Graphic design is a highly misunderstood industry, with many misconceptions about its purpose and process. From the idea that graphic design is just about making things look pretty, to the notion that it’s only about digital design, it’s time to separate fact from fiction. In this article, we explore some of the common misconceptions surrounding graphic design and provide insights into the true nature of the industry.
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 the web…
The Function of Graphic Design: More than Just Aesthetics
Graphic design is often thought of as a purely aesthetic pursuit, but it’s much more than that. At its core, graphic design is about solving problems through visual communication and making use of form and function to achieve specific goals.
Designing has always been about functionality. Whether it’s to market a product or to help instruct on its 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 beginner guides 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 a flat design very straightforward. This has become especially useful in smartphone 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 its time in the spotlight,” writes Olly Wainwright for 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.
Graphic design has come a long way since its inception and is now being recognized as a form of art in its own right. From exhibitions in museums and galleries to graphic design institutes and workshops, the industry is finally getting the recognition it deserves.
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-like future where a push of a 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 their job is…
You’re not photoshop: Beyond Hollywood’s Portrayal
Graphic design is often portrayed in a stereotypical manner in popular culture, with Hollywood films depicting graphic designers as failed artists or tech-savvy individuals who push a button and presto, design magic happens. The reality of being a graphic designer is much more complex and challenging.
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. Anyone can indeed 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 modern-day hipster?
Photoshop is often seen as the be-all and end-all of graphic design tools, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Graphic designers have a range of tools at their disposal, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. In this article, we explore the different tools used in graphic design and why it’s important to understand the strengths and limitations of each one.
You’re not just a designer
In an interview with Design Bloom, designer and art director Jorge Leon talks about how he has a life outside of design. “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.”
Graphic design is often seen as a 24/7 job, with designers always on call to meet the demands of clients. But designers are not just defined by their work and have interests and hobbies outside of design.
Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.