What Exactly is Graphic Design ?

What exactly is Graphic Design?

Graphic Design is basically the process of visual communication using either of typography, photography and illustrations, or a combination of the same. It is the visual representation of ideas and messages using combinations of symbols, images and texts. Graphic designs are vastly used in logo design, editorial design, brochure design, corporate profiles, advertising, web design, and product packaging. When used effectively, graphic designing can boost the company’s marketing and can help persuade a larger group of audience.

As a good jumping-off point for anyone interested in learning more about the ins and outs of becoming a graphic designer, this guide is divided into three sections:

  • Understanding Graphic Design – You can’t be great at graphic design unless you have a clear-cut understanding of what it does and what graphic designers are supposed to accomplish.
  • Learning Graphic Design – Learn about the top graphic design books to read, online courses and tutorials that are worth every penny, and where to find graphic design inspiration when you need a little nudge to get going.
  • Graphic Design Careers and Salary – Understand what graphic designers really do at work, find out what a day in the life of a graphic designer in 2017 (because what graphic designers did five years ago may have changed) is like, and busting the myth of the starving artist.

If you’re already a graphic designer yourself, we also encourage you to share your helpful thoughts and suggestions for industry newbie in the comments below.

What is Graphic Design?

We didn’t make this quote out of thin air because Steve Jobs did. If you’ve been trying to get your foot in the door of the graphic design industry, understanding this important distinction is crucial. By doing so, you’ll be able to set yourself apart from the nephew who can supposedly finish a logo in five minutes.

Benefits

  • Good use of graphics can help make a great first impression to the potential customers. Appropriate use of logos and visuals can help create a professional image of the company in the eyes of the audience, and can help build visual consistent throughout various marketing tools.
  • Good use of graphics help build visual identity, reflecting the vision and mission of the company along with its core values.
  • The very base of branding of the company starts with graphics. Starting with logo, visuals are used everywhere including brochures, presentation templates, websites, ads etc., which collaboratively help in branding of the company.
  • Graphics attract attention of the customers and lures them to learn more about your product or service, which leads to more efficient and effective communication.
  • With increasing visibility, graphics also help convert visitors and audience into potential buyers, thus increasing sales and revenue.
  • Good design helps in building trust among the clients and fosters goodwill about the quality of the product or service. Researches show that a brand that looks good is better trusted than the one which is visually unappealing.

Tips for designing better graphics

  • Use easy to read fonts for simplicity and effectiveness. Stick to a particular group of fonts, and use their variants like bold, italics and light rather than using a variety of fonts.
  • Use appropriate letter spacing and condensed words for text that take up too much space, keeping in mind it does not affect the visibility of the text.
  • Use contrasting colors to improve visibility and to make your text and images visually appealing.
  • Align objects in a presentable systematic manner to ensure professionalism and sophistication. Use grid lines for systematic alignment.
  • When working on multiple designs across an ad campaign or website, simply restore the basic backbone of the design and swap out the elements that need to be changed. This helps in maintaining uniformity throughout the project even if the contents are changed.
  • Align images with proper grids or frames instead of using naked images to make your design look more professional.
  • Use lines around blocks of texts or important images to anchor them or two act as separators between various elements in the image.
  • Don’t overdo the design by adding too many special effects like tint gradients, shadows, drop texts etc. Keep it simple and aesthetic.
  • Use fresh pairs of eyes to examine your design from time to time. Take timely breaks to revitalize your creative magic.

Choosing the perfect graphic designers

  • Go through their portfolio and browse through their work to get an insight on their skill set and expertise.
  • Check for client reviews and customer satisfaction.
  • Check for compatibility of ideas. If the designer cannot foresee your vision, the perfect design can never be generated.
  • Start with a trail project, something that would not take more than a few hours (touch up of a previous project or a simple logo etc.) to understand how the designer thinks and if he can deliver what he promises.
  • Choose a company promising long term technical support and assistance.

Who have they worked for in the past?

The agencies you’ve found will have a vast array of work. It’s worth considering if they’ve done any work for companies similar to yours in the past. If they have, you could ask questions like; “How did your work directly benefit the company?” and “What are you going to ensure that my project is different?” Have they got any other projects that you imagine working well for your venture?

Do they work with reputable and respectable companies? Some agencies will have worked for Disney, but they may also have worked for Bob’s Bakery, the number one bakery in the whole UK. Don’t make the mistake of seeing the big name brands and automatically thinking that they are the best agency on the list. Think about the best results for your business.

Have a good poke around their websites. See if you can find any blog posts discussing their processes, ideas, methodologies or beliefs. It can sometimes be helpful to find out if there is any pricing information on their website too, because if the difference between your and their recommended budget is huge, there might not be any achievable middle ground. Therefore, cross them off the list.

Are they showing real testimonials?

This is a personal bug bear of mine. If a business has to falsify testimonials, there is something genuinely wrong. I’d rather see no testimonial at all than a fake one. Sometimes, they don’t even do a good job of faking it. “The project was really good and we are so happy with the result.” That really isn’t what clients write; I mean some might, but probably not. If there are forgeries at this stage, just think about what else could go wrong.

If they have a handful of well written testimonials, that’s great. If there is some work on their site that you like, but you can’t find a testimonial by that client, you could try talking to the client directly. One of our clients did this lately and was so pleased with her findings that she hired us straight away.

What is the deadline of the project?

Do you have a specific deadline that you need to meet? If you’re reading this now and wanting a re-brand finished tomorrow, you best be prepared for the budget that we discussed above, to be more than a little flexible. Being realistic with both your own and the design agencies time will help the project along and show respect and understanding on your part.

If you’re looking to launch your new brand of Christmas jumpers, don’t wait until December. Don’t even wait until winter. Start getting the ball moving on the project in the latter stages of spring/early summer. Often a close stone solid deadline can have repercussions on the budget. If there’s a little more leeway, the budget might swing more favorably in your direction. Think hard and work with your chosen design agency, rather than against them.

Do you have a budget in mind?

At this early stage in the project, you might be unaware of the costs related to your project. Thankfully, there are plenty of articles online that can help give you initial figures and ideas. We’ve written a post about the cost of a logo design project. This will give you at least a ball park figure to get you thinking about your budget.

It’s important to have a sensible budget in mind for your project, as later in the process, it will help make clear which graphic design agencies do and don’t fit your requirements. Having a flexible budget is also a good idea because agencies can normally offer a variety of solutions, and your budget will allow them to offer you the right solution. It will also stop you worrying about budget creep and panicking that the final product might come in way over budget.

What are the goals of the project?

Some people might say, the goal of the above project outline is “to make my start up look good.” However, this is flawed. The goal of “looking good” is subjective, and therefore, cannot be measured. For example, if you’re re-branding your existing company, you might set goals such as;

  • We want to re-brand to increase monthly sales by 10%
  • We want to increase recognition within [specific industry] using newly branded advertising. The increased recognition will be measured through our increased social media following.
  • Our new look website will increase monthly profits by Rs. 20000.

Remember when setting goals for your project, that they should be S.M.A.R.T goals. Sustainable, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. Example; “We will acquire 1000 new Twitter followers to promote our competition to win a new car to by July. This will help raise the brand awareness of our car garage.” Having 3 or 4 goals noted down for the project, will help your design agency understand the problems you’re facing and how they can help you.

What exactly does the project entail?

Maybe you’re a startup company and you have no idea where to start when it comes to the design side of the business. You know you need to get a logo designed. However, the chances are that your startup company will need more than just a logo design. If you don’t understand the difference between a logo design and branding, check out our article, what is Branding?

You may have had a logo and brand identity designed 5 years ago. However, business picked up and you never got around to having your business cards or letterheads designed and you’ve decided now is the time. Having at least some idea of what the project entails will help both you and your chosen agency.

Choose your design style

When thinking about your logo, the first thing you want to do is pick the right design aesthetic for your brand. There is no one style that is right for everyone, only what’s best for your brand.

Classic

Trendy logos can be fun and exciting, but they can quickly look outdated. A classic style gives you better staying power and can help you reach a broader audience. This aesthetic keeps it simple and doesn’t venture out into crazy color palettes, graphics or fonts. A classic style tells people that you are reliable and down to earth.

Retro or vintage

There is a reason why vintage and retro designs have been on trend for quite some time now. They instantly remind you of the past and evoke romantic feelings of nostalgia. A vintage logo tells customers that history is important to you and that whatever you sell is done right. Worn and hand-illustrated logos in brown and beige color palettes fit this aesthetic beautifully.

Modern and minimalist

Brands often choose a clean and minimalist style to communicate how fresh and modern they are. This style uses a lot of whitespace, minimal details and simple lines often resulting in sleek, pared back logos. A minimalist and modern style shows your customers that your brand is up-to-date, cool and knows what counts.

Fun and quirky

This is a popular choice for brands with a young (or young at heart) target customer. Fun and quirky style tends to be colorful and cute and often uses symbols or illustrations to create a positive and friendly vibe. Go for a whimsical mascot or a sweet illustration to let your brand’s fun character shine through.

Handmade and handcrafted

Handcrafted style transports a clear message: this brand is individualistic and stands for handmade quality. The style works well in combination with other aesthetics, like vintage, to really drive the message home. But it can be combined with minimal and fun styles as well for a simple and sophisticated or a bright and youthful look.

Can’t pick just one?

Of course these styles aren’t mutually exclusive: Just mix and match them to suit your brand. For instance your brand can be both handmade and fun at the same time, just take a look at how the quirky, illustrated logo for The Crafting Cactus pulls it off.

Find the right type of logo

In addition to the overall style there are 7 main types of logos you can choose from when you are creating your logo. You can pick the one that suits your company name or overall aesthetic best, or combine them to create something unique.

Letter marks (or monogram logos)

Letter mark logos can be great to streamline your company logo, especially if your name is very long or hard to remember. Lots of businesses choose to go by their initials, just think of HP, CNN or H&M. These monograms can be great for minimalist logos, but remember that they are not very good at expressing what your business is about.

Word marks (or logotypes)

Wordmarks are a very straightforward way of using you company name as a logo. To give them personality and recognition value, they are all about typography—just look at the word mark logo for ONE. If you’ve got a great name for your brand, this could be the perfect way to put it in the foreground.

Pictorial marks (or logo symbols)

Pictorial marks or logo symbols are what we think of when we hear the word “logo”. They are iconographic images that are easily recognizable and represent your brand with an image. You can choose something simplistic or more complex, but make sure to pick a symbol that creates a unique connection to your brand.

Abstract logo marks

Instead of a recognizable symbol, abstract logo marks are geometric forms that don’t establish an immediate connection to an existing image but create something entirely new for your brand. An abstract logo mark will condense your business into a symbol that is truly unique to you. The logo for Printy shows how modern an abstract symbol can look, while having lots of personality at the same time. If you want your abstract logo to create a certain mood or feeling, find out the meanings of different geometric logo shapes.

Mascots

Mascots are a fun way of giving your brand a personality. They are often colorful, cartoonish characters that represent your business in a family-friendly and approachable way, like the cheerful Gadget Mole above.

Combination mark

A combination mark does exactly what it says on the tin: it combines a symbol with a word mark to create an easily recognizable logo. The brand name is either placed next to the symbol, or is integrated in the graphic element, like designer ludibes demonstrates with the Brite Side logo. People will associate both elements with your brand, which allows you to use them both alone and together.

Emblem

Similar to combination marks, emblems are also often a combination of word and pictorial elements. They usually consist of text integrated in a symbol or icon, such as badges, seals or crests. The Rockwell Lighthouse emblem shows, how these traditional shapes can give you a very old-school and classic appearance.