What is graphic design?

2 09 2008

Just last week I was visiting my 86-year-old grandmother, and she asked me (as she has repeatedly for years now), “what is it that you do for a living again?”

Ever since I embarked on becoming a graphic designer, I have noticed a very curious perception about my chosen profession. When asked what I do for a living, I always reply, “I’m a graphic designer,” and I assume my response is descriptive enough. More often than not, I get a blank stare and usually a follow up question with absolutely no legitimacy, such as, “Oh, do you create special effects for movies?” This immediately tips me off that they haven’t the faintest idea what a graphic designer does. Subsequently, I reply with “well, not exactly.”

Graphic design, by definition, is the art (or profession) of visual communication. As designers, we creatively combine images, words and ideas to convey information to an audience, especially to produce a desired effect or reaction. Our main tools are typography, color, photography/illustration and composition. Graphic design can refer to both the designing process and the actual designs that are created.

There are a few reasons why graphic design is such an enigma to those outside the design realm. First off, it is a very broad profession with many avenues to pursue. Typical examples of graphic design include company logos, magazine layouts, advertisements, consumer packaging and Web site design. I try to give a few examples when I am faced with this situation such as, “I’m currently working on a logo for this client and a brochure for that client.”

I could say, “Grandma, I use the Abobe Creative Suite to organize space in order to communicate visual and verbal information with expression and clarity.” I have a feeling that might make matters worse. Since the arrival of graphic arts software applications, computer image manipulation has become the norm. So when all else fails and my grandmother says “what exactly is it that you do again?” I can reply, “I work on a computer grandma,” and she is somehow satisfied.


Holly Davis




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