Graphic design is everywhere from newspapers to posters to new media. The true question is what is graphic design? Is it beneficial to strive to be a graphic designer in the modern world?
To get started we must look at key fields for new and upcoming graphic designers; Web Design, Illustration, Graphic Design or New Media.
Graphic design; Branding: most graphic designers go into branding. However, it is just as common for graphic designers to specialize in one specific area of branding such as package design or logo design. Should branding not be for you there are other fields to look at like editorial design which usually is more to do with layouts of magazines, newspapers and books.
History of Poster Design
Graphic design can arguably be traced back to cave men time. Before the digital revolution posters where originally hand painted, this meant that having a poster made up for a company or business was very expensive.
One of the biggest inventions for poster design was a technique called lithography created in 1798 which boosted the whole sector. It was the first time that designers could mass produce their designs. This technique would change the industry, it worked by first drawing a design with lithopencils (waxy pencils) on limestone and then the limestone would be treated and prepped with oils and gum arabic. After the stone is ready, the limestone is put though a press which squashed the limestone and paper together transferring the design onto paper. A benefit of this process was the fact that they could make replicas of the design costing a fraction of the price of having a designer do it by hand. However, lithography was done in simple black and white prints meaning that although the process was faster the end result lacked colour, meaning these posters were less effective than others which had many hues of colour.
In 1880 there was a new procedure called the “3 stone lithographic process” which allowed designers to use colour making them effective and easy to mass produce.
Poster Design in the 21st century
Today in poster design most things are done with digital technology. The Thor movie poster for example, clearly has been heavily edited on a computer. It is fair to say you can tell this poster is modern rather than being created in 1945 as they simply could not have produced a poster with such high resolution because of the lack of technology. As you can clearly see that this poster contains elements of photography, which has been edited and then added digitally using Photoshop. It is also more than likely that the textures in this poster would have been created digitally.
Development of GRAPHIC Design
Economically graphic design is highly sought after by companies and businesses who want to stand out against competitors. As graphic design grows and changes it becomes more defined and specialized in each discipline (e.g. logo design, typography and photography).
Good graphic design is key in the 21st century. Good graphic design makes the difference between selling your product, or not having a customer. Today no matter your skills or your trade everyone needs a corporate identity and graphic design can make you visible, inviting, and intriguing to potential clients. Think of any big company, Apple, Samson, Marvel and Vans all have teams of people making their brand visible ensuring that their company looks as good as possible to their target demographic. This is done with marketing and giving the brand some personality, for example, IRN BRU is well known for their tongue and cheek adverts. Their ads always feature things such as slang which is part of their target demographics everyday vocabulary as opposed to the rather more formal correct English. IRN BRU use “slang” as they want to be known for being a Scottish brand. They also add Scottish themes such as in the context of their ad e.g. The advert ‘New Fella’ is about his daughter’s new boyfriend who is an England fan. The ad pokes fun at the English several times and the father uses IRN BRU to cope with the ‘stress’ of the boyfriend being an England fan.
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Graphic design has helped shape and change our culture and as a graphic designer you are expected to know all about the current trends, allowing you to attract your target audience by making use of this knowledge. Graphic design has been used to send some of the most impactful messages, such as the campaign for Barack Obama. When you think of or hear his name you think of things like hope, freedom and change, all because at the core of his campaign graphic designers boosted the idea of him being the image of hope. Also his campaign suggested change that the people wanted.
In graphic design you have to be aware of cultural differences a huge difference for designers to be aware of is the different annotations for colour theory.
A good example of this is the colour red as in the UK it symbolises boldness, excitement and even danger. This is why red is typically seen in sports cars such as Ferraris. Whereas in a country like Japan the colour red is used to represent luck, wealth and happiness and because of its positive connotations the colour is used a lot in print fabrics and common house hold objects.
So in short graphic designers need to understand that different cultures colours are interpreted in different ways. A good example is David Bowie’s tribute advertisement between the ‘Swiss Style’ and the styles seen more commonly in the UK the swiss style is heavily typographic and shape based using repetitive or limited colour pallets as the style was known for using asymmetrical balance to crate visual interest. The UK poster however is the complete opposite using daring colours like red and black for dramatic effect.
Copyright laws are very serious and breaking them can lead to very severe consequences possibly going to prison for up to half a year. In graphic design there are two main features to be aware of: firstly using images that do not belong to you, it is important to remember to check if the image has a creative commercial license because restrictions can vary e.g. some images you cannot change in any way, and some cannot be used in a business / commercial setting.
The second issue is plagiarism, plagiarism is where you copy someone else’s work, Plagiarism comes in two main areas.
The most obvious area is copying and pasting from a website, without crediting the creater of the content. To steal someone’s ideas and passing them off as your ideas is another form of plagiarism
Visual Communication areas of Employment
In Graphic Design there are several areas of employment e.g. marketing, publishing, and animation. Publishing houses tend to receive a manuscript from a writer which they edit producing a brief for the team to follow. Books covering from childhood through to teens, the design team will be tasked with making up page layouts, covers and styles that are age appropriate. The team make up may have: publisher, proof reader, editor, illustrator and sales for marketing the finished product. Some publishing houses may outsource certain task such proof reading and illustration.
However, marketing focuses mainly on advertising and brand identity they typically with established Brands it will be to help promote a new product. They also have to work within social media creating banners, posters and logos promoting across multiple platforms such as mobile phones and laptops. It is essential that they be aware how something looks across these platforms as screen sizes and resolutions can change from device to device. Facebook is a clear example of this as the mobile version trims out a few functions such as seeing who’s online and instead shows more of the main field as they want the user to focus on the new product being promoted.
The Design Council Report 2018 states in 2016 the UK Graphic Design Industry showed a “6% growth rate (representing 99,604 jobs) compared to the UK average growth rate of 4% since 2014” employment within graphic design in the UK would appear to be easier to find now.
Last but not least, animation which is used in a plethora of ways such as motion graphics for advertising, is where elements of an ad move or jump to make the viewer engage more with the advertisement. The entertainment industry and the video games industry both use animation to spectacular effect.
As a graphic designer you have three options for work: being in-house, agency or freelance. Freelance is running your own business and design studio, which means you are free to choose the work you want to do, but, as it is a very competitive field you may struggle to get contracts. The other two usually work in small teams they will share roles depending on the skill sets of each member of the team. The difference between in-house and studio is that in-house refers to a company e.g. Disney where the work you produce will focus on the one brand name. Whereas, working for an agency the work tends to be for multiple brands creating products: such as posters and magazine covers.
Illustration: branches out into many sectors such as children’s book, editorial, medical, publishing and advertising. Illustrators are tasked to create a plethora of things such as: leaflets, books, covers, blogs, story-boards and catalogues. An illustrator’s is job is to talk with their client communicate ideas and come up with creative solutions to the clients problem in line with the brief. They must also chose an appropriate style for the work they will be illustrating e.g. a medical illustration would be vastly different from a children’s’ book illustration.
The Design Council stated; Graphic Designers tend to work within marketing or rebranding as “two-fifths of our survey respondents agreed that the use of design within their organisation has contributed to an increase in sales, turnover, business competitiveness, awareness and recognition of the brand “. Rebranding usually means giving a business a face lift, discussing the businesses’ core principals and what they want their users to experience. From this graphic designers make mock ups (story boards) to show to the client. Some of the things that fall under rebranding are: logo, social media presence, businesses cards, motion graphics and webpage design.
Graphic Designers can also go into marketing which means making posters, webpages, tracking social media, banners, brochures, business cards, editing and digital imaging just to name a few areas. A graphic designer’s role can vary from job to job as some graphic designers may want to work within television ads meaning that there more likely to work with script writers and work within editing whereas people who work within logo design will work more with Adobe Illustrator.
Skills and Qualifications
A junior designer or someone who is interning, usually companies will look for an HND level of qualification according to UCAS. Skills wise most businesses expect individuals to have a good knowledge of the Adobe Suite, programmes such as InDesign Illustrator and Photoshop. This is a changing field of work new technology is developed constantly, being adaptable is an essential key skill. For example according to photoshopessentials.com ‘Adobe releases major updates to Photoshop CC every six months’ which shows that the industry is always changing and adapting’
Photography is a useful asset to have in graphic design along with basic camera skills, as quite a few designers chose to go into advertising. It is vital to have a good sense of design and an eye for detail as well as being aware of colour theory, all of these are critical in this sector.
Working freelance means that you need to consider what job roles that you would have to cover as you are both employer and employee.
Employer and employee responsibilities
Aside from the actual graphic design process as a freelancer you would also be responsible for; writing up contracts, pricing that would be either your rate per hour or for the whole contract and producing invoices to do the necessary billing to the clients. It is essential to have a good working relationship and rapport with the client, so that you can have a clear picture and understanding of what the client wants. Being freelance means that there’s not a set contracted hours, some clients may want things done in a limited timeframe. Something else to consider is unlike being a typical employee your earnings will not be guaranteed week by week or month by month. This is simply due to the fact that one month you may have several projects whereas at other times you may only have one or two projects. However in-house graphic designers have contracted hours and standard rate of pay (salary) making a more stable life style.