It is a phrase often thrown around without much thought. What does it actually mean to be a graphic designer, and what does that job title entail?
I graduated from the University of North Florida with a BFA and a concentration in graphic design and digital media. While in school, I worked for the school newspaper (The Spinnaker) where I started as an illustration artist, which led to a layout designer position and, eventually to art director.
Later, I helped transform this newspaper into a glossy magazine. This was a big transition because, generally speaking, photos and graphics need to be of a higher quality for a magazine than they need to be for newsprint. This transition also required an entirely new layout and art direction. The new magazine received Best in Show at the Associated Collegiate Press conference in New Orleans.
I have also traveled to Brazil where I offered pro bono design work for various non-profits working with children in poverty-stricken areas.
I say all of this not for the ego boost, but to give you some background as to who I am and what my trade is.
Merriam-Webster defines “graphic design” as this:
The art and profession of selecting and arranging visual elements — such as typography, images, symbols and colors — to convey a message to an audience. Sometimes graphic design is called ‘visual communications.’ It is a collaborative discipline: writers produce words, and photographers and illustrators create images that the designer incorporates into a complete visual message.
In a perfect world, the designer would get the best words, the best photos and the best illustrations and arrange them all into the most appealing and effective visual message pertaining to the target audience’s motivation levels.
However, all of those things don’t always fall into place. Even if they do, how can you be sure?
Below is an email that was created in the same manner that Merriam-Webster uses to describe “graphic design.” There are words on the page, given to a designer, which speak of the company and its product’s value. There is also a professionally-shot photo that shows a couple enjoying the product featured in the email. All of these elements have been combined into a visually pleasing design:
From a design perspective, this is an appealing email:
- The main headline is a very legible sans-serif (a proven category of typeface for headlines)
- There is plenty of contrast between the headline and background
- The email layout itself is dynamic, leading the viewer’s eye from left to right and then down the page to the rest of the message
- Overall, best design practices have been used (color, proximity, scale, etc.)