What is graphic design and why it matters

You’d be surprised but graphic design is literally everywhere. Whether on water bottle labels, web pages, motorway signs or mobile apps, if there are graphics, someone has designed them. (That includes this article you’re reading!)

Graphic designers are composers in creativity and their work touches every sector of business. Branding, marketing, sales, customer relations: logos, packaging, letterheads and displays; paper, cardboard, Perspex, or vinyl; graphic designs are used throughout.

Graphic design isn’t new. The walls of the Lascaux Caves in southern France are adorned with pictographs and symbols dating from 17,000 years ago. Radiocarbon dating of charcoal from the Chauvet Caves pictures suggests they are almost twice as old. This early visual communication, allowing generations to pass on information to the next, is ancient graphic design.

What exactly is graphic design?

Graphic design is an art form where images, illustrations and typography are blended to create a visual communication that conveys messages or creates an effect. Used skilfully, graphic design can be used to better convey – often complex – content to an audience.

Modern graphic design, the beginning of the discipline as we know it now, is a term coined in 1922. American William Addison Dwiggins, himself one of the most popular book designers of the era, used it to identify the emerging field.

Technological advancements during the 20th century enabled designers to exploit design possibilities further. Once called print design, the advent of computers necessitated a wider term: graphic design now applies to any visual communication that uses design to share information, communicate a message or create an effect.

What does a graphic designer do?

We could tell you that we use our knowledge of design principles, typography and colour to create visually appealing designs that capture the attention of the audience, usually to entice the audience to buy a product, use a service or visit a location. We could say that we use elements of psychology, marketing and communication to create designs that resonate with your target audience.

It’s all true. To put it simply, we use design elements to create something that fits your purpose. Whether to help grow your business, enter a new market or even influence customer perception, it’s graphic design that will ensure your customer consumes your content.

Working with you – the client

Not that we want to boast but graphic designers need to think critically and creatively to create designs that work. The designs need to be visually-appealing and effective. They also need to communicate with your customer base. We want to understand our clients’ needs and create designs that meet their goals.

Design is not just about making things look pretty; it’s about solving problems and making the solution look good.

Great design is on trend

Since the beginning of graphic design, the arts and evolving trends have influenced the way graphic designers style visual communication. Consider the Art Deco style of the 1930s or the Pop Art style of the 1950s (as made popular by Andy Warhol): these styles have influenced everything from holiday posters to book covers.

Great graphic design does not date either. While it may emulate earlier trends, it remains relevant.

The very style of design communicates a message to its viewer too. Graphic design can be thought-provoking, action-inspiring, business-growing, emotion-evoking and ultimately, sales-making.

Why use a graphic designer?

Graphic design isn’t just about creating a logo or a brochure; it’s about creating an image for your brand. It is the first impression that people have of your business. If it looks cheap then potential customers may assume your products or services are also of low quality.

Investing in professional graphic design will save you time and money in the long run and won’t undermine your business.

A professional graphic designer understands how to use design principles effectively to create high-quality designs. They know how to create versatile designs that can be adapted for different platforms, ensuring your brand identity remains consistent.

Choose great design and watch your ideas come to life in ways you never thought possible.

How graphic design works

Here’s the science bit…

Graphic design takes design elements – colours, shapes, typefaces, illustrations, images, photography – and puts them together in a way that looks good. The elements themselves have a psychological impact and can be used to excellent effect.

Colours are strongly associated with emotions: red for danger, passion and excitement; green for nature and healing; yellow for creativity and happiness; white for innocence, honesty and simplicity. Graphic designers use colours palettes to communicate base emotions and to excite them too.

Typeface communicates a message all of its own. Not only does it promote legibility and convey personality, it also speaks volumes about intended tone and sentiment. The words “I will always find you” read as a sentiment of affection in a flowing script but a scary threat in a Gothic typeface.

The layout of images and text on a page or screen is crucial to ensure that any design is both visually appealing and easy to navigate. Images, illustrations and photographs enhance and reinforce messages.

6 ways designers use their artistic skills and creativity to bring visual concepts to life:

Branding: Graphic design plays a significant role in creating and maintaining a brand’s identity. Modern brand materials need to be versatile and adaptable to cover the myriad platforms that are available to reach customers.

Print: From posters and brochures to magazines and newspapers, graphic designers get the point across. Before you think that print media is no longer relevant in today’s online society, we can assure you it’s still going strong.

Web and app design: In digital design, a graphic designer will design user interfaces (UI design) to ensure a user experience (UX) that is visually pleasing and easy to navigate. This will keep your user online longer and increase the opportunity for sales or action.

Social: Well-designed social posts can stop the scroll. Eye-catching graphics, emotive photography, image-based infographics: savvy businesses use visual content to grab and hold attention. This strategy helps businesses maintain a strong online presence on busy platforms.

Packaging: Graphic design plays a crucial role in packaging design, itself a complex skill. Packaging must be attention-grabbing, visible and intelligible. Design of packaging affects the initial perception of a product and, inevitably, the purchase decision.

Advertising: From creating eye-catching ad campaigns to designing promotional materials for billboards, flyers or online communications, graphic design is your advertising advantage. Scaled up, or scaled down, graphic designers ace advertising.

The future of graphic design

We think that the projected future of graphic design can be summed up in a single word: interactivity.

It’s likely to be a future full of designs that invite the user to play, discover and build their own experiences.

As virtual and augmented reality advance, graphic designers will have new opportunities to create immersive and engaging experiences. We think that the integration of technology in design will also open up new avenues for collaboration and cross-disciplinary projects.

Sustainable design practices are becoming increasingly important in the field of graphic design. Designers who are considering the environmental impact of their work are finding ways to create designs that are visually-appealing and environmentally-friendly.

Artificial intelligence is also set to play a significant role in graphic design’s future. However, it’s nothing new, graphic design has always used AI.  Ai-powered software sush as Adobe can help designers with tasks such as colour selection and image manipulation. It can help assist in generating things like mockups, allowing to spend more time on refining their ideas. Much like the computer speeded up processes like manual lettersetting, Ai helps speed up certain processes. One thing it will never replace is creativity.


Written by

Paul Grogan

Creative Director

Award winning, and self-confessed typographic and graphic design perfectionist, Paul has 26 years experience in the industry and is our managing and creative director.

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