What is graphic design?
Ever tell a non-designer what you do for a living and get a blank look that says you haven’t connected?
Gears turn, but the mental board is blank. It’s, like, do you draw things?
There’s no point of reference.
Outside our circle, words like “logo,” “typography,” “communication design,” are not well understood.
This is a problem. Because we could embrace more people — and we’d certainly do better with clients — if we could describe graphic design better.
How do YOU answer the question?
Graphic design. We need a concise statement — make it Twitter-length, 140 characters if you can — that embodies the whole craft.
I’m quite familiar with that blank look. Usually now I say “publication design” instead, and then spout a little about arranging text and photos. (No, this is not the Twitter description.) In my ads, my headline is “Get help with your next brochure,” thus avoiding specifics.
Graphic design is problem solving.
I tell people I work with businesses helping them to promote their products or services using different marketing materials such as brochures, fliers, and websites.
We make ideas (good and bad) look great.
Graphic Design is taking an idea in your head and making it visually exciting to motivate a person to learn more about that idea.
Graphic Designers are translators. We translate thoughts, ideas, visions, and goals into a visual media that can be understood by anyone.
I’m really enjoying this discussion. Thanks to Before & After and everyone contributing.
Design is problem solving. Graphic design is visual communication. (66 characters)
Graphic design is the design/creation, organization/preparation, layout/presentation of all kinds of visual communication devices, e.g. text/typography, photography/illustration, media/form factor, etc., to effectively communicate all kinds of information. (256 characters)
BTW: Twitter-length is 140 characters, not words, and I went way over.
Graphic design is to bring info to the people through visual communications.
[Graphic design is problem solving.]
You cannot solve problems if you don’t know the problems.
I like Bryan’s reply best: “We make ideas (good and bad) look great.” But add to it . . .
We make businesses, people, and ideas of all shapes and sizes look great!
Sometimes, customer and provider need to learn each other’s language.
What is the job the customer is trying to get done? How do they describe it? How do THEY know when you have it right?
What are the potential jobs to be done that you know are possible but the client does not yet appreciate?
Somewhere in this intersection are new possibilities to create value!
Graphic design is problem solving in a visual form that communicates abstractions, captures attention and sells products.
I make the magazine look good.
We take your business and personal ideas and transform them into visual communication tools, like brochures, websites or movies!
I learned to not say that “I’m a graphic designer” when people ask what I do. For one thing, it is a boring, non-descript answer. It doesn’t invite the other person to ask more. It also invites confusion. One person replied, “Oh, you mean that you make T-shirts?” (While that is one aspect of graphic design, it isn’t what I do.) Love the responses so far. I’m still coming up with my non-jargon Twitter response.
My focus is on finding honest, creative and strategic solutions that connect my clients’ products and services with their audience.
A graphic designer since before Adobe, I’ve been fortunate enough to be too busy to create my own website. I recently decided, for my sake, to make it a priority. First things first: tell my story. What do I say? The statement above is what I came up with. Now the site is designing itself.
See that poster, see that sign, see that coffee cup in your hand . . . we design THAT! (Almost) Everything you see that is printed or visually pleasing is done by a designer.
I make pretty pictures on the computer.
You need to go back to Issue 37
May/June 2004 (back page)
From: John McWade
Subject: Hidden in front of our eyes
I keep this close and have the uninformed read it.
Making sure a picture is worth at least a thousand words.
Coupla favorite quotes:
Things alter for the worse spontaneously, if they be not altered for the better designedly. (Sir Francis Bacon)
Design is like gravity — the force that holds it all together. (Edgar Whitney)
We help businesses and organisations achieve success with effective visual communication materials in print and electronic formats (logos, books, posters; brochures, flyers, websites; advertising, event promotions, signage . . . )
That’s what we say in our adverts.
Graphic designers bring order to chaos, but sometimes they add a little chaos so things aren’t too orderly. (107 characters)
I often say that I am trying to give a product or a business a visual personality that somehow communicates a sense of what or who they are, and to do that, I use space, type, color, etc.
Usually I say that, as a designer, I make things (information) look pretty.
Ok. Here’s my attempt in 138 characters. I think it sums up at least MY definition of Graphic Design…:
Graphic design is taking concepts and client-driven objectives and communicating them in a visually compelling way to achieve the desired experience or response.
Make it pretty.
(At least this is what all of my clients direct me to do.)
Graphic design is a selling point for anything and everything.
I also I get the blank stare when I say I’m a Creative Director. They have no clue. If I say I’m an Art Director, they think I work at a museum or in Hollywood.
Graphic design is a form of communication. Your goal is to communicate information, ideas, feelings and emotion. Your tools are type, images, color, space, and so on.
I tell people, “Graphic design is everything/everywhere.” Everything you come in contact with that is produced by people, there is a designer attached. Cereal boxes, printed t-shirts, markings on your car, type on gas pumps, phones, Internets, etc. We’re everywhere!
I am all too familiar with that blank stare. I usually list the stuff I design, which helps a little: “I create logos, brochures, catalogs, posters, illustrations, websites…”
But if I were to say in 140 characters what it is I do as a graphic designer, it would be this:
A graphic designer is an artist who uses thoughtfully constructed visuals to help persuade someone to do something.
1. Determining a goal and achieving it via visual communications
2. Basically, creating order out of chaos!
Graphic design is not just about visual “prettiness” (which is very subjective, as beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder) but in the visual communication of your ideas/goals, targeting your market audience to have an outcome where the message indeed produces the response needed for you to succeed/sell/gather people/etc.
It is a combination of visual and information architecture (layout) that makes the outcome brilliant. :-)
I got the best answer from Before & After magazine, believe it or not. On the back cover of an older issue (A watermelon was on front, I think), there was a story written in Courier font. No graphics, all text. Totally boring, and I only read it because I knew there had to be a reason. At the end, the writer said, “Whenever you are asked what you do as a graphic designer, simply tell them you take this text (referring to the Courier font) and make people want to read it.” Then he referred to every page before that within the booklet, and how they all started as a Word doc. A graphic designer’s job was everything else you see on the page. Best answer I have ever seen . . . and I use it to this day.
Graphic Design is the art of taking separate elements and arranging them in a cohesive way to convey far more than the elements could communicate individually.
We combine the right image with the right words in the right manner to (dare I say it?) create a perfect synergy of message.
Graphic design is the process of manipulating type, color, and images to influence the reader and/or customer. (110 characters)
(In marketing you would say “to influence the buy decision.”)
Condensed form of my elevator pitch:
I help businesses communicate their ideas, products or services more effectively to achieve a greater return on their investment.
130 characters and spaces.
This includes: Translation, communication, different media — print — Web — TV — products — packaging and cost control.
Recent real-world example: Local public safety needs a map to direct people out of the town after fireworks. The office staff produced a tri-fold, full-color brochure. We are reducing it to a half-sheet, double-sided flyer, black ink, padded in groups of 100–200.
The design was more than the images on the page. It was the communication of the idea. Where did they want the drivers to go? It is the delivery method. How were they going to be handed out?
For two hours of my time, I’m going to cut their production costs by two-thirds, and (if I do my job) be more effective at communicating the concepts to the driver and speeding up the process of getting drivers out of town. If we can save one hour of overtime for every member of the workforce that night, this entire project will more than pay for itself.
Design is art with an ulterior motive.
Graphic Design is communicating thoughts and other sense visually . . . if you hope to express any other side of life via visual means, then graphic design is the solution.
For example, telling fellow Africans what direction to go next in our pursuit of “self aggrandizement.”
Design is art with an ulterior motive.
Amy — That’s pretty good!
Steve’s comment above ” . . . you take this text and make people want to read it,” made me smile with recognition.
Yes, that’s what we do.
We arrange words and images in an aesthetically appealing way to effectively communicate a client’s message.
I like “Design is art with an ulterior motive,” but then you’d have to explain “art.” That’s why a lot of us are graphic designers; it’s easier to explain than “artist.”
My favorite description comes from Edward Tufte: “It is clear thinking made visible.”
Mostly I say, “I make things look pretty,” and smile really big. If nothing else it gets a laugh, but people tend to remember it, because I gave them something other than a stock answer. Often their curiosity is piqued with that answer, then I can tell them more about our profession. Later on, they sometimes come back asking me to “pretty this up” or saying “I need you to make something pretty.” At least I know I’ve made a connection — they can then relate to the essence of the work instead of trying to parse jargon.
At times I’ve said it is solving a visual puzzle, but only with people who already know what I do.
Human beings are incurably abstract. Graphic designers transform abstract ideas into concrete experiential reality. Explaining how Häagen-Dazs dulce de leche ice cream tastes is not the same as tasting it. And the moment I begin to analyze and explain how it tastes, at that moment I am no longer tasting it. The human dilemma is to taste or to think about taste. It’s the difference between ideas and experience. Good graphic design is a partial solution to this dilemma (as are all forms of art). Graphic design helps us re-live experience.
It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.
Conveying words, thoughts, ideas and nuances through visuals.
The more memorable, the better.
Making an ugly world pretty, one job at a time.
Graphic designers not only say it, we show it.
Graphic Design is the technique of bringing elements — i.e., text, pictures, shapes and colors — together in such a way as to express ideas effectively.
Graphic Design is a way to communicate that engages both the left and right sides of the brain at the same time.
I’ve just been tweeting this subject (@astewart) and another designer said,
“If a message is left unsaid or unclear, art is still art, but in graphic design, it would be a failure.” — @lance_agena
A graphic designer doesn’t just make it pretty; we make it WORK.
Graphic Design is the profession whose purpose is to visually communicate ideas and information in an effective manner. We are visual translators.
Graphic Design… the art and architecture of visual communication.
Graphic design, like website design, is the art of communicating a message (product, service, etc.) that will compel the visitor to take action. It’s much more than just another pretty picture.
I just got asked by a co-worker why I don’t make our brochures and fliers in Word, so someone else can make easy edits . . .
When asked what I really do, I tell people that I put the public face on our agency. The printed materials show the public our attitude and internal values. As an adoption/foster care agency, clients have to feel comfortable coming here, because we deal with very personal issues.
Sooo not concise!
• Graphic Designers put the sizzle in the steak.
• Design to visualize your world.
Graphic design: The visual art of eliminating the distractions between the message and the viewer.
How I’d explain it to a child:
Graphic Design is making words and pictures look good on a page so you’ll want to read it.
Graphic Design is using visual tools to motivate customers/readers to understand a product, idea and feel the energy of being on track with the product or idea. Graphic Design matches the customer’s desire with the use of the product by connecting through communication.
(Amending previous . . . and we are all getting a bit too erudite . . . )
See the graphic . . . it speaks to you . . . it looks pretty. . . you do what it says.
Me. . . I put it together.
GD (graphic design) is the language by which a designer translates a client’s message into a medium that will connect with their target for specific results.
I believe graphic design is about communicating information in creative ways.
We tell your story.
I tell stories for other people using pictures, words, and sometimes, motion.
I say: I convey messages with imagery in a way that makes an emotional impact.
Innovate, differentiate, communicate.
“We take your raw ideas and copy, and turn them into engaging, successful media that help you meet your goals.”
I’m comfortable with the words “graphic designer.” It’s actually more understandable than “creative director” or “art director.” But I prefer to explain what I do by way of examples. When I have time, I like to show “before and after” examples.
Graphic design refers to the various methods that are used to combine symbols, images and/or words to create a visual representation of ideas and messages so the rest of the world can relate to them. We bring to life new products and inventions, and we make the old new again.
Graphic design — A visual communicator.
When I say it like this, they understand. Plus, it goes with my new lesson learned. K.I.S.S = Keep It Simple, Stupid.
“Say hello to quality. Quality you can feel. Quality you can touch. Quality you can say hello to.”
Graphic designers suffer corporate idiocy.
I think of it as an art that is not well appreciated — people not in the graphic arts industry don’t even have a slightest idea or notion of what it takes to create the simplest of things.
We picture your message.
When I was in the military assigned as a graphic artist, my job would take me from the television broadcast back room to working with doctors at a teaching hospital and finally to magazine publication. So, when asked “what I do?” I answer, “Take massive amounts of information and put it in a visual format for the layman to understand.”
My belief is that graphic design represents the marriage of the literal message with the visual message.
Being a graphic designer is like conducting a symphony, where the different parts of the orchestra are type fonts and colors and images. We bring them all together to make something greater than the sum of its parts that is pleasing and beautiful.
To me, “graphic design” is being able to translate what’s communicated in words and sentences, for I try to convey my internal concept/idea into appropriate and effective graphical elements.
It’s like life . . . connecting with people for a quality experience. I develop design solutions that attract attention along with the right visual tone, so that the clients of my clients will understand who they are, what they stand for and what they are offering — products, services and great client experiences.
I tell people that I am a “Creative Design Therapist” — I am the interface point between consciousness and matter. I use the computer to create designs that clear confusion and make my client’s message visible in an effective way.
The whole point is to explain this to a non-designer. We all know what we do, and we can explain it in fancy terms.
If you went someplace where they had no idea what a doctor was, wouldn’t you say something like, “I help people who are sick to get better.” I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t say, “I take my knowledge of medicine and apply it to the human body in such a way that it cures aliments it may have.”
Basically, don’t we “create designs using a computer”?
And then if they want to know more, you could just tell them what your area of expertise is . . . logos, advertisements, web sites . . . (most people know what those are).
In 140 even:
Use appropriate visual means to speak to an intended audience, eliciting a specific action by that audience. Ex: Stop sign, or “Just do it.”
Graphic design is the visual expression of reality.
On a more serious note . . . after people laugh at my “Creative Design Therapist” explanation (because I say it with the hand gestures of a meditating guru), I then say that I take my client’s horrible designs done by the secretary in Word using bold, italics and centered text with clip art, and make them look a lot better! That usually does the trick!!
Graphic design is communicating through carefully constructed and hopefully aesthetically pleasing visuals while given sometimes overly stringent requirements.
In the beginning God created . . . something out of nothing. I think about that often when I start a new project . . . making something out of nothing . . . and if I’m made in His image, then that makes me a mini-creator . . .
. . . and that’s what design and being a designer are to me . . . in a philosophical/religious sort of way.
Thanks SH . . .
I take my knowledge of print and web design, software techniques and marketing and apply it to businesses in such a way that portrays them in the best possible way to their market.
In my own words . . .
Your idea or project + my creativity + technical knowledge of pre-press, web + marketing skills = your market desires you and your product.
Graphic Design is a way to communicate visually a desired mood and feeling for your company or product with the use of type, color, photos and space. Uniquely connecting people to people, products to people. Bringing together a perfect match via type, print, web, etc., to create your desired outcome, whatever that might be.
“Graphic Designers create designs and images to enhance a product or business.” If they still look blank, continue with “such as logos, advertisements and marketing material.”
A graphic designer’s job is to craft a message from raw material, usually typewritten or scrawled on a napkin. Through typography, pictures and layout, we deliver the message efficiently and effectively.
Contributing my five cents’ worth . . .
Graphic design is:
— using a different perspective to relay information
— bringing hope and inspiration to people through positive and good designs.
It is the arrangement of words and pictures that is visually pleasing and easy to understand for either printed material or websites.
Graphic design is bringing ideas and concepts to life through visual imagery.
It is a good question but not easy to answer. Sometimes you think this is a good design, but client not think so. I still work my best to do a good and satisfying design work!
Look around. Unless you’re deep in the woods, stark naked with no equipment whatsoever — which you’re not because you’re reading this — you probably see a bunch of things that have pictures, words and symbols combined in some way. The web page on your computer, a soda can, a cereal box, a magazine, a catalog, the labels on your sneakers or t-shirt — ever wonder why they look the way they do? Magic? No. A person had to use their imagination, and sometimes skill, to think about several ways those words, pictures and symbols could look, how they could go together, size, shape, color, everything, to try to have a specific effect on the people who look at them. Then they had to persuade a bunch of corporate types to agree that one of their combinations of words, pictures and symbols, or “concepts or layouts,” was good enough to pay for. The people who come up with the concepts (not the corporate types who pay for them) are graphic designers.
I didn’t totally read the rules with my first comment. Here goes:
Option 1: Breathing life into an otherwise drab piece of paper. (9 words)
Option 2: The product of which allows a visually stimulated reader the opportunity to get lost in the pages of a publication. (20 words)
Option 3: It’s what makes you pick a magazine off the shelf and say, “I’ve got to have this” . . . aside from Jessica Alba being on the cover.
Option 4: The stuff that dreams are made of. (7 words!)
Translation of ideas that involve multi-sensory responses and create a permanent impression on the parties involved in the experience.
And . . . twitter is 140 characters . . . not words :-) Just a little FYI.
Graphic design is translating a client’s vision into a visual statement.
Any single or combination of visual elements or stuff that conveys an idea, message, information, and/or a feeling that can be done in an aesthetic (pretty) manner, or a functional (works) manner, or both, that brings to life an idea for a client, business or boss, and is man-made. This is my best attempt; I’m enjoying the other comments
We Peddle Desire.
Graphic Design is better organization of an otherwise boring Word or Excel document encapsulated within a smart or catchy idea.
I try to say something that relates to the client’s needs:
I create strong, effective marketing pieces that bring in new customers, more customers, and continuing success to your business.
You may have a great product or fantastic service, but it is only good if you can sell it — I can help.
Graphic Design lays out information onto a surface to make it the most comfortable and simple for readers and viewers to understand and follow.
We solve complex business problems.
We distill complex information to promote our client’s business and its products.
We use pretty pictures to help you sell more stuff.
Although I studied design, I was a copywriter for 15 years before becoming a creative director. And all that time, my mother thought I drew logos.
Here’s the explanation I use that makes everyone say, “Oh, I get it!”
“You know when you look at an ad in a magazine, or the cover of a book, or a page on a website? They started out BLANK.”
It works for copywriters, too!
I’ve told this to my son’s class when I was in to teach the kids about marketing. I gave examples (flyers, book covers, brochures, etc.), and I ended with (here’s the twitter-sized comment):
“If I’ve done my job right, you’d never know I was there!”
Graphic Design is providing visual solution to an idea for a client.
Graphic Design is very interesting. It is an art of arranging text, images, graphics (illustrations, drawings, sketches, etc.) in a proper way following certain guidelines to look attractive. A graphic designer with a thorough knowledge of type, colour and design can create excellent work if he is upgrading his skills regularly. A good graphic designer can transform a mediocre work into a great one.
Graphic designer: Next to this entry in the dictionary is a photo of my big brother John. (Totally useless as a definition, I suppose, but still a notion that makes me smile.)
I agree with m+3
Graphic designers structure text and imagery together to convey an idea in an interesting and meaningful way.
. . . or, how about:
Graphic designers are artist-technicians who solve graphical problems in print and other visual media.
My cards says, “bringing your ideas to life & helping your business grow.” My job title: “artistic visualization and design.”
GRAPHIC DESIGN: visually communicating a message or idea through a composition of words and/or images (characters 104)
I usually use the three concentric circles idea when explaining this (whether to a client or civilians):
The innermost circle is the people who are ready to gobble up the product or information in question. You could give them typewritten text and they’d be happy.
The outermost circle is people who aren’t interested and will never be interested. Nothing you do will win them over.
But the middle circle is people who may be interested, but need to have their attention grabbed, or need to be persuaded in some way to spend a little time with you. That’s where the presentation of the material makes a difference. That’s what designers contribute to communication.
Good graphic design takes information being communicated (what goes to the head), and adds emotion to the message (what goes to the heart). It might make the audience feel happy, sad, scared, disturbed or excited . . . but if they don’t feel some part of the message (for some things — like a restaurant menu — it may be just a little nudge), then the design did not fit the audience.
Whenever I see that blank look on someone’s face after telling them what I do, I try it the easy way: “You see printed things all around you every day, right? I’m one of the guys and girls making it look pretty.”
Graphic designer reveals expressions like a poet. Finds the words and makes a poem with them.
Graphic design is a universal language to talk people into something we want them to know.
Good graphic design is well-organized information.
Explanations that include “making it pretty” reveal only a part of what we do, and sometimes it is not our task at all. Sometimes we need to be shocking or sad or other things that are not pretty, depending on the message or information we need to organize.
A communication language using visual grammar to make effective statements.
Using graphics to make ideas comprehensible and interesting.
In Finland, there is no problem with the title Graphic Designer. Everybody understands it to mean you make 2D graphics for commercial purposes.
Then again, many graphic designers in Finland work under the title Art Director. That is really confusing. I think the title is just to boost up their ego, instead of paying better salary :-)
This is what I camp up with: Graphic Design is solving problems using imagination and ideas.
Turning ideas into visual images or objects that make them understandable, useful . . . or not!
Should not the answer be visual . . . such as cymbals clashing in an orchestra?
— a non-graphic designer
Wow. I like, truly like and I think it’s very clear, Mark’s definitions.
Graphic designer: a person who helps his/her clients to communicate more accurately about their products/services — I say.
Graphic design is idea expression through many forms of media such as print, video, audio and the web.
Designers started looking blank when I mentioned my profession in my former life: “system engineer.”
“I do the “creative part” of marketing materials; anything for print, e-mail, web and PowerPoint.”
That seems to turn the light on in their eyes.
Graphic design is making people feel, touch, hear, smell and taste through their eyes.
I like Robin and Danae’s answers; it’s what I tell people, too.
Any printed material you see around you . . . I do that.
There’s always (well, almost always) something around you to pick up for a little show and tell.
I must be older than dirt. When the blank look comes, I tell them “you know, what they used to call commercial artist.” That usually fixes it right away.
I think it’s more than just 2D; it’s evolved past traditional definition. People have such a willingness to share their opinions (maybe because of the possibility of anonymity?), but the response time to traditional ads, brochures, websites, etc. — the “early” graphic design vehicles — has made us think 3D . . . the shape of a business card, the functionality of the brochure, the packaging of the giveaway, the texture of the clothing with the logo. I think you have to consider much more past someone’s visual perception, and get them to be involved. Then, hopefully, it’s successful enough that your creation “You-Tubed,” “Twittered” and “blogged” about to get some positives responses, usually in 24 hours. That is when the person receiving the message takes ownership, feels a part of the message, and you can walk away to tackle the next one.
I draw pictures all day.
Graphic design translates ideas and information into clear and compelling visual media formats.
See the new Newsweek as a great example of graphic design enhancing a publication.
Visual information directors.
Graphic design for printed materials (i.e., brochures, flyers, posters, billboards, etc.) is the art of laying out text and graphics on a page in a visually pleasing and attention-getting manner so that the message is clearly conveyed and understood by the viewer. It also consists of creating a harmonious connection between words and pictures that agree in style using color, complementary fonts, and graphic elements (such as lines).
Well, I show them a brochure or another piece I have designed and say, “I did this” or “This is what I do.” And that generally causes an understanding “oh,” then questions.
When I don’t have a piece I’ve designed on hand, I offer examples they may be familiar with like magazines pages, brochures, web pages, flyers, etc., and that usually brings the initial understanding followed by more questions.
Give them something high level they can relate to, then the conversation takes off from there.
We are the world’s material artists. From cereal boxes to Web sites to books to opening title sequences in movies. We take those ideas and give them the “Wow, that looks awesome!” factor.
Thanks, Danae; good thoughts along my lines.
There is nothing that we encounter in our daily lives that does not entail design. Graphic design touches every aspect of daily life. We as designers must teach the public that. When we say we charge $65 per hour, they faint, but they pay an electrician that to walk in the front door without lifting a finger!
Graphic design is a visual talk.
In every visual communication there are two messages, the explicit and the implicit. The explicit message is the words themselves. The implicit message is the way in which they are presented. Imagine “I Love You” set in 12-pt Helvetica. Now think of it in crayon, scrawled on a sheet of lined paper from a first-grader. Now imagine it in finely crafted calligraphy with lots of flourishes. The explicit message is the same; the implicit message has been created by the one who crafted the message.
“Graphic design / Branding is like getting a custom-made suit for your business.”
— Ricardo McRae.com
Graphic design is the adept creation of visual media to turn intangible ideas into tangible and compelling communication.
In the olden days I used to say I was a typesetter — very blank stares.
Say you are a GD, and people imagine you are a primadonna at the word “designer.”
Now I say I design books, brochures and publicity for businesses and am also a fine artist. If more blank stares, I say I’m a painter. Then they either think my job is a hobby or ask me if I can do a spot of decorating for them!
Graphic design is the art of using shape, line and color (sometimes arranged with text) to maximize a specific emotional response from the viewer.
This definition has served me well for over 10 years, and my clients easily understand this.
Designers figure out how things should look.
I like to describe graphic design as information architecture.
I find it a little disturbing how many commenters have made reference to “making things look pretty.” I think this is demeaning to the profession and furthers us from the idea our title should convey.
What about when we make things look ugly? If ugly is what the branding is about, then we make things look ugly — depends on what we are intending to communicate.
I don’t think any interesting profession can be summed up in a tweet. Almost every profession is misunderstood to some degree by those outside, but graphic design especially — I think mostly, anymore, because the title has become a misnomer for the array of hats that the creative professional must wear on a daily basis to keep up with the diversity of media that must be designed for. When I am laying out a comp for a website I’m planning to develop for someone, am I wearing my Graphic Designer hat, or my Web Designer Hat? A website is “graphic” and needs to be “designed.” Is furniture/clothing design not “graphic” enough to be considered graphic design? Or is it that furniture/clothing designers have narrowed down what they design into specifics that people can chew on? Is an animator a graphic designer if he uses type and color and design principles to make an opening-credit sequence for a film? If a graphic designer uses motion, is he an animator? Are we defined as a profession by what we know, or by what we make? I tend to present my professional title as something like Print/Web/Interactive Designer, but those are still only a sampling of the hats that I may wear for a particular client.
What I tell people, if I’m talking very strictly about my Print Designer hat, is usually along the lines of:
“Print Designers make the instructions for how all the printed materials you see every day look.”
I think that the creative profession needs to start specifying what “graphic” means, before we decide what Graphic Designer means. It was a term that was coined when there were a very limited set of things that could be designed. And should now be deprecated. Maybe I’m a Visual Medium Communication Specialist now . . . heh.
I am soooo familiar with that blank stare! I attend a “Career Day” every year at a local middle school where I live. Many 12- and 13-year-olds don’t grasp too much anyway, so you can imagine how quickly they flatline when I say “graphic design.”
I just tell them that I design things on a computer, using images and type to create something pretty, that promotes a product or an idea. “Ya know the magazines you read?” I tell them. “Your favorite web site? the cereal boxes in the store . . . someone has to design all those things.” Then the light bulb comes on.
Graphic designers create interesting visual concepts using images and text for the purpose of conveying ideas and messages to the public.
(137 words with spaces.)
I make pretty pictures for the web, print and TV for a living.
Right on Joseph S!
We are the round peg for a broad range of square holes. Sometimes it’s good to have mysterious talents . . .
Graphic design is visual poetry.
I still struggle with this one.
I come from a 25-year background in Photography now turned Graphic Design.
I tell people I specialize in magic!
I admit that “we make things pretty” is the easiest answer to give to family about my job, which I’m guilty of . . . but have any of you actually lost control and punched someone for asking, “Could you just pretty this up?”
Not that I have, but I do fantasize about doing so! Good thing this is a three-day weekend!
Taking an idea or a written or verbal communication and transforming it into an understandable, recognizable, visual representation.
Graphic design is:
Fonts, pictures, photos, art, headlines, words, paper, and materials arranged, combined, and selected to inform and/or to incite.
A good graphic designer uses a visual media to create the emotional tone that a client wants for their message.
That is my Twitter reply.
Lifting from the title of Edward Tufte’s second book, a graphic designer crafts visual explanations.
I never say I make something pretty, because that’s what non-designers say when they want to put us down.
Graphic design is a drawn or illustrated visual representation of an idea, a feeling, or an object.
Graphic design can stand alone without the intention to market anything. I am thinking of logos, which are visual representations that usually establish branding. A logo can be created without the intention of selling anything on its own.
Visualizing thoughts and ideas……
Authors paint pictures with words. Graphic designers paint words with pictures.
Graphic Design is the communication of people’s thoughts and ideas through words and images.
A designer is someone who makes intelligent visual decisions.
Graphic Design = Deliberate communication of a message through visual media.
I last got that question in my last Natural Science Illustrator’s Guild meeting. I laid out samples and was asked what I did. (blank stare) Short answer: I take art and words and put them together in a design. Then I prepare the design for a printer.
Graphic design is the art of communication. Literally. Using shape, color, pictures and words to present an idea in an enticing manner.
(Out of character, but a second blurb would go something like this: Nearly every package, sign, book, magazine, TV show or movie uses graphic design, so do money, clothing and a whole lot more.)
Thanks for the em-dash, moderator!
I tell people who ask this question, “I’m a propagandist,” or, sometimes, a “visual propagandist.” This seems to satisfy most (and frighten a few others).
Going into concepts of design and communication seems to make my clients’ eyes glaze over.
Another strategy is to only answer in their frame of need; i.e., to a client who needs a web site, you would be a “web site designer”; a person in need of a business card would hear that you are a “business graphic designer.”
The problem is that the term “graphic designer” is not specific enough, so clients fall back on their experience, usually seeing designers “as people who doodle.”
I say clarify, in your specialty.
Graphic design is taking your thoughts and making them real.
The dream stuff is made of.
Graphic designers make you read it, want it and buy it.
Graphic designers arrange visual elements in a way that entice people to look, read, feel and act.
For the non-Twitters who must answer the question:
Compose a two-sided business card.
Side 1: Relevent information about your business in a monospaced font with no images.
Side 2. The same info displayed using your graphic skills.
A graphic designer brings together images and words that deliver a message.
“Graphic design is the effective use of words, photography and illustration to educate, problem-solve, communicate an idea or sell a product.”
Since the challenge was how to effectively communicate the purpose of our business to the layman in, basically, one sentence, it was a mental challenge to keep myself in the position of a professional talking to someone completely ignorant of the most basic concepts of graphic design — thus keeping the verbiage as simple and universal as possible. I had to constantly whittle away at the vocabulary of our profession. Example: I wanted to use the (shorter) phrase, “visual media,” instead of “words, photography and illustration,” but asked myself, “Would a six-year-old child immediately grasp this concept?” (Yeah, I know, the average six-year-old is pretty savvy about a lot of things these days, but you get the idea.) I also wanted to encompass more than the “client-product-designer” aspect of the business (“. . . embodies the whole craft”). So the definition had to include a variety of ways in which graphic design affects the end user — signage, labelling, packaging, education, etc. The definition is somewhat redundant in the use of action verbs, (educate/communicate an idea), but I think this serves to illustrate the subtly overlapping ways in which design inhabits different aspects of our lives. I came in at 139 characters.
I took on this challenge as I would a regular assignment:
How to embrace more people/clients with a clear, concise, 140-character description of our profession that embodies the whole craft and speaks to the uninformed. Sorry, I don’t mean to spoil the fun — a lot of the answers are really interesting — but I’m a little surprised at the lack of attention to the given specs (by some, not all!). Isn’t that what we pride ourselves on, in addition to our creativity? Anyway, this was a very useful exercise — thanks!
Graphic design is basically a segment of Marketing. Graphic design communicates ideas to inform and/or to sell.
Graphic design: The visual architecture of words, pictures, colour and materials to deliver a message persuasively and attractively.
Graphic designer: A visual architect who applies words, pictures and colour to various materials to deliver a message as persuasively and attractively as possible.
Graphic design captures attention, organizes information and transmits concepts and passion. It motivates, informs and persuades.
I know that stare! Between friends I sometimes joke that “I draw stuff,” or “I drag the mouse across the screen all day.” In more serious circles, though, I often say that I create ads and literature to make companies and products look larger than life.
I say that I am a “designer,” and then if they continue to be interested, I narrow it down to typography and visual art.
Graphic design is solving a problem visually through the designer’s idea to attract attention for a specific need.
Great discussion. I’ve always struggled when I try to tell people what I do for a living. This discussion provides lots of options.
Graphic design is an expression of thoughts, concepts, information and even feelings in a form of a well think vectors, types, colors and images combined with harmony and balance. In a few words, an expression in a well sense way! Cheers!
I am someone who was involved in this field for a short time back when it started to make its transition into the use of technology and the term “desktop publishing” was popular (I still have copies of the first couple of issues of Before & After). I have an appreciation for the skills and scope of a true graphic artist. I dabble in a number of creative outlets personally, however I am a technologist at heart with the professional title of Software Architect. So forgive me when I say I have little sympathy for this topic, as I can barely talk to my wife about what I do day to day. The standard description uttered by others about what I do is, “He works with the computer.” If there is one thing I would change about my profession, it is high barriers to understanding.
Graphic design walks the very fine line between art and function. A “designer” is one who sees the world a little bit differently, who notices the details, and finds comfort in possibility.
There are all levels of graphic design. I think it can be summarized as “mediation between fine art and commercialized visualization.”
Or similar to BASF: “We don’t make the product, but we make it prettier”
A visual problem solver
Graphic design is a visual interpretation of a message (good or bad) using any medium or combination thereof.
Multidisciplinary visual communication via the unobtrusive use of type, images, color, space, to explain a product, idea, person or entity
You’re all making this too complicated. Just “visual communication” seems to do the trick.
A graphic designer is someone who translates words into images (graphically and explicity).
Where I work, we say I “prettify” things — web, print, presentations.
Graphic design: Communicating a concept, normally for advertising purposes, through multi-media.
Combining images and information to create interest.
Graphic design is the simplification and organization of information presented in such a way that everyone wants to read it.
Graphic design is a process of seduction. Good design becomes a visual enticement to look closer, to read or read further, to give additional consideration to a product or message. Design helps a product or message stand out from amongst all the background noise of our society.
Here’s one of my lines:
“We build strong partnerships with small-to-medium businesses to help them reach their target audience and realise their full potential.”
People are pretty much prompted to ask more. Also check out how Tim Ferris, author of The 4-Hour Work Week, describes what he does.
Below is the description I use with laymen about my profession:
“Graphic design is designing anything that is printable on paper/vinyl which touches us every day, like a label of a medicine bottle to the magazine one reads at leisure.”
Sorry, couldn’t stick to 140. It is 168 characters.
Graphic design: A visual representation using typography and/or imagery to convey a message or idea.
Life is Design. Design is Life.
Visually communicate ideas and messages. Use technical knowledge to send files to press or new media correctly. My job is to hook your brain.
Take a good idea and convey it profoundly, in a way that universally jumps off the page, whether that page be printed, web, environmental, or film.
A good graphic designer first and foremost listens to what a client is trying to accomplish in the market or industry he serves. Then and only then can the graphic designer translate his client objectives into a series of visual communication tools that will help the client sell his product or service. As one of the greatest marketers of all time once said, “It ain’t creative if it don’t sell.” We graphic designers can best be described as creative when we visually help a client generate a sale. After all, when clients are successful and we are a part of that success, they come back for more of what we have to offer.
Graphic design is telling someone’s story with a picture (illustration/image/visual), like what the cavemen painted on the cave walls.
Graphic design is herding cats made out of Jell-O.
I have a few stock answers:
At a party: “I make my living with my kindergarten skills.” GREAT conversation starter.
I usually follow up with, “Remember the Florida butterfly ballot? That’s why what I do is important.” Stole that one from you guys.
To family, friends, etc.: “I push pixels around a screen for a living.” Always gets a chuckle.
To the IT group at the tech-consulting firm that employs me: “I make your job interesting. I tax your network and ask the questions you can’t answer. Our group has the most powerful computers in the company, and we wait for them to catch up to us.” Then we’re off to the races with the tech geekery.
The sales force refers to what I do as “Kunkelizing” their stuff, and trust my judgment, once they get used to “letting go.”
I love graphic design. Because of my work in the business-to-business realm, I see all the trade rags, and because of that, I know something about every enterprise on the planet, basically. Seriously plays into my “walking encyclopedia” tendencies, for better or worse.
This is a more smart-alecky:
“Graphic design is whatever makes you look smarter than you actually are.”
Graphic design is . . .
The ability to understand and conceptualize another person’s ideas, whether vague or grandiose, and to communicate that visually.
Once, when asked what I do, on my reply, ready to give a full definition . . . this person said: “Aaah, I know, so you are a paid scribbler!” . . . thought I’d implement this description on a lighter note :-)
Well, reading all those induced me to scrawl all over an unsuspecting envelope. Now I’ll try to pick out the good stuff (if any) . . .
Graphic design is like learning someone’s song and singing it to the world, whether it’s a beautiful aria or acid rock.
I’ve found it to be a very personal interaction. A distillation process of sorts. Simplifying people/things to their essence and presenting them naked in order to reach those who are listening on that plane. Helping people know without thinking, see without looking . . . of course, I’d never say that to a client. Some days I feel like a surrogate of sorts (my labour, your baby); other days, design is just artistic prostitution. I haven’t found a lot of respect for design ownership. It is our lot to speak without being heard . . . Sorry, I didn’t take my Prozac today :-) . . . Good question . . . I design because I must . . . just like the rest of you . . . because there’s nothing better than getting it “just right.”
We help clients translate ideas, visions and information into dynamic communication tools.
. . . or, put another way:
We create dynamic visual tools that enable our clients to effectively communicate their ideas, visions and information.
I lifted the following, with minor editing, from your wonderful “Why we design” essay.
“We take a word or a thought and give it form and body, so others can see it and respond.”
I like that.
I simply tell people that every label they see in the grocery store, every sign and every poster is made by a graphic designer. The results of our work are so abundant, yet people have no idea that they see them every day.
The blank stare turns to a twinkle much faster now that we have included “website design and creation” into the equation. Explaining to a potential client (any business not a client is a potential client) that our primary goal is to have their business publication materials recognizable as their own, from websites to business cards, seems to create an instant connection.
Graphic design: The creation of business publication materials using logos, text and images that are recognizable as your own, from websites to business cards. (136 characters)
What is graphic design: everything that I did in kindergarten, except this time I don’t eat the glue, and I get paid.
Graphic design is creating something for people to look at that helps them understand you.
I haven’t seen the words compelling or motivate. It seems to me that in addition to communicating, we also try to motivate the reader/viewer to act in a certain way by using compelling images and arguments.
As my kids tell people who ask what I do:
“My mom colors on the computer.”
I say, “Graphic designers make their bosses look good.”
Nothing new to add but here’s my vote for the best two.
“Graphic design . . . the art and architecture of visual communication.”
— Posted by JD Thrower on May 21.
An expanded version:
“I tell people I work with businesses helping them to promote their products or services using different marketing materials such as brochures, fliers, and websites.”
— Posted by Sue Ann on May 20.
Graphic design is visual language.
Convert information into something the audience pays attention to for the benefit of the client.
1. “I make pixels pretty.”
2. “I use ideas, pixels and ink to let people know what you do.”
Graphic design: getting a point across effectively.
Graphic design is a provocative, compelling presentation that effectively communicates the intended message.
But I would never tell this to a muggle. I find they understand advertising best.
Design to communicate
How do we know that we are a graphic designer . . . !
If your client is giving you ideas, sketches and even colors . . . , and forcing to do same . . . so, is he designer?
“Communication by elements, pictures, colors, etc. . . . in perfect manners with nice layout and giving message to target audience is graphic designing.”
We are conveying a message into a massage, all in term of visual art language.
Graphic design: Effective visual communication of ideas, concepts and products. (80 characters)
Examples — I liked Danae’s: See that poster, see that sign, see that coffee cup in your hand . . . we design THAT! (Almost) everything you see that is printed or visually pleasing is done by a designer.
Graphic design is the art of manipulating an audience visually to convey a message to achieve a desired result. Visual elements and type are combined adhering to standards of production and principles of design to create a message. If a graphic design can’t be reproduced either in print or on the Web, it’s just a pretty picture and not graphic design.
Well, I had better get my two cents in before we have class tonight.
Graphic design is visual problem solving using text and or images.
I find Lexi’s definition the best:
“Graphic designers are translators. We translate thoughts, ideas, visions and goals into a visual media that can be understood by anyone.” But add to it at the end, “in order to sell . . .”
I’ve never had anyone look confused when I say I’m a graphic designer — 99% of the time I get “COOL!” and, “Did you have to go to school for that?”
To my kids, I say design is problem solving.
For Webster’s I would say: We present information in a visually appropriate way to produce the desired reaction.
“Even the best ideas can use a little help . . . Let me help you look good.” Gail C, GAgrafx
Graphic Design is giving life to an idea — taking a concept and making it a reality. Creating something solid that is experienced through all your senses.
“Everything, other than Nature, has been designed”. . . anonymous, Art Institute San Francisco
“Do I have to draw you a picture?”
Graphic design is the ability to excite people’s imagination and influence their actions through the unique use of colors, text, and images.
I use the Psychotactics idea that you need to show the problem, solution and target market in the first line. So:
I am the “awful artwork” adjuster.
Graphic design is about using imagination and thought to develop a concept of an idea to bring to life, and which must have communication to understand.
There are good ones and there are bad ones, but basically they are all designs.
Graphic design is something that conveys your message to the audience with long-lasting effects, as we are so similar to visual art.
I have little funny story. Someone asked what I do . . . I told him I’m a designer. You know what he asked? Ladies or gents? I was dumbfounded . . . he thought I’m a fashion designer!
We went to a workshop for profiling a designer, and the facilitator asked us what graphic design is, and we “defined” it. Then he told us we had not defined it but merely given a list of tasks that a designer does.
Then I lectured part-time at a college, and my first assignment always was for the students to define graphic design, identity, image and communication.
For graphic design, it is the relay of information through various media to a specific audience to elicit a response.
A bit technical but I think it covers it.
Graphic Design is creating a concept for an idea or product and converting it to a visual representation to persuade people to buy that idea or product.
Communication in the form of Art
Art in the form of Communication
Attention Reflection Action
Stop Look Listen
Graphics are visual elements that are printed or digital, such as color, text (typography), shapes, and the spaces between them.
Design is the visual arrangement and aesthetics of these elements. A designer is a person trained or educated in the sensory and emotional values of visual elements and design.
Variations of graphic design aside from print or digital media are floral design, interior design, architectural design, landscape design.
When I mention graphic designer and see that stare, I usually laugh and say, “Not really, I’m a pilot.”
To me, graphic design is problem-solving communication through visual means.
Hi . . . I am Thilina from Sri Lanka.
I think graphic design is like a face of human. It can generate vast range of feelings in each and every person.
Design is making ideas visual with elegance and efficiency.
— Rick McCawley
Design is everything!
— Paul Rand
Graphic design is giving our ideas and thoughts a tangible form.
Pingback: What is Graphic Design? Part 2 | Kauai Design Graphics