10 things everyone should know about graphic design
Great graphics and branding don't simply fall from the sky. Impressive brand collateral and marketing visuals requires purposeful planning and consideration. Effective graphic design is way more than just making things look pretty.
This quick 5-minute read teaches you the essentials of why graphic design is so vital, what brand identity is and how to best choose a graphic designer for maximizing your branding efforts. Be groovy.
Graphic design is visual communication
What are graphics?
A graphic is simply a thing you see, created specifically to communicate something to someone. A stop sign, a yellow pages ad, a bumper sticker -- all examples of something purposefully created to get some message across. In modern culture, we're exposed to literally thousands of graphics each day, all after our attention... trying to tell us something, sell us something, influence us in some way.
Graphics visually share knowledge.
Graphics are a vital part of our economy and society, and many organizations would cease to exist without some form of visual communication. Imagine doing business with no website, no product photos, no catalogs. No printed invoices, no flyers, no business cards, no phone number on the side of your work van. Graphics are an essential part of doing business.
What is graphic design?
Graphic design is the deliberate process of creating graphics. Graphic designers use a combination of shapes, colors, angles, textures, contrast, typography, whitespace and composition to deliver a message with maximum effectiveness. Quality, commercially-viable artwork ensures people are reached on levels beyond simply reading the marketing blurb.
Graphic design is the art of making graphics to inform, educate, persuade, entertain, even deceive.
Graphic design speaks on many levels
More than just pictures and marketing jargon, well-executed graphics communicate in numerous ways. Just as body language and posture says as much or more than spoken word, crafted artwork insinuates ideas and provokes thought in many ways.
COMMAND and KEEP attention
In the era where attention spans are measured in quantum nanoseconds, the timeframe for achieving eyeball radar-lock is extremely short. Too many words, small, blurry text or a rotten, uncompelling design leads to people not caring, not looking and not staying.
Familiar identifying markers
Designers implement visual cues that identify with known culture and industry-specific items. For example, a rock climbing gym may use climb holds as bullet points and ropes for paragraph dividers. A birthday flyer invitation might use a theme of balloons and confetti. Familiar visual markers tap into brain schemas that help the viewer connect with and fill in the blanks of the story you're telling.
Rather than explaining how grandmothers are always known as masters of the kitchen because they've accumulated years of knowledge and recipes, simply saying "Grandma's Homestyle Cookin!" explains the backlog without having to. Even if you're grandma was a terrible cook, you know the food is probably really good.
Graphic design captivates, motivates, persuades and convinces.
Dictating eye movement
Directional indicators strongly influence how people absorb graphics. Techniques such as using angles, text flow, photos with the model looking or gesturing towards something, etc., allows a visual to be consumed in a particular, prioritized order. Successful designs route eyeballs on a flowing journey from the main headline, through secondary and tertiary content, all the way to the call to action.
Audience & demographic targeting
The process of identifying your intended audience happens early on in the design process. Age, gender, race, Earth location, income bracket, subculture etc., must be taken into account before any artwork begins. Knowing who to target is paramount to successful customer acquisition.
Brain hardware compatibility
Earth contains 7.2 billion of us, none of whom perceive things in quite the same way. Design that appeals to the largest percentage of your audience ensures your advertising dollars pay off. Upbringing, personal tastes, political and religious stance -- a few of many reasons that influence behavior and persons response to graphics.
If a picture speaks a thousand words, a great graphic speaks bazillions.
Evolution of graphic design
Like fashion, boy bands and Olympic records, the graphic design field is constantly on the upswing. Three primary drivers fuel the neverending quest for better artwork: competition, demand and technology.
Competition is the granddaddy motivator driving changes to the industry. Businesses are always out to edge each other out, driving up the stakes. Its a 'you scratch my back with razor claws and I'll scratch yours' situation, and the cycle goes round and round.
Consumer demand influences content providers to develop faster, more efficient, higher-fidelity means of delivery. In the early internet days, the overwhelming demand for adult content gave rise to today's typical video streaming, ease of searching, saving files and browsing privately.
Computing power doubles weekly and design software becomes more
monopolized powerful and accessible. Printing technology yeilds higher resolution printing and better color accuracy. HDTV screens will be 1080millionP by the time my kids are driving.
Design fads go in and out of style like pop singers and Nike's.
Comparing graphics over time
I pulled these examples from my vintage graphic design collection to better illustrate the evolution of design.
1970s graphics quality & style
1980s graphics quality & style
2000s graphics quality & style
Modern graphic design provides near limitless printing options.
Brand identity is like the clothes your business wears
And your graphics are the clothes.
Brand identity is essentially the way people identify with and feel about your business. People choose one thing over another based largely on how it makes them feel. (Price is a different article...) Emotional connections are made with brands people trust and love. Clothing brands, toothpaste & shampoo, Pizza Hut or Papa Johns. People stay committed to the brands they love and overwhelmingly recommend them to others.
Projecting a confident brand identity begins with your graphics. Fuzzy, low-res JPG logos are not going to fly for printing billboards or running national-level ads. Quality graphic art breeds effective brand collateral.
Great graphics are the backbone of a solid brand identity.
Great graphics insinuate great brands
As potential customers shop, effective branding shows people what to expect. Well-executed graphic design is transparent -- people don't say "ooh, look at these font and color choices" when consuming your visuals. Done correctly, graphic design sends signals professionalism, confidence, and an air of built in swagger.
Great branding makes happier employees
Picture this: your young staff members are hanging out with a group of their friends. Inevitably, talk of jobs and bosses come up. One friend says "I hate the stupid shirts we have to wear" to which the other friend replies "Really? my job lets me choose which shirt to wear, yesterday I actually wore this same one I'm wearing now." Which response would you rather be associated with your brand?
Impressive graphics and brand identity gives your staff a swagger and confidence. They'll use words like "we" when they tell everyone how great you are. You'll take advantage of happier help, and loads of ever-so-valuable, no-cost word-of-mouth advertising.
Generational differences in graphics perception
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