What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear about graphic design? Advertising, logo design, or magazines? yes, those examples can be considered graphic design, but graphic design is more than that, as everywhere we go and see is surrounded with graphic design, from street signage, your cereal box, or your mobile phone layout.
In this post, I will show you what is graphic design and the different types of specializations and jobs you can find in this creative business, let’s start.
First, we need to know what exactly is graphic design, and it refers to the art and practice of planning and projecting ideas and experiences with visual and textual content, this means that graphic designer main function is to transmit ideas or messages using visual elements, from a minimalist logo design to a brutalist web design.
Graphic designers are visual communicators who bring to life visual concepts by hand or using specialized graphic design software to communicate ideas or solve problems in a visual way including images, illustrations, graphics, typography, or words.
Graphic design is used by companies and brands to connect with their consumer, promote and sell products or communicate their brand values, information, or description of their products or services. And you can see graphic design projects used with a commercial purpose as logo design, advertisement design, or book cover design, at the same time that it can be used as artistic expression.
You might think that graphic design is already a specialization, but that is far from reality, as graphic design is everywhere and that means that there is a wide range of graphic design specializations and fields that require specific techniques, skills, knowledge, and software.
Visual identity or brand identity design refers to the development of visual elements of a brand to communicate its identity using images, color, and shapes. Designers specialized in brand identity design create a logo design, typography, color palettes, image libraries, and brand stationery to represent the brand values and personality to connect with their customers.
User Interface designers and web designers main focus is to create websites and apps with a user-friendly experience and good-looking aesthetic connecting the viewer with the site and its information. Web designers work on the front-end aspect of the website planning and building the appearance using visual elements like text, photography, video, and graphics.
Print and editorial design focus on the development of printed and nowadays digital media including books, posters, magazines, newspapers, and catalogs. Print and editorial designers create layouts and choose typography, graphics, illustration, or photography for the editorial, and they need to have good knowledge of color theory, printing techniques, font psychology, and visual hierarchy principles.
Package design refers to the development of concepts, mockups, and print-ready files used as packages for a product. The packaging design function is to protect the product, but it’s also a powerful marketing tool used to transmit a message and attract customers and choose their product instead of the competitors one.
Environmental design is a multidisciplinary art that combines graphic, landscape, interior, architecture, and industrial design with the objective to connect people with the place and give them a unique experience. Usually, environmental designers will develop transportation navigation, signage, office branding, museum interiors, and more.
If you want to learn more about the different graphic design specializations and deep further on their unique aspects you can read my post about the 9 types of graphic design.
All graphic design specializations have their unique requirements, but all of them share the same graphic design principles that every designer should know, these elements are.
Color is the most important element in graphic design as it is used to create impact at the first moment using color psychology and color theory, designers can transmit emotions and feelings as passion or creativity. Learn more about color theory and color psychology.
Lines are used to connect two points and they can be straight, curved, thin, thick, dashed, long, or short. It’s used in graphic design to dived spaces and direct the viewer attention to a specific part of the design.
Shape or form refers to a combination of lines and it can be used in different forms like circles, squares, rectangles, organic, abstract shapes, and more. Shapes can have different emotions associated with them and it’s used by graphic designers to connect with the viewer. Read more about shapes with my post about shape psychology.
White or negative space is present on every graphic design idea, and many people think it’s an empty space, but that is not true, as space is also a graphic design element used to give other elements room to breathe, create hierarchy, or hide secret meanings. Read more about white space in graphic design.
Textures are used in graphic design to give a three-dimensional look, and they can include textures of paper, concrete, brick, stone, ice, sand, and more. They can be used as background or in a more subtle way.
If you want to learn everything about graphic design principles and fundamental elements you should take a look at these posts.
The answer to this question can be different depending on the graphic design specializations, but the main focus of graphic designers is to solve problems, transmit ideas and messages using visual elements. Let’s see some functions of graphic designers.
These are some of the functions a graphic designer has, but later in this post, we will see different careers in graphic design and their functions.
If you want to become a graphic designer, they are three types of workplaces for you, let’s see them.
In-House Graphic Designers work for an already established company or organization developing graphics for a unique company, usually, these types of designers have a broad range of skills to meet the creative needs of the company.
Some advantages of working as an in-house graphic designer are to have the opportunity to advance, separate of home and work environment, focus on one brand understanding better the in-depth needs and style of the company, and the most important one, a steady paycheck every month.
Some disadvantages of working as an in-house designer are the number of rules of an established company in some times this can be restrictive to your creativity, you will explain and justify your design ideas to non-designers and be prepared to the high amount of changes and lastly that your work environment will be mostly non-designers.
These graphic designers work in already establish graphic design, or branding agencies along with other designers, creatives, marketers, and art directors. Design agencies get work from different clients and other brands to develop a different range of design projects including brand identity design, advertisement design, and more.
A graphic designer working for an agency usually specializes in one or two graphic design fields, unlike an In-House Graphic Designer who has a wider range of skills. Some of the advantages of working as a graphic designer in a creative agency are specialization in one design field helping you master that one, you will work along with more designers and you will focus on working in the graphic design field.
The disadvantages of working in a graphic design agency are the less job security, as the graphic design jobs are directly based on the number of projects the agency has and the rigorous deadlines that will make you put in extra hours to finish the project on time.
The last type of workplace for a graphic designer is to work as a freelance designer, being your own boss with the advantages and disadvantages of it, you will have creative freedom and schedule but you will have more responsibilities than a graphic designer, making invoices, client relations, and marketing to promote your business.
The advantages of being a freelance graphic designer are the freedom of location and schedule giving you the flexibility to work where you want, creative freedom by choosing the type of work that suits you better, and the chance to adapt your work to your lifestyle.
Besides the good advantages of working as a freelance graphic design, it also has disadvantages, as work alone without coworkers (this one can be an advantage for some designers), you need to seek and find your clients in a competitive market and the biggest disadvantage is the unreliable payment, as it will directly depending on the amount of client you had last month.
As we early saw in this post graphic design has different types and specializations being really wide the types of jobs you can get as a graphic designer, so let’s see some of the most common jobs a graphic designer.
A graphic designer is the most wide-ranged designer career as it covers a huge amount of duties in different industries, some of them can be poster design, logo design, web design or social media design, and many companies are looking for in-house graphic designers with a wide range of skills.
The creative director job in graphic design is the person specialized on determine and find the right creative vision for a project leading their team to obtain the aesthetic and look that suits best for the project. Creative directors should have skills in managing, leadership, time management, and creative vision.
User experience design job consists of creating a logical flow in the product, service, or website to give the user an enjoyable and accessible experience. UX designers can work in different industries like web design, app design, software, gaming systems, and many more and they test the product in the user perspective to avoid any inconsistency in the flow or the user experience.
The user interface design job consists on create a user-friendly webpage or app to give the customer the best experience and using design elements to transmit the information in the best way possible. UI designers should have basic coding skills to understand how their design will be implemented and they usually will work with UX designers and programmers to bring the user the best experience.
The art director job is a high-level job which is responsible for the design vision of the project leading the concept and reviewer and approving the design artworks of his art and graphic team. Usually, an art director can work in different industries like print media, advertising, fashion, and more to lead the artistic vision of the company.
Brand identity design career is specialized on developing the visual identity of a company, creating graphic elements, typography, imagery, stationery, and logo design that better reflect the brand values and their message at the same time that brand designer creates the brand style guide that shows how to use the visual elements of the company.
As early mentioned in this article, package design is a powerful marketing tool used to transmit ideas and grab the consumer attention, the package design job consists of developing the box, container, and label design for the product, that is why package designer should have knowledge on design principles, color theory, print techniques, product design, and marketing skills.
Logo designers have some relations with brand identity designers, but the difference is that the logo designer job is specialized on crafting and developing brand logos exclusively unlike the brand identity designer who takes care of the complete visual identity system of the company. Logo designers should have knowledge of logo design principles, color psychology, font psychology, and color theory.
Other graphic design jobs can be an art production manager, visual image developer, visual journalist, web designer, motion designer, 3D designer, broadcast designer, and multimedia content developer.
Graphic design is a job that merges art with technology to solve problems with visual elements, that is why to be a graphic designer you need to have knowledge of design principles like color, shape, hierarchy, typography, lines, space,e and texture at the same time that you need to know to use the design software required on the graphic design specialization you want to learn, like Photoshop, Illustrator or Figma among others.
Graphic designers are always working and developing concepts and creating new ideas, that is why you should be a creative person with the ability to communicate ideas and messages using visual elements, other qualities a good graphic designer should have are strategy, problem-solving, and time management.
Regarding how to learn graphic design you can go to a design school or self learn it by learning graphic design principles and practicing your skills with the required design software, here I let you some interesting articles that will help you know better how to learn graphic design, and some practical guides about design principles to start learning graphic design.
The short answer is no, except if you want to become an illustrator in graphic design, then you should master your drawing skills, in other graphic design specializations it’s not mandatory to be a good drawer, but if you have this skill you can use it to sketch or incorporate to your visual style.
You can find inspiration everywhere, in real life you can find inspiration through museums, magazines, or graphic design books, and if you are looking for design inspiration on the internet you can read blogs, enter social media like Behance or Instagram, and if you want to know the best websites for graphic design inspiration you can read my post about it.
Both careers are related to design, but the main difference is that graphic designers will work with structures and design elements to provide a message using a visual language, on another hand illustrators will do it using drawing and painting techniques more focused on artistic direction.
Graphic designers don’t need to have knowledge of coding as their main function is to create visual layouts, basic coding knowledge it’s only required for web design, UI design, and UX design fields to understand the limits of their designs and how it will be applied to the real product.
The main difference while designing for print or web it’s about technique, as for printed media graphic designer will know the exact size of the layout his design will appear, in web or digital environments designer should design taking care that his design will be viewed on different devices with different sizes, resolutions and color profiles.
Another difference is the color model, as for print media designs you will need to use the CMYK color model as it’s the one used by printers, and for digital designs, you will use RGB, which gives you a wider range of colors to use in your design.
It depends a lot on the way you are learning graphic design, you can have a two-year certificate degree, study four-year Bachelor’s Degree in graphic design or if you want to self-learn graphic design it will depend on the time you will need to learn all the design principles and master them. On other hand, it’s important to say that graphic designers are always learning new techniques, styles, or software as technology is always evolving.
The answer will depend a lot on the country you live in, if you are a freelance graphic designer or in-house designer, but to give you an approximation, the average salary of a graphic designer in the US is $38,826 per year, it can start from $22,957 and go up to $65,670 in some cases, and the best state for graphic designers is New York with an average salary of $64,840 per year.
Most graphic designers use Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator, but depending on the design field you are specialized you will use other software, like Figma or Sketch for UI Designers or InDesign for editorial design, if you want to learn more about graphic design tools you can read my post about it.
Hope you find this post useful and help you understand what is graphic design and the different types and specialization can be in this business if you plan to become a graphic designer hope this post is a great way to start your design career and make you things easier.
If you want to learn more about graphic design here are some interesting posts to start learning graphic design and discover all its secrets.
If you found this post useful you might like to read these post about Graphic Design Inspiration.
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