Graphic design is easily misunderstood, and I think the very term “graphic design” is partially to blame. Most people don’t understand any type of design, so when you add “graphic” into the mix, you’re just asking for confusion.
A significant portion of what I do is graphic design, in truth, and for a long time I identified as a graphic designer. However, I always knew my discipline was being misunderstood. There are so many inaccurate ideas of what graphic design is, and what “designers” do, that I decided to refer to myself as a brand identity developer. Now, I don’t think every designer could equate their work with brand identity development, but I discovered years ago that I had a special knack for not just creating logos, but creating brands with values, a voice, and a consistent identity.
So because of my experience with telling people I’m a graphic designer, I’d like to defend graphic design in a few key ways below.
Graphic design has almost nothing to do with art
The biggest myth about graphic design is that it’s similar to traditional art. I think this is even perpetuated by some graphic designers. Although traditional art may or may not be a large part of a campaign or a brand, this doesn’t mean it’s the same thing as graphic design.
What makes graphic design great, in my opinion, is that most of it is not subjective. Where traditional art is completely subjective, allowing for all expression to be validated, graphic design follows the rules not just of psychology, but of specific consumption habits.
Now, I do think there is an art to graphic design; it’s just that design requires a completely different approach than that of traditional art. The art of graphic design adapts to the needs of a client within a specific industry.
Graphic design is not limited to the computer
The second most common myth I’ve experienced about graphic design is that it’s all about the computer. Some people even think that graphic designers repair computers. The only explanation for this is graphic design became more mainstream when computers, and the internet, were introduced into the typical household, so when corporate design moved in a digital direction, people equated it with “that computer stuff.”
Maybe graphic design didn’t always go by that title, but it’s been around for thousands of years, and even paved the way for many to have jobs in corporate America. People like Paul Rand, Saul Bass, and Milton Glaser had fantastic careers in graphic design as early as the 1940s. This leads me to my third point.
Graphic design is crucial in business
Somewhere between Milton Glaser’s New York Magazine logo and the dawn of the high-schooler-with-Photoshop designer, the appreciation in the business world for graphic design has been lost. A lot of it has to do with the myths listed above, but I think it’s also out of a misunderstanding of the current market.
The internet has changed the way we consume things forever. Where a company’s visual identity used to strike a consumer once or twice throughout the entire buying process, we’re now exposed to a brand’s logo, colors, style, voice, and values hundreds of times from our first contact to our first purchase.
Salesman don’t know how to create a brand’s personality, and marketing folks don’t know how their understanding of the market translates into a visual identity. Therein lies the need for graphic design professionals that have experience in creating effective brand identities. I believe most failing businesses can trace their shortcomings back to a fundamental lack of respect for their own brand, which is basically a lack of respect for their consumer.
A great graphic designer doesn’t just make logos, he or she digs deeper into a company’s needs and a consumers expectations, then finds the best solution as a result.