Eye-grabbing graphics in movies, a stunning combination of colors and images on a website, and artistic advertisements are what come to mind when you think of the graphic design industry. While all these examples fit the bill of what graphic design is about, these are not the only elements that make the creative field so exciting.
From book covers to logos to software interfaces, graphic design encompasses a range of creative work. While explaining the intricacies and the details of the graphic design industry is almost impossible in one article, the blog touches on every aspect of graphic design.
What is graphic design?
The American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) describes graphic design as “the art and practice of planning and projecting ideas and experiences with visual and textual content.”
In simpler terms, taking various ideas or content and translating them visually is graphic design. It is a craft where artists involve themselves in interpreting various pieces of content visually.
Artists or designers apply page layout techniques and visual hierarchy to represent or communicate an idea in the most effective way possible.
According to designer Alexandros Clufetos, “Graphic design takes graphical and textual elements and implements them into multiple types of media. It helps the producer connect with the consumer. It conveys the message of the project, event, campaign, or product.” (Excerpts from an article published on Rasmussen University’s official website)
Graphic design is used in advertising, infographics, websites, banners, billboards, and marketing, among a host of other things, to convey various information.
While graphic design is used for commercial purposes like creating logos and ads, it is also used for artistic purposes.
The history of graphic design
Graphic design is an inseparable part of our lives. From social media to TV to magazines, graphic design is everywhere. Humans have always found new and more effective ways of communicating themselves. The ancients discovered that the visual mode of communication is more effective than any other. As thousands of years passed, humans perfected the visual mode of communication and created the world of graphic design.
Let us take a quick look at how the art form came out of caves and into our computer or mobile phone screens.
Cave paintings found across various locations in the world, which date back to prehistoric times, only point towards man’s inherent nature of communicating. Cave paintings found in Argentina, Africa, and Spain are proof that man’s romance with arts began even before they could speak. While there is a debate among experts about what these paintings meant, there are no disagreements on the fact that humans understood the effectiveness of visual communications thousands of years ago.
Evolution of the ancient Sumerian language
Historians believe that the Sumerians were the first to develop a fully evolved language. Various historical evidence points towards the fact that the language was developed to record trader inventories so that nothing went missing.
The Sumerian language, along with others that developed during this period, was logographic—symbols that represent words or expressions rather than phonetic sounds.
Early Chinese printing
China holds an important place in history due to its inventions and discoveries in the field of printing. From inventing the first movable type printing to discovering papyrus paper making, China’s gifts to the world of printing are unparalleled.
Interesting fact: In 1040, Bi Sheng invented the first type printing press (movable).
The industrial and renaissance era saw Europe light the world with various inventions; chief among them was the emergence of the printing press. With the printing press entering the scene, the world got a chance to create and recreate designs, arts, and texts on a gigantic scale. Businesses around the world began realizing how visuals could affect people’s buying behavior and increase revenue; thus, modern graphic design was born.
In 1439, Johannes Gutenberg introduced the concept of movable types in Europe. The concept quickly gathered speed and became the cornerstone of modern western civilization.
The Gutenberg press allowed the reproduction of lengthy scholarly books in a shorter time plus, they were affordable for the common people. The press also paved the path to creating creative designs for commercial usage. With the Gutenberg press coming into existence, modern graphic design quickly became known.
Logos of the past
While the use of logos predates modern history, its commercial use may be traced to the 1400s when the printing industry first displayed its emblems. The use of logos by the printing industry was limited to their own documents to display their printing finesse.
The ability to recreate colors was yet another milestone towards fully developing the graphic design industry. Chromolithography is a method by which colors are produced. The method was deployed solely for home décor, but it opened a whole new world for the advertising sector. After the advent of chromolithography, brands began using various marketing tools we are familiar with today.
Graphic design in the modern era
The modern era of graphic design began sometime during the late 1800s and lasted until World War II. The period saw huge transformations and the evolution of varied techniques that contributed to graphic design.
Today, advertising and marketing have taken on a new avatar. Our forefathers couldn’t even have imagined the world we live in today. However, our advancements are a result of all the experiments done in the past by our ancestors.
Graphic design basics
Graphic design is a combination of various elements and principles coming together in perfect harmony. Understanding and studying the various elements and components involved in graphic design will help you become a great designer.
The various elements in graphic design are generally used to create visually impactful and attractive designs. The following are some design elements:
- Color: The combination of colors you use in your designs can make a huge difference in how your brand or product is perceived. According to various studies, colors have the power to affect the mind in different ways.
- Line: Designers generally use lines to create forms and magnify comprehension of the design.
- Form: The better a designer uses different forms, the more effective she will be in communicating key messages to customers and potential buyers.
- Shape: Just like colors, shapes can have a profound effect on their audience. You can easily alter shapes in combination with colors to enhance the mood of the creative work.
- Size: Size, along with shape and form, play a vital role in making a design organized and attractive.
- Space: While all the above elements are crucial to creating an attractive design, it is space that binds all the elements together. You can either connect or separate the various design elements through space.
- Texture: Generally used to create visual tone, texture influences how a design appears.
Interesting read: Colors and emotion – color emotion guide
Apart from the various elements discussed above, graphic designers are required to adhere to different design principles to create an effective composition.
The following are essential graphic design principles:
- Contrast: Contrast helps in highlighting and guiding the eyes towards the most important parts of a design.
- Balance: This design principle is extremely crucial since it balances the various elements involved in a creative piece.
- Rhythm: Rhythm highlights how the different elements harmonize with each other in a design.
- Proportion: Apart from balancing the various design elements, proportion helps in achieving an effective final design.
- Emphasis: Just like contrast, emphasis guides the eyes of the audience towards the most important element of the design. While contrast highlights various important aspects of a design, emphasis is focused on the most important element.
- Movement: The audience’s interaction with and interpretation of a piece of design is referred to as movement.
Types of graphic design
Now that we have explored the history and the basics of graphic design, it is time to look at the various types of graphic design.
While graphic design is all about communicating an idea through the help of color, imagery, and typography, there is no one specific way of doing it. The various types of graphic design have their sets of benefits.
A company or organization communicates its personality through its brand identity. An effective brand identity results in establishing a healthy relationship between a business and its audience. The brand identity encompasses a brand’s personality, essence, emotions, tone, and experiences. Visual brand identity expresses all these elements through the following.
Logo: A logo is the face of the brand and helps attract customers.
Colors: They evoke varied emotions and represent the brand’s personality.
Typography: The fonts you use also represent your brand.
Photography: Images and photos talk about the values and vision of your brand.
Visual identity graphic design is the most popular and common category of design. That said, a visual graphic designer must know the basics of all types of graphic design, along with a thorough understanding of how various markets, industries, and brands work.
User Interface design
User interface or simply UI is how a user experiences an application or a device. UI design aims at making the interface as easy as possible so that the user experiences the app or the device without difficulties.
UI is a broad term, which includes everything from screens and keyboards to menus and buttons. However, a graphic designer focuses on the visual aspects of the user’s experience. When a graphic designer concerns herself with UI, she would be working on the visual aspects of the following:
- Website design
- App designs
- Theme design
- Game interfaces
- And many more
Ad and marketing design
Advertising and marketing graphic design are most popular with people. Whenever you think of graphic design, you think of some ad and marketing design; that is how popular this type of graphic design is.
Brands create various marketing strategies to influence the decision-making process of the customers. Visual content is chief among marketing strategies because they are more engaging and have the power to influence a large group of customers.
Ad and marketing designers work with business owners and managers to create assets, which would support various marketing strategies.
The following are examples of marketing graphic design:
- Billboards and banners
- Print and TV ads
- Email marketing templates
- Social media ads
- Vehicle wraps
Product packaging is an essential part of any business. Packaging helps brands protect their product along with storing and selling. Brands also use packaging design to communicate directly with the audience.
From bottles to bags to containers, packaging designers create mockups and print-ready files for products. Apart from design skills, a designer must have in-depth knowledge of the printing process if she wishes to be a part of the packaging design industry.
Publication graphic designs
Books, magazines, newspapers, and anything to do with print publishing, fall under the category of publication graphic design. Publication designs fall under the traditional type of graphic design. However, the rise of digital or social media networks has given birth to digital publishing.
In addition to graphic design skills, a publication designer must be an expert in printing and creating layouts.
Art and illustration design
While the average Joe tends to see graphic design and graphic art/illustration as one and the same thing, they are very different—designers communicate to solve problems, and graphic artists create original artwork.
The following are some examples of graphic art and illustration:
- T-shirt design
- Stock images
- Album arts
- Book covers
- Picture books
- Concept art
- Technical illustrations
Environmental graphic design
Environmental graphic design focuses on connecting people with places. The intention behind this type of design is to make the experience of the people memorable. These designs also make navigating easy.
The following are some examples of environmental graphic design:
- Retail store interiors
- Conference spaces
Any graphic which is in motion is known as motion graphics. From animated videos to films to online media, motion graphics is a skill that is highly in demand. Businesses, both big and small, tend to use motion graphics in their videos to influence a larger number of audiences.
The following are some examples of motion graphics:
- Promotional videos
- Tutorial videos
- Video games
- Cine motion graphics
- Animated logos
Graphic design is emotional design
I am sure you are wondering what the title really suggests. Well, it means GRAPHIC DESIGN IS EMOTIONAL DESIGN! While we use interactive software to create designs in the digital era, it is still based on the age-old concept of emotions.
Designers use various colors, shapes, formats, and spacing to create positive emotions that would easily connect customers and potential buyers with the brand.
Having a good understanding of the following will enable you to make an emotional connection with the customers:
- The golden ratio
- The rule of thirds
- Audience culture
- Color schemes
- Symmetry and balance
Popular graphic design tools
Technology is changing as we speak, which is why you must familiarize yourself with the necessary tools that will help you get the job done.
Sketchbook is a raster-based software for beginners, which is inexpensive and enables you to create designs and rough drafts.
Whether for print or digital, design software is something that you require. While there are many design software available in the market, such as CorelDRAW and Apple Motion, Adobe products are the mainstay. Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign by Adobe are some of the best graphic design softwares available today.
If you are a small business or a start-up in its early days, you can try GIMP—a free, open-source graphic design platform that enables you to create basic designs.
Graphic design and illustration: the difference
While people tend to think that the two are similar, they couldn’t have been more different. We have made an attempt to inform you as much as we can about graphic design; it is now time to look at some of the differences between the two. But first, let us quickly explore the world of illustration.
What is illustration?
Visual explanation of a written piece, idea, or concept is known as illustration. These visual pieces go side-by-side with varied content to make them as simple as possible.
In simple words, the drawings or designs you may find in a magazine or a book, which help you understand the story better, are illustrations.
These designs come in both digital and traditional formats and are found in books, posters, magazines, teaching material, films, video games, explainer videos, and animations.
What does an illustrator do?
Just like a graphic designer, an illustrator creates designs. However, the intention of an illustrator is not to hook the attention of the viewers. The viewers simply refer to the picture when going through a particular piece of content. The illustrator makes the content richer by ensuring a seamless content consumption experience.
The following differences between graphic design and illustration will help understand how the two function:
- Images are created to hook the attention of the viewers.
- The focus of the viewer is on a particular object.
- All design elements are balanced to trigger specific emotions.
- All the elements of the image compete for attention.
- Images convey messages to a target audience.
- Images are created with the sole purpose of making the content rich.
- Images do not scream for attention.
- All design elements are balanced to make a concept or a written piece easier to understand.
- Images illustrate the idea or the concept.
Here is a great video that explains the difference between graphic design and illustration.
Graphic illustration: the best of both worlds
While graphic design and illustration require completely different skill sets and are applied to achieve different results, the lines dividing them get blurry at times. The current era of designs can be best described as ambiguous. However, the intermingling of the art forms has given birth to graphic illustration. The amalgamation of the best practices from both fields is referred to as graphic illustration.
What is graphic illustration?
Graphic illustration takes the best characteristics from illustration and graphic design and blends them. Graphic design is about effective communication, whereas illustration focuses on fine arts: combining the two results in something new and unique. With graphic illustrations, you can create compelling designs that can both attract and explain products and services. The art form may be applied in advertisements, packaging, flyers, websites, and the list goes on.
When should you use graphic illustration?
You must seek the help of a graphic illustrator when you feel your brand needs a more stylistic approach. Whether for creating stylistic marketing strategies or establishing a unique brand identity, graphic illustration can do wonders for your brand. Graphic illustration keeps the artistic expression at the center stage while conforming to all the brand guidelines. If you feel that your brand can do better with a stylistic and specialized approach, graphic illustration is your best bet.
Designs have evolved over hundreds of thousands of years and have leaped out of caves to our laptop screens. The graphic design industry is one of the founding stones of the modern world. No one can imagine a world bereft of designs. While graphic design has evolved and leaped forward, there is no denying that it is still stunning the world with its various new avatars.
Businesses accross the world have consulted DesignBro to build their brand with logo, website, packaging design and much more.
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Head of Design at DesignBro and is responsible for UI/UX Design, managing the global designer community, and ensuring quality levels of both designers and designs remain high.