computer program

Have you seen the video “FYI I’m a graphic designer” with mention after mention of graphic design in television and movies? “I’m a graphic designer,” we hear in the film by London based designers Ellen Mercer and Lucy Streule. “So is everyone with a laptop.” In pop culture, graphic design exists in a Jetson’s like future where a push of the button does it all. In Hollywood, it seems like graphic designers are portrayed as if we’re failed artists, that it’s something anyone can do, and that there’s quality design is easy. In real life, even the most well-educated designers are challenged by our work. It’s still funny and cool to laugh at ourselves. There’s a lot more depth and hilarity to our work! I love all of the parts where they try to explain to people what they’re job is…

You’re not photoshop

No seriously, Photoshop doesn’t design things. A lot of designers don’t even use Photoshop much for their work. I’m more likely to be in InDesign and Illustrator when I’m designing magazines and infographics. It’s like saying anyone can use paint. It’s very true that anyone can put paint on a canvas. It’s just a tool. Anyone can cook. Doesn’t make you a chef. Speaking of tools, the San Diego Reader’s Ask a Hipster column explains the stereotypical connection between hipsters and graphic design. Do you agree with his assessment that it’s the perfect stereotype of the mdoern day hipster.

You’re not just a designer

In an interview with designbloom, designer and art director Jorge Leon talks about how he has a life outside of deisgn. “I love being a graphic designer,” says the designer who works out of Barcelona. “but I can also imagine myself being a photographer or something equally creative.”

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Brian E. Young

I'm a graphic designer (portfolio), classical pianist and artist in Baltimore, MD. I host the Uncanny Creativity Podcast helping to demystify the creative process and creator of Funlooksfun.com, an online shop for apparel and games. Twitter: @sketchee

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