What Is Graphic Design?

Good design makes a difference in our world. Whether it’s communicating a social ideal, helping a business attract clients, motivating people to join an organization, enabling citizens to vote for the candidate of their choice, or simply helping travelers find their way through a busy airport, good design means connection.

Graphic design combines the creativity and formal characteristics of fine art with the audience-centered approach of marketing to create effective visual communication. Unlike fine art, it is always in the service of the client’s needs.
Much more than simply “making things look pretty,” graphic design uses color, type, and composition to communicate with the chosen audience.

To do this, designers analyze data about the intended audience, such as the audience’s class, gender, education, buying habits, personality traits, favorite magazines and television shows, and so on.
Designers take that demographic and psychographic information and look at what that audience sees. For instance, if the intended audience loves Martha Stewart, designers look at Martha Stewart magazines, ads, and products to analyze their visual vocabulary (color, theme, shape, typeface, composition). Using those fundamental elements, designers create new pieces which connect and communicate with the intended audience.

Design based in this understanding of the intended audience is highly successful. Trying to design without it is like trying to communicate without knowing the language of the listener.

In addition to a broad grounding in fine art, marketing, and creativity, graphic designers also build an extensive body of technical knowledge regarding paper stocks, printing inks, special processes such as foil-stamping or embossing, printing processes and limitations, digital file preparation, quality control, and troubleshooting. Graphic design encompasses any product that’s “ink-on-paper” (brochures, logos, book jackets, billboards, packaging, etc). Each medium has its own technical considerations that designers must master in order to achieve their intended effect.

Design combines all these creative, technical, and research skills. When you hire a designer, you hire a professional with sophisticated skills for enhancing your ability to connect with your audience and reach your business goals.