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Graphic Design. What is it?

Words such as design, form, beauty, aesthetic, artistic, creative and graphic are hard to define. Each word has more than one meaning and requires interpretation. Design is both a verb and a noun. It is the beginning as well as the end, the process and product of imagination. Like an onion with multiple layers, the more it is peeled the more it reveals. Content is the raw material of design. Form in turn is the reorganization and manipulation of content. To form is to fix visual relationships in a given space. Hence, form is also synonymous for design. To most people, design means decoration, pattern, plan, fashion and motif. On the other hand, the verb to design refers to the art or action of conceiving and producing a solution that satisfies specific goals and constraints while taking into account aesthetic, functional, economic, or socio-political considerations within a given criteria.

Graphic design is a mix of craft, formula, storytelling, and philosophy. To understand the meaning of graphic design is to know the common thread that weaves its way through painting, architecture, photography and communication. It also means to understand the role that form and content play in the intricate process of design, and to realize that graphic design is a point of view. To design is more than simply to assemble, to organize or edit. It is to add value and meaning, to illuminate, to simplify, to clarify, to dramatize, to persuade, and perhaps even to amuse. To design is to transform prose into poetry. Design is the power to connect the seemingly unconnected. Design broadens perception, magnifies experience, and enhances vision. Design is the product of the feeling and awareness of ideas that originate in the mind of the designer and culminate, one hopes, in the mind of the spectator.

Graphic design surrounds us and has become such an integral part of modern life – from advertisements to logos, to websites – that we often take it for granted. Against the ever-present visual backdrop, graphic designers vie for the viewers attention. Designers can either grab it in a bold and direct manner or real them in with ambiguity. Because of the bombardment of graphic images and messages, we have become more sophisticated in deciphering a designer’s intentions, and at the same time, more jaded by the sameness of mainstream marketing. These days, in order to grab our attention it has to be thought provoking or amusing, and well designed.

The term graphic design is rich in meaning but often misunderstood and difficult to define. The Oxford English dictionary defines the word “graphic” as drawing, painting, lettering, etching, and engraving – words that carry very little meaning today. It defines design as a plan, purpose, intention, model, arrangement, or decoration. The online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, defines graphic design as the process of visual communication and problem solving through the use of typography, photography, and illustration. The field is considered a subset of visual communication and communication design, but sometimes the term “graphic design” is used synonymously. This profusion of meaning is too broad and imprecise to be clear. The definitions of what a graphic designer does are equally broad and imprecise. Simply put, graphic designers create ideas that are expressed in words and/or images and solve problems of visual communication. In short, graphic designers create visual concepts to communicate ideas and messages that inspire, inform, influence, and captivate target audiences.

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