What is a Graphic Designer?
Graphic design is also known as communication design. Graphic designers are visual communicators, who create visual concepts by hand or by using computer software. They communicate ideas to inspire, inform, or captivate consumers through both physical and virtual art forms that include images, words, or graphics.
The end goal of graphic designers is to make the organizations that hire them recognizable and prominent. By using a variety of media they communicate a particular idea or identity to be used in advertising and promotions. These media include fonts, shapes, colors, images, print design, photography, animation, logos, and billboards. Graphic designers often collaborate on projects with artists, multimedia animators, and other creative professionals. So, every graphic designer is a visual-thinking problem solver and communicator. Every graphic designer is charged with the task of solving specific communication challenges and achieving specific creative outcomes. But this does not fully answer the question, What is a graphic designer? Why? Because, depending on your role as a graphic designer, you may be:
A Creative Director You manage a creative team that creates visuals for product branding, advertising campaigns, etc.
An 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.
An Art Production Manager You manage the production aspect of art generation and creation, with a focus on improving efficiency and lowering costs.
A Package Designer You create and design packaging for marketing and/or products in terms of both design and physical construction.
A Brand Identity Developer You develop brand identities for various organizations.
A Visual Image Developer You create images and designs through 3D modeling, photography, and image editing.
A Visual Journalist Among other things, you create informational graphics known as infographics. This can be for print or digital application.
A Broadcast Designer You create visual designs and electronic media to be used in television productions.
A 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.
An Interface Designer You develop graphical user interfaces and usually work for web development companies.
A Web Designer You create graphics, layouts, and pages for websites.
A Multimedia Developer You apply graphic design skills to sound and/or motion.
A Content Developer You create written, graphical, video, sound, or other multimedia content depending on your brief.
What is the workplace of a Graphic Designer like?
Generally speaking, graphic designers work in one of three work environments. Therefore, the answer to this question depends on the option you choose.
Working as an in-house graphic designerWorking in-house means that you are employed with an established organization and your work revolves around a single brand or a single group of related brands. Graphic designers in these kinds of roles tend to be generalists. They possess a broad range of general design skills so that they are able to meet all the creative needs of the company. Advantages of working in-house – Perks of a traditional work environment: separation of home and work; collaboration with colleagues in a social workplace; company benefits – A steady paycheck: stability without having to build up a clientele – Opportunities to advance: potential to climb the corporate career ladder – One brand or brand set to develop: singular focus allows designers to develop an in-depth understanding of the organization’s brand, style, and target audiences; opportunity to build a long-term strategy and see the results that it yields. Disadvantages of working in-house – More rules: an established company brand can feel restrictive; it requires that you come up with new ideas while adhering to brand guidelines – More communication: you will likely have to explain and justify your designs to non-designers – A non-design environment: office space may not be optimized with the designers in mind; there will be fewer, if any, fellow designers to collaborate with.
Working as a freelance graphic designerFreelance graphic designers are responsible for more than just graphic design. They are responsible for every aspect of their business, from marketing and client relations to bookkeeping and invoicing. The role calls for considerable self-discipline and dedication. Advantages of working as a freelancer – Location: no commuting; flexibility to work from anywhere with Wi-Fi – Creative freedom: creative flexibility; select work that challenges and inspires you – A tailored schedule: tailor your hours to the lifestyle you want, as long as you keep up with the workload and remain productive Disadvantages of working as a freelancer – No coworkers: essentially, you will be working alone in relative isolation, in a non-collaborative environment, which may at times challenge your motivation – Hunting and bidding for work: projects will not land on your desk; you will have to actively seek – and sometimes compete to win – projects – Unreliable pay without benefits: pay can vary dramatically from month to month, depending on the flow of work; health insurance, maternity leave, and retirement accounts will be your own responsibility
Frequently Asked Questions
Both graphic designers and illustrators do design-type work.
Graphic designers will work on design elements and structures, providing a visual message/brand for a company in order to sell a product or service.
Illustrators, on the other hand, will typically do commercial work for companies like comic book houses, publishing houses and advertising agencies. They do a lot more drawing, designing of product packaging, working on book illustrations, creating company logos, and graphic novels.
Graphic design degrees require a concentration in product design, website design, and publication design. Illustration students have some graphic design training, but most of their coursework includes art history, drawing, and painting. The illustrator doesn’t have the advanced knowledge of a graphic designer.
If you like to draw and illustrate concepts, illustration would be a good fit. If you prefer to code, make websites, and do detail-type work, then graphic design might suit you better.
Graphic designers work with all types of media. Their designs are printed on paper, silk screened onto signage, and displayed on screens as an app or website, to name just a few. Understanding what is and isn’t possible in the intended medium is crucial to creating an effective design.
So, yes, designing for digital media like websites and apps requires understanding what you can and can’t do with code. Knowing how to code a website on your own isn’t necessary, just understanding the high level concepts and being able to have a conversation with developers is enough.
You can sketch almost anything, and while that freedom can be an important part of the creative process, a designer knows that for any project, success depends on well defined constraints. Learning about the limitations of your medium is an essential part of being a designer, but you don’t need to “write the code” yourself.
Designing for the web introduces a whole host of new variables, limitations, and opportunites that aren’t present in print design.
While print design usually means designing for fixed layouts where the designer knows exactly how the content will be displayed to users, web design requires taking into account the fact that users can be viewing their content on a variety of devices, each with different pixel densities, color profiles, and screen ratios. Often times, this also means designing for fluid experiences, where designs must be able to react to changes in screen size and page events, presenting new design challenges.
Futhermore, the technical constraints are higher in designing for the web, where the designer is expected to know what is and isn’t possible with current technologies. For example, web typography is still in its infancy: many standard typographical tools aren’t available or easily accessible, and some foundries still do not license their typefaces for use online. In addition, bandwidth constraints require designers to also take things like filesize into account, sometimes restricting design opportunities in the name of a better user experience.
Designing for the web, however, also brings with it interactive elements that aren’t present in print design, which offers up many new possibilities, but creates more work for the designer. For example, it opens the door to adding animations and transformations to page elements, but that also introduces user-experience as a new goal for designers to worry about. Whereas with print design there is usually little user interaction, on the web it becomes a primary concern to the designer, creating a new lens through which they must look at their work.
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