What is Graphic Design?
In essence, graphic design is the art of creating visual media to communicate messages. Although the term ‘graphic design’ was officially coined in the 1920s in the print media era, graphic design has been around for thousands of years. In 15,000 BCE, our Paleolithic ancestors painted ancient pictographs and symbols by firelight in the caves of Lascaux, France. These earliest forms of visual symbolism, followed by the invention of paper, movable type, and other innovations laid the foundation for subsequent iterations of visual media communication that would eventually become the modern graphic design we are familiar with today.
Graphic design covers a range of activities, including logo creation, advertising, branding, and more. Graphic designers are professionals who make meaningful, functional, and eye-catching visuals to command the audience’s attention and create emotional resonance. Although the mediums graphic designers work in may vary wildly, successful design adheres to a few general design principles:
Communication may be the most fundamental principle of graphic design. In comparison to traditional artists, who often invite open interpretation of their artworks, a graphic designer aims to communicate concise information to their audience with their designs.
We are all aware that people’s attention spans are rapidly decreasing in our digital age. This is why it is more imperative than ever for designers to communicate messages as concisely and clearly as possible.
“Design is a solution to a problem. Art is a question to a problem.”
— John Maeda, President of Rhode Island School of Design
User Experience (UX)
User experience (UX) designers are separate from graphic designers. Graphic designers focus on developing typography, visuals and other graphic elements in print and digital media, while UX designers focus on the interaction between consumers and a product. Put simply, UX designers focus on how the experience made the user feel. Although they are separate job titles in the design field, there is a lot of overlap in the two trades. Effective graphic design should always keep user experience in mind.
Good graphic design is only as powerful as its user experience. If the visuals do not connect and engage with the audience in a meaningful way, the design has fallen short of its primary goal: sparking an emotional reaction for the target audience.
This is why designers should ensure that the audience has a positive user experience that will lead to meaningful engagement, which will ultimately increase brand loyalty, customer satisfaction, and conversion rates.
To achieve a seamless and effective user experience, graphic designers should ensure that their designs are accessible, easy to navigate, and responsive. In digital design, such as web design or app interfaces, UX plays a pivotal role in navigation and usability. Graphic designers must create intuitive and user-friendly layouts that help users find what they’re looking for without frustration.
Emotion and Engagement
In a world saturated with visual stimulation, it is doubly important that your design elicits an emotional reaction from your viewer. Compelling graphic design should move your viewer – whether that emotion is joy, reverence, excitement, surprise, or empathy. It’s the strong emotions that stick with us and make something memorable.
In the best case scenario, a viewer might be so profoundly moved that they feel compelled to share your content with their friends or family, thereby extending your reach and impact.
From a brand perspective, emotionally resonant design elements can help you build a stronger connection with your audience and communicate a message or brand. When users feel an emotional connection, they are more likely to trust and support the company or product behind the design. Just make sure not to be too emotionally exploitative in your design, because this might backfire and leave a bad taste in your audience’s mouth.
The finest graphic designers strive to fulfill their clients’ objectives while maintaining a logical and harmonic composition that is pleasing to the eye. According to German industrialist Dieter Rams’ 1970 Design Principles, there are 10 principles of ‘great design’ that many designers (including Apple designer Jonathan Ive) regard as the gold standard today.
According to Rams,
“Great design is innovative, useful, aesthetic, unobtrusive, understandable, honest, long-lasting, thorough down to the last detail, environmentally friendly, and minimalist.” — Dieter Rams
The most graphically appealing designs are ones that utilize the concept of hierarchy, or arranging items in terms of importance. Visual hierarchy guides your audience to view information in order of what is most important to least important by drawing their eye to the largest or most provocative visual elements first. This does not necessarily mean the most important things should just be bigger! Color, contrast, and other striking visual elements can help you guide eyeballs where you want them to go.
The order of elements in a composition can help your audience comprehend what is most valuable. Conveying elements on the same plane will confuse your viewer and may even lead them to give up on trying to figure out what is
Which visual composition is better?
Branding encompasses all the activities geared towards promoting a particular product or company through a unified and distinct approach to marketing and design. A company’s brand identity is what sets it apart from the competition and allows it to make a lasting impression on consumers. A good example of this is Dawn, a dish soap company with a rich history dating back to its establishment in 1973. Despite the fierce competition in the cleaning supplies market, Dawn has managed to maintain its status as a consumer favorite, thanks in large part to its recent and effective rebranding efforts.
Dawn’s branding appeals to its status as the product of choice for wildlife rescuers — it’s strong enough to cut through grease, yet gentle on both bird feathers and hands.
Despite fierce competition from other cleaning giants such as Palmolive or Joy, Dawn has emerged as a frontrunner in the industry by positioning itself not only as an effective dishwashing liquid used by countless consumers in their kitchen sinks but also as a vital tool for wildlife rescuers. For nearly 30 years, naturalists have employed Dawn to clean rescued wildlife, particularly in the aftermath of oil spills and environmental crises along the southern U.S. coastline.
The dishwashing company seized this marketing opportunity to establish a brand identity rooted in conservationist and humanitarian values. Their “Dawn Saves Wildlife” campaign effectively conveys the product’s merits: it is tough on oil and grease yet gentle on both hands and the delicate feathers of birds. Dawn mirrors this brand identity by featuring comforting imagery such as baby ducks cradled in the palm of a hand on the label, or advertising campaigns that appeal to consumers’ emotions by showcasing the gentle cleaning of oil-soaked pelicans and otters with their dish soap.
Why does effective graphic design matter for my business?
At the end of the day, never has the saying ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ rung more true than in the field of graphic design. People are drawn to visual harmony and eye-catching design.
Effective design will help you stand out among your competitors. Visual appeal and seamless user experience is incredibly important in web design in attracting traffic and driving conversions.
A great logo and accompanying other media such as brochures, pamphlets, mobile apps, and business cards, play a pivotal role in forging a connection between your brand’s values, expertise, or competitive edge and your visual identity. Skillful graphic design enables you to create a positive initial impression by conveying a sense of professionalism, which in turn fosters trust and reliability in the eyes of consumers. This consistency and professionalism are key in building a strong and enduring brand image!