Defining Graphic Design

Often I read Wikipedia graphic design articles. Most articles lack basic information on the topics we all use every day in our profession. The web is big enough that some of the missing information can be found pretty quickly just by a Google search. I don’t think that many of us in the profession would turn there for these definitions. We find more focused sites about design that are secluded from the public. Anyway, it’s not so great to see the weak points in Wikipedia as a resource and not great that it’s where we graphic designers sit.

It’s not really a complete encyclopedia, so it’s probably a mistake that they’ve defined themselves that way. Wikipedia collects projects and its graphic design project remains underdeveloped. The wiki concept seems to work great on the small scale. Take a look at the Battlestar Wiki for example.

I gave it a shot and dove in and did a small restructuring of the graphic design article. Like many graphic designers, I’d rather focus on my own projects than edit over there but I did my part. So here we are back on my site… Like I said, it’s as easy as a Google search, but lets make it just a little easier. I’ve compiled a few resources and articles that give a nice overview of graphic design for further reading. What else should we see when we’re giving an overview of graphic design past and present.

The Design from a German stamp.
The Design from a German stamp. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Definitions

What is graphic design from Design Talkboard. Here’s five definitions of graphic design to start with.

What is graphic Design? from Veerle’s Blog. Commenters from around the web weigh in to create their own definitions of graphic design.

Trying to explain graphic design to a hall full of ten year olds from Johnson Banks, a London design consultant agency. Michael Johnson talks about his experience with kids and design.

History

A Brief History of Type by Thomas W. Phinney. Type is summed up through four major eras: Gutenberg, the Industrial Revolution, Photocomposition and the Digital era.

A Historical Timeline of Computer Graphics and Animation by Wayne E. Carlson.

THe History of Graphic Design and Its Audiences from the AIGA. Michael J. Golec talks about the lack of educational programs that focus on graphic design history. Most education in the field is career or studio driven.

History of Graphic Design by Nancy Stock-Allen. This is an educational site produced to help in lectures, but it’s very visually compelling and touches upon more points than I’ve seen on other sites I’ve looked at.

XIXth century advertising poster for the hydrotherapic baths of Bagnoles de l'Orne (France).
XIXth century advertising poster for the hydrotherapic baths of Bagnoles de l’Orne (France). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.

What your daily newspaper can teach you about design

While everyone feels the newspaper industry is dying, we can still learn a lot from the way they are designed. Part of my duties as a designer was once layout out several newspapers. I’ve learned a lot that has helped me with other projects ever since I’ve started on that. So maybe these tips will help you just a bit.

Newspapers love bold headlines

A lot of “bad” designs are cluttered. There’s too much going on. There isn’t any emphasis or too many things appear emphasized. The idea of a headline, subhead, and body copy can extend to many forms of design. Try keeping the body copy consistent in size and type style. The headline might even be in the same font. A headline is an opportunity to use a second font, but ask yourself why you think this is right and be critical of the results.

Photos and captions

Newspapers often have to deal with different shapes of photos and fit them into various spaces. In the past few months that I’ve done a few days of newspaper layouts each week, the more I see that the layout is a puzzle. Everything has to fit just perfectly. It’s more challenging than it may at first appear. On top of that, you don’t want the captions don’t want to get mixed in with the body copy. Using a rule, box or just enough white space can separate the caption text from body text Keeping photos near their headlines/copy is one tip. Another is to give a lot of space around them. This can work for all kinds of design objects in your layout.

There’s a lot more that you might learn from newspaper design. Look at some strongly branded and well thought out newspapers. Ask what works and what doesn’t

Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.

Download These Free Public Domain Drawing Books for Artists

Learning to draw? The library is probably your first stop if you’re on a budget.

But the internet has its own answer with public domain resources such as Project Gutenberg, OpenLibrary.org, Google Books and Archive.org, you have a collection of free drawing books at your fingertips.

You can view these online or download it to your Kindle or eReader of your choice.

The Practice and Science Of Drawing, by Harold Speed
The Practice and Science Of Drawing, by Harold Speed

The Practice and Science of Drawing

The Practice and Science Of Drawing by Harold Speed. This book, originally published in 1913 takes an expected classical approach to drawing that holds up amazingly well today. Although the techniques are classical, you can benefit from the discussion presented no matter what style you’re looking for.

This is the kind of title that reminds us of the power of a well-consolidated book, as opposed to the quick-fix approach of internet tutorials. (As valuable as those are.)

It’s filled with beautiful sketches to study and serves as both a starting point and a reference book.

Pen Drawing

Pen Drawing, An Illustrated Treatise by Charles Maginnis. Pen and ink drawing continues to astound and amaze the average artist. This bible on the subject would be of interest to the modern comic book inker.

The author here has you create a light pencil outline to plan your composition, and then you create amazing detail straight to ink.

Various styles are discussed and dissected. For the price, it’s worth checking out and playing with the techniques.

Pen Drawing, An Illustrated Treatise by Charles Maginnis.
Pen Drawing, An Illustrated Treatise by Charles Maginnis.
The Elements of Drawing, by John Ruskin
The Elements of Drawing, by John Ruskin

The Elements of Drawing

The Elements of Drawing by John Ruskin. Hailing from the 19th century, this book is written in the poetic language of the time. It’s a practical guide that mentors beginner or advanced artists in how to improve their skills.

It lacks step-by-step illustrations, but instead tells you how to discover and view the world with your own eyes. This book is also available for free from Google Books.

Blackboard Drawing

Blackboard Drawing by Frederick Whitney This one takes on a different subject, blackboard and chalk drawing. And thankfully it’s filled with images to illustrate the unique look of this type of art.

Constructive Anatomy

Constructive Anatomy by George B. Bridgman. Learning to draw the human figure? This book tells how with over 500 illustrations showing you exactly how to build a figure. This is a must-read for serious portrait artists and one of the most useful visual books on this list.

It’s one of the few books of this type that details and discusses the wrist, and the movement of each bone and muscle in excruciating detail.

Composition

Composition; a series of exercises in art structure for the use of students and teachers. by Arthur Wesley Dow

This one may be self-explanatory by title, so I will emphasize that your drawing is only as good as its composition.

Good composition can elevate stick figures, while bad composition can ruin what would otherwise be a technical masterpiece.

The American Drawing Book

The American drawing-book: A manual for the amateur, and basis of study for the professional artist. Specially adapted to the use of public and private schools, as well as home instruction by John Gadsby Chapman.

A Progressive Drawing Book For Beginners

A progressive drawing book for beginners by Philip Henry Delamotte. The first half of this book is text and the second half is illustrations for careful study. Perhaps a good place to start if the other drawing books mentioned are overly advanced or technical for your taste.

The Essentials of Perspective

The essentials of perspective with illustrations drawn by the author; by L.W. Miller Perspective is a must no matter what you’re drawing.

“I CALL this little book ” The Essentials of Perspective,” because it seems to me that it has as much information about the science of which it treats as the artist or the draughtsman ever has occasion to make use of, except under the most unusual conditions. “

Book of a Hundred Hands

Another free drawing book is George B. Bridgman’s Book of a Hundred Hands which I recently reviewed. Bridgman writes: “It is the purpose of this work to present the hand not only to the eye but to the understanding.”

Human Anatomy for Art Students

Human anatomy for art students with drawings by Innes Fripp & an appendix on comparative anatomy by Harry Dixon. From the introduction:

“The object of this book is to give the shortest description of human anatomy compatible with the interest of the artist and essential for his work, and to burden his mind as little as possible with names, with technicalities, and with those details which do not bear directly upon the surface forms.”

A Handbook of Illustration

A Handbook of Illustration by A. Horsley Hinton writes 

“Every artist or draughtsman, be he beginner or expert, must draw for himself and according to his own feelings and promptings.

“In every department of art the successful have had their imitators, and these again their imitators, and at each successive stage the further one gets from originality, the more trammelled, the more impotent and hopelessly beyond the possibility of really great work.”

There are also several drawing books available as online-only versions at Open Drawing Books.

Know of any other public-domain artist resources? Let us know in the comments! I’d love to keep adding to the list.

Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.

Why is personal productivity important?

Every week on Q&A Monday, I’ll be answering questions from the Uncanny Creativity community and the web.

Why is personal productivity important?
Anonymous asked on quora

Artists and designers use the word productivity to describe the art of deciding and acting on our top priorities. When we work with our values, we give our life a sense of meaning. First, we notice what we really want. Then, we figure out ways to keep those tasks and projects in motion.

Sometimes we don’t really think through the steps involved. We end up putting effort on reacting to situations we don’t really care about. We’ll often be distracted by helping others with their dreams. We’ll help them in ways that don’t make sense for our own lives. We’ll react to whatever random thoughts come to mind. Often any mental connect of our day triggers these thoughts if we don’t have a way to practice.

By taking action on what’s important, we get more of what we want and need. Researchers at Stanford surveyed almost 400 people about their thoughts on distinctions between meaningfulness and happiness. They found that getting what we need helps us feel happier. Such as when we put some effort toward our health, we’ll usually make healthier choices and then feel happier. The researchers linked thinking about the present linked to happiness.

Meanwhile, the Stanford survey found that thoughts about the past and future actions lead to finding meaning in life. Connecting to other people deeply with a sense of responsibility helps with both meaning and happiness. Finding meaning often is stressful. We might choose the career of our dreams, engage in hobbies, raise children, and travel. All of these include both levels of uncomfortable mental or physical trouble. Those choices also help us feel less stressed .

We could use the term task for anything that we need to carry out. We might have bigger more complex life projects filled with recurring tasks. Productivity for most people includes continually balancing our wants with those of others, dealing well with stress, and defining ourselves.

Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.

What’s the greatest part about being a graphic artist?

The one thing I miss lately in my design work: Super close work with others. Anthony Wood over at Creative Boom writes about his 10 favorite reasons:

Graphic designers are rarely alone; they’re often part of a creative team or working closely with the client, collaborating to come up with the best possible solution. You’re likely to get to know PR professionals, copywriters, marketers, advertisers… you’ll probably work with senior management and be expected to consult with company directors.

Your role will rely on many business relationships; the knock-on benefits of which will only boost your skills and experience – especially your ability to effectively deal with different personalities.

I love talking through visual approaches, getting super into detail about the schedules, and coming to agreement on changes. My current projects involve mostly independence – less collaboration. Much of the fun involves engaging with positive and passionate designers, editors, and project managers to put the puzzle together. 

For me, that’s the best kind of design work beyond making everything look pretty. 

Read more: 10 great reasons to become a graphic designer in 2017 (Anthony Wood for Creative Boom)

Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.