Graphic design is the process of communicating visually using text and/or images to present information, or promote a message. Graphic design practice embraces a range of cognitive and aesthetic skills and crafts, including typography, image development and page layout. Graphic design is applied in communication design and fine art. Like other forms of communication, graphic design often refers to both the process (designing) by which the communication is created, and the products (designs) such as creative solutions, imagery and multimedia compositions. Graphic design was traditionally applied to static printed media, such as books, magazines and brochures. Since the advent of personal computers – and in particular WYSIWYG user interfaces – graphic design has been utilized in electronic media - often referred to as interactive design, or multimedia design.
There are many stages of graphic design. A graphic designer's involvement may range from visualizing initial ideas, sometimes known as the conceptual stage; to laying out the design in a DTP program; to final preparation of artwork for print and overseeing printed reproduction. However, in larger organizations these roles tend to divided up. The concept part of graphic design will be generally dealt with by an art director or senior designer, whilst more junior designers will lay out design ideas. Sometimes much of the preparation for print production of digital files is done by a separate
Tools graphic designers use are the mind, eye, hand, traditional tools, and computers. A creative concept is not usually considered a design unless it is given a tangible or visual form. However, since the design consists of ideas, the most important and only tool that is required in the design process is the mind. Critical, observational, quantitative and analytic thinking are also required for page layout and rendering. If the executor is merely following a sketch, script or instructions (as may be supplied by an art director) they are not usually considered the author. The eye and the hand are often augmented with the use of external traditional or digital image editing tools. The selection of the appropriate one to the communication problem at hand is also a key skill in graphic design work, and a defining factor of the rendering style.
In the mid 1980s, the arrival of the Apple Macintosh, Laser Printers and Adobe postscript helped create desktop publishing and the introduction of graphic art software applications introduced a generation of designers to computer image manipulation and 3D image creation that had previously been laborious. Computer graphic design enabled designers to instantly see the effects of layout or typographic changes without using any ink in the process, and to simulate the effects of traditional media without requiring a lot of space. Traditional tools such as pencils or markers are often used to develop graphic design ideas, even when computers are used for finalization.
Computers are generally considered to be an indispensable tool used in the graphic design industry. Computers and software applications are generally seen, by creative professionals, as more effective production tools than traditional methods. However, some designers continue to use manual and traditional tools for production, such as Milton Glaser.
There is some debate whether computers enhance the creative process of graphic design. Rapid production from the computer allows many designers to explore multiple ideas quickly with more detail than what could be achieved by traditional hand-rendering or paste-up on paper, moving the designer through the creative process more quickly. However, being faced with limitless choices does not help isolate the best design solution and can lead to designers endlessly iterating without a clear design outcome.
New ideas can come by way of experimenting with tools and methods, be they traditional or digital. Some designers explore ideas using pencil and paper to avoid creating within the limits of more sophisticated tools. Others use many different mark-making tools and resources from computers to sticks and mud as a means of inspiring creativity. One of the key features of graphic design is it involves selecting the appropriate image making tools out of it's ability to generate meaning rather than preference.Some graphic design ideas are created entirely in the mind, before approaching any external media.
A graphic designer may also use sketches to explore multiple or complex ideas quickly without the potential distractions of technical difficulties from software malfunctions or software learning. Hand rendered comps are often used to get approval of a graphic design idea before investing what would be too much time to produce finished visuals on a computer or in paste-up if rejected. The same thumbnail sketches or rough drafts on paper may be used to rapidly refine and produce the idea on the computer in a hybrid process. This hybrid process is especially useful in logo design where a software learning curve may detract from a creative thought process. The traditional-design/computer-production hybrid process may be used for freeing ones creativity in page layout or image development as well. Traditional graphic designers may employ computer-savvy production artists to produce their ideas from sketches, without needing to learn the computer skills themselves.
In other design fields the use of computers is often referred to as CAD (computer aided design) but is rarely used in graphic design. DTP (desktop publishing) is used to describe page layout.
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