Posted 21 Jan 2010 - No Comments - leave yours now!
It’s one of those eternal questions that will always make me smile or grimace. Just like: “What is the Matrix?” and “What’s up with that girl’s adams apple?” Love it or hate it we will always be asked this question. Usually by younger designers eager to understand what it is they have gotten themselves into or nervous clients that are desperate to comprehend what they are getting for their money.
I’m very aware that this is an article that has been written by most, if not all, other design bloggers out there, (in fact you’ll find a few links at the bottom of this article to see what they have to say on the subject) but it is important to have an answer to this, seemingly, simple question.
The wonderful thing about this question is, on the whole, you can’t get it wrong! Design is something different to every person that practices it. We all have our own unique way of describing what we do, and this is one of the reasons why people generally have no idea what that is.
Usually in these articles there is a big list of quotes from various sources telling you what graphic design is, so I’m not going to do that. I’ll just share my favourite:
“Design is the method of putting form and content together. Design, just as art, has multiple definitions; there is no single definition. Design can be art. Design can be aesthetics. Design is so simple, that’s why it is so complicated.”
The quote above is an elegant answer to a difficult question, but it is nothing more than a side step. Would a non-designer be any-the-wiser by hearing a quote like that? I doubt it.
What I’m trying to say is that it’s fine for us to have our own definitions of graphic design, they can be as vague and contradictory as you like, in your own head, or when you share your thoughts with other designers. However, you do need to be able to verbalise your thoughts into a simple sentence that your clients will be able to understand and buy into.
The danger with this particular tactic is that you might under-sell your services.
Some designers I have met seem to enjoy hiding behind the mask of incomprehensibility that the label of “graphic designer” seems to provide but I’ve never really figured out why. Maybe it’s a status thing, or maybe people enjoy the mystery element?
Personally, I love being a designer and I like to share my enthusiasm with the people around me. This task becomes a lot harder if they don’t understand what I do.
If you can figure out a short clear explanation of graphic design that your parents or grandparents understand I’d say you were on the right track.
Like many designers I have multiple answers to this particular question, but I think I’ll share the simplest one:
“Graphic Design is a way of communicating complicated ideas in a simple and powerful way.”
After telling someone this sentence I ask them to look around the room we happen to be in and take notice of any designed products on show. These might be menus, logos, signs, anything really, there is usually an abundance of examples. I then discuss how design surrounds us everywhere we go and that we are bombarded with messages from all sides trying to tell us things in different ways.
This technique sometimes has the feeling of a parlour trick; when someone begins noticing things that have been in front of them the whole time. Especially when they realise they hold certain opinions about something, a product or company perhaps, that they have formed solely by exposure to their logo.
Explaining what graphic design is, can be very complicated. But if you can manage to make a tiny logo on a business card tell the viewer everything they need to know about the company it represents, then it should be easy.
Links to other blog posts that have tackled this question:
Please leave comments below and let me know how you define graphic design.
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