Graphic Design 101
Traditionally Graphic Design focused on design for print including brand and identity systems, books, maps, icons, advertising campaigns, posters etc. Today, it is a part of the Communication Design discipline, an umbrella term which explores designing strategic messages, creating functional solutions and engaging with the target audience through the use of appropriate language, visuals, moving images and digital experiences.
With the digital revolution, graphic design has moved beyond just textual and visual content. Today it requires an in-depth understanding of:
- Print Media wherein an infographist creates the layout, presentation, attractiveness, crisp formatted story reconstruction using images, illustrations, text allowing readers the option to either browse through the entire report or merely capture the essence of a story.
- Graphic designers create visual content as a medium of communication and use photographs to help elicit emotions, grab attention, and voice the key messages with realism and visual punch.
- Film-making, a process of visual storytelling where the role of a graphic designer isn’t as obvious but their skill lies in creating the little details that sit in the background and tie the story together – like street signs designed in the style of the time or a historically accurate political poster on a wall behind the actors.
- With increased use of the internet, animated graphic designers use text (and font) as the main component to create designs for interactive media like portable devices, websites, electronic publications, and video entertainment media.
- Introduction of layout, typography, and colour amongst others in Game Design impact game play and the communication dynamics to create immersive gaming experience.
- Digital Media is the blend of technology and content to create the best user experience. Graphic designers play an important role in creating this content.
- Interaction Design is responsible for creating every element on a screen that a user might swipe, click, tap, or type. It explores user interaction, experience and behaviour by not only analysing how things are but also how they could be.
- New Media includes creating attention grabbing and engaging content developed by graphic designers that is available on-demand through the Internet.
- Graphic designers select the right visual elements in Exhibition & Experience Design to convey a powerful story and create multi-layered narratives making the user experience compelling, interactive and memorable.
When selecting a design school or institution it is imperative to examine their teaching methodology:
- They should nurture individualism while challenging students to develop and evolve their skillset and creative process.
- They should follow a ‘project-based learning approach’ which encourages a culture of learning by ‘doing.’
- The curriculum should motivate students to become multidisciplinary thinkers by exposing them to all relevant fields within the Graphic Design domain.
- Students should be able to opt for their desired specializations through a careful selection of projects, in collaboration with their peers and teachers.
- They should provide industry exposure through internships that help build a wide repertoire of trends, terminologies, techniques and understanding of how the industry functions.
Graphic Design plays an important role in the competitive business environment. Infused as a significant part of Communication Design, the clever, unique and thoughtfully created graphics have the power to attract attention, increase sales, encourage brand positioning and recall. To whet your appetite and arouse interest in graphic design and thereby communication design read further.
History of Graphic Design
A good place to begin is by getting a balanced insight and thorough knowledge of its historical background. It encourages one to explore designs by creative innovators from around the world, their breakthrough technologies, and important design innovations. This evolution not only gives a glimpse of the potential of the sector but also encourages one to challenge the limits of their thinking.
Basic Principles and Theory of Graphic Design
Conceptually understanding basic graphic design principles and their application is important as they impact every project that you work on. These include:
Shape, Spacing, Balance and Alignment
Text and images form the basic design elements each carrying their own visual weight. Within this included are the concepts of shape, space, hierarchy, balance, proximity and alignment. Balancing the visual weight and surrounding negative space lends stability and structure to the design, highlights its important components and creates a seamless connection between the different elements.
Colour, Texture, and Imagery
Colours, as combinations or contrasts, is a basic creative tool that can work in harmony when expressing an idea to seem loud, light, warm, cool, conventional or avant-garde. Textures enhance the feel of a design while contrast draws out the most important elements of a design and adds emphasis where required.
Working with Type
Texts are the major sources of information within a design. They can potentially enhance the appearance and preserve the aesthetic value of the content creating a powerful impact.
Thus typography and the ability to use typefaces to influence design is the key differentiator that sets a graphic designer apart from their peers. Other important concepts are hierarchy which guides the reader’s eye to whatever is most important; Leading or line spacing makes the text as comfortable to read as possible; Tracking or overall space between characters lets one condense or expand the text to create artistic effect while kerning, varying the space between specific characters of a word allows each letter to fit together differently.
Repetition and Consistency
These design principles empower a design when used effectively to ensure messages are better understood. Repeated use of design elements (fonts, colour, patterns, shapes and even text) creates a sense of uniformity, cohesion and most importantly familiarity. Consistency helps to pull a composition together, creating a sense of rhythm in the viewer and a sense of movement.
Design Process – Visual and Conceptual Problem Solving
It involves solving problems through design using an unconstrained methodology where the designer simultaneously works on multiple solutions. It enables them to think divergently while observing the problem in many different ways and speculating on both the past and future of the problem as well. As they progress they converge their thinking to narrow the different solutions down to the best output. Learning to research, create thumbnails, refine sketches, work up visual solutions using software, and making presentations to clients are just some of the basics of the design process.
Research maintains focus on the project brief and helps find the direction to the design process. It also helps to provide justification for a proposed communication solution to the client. Research includes reviewing available literature, detailed information about target audience, and analysis of competitors. A graphic design audit is relatively an easy way to get clarity and insight about how competition is perceived, their key messages and how your work will look when placed alongside them. Design research makes the process methodical and well-structured.
Key trends in the Graphic Design Industry
Being abreast of the latest trends in the industry helps differentiate the professionals from amateurs. It helps to redefine one’s standard of operating and developing futuristic work. The following trends will influence graphic design in 2020.
The current trend is to drop dull colours and move towards bright, dark, and vibrant colours.
With the advancement of technology, the concept of simple designs have given way to attractive animation.
To enhance engagement and playfulness in the graphical elements there’s an increasing need to bring about asymmetry and deformation of imagery, pattern, text etc.
Variations in graphics in terms of colour transitions and experimentations in creativity indicate a move away from monotonous designs.
Soft Skills for a successful career
To prepare for a successful career, one needs
- Critical Thinking
- Digital Fluency
- Time Management
- Ethics & Professional Responsibility
In summary, Graphic Design exclusively focusses on creating targeted and engaging content and visuals to deliver an intended message that informs, inspires and persuades. Communication Design has a broader remit. It involves expressing information through visual design and strategically engaging with potential customers, identifying the most suitable media (static, dynamic and/or interactive) and using multiple channels (print, radio, film etc) to enhance their experience of the brand, product or service. As such graphic designers handle only one specific aspect of the design process and are often required to collaborate with communication designers.
Creativity is amplified when combined with multidisciplinary thinking. So it’s fulfilling for graphic designers to grow professionally by expanding their knowledge and understanding of communication design to make their work more versatile and valuable.