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What is Graphic Design

The Scope and Nature of Graphic Art and Design
Whilst specialist areas of digital media relating to graphic design have evolved to become part of training in graphic design, these specialist areas have increasingly evolved and they are often now being treated as separate areas of study. New courses are being developed which treat these areas as separate from graphic design with their own specific training and career paths. It is likely that each of these specialist areas will become more independent over time as theories and techniques become more complex and bloated.

It is also highly likely that we will see the evolution of other offshoots from graphic design as digital media technology grows and diversifies. This will undoubtedly result in other job titles related to the field.   

Depending on your locality or region further distinctions to those outlined here may already be emerging.

The graphic design industry is always changing, being affected by both individuals and organisations involved in a plethora of other industries.

As outlined in the introduction, there is a degree of overlap across different design fields and specialist roles. Graphic designers may become involved, to a greater or lesser degree, in any of the following:

  • Web Page Design
  • Product Label Design
  • Architectural Design
  • Interior Design
  • Landscape Design
  • Performance Arts Set Design
  • Manufacturing/Product Design – industrial design, textile design, fashion design, etc.
  • Marketing – designing advertising materials, exhibition design, multimedia design, retail display design
Sometimes a self-employed graphic designer or small company may have to take on work outside their usual area due to a lack of work or suitable jobs. It is therefore useful to have flexible skills and an understanding of related areas of work.  
Getting Connected
It is important for any budding designer to connect with people and organisations that can maintain and grow their awareness and opportunities within the industry.

Design Systems

Different designs can have different fundamental purposes. For example:
  • Design to Persuade
  • Design to Inform
  • Design to Educate
  • Design to Entertain

1) Designing to Persuade
This involves combining type, images etc. in a way which will enable to viewer to not only develop an understanding of a message, but to also have a desire to act on that heightened understanding. 

A typical example is marketing materials.

Tips to create persuasive designs:
  • Apply strategies from marketing psychology
  • Identify and focus on a theme that will connect with the audience
  • Keep messages simple and quick to absorb
  • Use images that engage and provoke interest and action
  • Clarify anything that might not be understood
  • Create a visual hierarchy, using variation in size to convey relative importance of different parts of the design
  • Use colour to attract attention
  • Have a focal point - something to catch the viewers a eye 

2) Design to Inform
These designs are purely practical. They may not need to engage anyone until they become relevant, but they should be obvious and noticeable, not to mention readable and legible once they are needed. 

Examples include: exit signs, fire safety signs, and street traffic signs.

Tips to create informative designs:
  • Use clear and simple labels
  • Use a key where needed
  • Keep arrows short and limit the number 
  • Use colours to help explain
  • Use gradation and group elements

3) Design to Educate
These are designs that are intended to raise awareness, convey knowledge, or develop a person’s capacity to do things. These designs should bring about an ongoing change in a person. That is what education does. 

By comparison, a persuasive design is more immediate. It attempts to get someone to buy or adopt something after which the design might not continue to have any impact at all. Also, an informative design may only be used for a short period after which it might not be noticed unless needed again. Educational designs on the other hand need to have a more permanent effect and that “permanence” is what makes them different.

Examples include: text books and educational websites.

Tips to create educational designs:
  • Apply strategies from educational psychology
  • Present messages or information in chunks
  • Legibility is extremely important
  • Disclose factual information progressively
  • Reinforce main points to improve likelihood of viewer remembering
  • Vary the way the same message is presented

4) Design to Entertain
These types of designs are more playful and may be more dramatic and sensational. They may be serious or they may be humorous depending on the message being conveyed. Designs of this nature are often in bold colours and may utilise a small amount of text, which is often large text. They also often feature images or illustrations of people, animals, or objects which are presented in striking ways so as to lure viewers in. Like persuasive designs they need to be immediate.

Examples include: computer games, television programs, novels, and comics.

Tips to create entertaining designs include:
  • Use exciting words
  • Use larger text and fewer words
  • Use mainly primary and secondary colours
  • Incorporate striking images or illustrations
  • Try a single visual design
  • Make use of contrast
An extract from our Graphic Design course  -click for course details

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