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What is Graphic Design?

What is graphic design? It is many things to many people. Below I have gathered quotes of how some great designers and thinkers define graphic design.

“Since prehistoric times, people have searched for ways to give visual form to ideas and concepts, to store knowledge in graphic form, and to bring order and clarity to information. Over the course of history, these needs have been filled by various people including scribes, printers, and artists. It was not until 1922, when the outstanding book designer William Addison Dwiggins coined the term ‘graphic design’ to describe his activities as an individual who brought structural order and visual form to printed communications, that an emerging profession received an appropriate name.”
Philip Meggs

“Graphic design is a popular art and a practical art, an applied art and an ancient art. Simply put, it is the art of visualizing ideas.”
Jessica Helfand

“Graphic design is the most universal of all the arts. It is all around us, explaining, decorating, identifying; imposing meaning on the world. It is in the streets, in everything we read, it is on our bodies. We engage with design in road signs, advertisements, magazines, cigarette packets, headache pills, the logo on our t-shirt, the washing label on our jacket. It is not just a modern or capitalistic phenomenon. Streets full of signs, emblems, prices, sale offers, official pronouncements, and news would all have been just as familiar to ancient Egyptians, medieval Italians or the people of Soviet Russia.

Graphic design performs a number of functions. It sorts and differentiates – it distinguishes one company or organization or nation from another. It informs – it tells us how to bone a duck or how to register a birth. It acts on our emotions, and helps to shape how we feel about the world around us.”
Quentin Newark

“Graphic design is the business of making or choosing marks and arranging them on a surface to convey an idea.”
Richard Hollis

“Graphic design, in the end, deals with the spectator, and because it is the goal of the designer to be persuasive or at least informative, it follows that the designer’s problems are twofold: to anticipate the spectator’s reactions and to meet his own aesthetic needs.”
Paul Rand

“[Graphic design]… is not self-expressions, but that it is founded in and conditioned by the message it must convey, and that it is a service art and not a fine art, however pure and elemental this discipline is.”
Herbert Bayer

“Design can critically engage the mechanics of representation, exposing and revising its ideological biases; design also can remake the grammar of communication by discovering structures and patterns with the material media of visual and verbal writing.”
Ellen Lupton / J. Abbot Miller

“Design is thinking made visual”
Saul Bass

“Graphic design is a creative process that combines art and technology to communicate ideas. The designer works with a variety of communication tools in order to convey a message from a client to a particular audience. The main tools are image and typography.”
AIGA

“Design is the conscious effort to impose a meaningful order.”
Victor Papanek

“In most people’s vocabularies, design means veneer. It’s interior decorating. It’s the fabric of the curtains and sofa. But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design. Design is the fundamental soul of a man-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service.”
Steve Jobs

Here’s my crack at it:

Graphic design exists in the space between a clients thought and a customers interpretation. It is the graphic designer’s duty to act as a vehicle for that message by identifying where form, content, and perception overlap and consequently execute a visual solution that communicates effectively.

What does graphic design mean to you?

  1. Graphic Design is being creative and good at Illustrator and Photoshop ;-)

  2. Hehe. Yes, that is quite literally true.

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