What Is Graphic Design? The Ins and Outs of Conveying a Visual Message
December 14, 2013
•IADT General, Graphic Design
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What is graphic design? Whether you're telling a joke, sharing a story, conveying a message or selling a product, you're communicating an idea. Verbal communication requires time—two to three minutes for commercials and radio ads. But what if you only have seconds to tell a story? What if there are word and space limitations? How do you communicate quickly with few words?
Graphic design is everywhere, delivering messages on everything from where to go in traffic to the cereal to buy. From street signs and billboards to packaging and the logos on your T-shirts, graphic design quickly communicates an idea using visuals—words, photographs, illustrations, layouts and typefaces.
Imagine a page full of words. Believe it or not, this is a simple example of graphic design. Think of the variety of ways the words can be organized. Divide them into two columns or three. Would you stagger the columns or place them at the same level? Use a header or no header? The page layout will depend on the message and audience.
Typeface alone communicates an idea. Compare Times New Roman to Myriad Pro. Times New Roman, which is commonly found in newspapers, is typically only used to communicate formality or importance. Since it's historically a formal font reserved for writing papers, articles and newspapers, when you see the font you usually take the information written with it seriously. No designers would use Times New Roman to design a poster. Why? It's simply not appropriate or visually stimulating. Myriad Pro, on the other hand, is more modern, simplistic and "laid back." Each font is appropriate for a particular audience, and won't cross over into another. Times New Roman, for instance, wouldn't be appropriate for an adolescent culture magazine, and Myriad Pro isn't appropriate for The Wall Street Journal.
Images and Words
Graphic designers use photographs and illustrations in combination with words because it's an effective way to communicate quickly. Imagine a picture of a juicy hamburger with the word "Hungry?" beneath it. Compare it to a billboard advertisement with only the words "If you are hungry, you should eat a big juicy hamburger." Which is more effective?
One of the fastest ways to communicate is with a symbol such as a logo. Sophisticated yet innovative companies should use color, layout and imagery to create symbols that reflect its values. As the company develops, its logo or symbol slowly becomes synonymous with its reputation since logos are a symbol of trust. They communicate value, function and ownership of a product. For instance, farmers don't need to label their bananas as tasty, safe and healthy. Instead, they simply place a Chiquita logo on it. The logo instantly communicates the value and safety of the product. When you recognize the logo, you instantly decide if you trust the brand and want to use its products.
So, what is graphic design? Graphic design is a fast method of communicating visually with an audience. It's a quick coding system. Every logo, font, layout, and image screams a message, and when designed well, your audience understands it almost instantly. Imagine how difficult the world and everything in it—including billboards, menus, magazines, traffic signs, male and female bathrooms—would be to decipher without graphic design.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons