Part 1: Introduction to Graphic Design


Graphic Designers are the artistic muscle of the business community. They are the ones responsible for creating the visual landscape that surrounds us, from that front-page info-graph on the Calgary Herald, to the Calgary Flames logo on the car pennant flapping from your neighbour’s car. Graphic Design is a digital art form that involves playing with photos, text, illustrations and colours to create a commercially viable visual product. Imagine scrapbooking, but take away the kitschy pinking shears and throw in some hi-tech printing equipment instead.

Here are five familiar products and logos from around the world, providing some recognizable examples of good (and bad) Graphic Design:

6 examples of graphic design

In Graphic Design, there are five different aspects to the job. Designers might be good at every single one of them, or they might specialize in one and rely on a solid team for the rest.

Illustration: Whether you draw with your hand, or click with your mouse, “illustration” is the act of creating original artwork from scratch. Designers with this skill are useful for creating company logos, composing technical drawings, or producing original compositions for fresh applications.

Layout is the act of arranging elements on a page or a screen into a logical and attractive pattern. Layout is most clearly seen in newspapers, where a Graphic Designer must take the articles, photos, infographs and advertisements and turn it into a readable, well-organized page that the reader’s eyes and brain will be able to process.

Photo editing involves using special effects and tools to alter photographs. It can be as simple as turning a colour image into a black-and-white one, or as complicated as removing a subject from street-scene photo placing her in a desert scene instead. Photo manipulation is useful when touching up product and fashion photos, creating flashy visual effects for printed ads, or even just removing red-eye from a family photo.

Typography is the study of fonts and text. By adjusting the space around letters, their size and their position, a Graphic Designer can use typography to create a unique visual effect. The varying sizes of newspaper headlines are examples of typography, and so are “wordmarks:” logos created with unique text treatments.

Web design involves using all the skills previously mentioned (chiefly the skills of layout) to create an interactive web experience. Although the actual ‘structure’ of a website is created by a web programmer, a Designer is typically responsible for the look and feel of a website.

Graphic Design is easy to confuse with other design-related professions, so we’d like to clarify that Graphic Designers do NOT do any of the following things:

  • 3D animation and modelling
  • Interior decorating
  • Clothing & fashion design
  • Computer games
  • Furniture design
  • Architecture and building design

On with the Series: ERD 101
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

This helpful article was brought to you by the knowledgeable people at Elbowroom Design, where better communication means better results.