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What is Graphic Design?

Submitted on: 26 Aug 11

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Sometimes the perfect way to communicate with a customer is not through spoken dialogue or written text…it is through a stunning illustration that someone can immediately relate with on a personal level. A truly great image is not worth a thousand words as the old saying goes; it’s actually worth billions if it connects to the proper audience. In a nutshell, that’s what the graphic design industry is all about and it is easily one of the most powerful selling tools on Earth.

What is Graphic Design?

The world of graphic design is based on the principle that when a consumer sees a great picture inside a magazine or above a storefront, it speaks to them in a way that words could never quite capture. From the standard symbol that indicates a restroom nearby to the low battery indicator on our cellular phones, we rely on graphics in our daily lives as no society has ever done before. For example, a picture of a vine-ripened tomato on a jar of spaghetti sauce certainly does not mean that it will taste any better, yet time after time that’s the container that consumers reach for when they are searching for a new product. In a nutshell, that’s what graphic design is; it’s the process of making a product or service appealing to consumers.

Challenges within the Graphic Design Industry

Of course, before we can see all of those nifty images and selling points, there has to be a professional somewhere coming up with the original ideas. It may sound fairly easy to slap a picture on a sheet of paper and build some context around it, but people like you and me are not so easily motivated when it comes to handing out our stamps of approval. We are actually pretty darn judgmental when it comes to graphic design and most of the time we form an opinion in mere seconds. That why talented artists are so in-demand in today’s society, their creativity truly makes or breaks the success of massive corporations.

The world of Graphic Arts is seriously big business, and believe it or not there are no less than 100,000 professionals out there trying to figure out what appeals to you at this very moment. What color appeals to the masses? Should an advertisement be funny or serious? How will consumers react to our company logo? Which mediums will deliver our message the fastest? Believe it or not, most of today’s industries put more stock in their packaging and creative art than their actual product, and every bit of it is geared towards making you a happy, motivated buyer.

Types of Graphic Design

By now, you probably realize that the world of graphic arts is truly three-dimensional industry that is expanding in just about every possible direction around our globe. Below you’ll find a few of the more popular fields and a classic example of how they affect our lives.

Brand Imaging

Every company has an official logo; some even have three or four. Brand imaging is taking a visual signature and stamping it as your own so that the world will know of your products at a mere glance. Now, this may not seem like a critical aspect of graphic design until you actually put it to the test- pick any superstore in your area and walk down the aisles looking at company logos. Chances are that you’ll recognize one hundred or more brands from their image on the first few aisles alone.

For example, think about the golden arches of McDonalds and what images it creates in the average customer’s mind. When I personally look at it, it reminds me how much I love the great apple pies, but one hundred other consumers may think of ninety-six different things from seeing that exact same logo. Children may think about the playground or the diet-conscious may envision their fresh garden salads; all from one iconic brand logo that has integrated its way into our daily lives.

Copywriting/Sales Copy

Now, you may think that copywriting is all about words, but businesses know that the first thing that catches a consumer’s attention is the images on the page. In fact, if the graphics are not sharp and tied into a great layout, the chances of you ever reading a single word are slim to none. A good graphic design agency will guide your focal point to the page and entice you to read what the advertiser has to say…all without you realizing it.

Take an average mail circular for a clothing outlet, for example, and really study any of the pages. Chances are that you’ll notice that not only do the photographs of models draw your attention, but your eye will also catch things like bold prices, several changes in fonts, and a large brand image that ties it all together. Every bit of this circular is created by a graphic design specialist that knows how to captivate audiences.

Television Commercials

Forget about today; think back to your favorite television commercial of ten, twenty, or even thirty years ago. Chances are that it made you laugh so darn hard that your stomach hurt, and you can attribute that wonderful memory to a graphic design genius who barely received any recognition for his efforts. All we remember is the dog plowing headfirst into the car as he chases the beer truck, the old lady asking “Where’s the beef,” or the little boy throwing his airplane-shaped dinner plate onto the carpet while food flies everywhere. We never even think about the person or company that actually came up with the concept, but you’d better believe that they are as legendary as Elvis Presley is within their industry.

If you think hard enough, I’m guessing that you can remember all three of those brand names even though the commercials have not aired for at least a decade. That’s the difference between good brand marketing on television and a trend-setting phenomenon that makes audiences smile before the punch line is even delivered as they watch it over again; great marketing is truly timeless.

Banners/Posters/Road Signs

When you’re driving down the road at sixty miles per hour, it really takes one heck of a concept for a billboard to make a lasting impression to the average consumer. It is also a catch twenty-two because advertisers have this huge space to get their message across yet they only have a driver’s attention for 1-3 seconds, so the message has to be simplistic with a very powerful selling point. The same goes for banners and other sales copy inside stores we frequent; graphic artists know that they have to make an immediate connection or it is likely a wasted effort.

For a practical example, the Coppertone sign in Miami is a billboard that South Floridians have seriously appreciated for over five decades now. It is almost impossible to pass by without earning a second glance, and even first-timers to the area instantly associate the beach and sun protection to the Coppertone brand. Of course, the rotating puppy that halfway pulls down the little girl’s bathing suit is the one who steals the show, which is why this display is so memorable and still exists today.

Product Packaging

Of course, we’ve really only scratched the tip of the iceberg when it comes to where we can find examples of quality graphic design; with out it, we probably never would have found many of our favorite products and services to begin with. Think about it; when you walk down a store aisle searching for a bundle of tortilla shells that your spouse sent you to purchase, it’s very rare to be given a brand name to search for on the shelves. Instead, you’re told to, “Grab the one with the green and red stripes on the label…those are the best.”

Everything from books to DVD’s to coffee makers incorporate several graphic design features to sell you on the product, and as creatures of habit we often buy the brand that comes in the prettiest packaging. It’s little wonder why corporations spend millions of dollars annually to make sure that their products carry a great image inside our favorite retail establishments; many would say that is it by far their most powerful sales tool.

Business Cards/Menus/Brochures

Businesses also use graphic design as a transitional tool for interested parties. Stay at any hotel in the world, for example, and there is an excellent chance that there will be numerous brochures in the lobby that educate you on the area attractions. The focal point on this type of material is always the arrangement of the photographs, and since similar services are being advertised companies spend big bucks to ensure that theirs is better than the next guy’s. Business cards and take out menus essentially work the same way; consumers reach for the one that demands the most immediate attention.

Then again, this is but a mere fraction of the areas that graphic design changes our everyday lives; it is really difficult to pick up a single man-made object that was not designed to provoke some type of instant brand recognition. To prove this point, walk through your home and try to find one single item that does not have some type of sales building included within the product…you’ll probably be looking for quite awhile before you stumble on a generic product that neglected this vital step.

Getting back to our original definition of graphic design, it is actually a lot more than a way for businesses to create mental images for consumers. In today’s society, it is literally a way of life that we could not function without…imagine a world without pictures and videos and neat little display tags that allow us to have some form of judgment when it comes to our favorite gadgets. It would be as strange and foreign to us as living on a distant planet.

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