Graphic designers create visual concepts, by hand or using computer software, to communicate ideas that inspire, inform, or captivate consumers. They develop the overall layout and production design for advertisements, brochures, magazines, and corporate reports.
You’ve got a good eye for form and color, or maybe you just love fonts a little more than is natural (mmm, look at the curve on that lower-case ‘g’). Something’s led you to consider graphic design as a viable option, and you’re here to find out whether you should take the plunge. Perhaps you aren’t sure if you have what it takes, maybe you can’t tell if you’ll enjoy it, or maybe you’re just poking at it cautiously to see what happens. Either way, you’re in the right place.
Graphic designers, in people’s minds, often get lumped together with fine artists – when the truth is that we’re almost opposites. Artists create to inspire, to emote, to share something that’s uniquely theirs with the world – and the best art lets each viewer find their own interpretation. Designers, on the other hand, create to communicate – we’re visual-thinking problem solvers, and if people are interpreting our message in their own unique ways, well, then we’re just not very good at our job.
And now we get to the big question, what you’ve actually come over here to find out – what, exactly, does a graphic designer do?
Well, here’s the answer, straight from the horse’s mouth – we’re visual communicators. We’re given a brief, which states a problem to solve, or a specific outcome that needs to be achieved, and we collect information and analyze it to figure out the best solution. And our success is determined by the measurable outcome of what we’ve created, not just by how pretty it looks.
The fun part is, graphic designers can use literally any visual medium to communicate our messages. We use shapes, colors, and fonts, on print design, websites and social media. We can use photography and animation. We can use billboards, walls or the faces of buildings. Heck, we could even use flags, blimps or smoke signals if we really wanted to.
But I digress. Let’s get back to what you want to know.
To make your decision a little easier, and to hopefully directly address some of your doubts/questions, I’m going to tell you a few things that you DO and DON’T need to become a graphic designer.
Let’s start with what you DON’T need.
You DON’T need to be great with drawing.
Art often stems from inborn talent, whereas design is a skill, and like all skills, it can be learned. And as a designer, your ideas aren’t necessarily limited by your skill set – you’ll find yourself collaborating with artists, animators, and other breeds of creative folk on many of your projects. Don’t get me wrong, if you can draw, that’s great – but it’s not essential. My drawing talent, for example, extends to stick figures and balloon people. It does help to be willing to work out your solutions visually, by scribbling in a notebook or mind-mappingon a large sheet of paper – but you don’t need artistic talent to scribble down roughs and jot down ideas. I personally like to do my visual thinking via pen and paper and figure out rough concepts for logos/layouts before going to my computer – and that’s the accepted, tried-and-trusted method (in my opinion, it saves a lot of time as well!). However, there are plenty of designers who go straight to digital.
You DO need visual thinking skills.
Website Development WireframeHaving a keen aesthetic eye and a creative approach to problem solving are key – however, these are traits that can (and should) be developed as you go forward, so don’t be too discouraged if you don’t think those aspects of yourself are particularly well-developed at the moment. You’ll have to focus on them a lot initially, but it’s a most enjoyable process that will let you learn other essential skills, like lateral thinking, along the way, especially if you teach yourself through books like Edward De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats (which should be required reading for all graphic designers, really).
Being a graphic designer is more than just a profession, it’s a way of life. People who are drawn to design as a career are usually intensely visual, and this carries forward into what they are inspired by, how they do their research, and where they get their ideas, once they become a graphic designer. If you’re not a visual thinker at all, chances are you’re not reading this article.
You DO need to specialize.
Like I said, you need learning, practice and experience to get really good at what you do. So while you may initially dabble with different areas of graphic design till you find your niche – maybe you experiment with branding and print design until you find that your niche is really web – you’ll need to ‘specialize’, at least for periods of time. Make a name for yourself designing websites, until you have a steady stream of clients coming to you for exactly that, and then start experimenting with other areas. Sure, there are designers who seem to be good at just about everything, but you’ll invariably find that they’ve been working for years and had time to fully explore different avenues, or that they’re working in two or three closely connected areas. For example, I specialized in typography for editorial design (that’s print/publishing), and now I work on mostly branding or print/digital layouts with a strong focus on typography. Yes, that’s the good news, everything is interconnected, so once you’ve specialized on one area it’ll be that much easier to apply what you’ve learnt and get really good in another area as well.
So while it is great fun to dabble and stick your toe into several different ponds, don’t forget that if you want this to be a career, not a hobby, you’re going to have to take the plunge into one of them eventually. This does not by any means mean that you’re restricted from visiting the others later!
It’s amazing how graphic design has evolved over the years from being a rather eccentric niche profession to an extremely sought-after and lucrative enterprise. In our increasingly visual and digital world, at any given moment there are several things fighting for our attention – everyone wants us to buy their product, watch their movies or subscribe to their newsfeed. When you’re standing in the midst of a raging cacophony of visual images, the winner isn’t necessarily the one that shouts the loudest. It’s the one who knows just what to say and when and how to say it so that you’ll notice and remember, the one who manages to convince you of something without you even really noticing. That’s where we, the designers, come in. And that’s why we’re so valuable.
Creative Director – You manage a creative team that creates visuals for product branding, advertising campaigns, etc.
Art Director – You manage and coordinate between production artists and illustrators to make sure projects are completed on time and to the client’s satisfaction.
Art Production Manager – You manage the production aspect of art generation and creation, with a focus on improving efficiency and lowering costs.
Package Designer – You create and design packaging for marketing and/or products in terms of both design and physical construction.
Brand Identity Developer – You develop brand identities for various organizations.
Visual Image Developer – You create images and designs through 3D modeling, photography, and image editing.
Visual Journalist – Among other things, you create informational graphics known as infographics. This can be be both for print or digital application.
Broadcast Designer – You create visual designs and electronic media to be used in television productions.
Logo Designer– You create the visual expression of the organization’s key message or value. This is also a key aspect of brand identity – though in identity design, you carry the logo and design identity forward for all branding materials.
Interface Designer – You develop graphical user interfaces and usually work for web development companies.
Illustrator – If you have an art as well as a design background, you can create illustrations to represent an idea, message, and/or story through 2D and 3D images.
Web Designer – You create graphics, layouts, and pages for websites.
Multimedia Developer – Applies graphic design skills to sound and/or motion.
Content Developer – You create written, graphical, video, sound, or other multimedia content depending on your brief.
By now, you should have a pretty good idea as to whether you’d like to make your career as a graphic designer! Just to help you out, here are a few more resources that could help you kick-start things…
WHAT I DO AS AN ARTIST AND A GRAPHIC DESIGNER:
- graphic design website by Peter Dranitsin -> www.urartstudio.com
- original painting gallery by Peter Dranitsin -> www.petesoriginalart.com
- abstract art lesson online video tutorials by Peter Dranitsin ->www.abstractartlesson.com