What is graphic design? According to AIGA (America Institute of Graphic Arts), graphic design, also known as communication design, is the art and practice of planning and projecting ideas and experiences with visual and textual content.
According to Google, it is the art or skill of combining text and pictures in advertisements, magazines, or books.
Neither of these definitions really get to the heart and soul of what graphic design actually is. Even as a non-designer, there are times you might see a piece of graphic design and know in your gut something is off. But what? You may not be able to put it into words.
Graphic design is made up of visual building blocks we call the elements of graphic design. Line, shape, texture, color and typography are a few of these elements of designs and the ones you’re probably most familiar with.
But its the way these elements are placed on a page that determines if a design is successful or just “meh.”
The how of graphic design is what we call the rules and principles of design. The way the visual elements are placed on the page can support the intended message of the design. They can give the design substance and meaning.
It is the way the underlying rules and principles use the visual elements that can make a design sing or fall flat.
In the next few posts I’ll talk about the elements and principles of graphic design, layout and composition, color theory and typography – all the building blocks, rules and principles that can help create a successful design.
The purpose of graphic design
Graphic design is not necessarily art, although it can be. To be successful, graphic design communicates its intended message to the viewer, and it must do so clearly, succinctly and quickly.
Art can certainly communicate, but it’s aim is not necessarily meant to be clear and concise – quite the opposite sometimes. Its aim is to provoke emotion, contemplation and introspection by the viewer. Different people can walk away from a piece of art with very different interpretations, but it might still be considered a successful piece of art.
The purpose of graphic design is to:
- Capture the audience’s attention,
- Succinctly convey information,
- Evoke an emotion, and
- Induce an action.
Graphic design begins with the message it wishes to communicate; its goal is to motivate the viewer to do something, which might include to buy something, go somewhere, do something specific, learn something, etc.
So I’ll refer back to the AIGA definition of graphic design in order reiterate that graphic design is communication design. And it is communication that is of supreme importance to the success, mediocrity or failure of a piece of graphic design.