Today’s post continues the series of answers to FAQ in design domains. Seeing the steady interest in the issues on graphic design on Quora, we have collected the most popular questions here for our readers. They cover the following questions:
- What is graphic design?
- What are the creative directions of graphic design?
- Is graphic design art?
- Why is graphic design important?
- What skills are needed to reach success in graphic design?
- Can you be a graphic designer without drawing skills?
Let’s get started with theory, practice and big set of examples from studio designers.
What is graphic design?
Graphic design is a professional sphere of human activity that lies at the crossroads of visual arts, communication, psychology and other expert areas. Graphic designers create the ways and assets of communication by means of graphic (visual) elements: images of different style and complexity, photos, types and fonts, pictograms, shapes and sizes, colors and shades, lines and curves, page layouts etc. A graphic designer makes graphics transfer the message, so they become functional. Graphic designers can be described as a type of creatives applying their talents not in the pure art with an aesthetic satisfaction as a prime, but communicating and purposeful art.
What are the creative directions of graphic design?
Today, graphic design is a broad area to apply artistic talents in the diversity of forms. For instance, it includes creating:
- identity (logo and branding)
- icons and pictograms
- interface graphics and elements
- print advertisements
- graphic assets for animated videos and cartoons
- big print items such as posters and billboards
- wayfinding graphics
- packaging etc.
Whatever is the goal and direction, the basic purpose of graphic design is to serve a specific goal or set of goals by means and techniques of art. Let’s check the practical examples.
Truck livery design for Andre Landscape
Interface illustration for a Colony landing page
Storyboard: illustrations for Binned promo video
Title illustration for Tubik blog article
Badges for Pukapal app
Illustration for Opera promo video
Character design for Toonie Alarm
Book cover design
Theme poster-style illustration
Is graphic design art?
In short, no, most professionals in this sphere do not position and call themselves artists.
Defining art, Merriam-Webster dictionary describes it as «the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects». The objects of art are appreciated mostly for their beauty, aesthetic value and emotional appeal. And all that is not the primary goal set for design.
Graphic designers’ job could be described as building a bridge between the art and the functional goal-centered design. They mix the power of art and functionality within the limits of particular goals and definite audience. «Good design is a lot like clear thinking made visual,» said Edward Tufte and that is a cool definition showing what graphic designers strive to achieve.
It’s easy to see that graphic design covers various aspects of human life dealing with visual communication, from books and posters to complex mobile apps or 3D animation. Supported by research, analysis, and testing, graphics enhance usability, strengthen branding and provide the positive user experience. That is the point where art and functionality merge and meld for the sake of making people happier by solving problems and satisfying wishes.
Theme illustration for a dating app landing page
Why is graphic design important?
This question is often asked and not so easy to answer. One of the reasons why this professional field has such a broad presence in our lives lies in the fact that people are mostly visual creatures. We tend to perceive images faster than words. We are influenced by colors and shapes. We respond to characters and symbols. We need prompts and visual hierarchy. We are dependent on emotions and feelings. The list may be prolonged — and graphic design is what makes the difference.
It rarely occurs that the object of graphic design serves only one objective. Let’s look into the core goals set for graphic assets.
This aspect deals primarily with branding, first of all, logos which set the foundation for a brand strategy. Designers have to consider multiple factors regarding the target audience, laws and rules of artistic harmony, the psychology of color and shape, impact on human perception and emotions, the current conditions on the market as well as business goals of the brand or company. Moreover, visual images are memorable which enhances brand awareness.
Whizzly logo design
Beauty means much as it works like a hook for the users or viewers dealing with visual stuff from advertising to book covers, cartoons, user interfaces of all kinds, packaging, photos and loads of other things. We tend to be emotionally and aesthetically engaged. Although content and functionality are crucial for problem-solving, people still live by the unwritten rule that a good dress is a card of invitation. Attractive appearance is highly important to engage users in trying a product, watching a video, especially regarding modern intense competition. Graphic design also becomes a powerful tool for UI beautification from the small details like icons to significant elements like illustrations and mascots.
Travel app landing page
Event branding for Behance Portfolio Reviews Dnipro
Theme and mood
Visual elements, as well as copy, not only transfer the message but also set the tone and voice of communication. It may be reached with a background, typography, composition, color palette, shapes and sizes, stylistic approaches which inform the user about the product from the first seconds of contact. Visual perception plays the big role in decision-making, especially in cases of introduction: short minutes or even seconds are vital to get the user interested. As well, following popular trends, graphic designers give the object up-to-date look which is an essential factor of trust for many users.
Illustration for a blog article on UI navigation
Explanation, information and guiding
This aspect is presented both in print assets and digital interfaces in various tutorials, manuals, tool-tips, guides etc. A picture is really worth a thousand words: it saves precious time and helps to avoid big copy blocks. Even more, graphics based on thorough analysis of target audience turn on the mechanism of empathy and emotional appeal.
Style guide for Binned
Custom graphic elements are a great way to improve navigation and boost usability. Practice shows it has a great impact on conversions and retaining readers, providing easy flow of journey through the website or app, map or city navigation. In addition, all this positive influence is supported by aesthetic pleasure if visual performance is consistent and keeps a harmonic composition.
Custom category icons for a blog app
Characters boosting communication
Personification applied appropriately is a factor of positive user experience, it strengthens brand image and brand awareness. That is why mascots and characters often become a part of a design concept and content strategy. And here graphic designers can show their best. Efficient mascots corresponding to expectations of the target audience provide originality and flow of communication which is closer to natural.
This is all about typography, the important branch of graphic design dealing with letters as a design object. Copy applied to various products should be not only legible and readable but also nice, attractive and emotional. In cases of lettering for branding, it also adds such vital features as originality and recognizability.
Creative lettering for theme illustration
What skills are needed to reach success in graphic design?
Requirements to the specialists in graphic design often include the following:
- technical artistic skills and preferably qualification in some sort of visual art
- artistic talent and creative nature
- good artistic eye and feeling of harmony
- ability to draw well
- good skills in composition and visual analysis
- ability to work on the analysis of target audience and possible options of communication with it
- ability to apply different techniques of drawing and painting, preferably both with manual and digital tools (Photoshop, Illustrator etc.)
- ability to learn and self-improve all the time as the sphere is extremely dynamic and diverse etc.
So, if you want to build your career in this sphere, it could be helpful to think in which of the mentioned positions you feel strong and which ones need to be improved. As well, nowadays it’s vital to be quite flexible in applying diverse design tools like Photoshop, Illustrator etc. So, practice and training are needed all the time to get prepared for modern design tasks.
Coming from the side of knowledge, it would be very useful to get some knowledge about color theory, psychology, strategies and design flow for branding and marketing, negotiations skills, basics of business and sales and other stuff that gets designer closer to clients and final users. In addition, it gives broader outlook and makes the process of sharing creative ideas more natural and productive.
Creative process for App Shack logo design
Can you be a graphic designer without drawing skills?
Well, in short: if we are talking about graphic design without high goals for success, yes, it may happen that you can earn their living in the sphere without great skills in drawing. Still, on the ground of practice, in the cases when a graphic designer aims at professional growth, cool career, and really interesting projects, drawing skills and knowledge of academic drawing theory are a vital condition of success.
To get a bit deeper, it’s worth mentioning that in some other spheres of design it happens that you can be a high-level professional without being skillful in drawing (still, graphic design definitely doesn’t belong to them). For example, in current conditions of UI design field, with a variety of tools and hundreds of stocks with graphic assets like icons, illustrations, and photos, these resources may be enough for creating some kinds of interfaces. However, those who strive for originality, functional and unique graphics for their projects will create them from scratch or delegate these tasks to graphic designers. And the great high-quality graphic assets are basically grounded in great knowledge and skills of drawing and painting. Unlike other spheres, in graphic design, it is the core to be able to draw if you aim at success.
Art school and lessons of academic drawing in its classic form give a broad and solid artistic basis of composition, coloristic, drawing and painting techniques, history of arts. Adding to them the hours of elaborate training in which you practice hand-drawing, painting, sketching, ocular estimation, ability to see and transfer the slightest shades and shadows and the like, you get much stronger, more skillful and diverse as an artist. This is actually the best basis for creating nice, stylish and high-quality graphics with the complexity of any level required.
As for real examples, graphic designers at Tubik Studio do have the remarkable basis of professional training and academic qualification starting from several years of intensive studying in art schools and then moving up with majors in architecture, visual arts, and design. With all that stuff, mastering design software like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator and combining it with the knowledge of modern trends in digital design and art, they have worked out their personal artistic style and have developed it more and more in actual design projects accomplished by the studio as well as design concepts.
Creating illustrations and icons for real UI/UX designs and testing them in combination with other elements, working on logos and other branding elements, practicing hand-sketching and drawing as well as digital illustrations just for developing better and faster use of software, they get to the solutions which are original, beautiful and functional. Sure, this is a personal opinion based on long-term design research and day-by-day work with a team of designers.
Sketching for Winter Olympics illustration
Today’s brief FAQ review is over, but new answers are coming very soon, stay tuned!