Graphic design is the art of communication, stylizing, and problem-solving through the use of type, space and image.
The field is considered a subset of visual communication and communication design, but sometimes the term “graphic design” is used interchangeably with these due to overlapping skills involved. Graphic designers use various methods to create and combine words, symbols, and images to create a visual representation of ideas and messages. A graphic designer may use a combination of typography, visual arts and page layout techniques to produce a final result. Graphic design often refers to both the process by which the communication is created and the products which are generated.
Common uses of graphic design include identity, publications, print advertisements, posters, billboards, website graphics and elements, signs and product packaging. For example, a product package might include a logo or other artwork, organized text and pure design elements such as images, shapes and color which unify the piece. Composition is one of the most important features of graphic design, especially when using pre-existing materials or diverse elements. Graphic design uses the elements and principles of design to achieve communication objectives and Stebbing suggests that these represent a type of “visual grammar” Effective application of the elements and principles of design ensure that graphic design can achieve a high ‘signal-to-noise’ ratio in the visually cluttered 21st century.
The Origins of Graphic Design
While Graphic Design as a discipline has a relatively recent history, first coined by William Addison Dwiggins in 1922, graphic design-like activities span the history of humankind: from the caves of Lascaux, to Rome’s Trajan’s Column to the illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages, to the dazzling neons of Ginza.
In both this lengthy history and in the relatively recent explosion of visual communication in the 20th and 21st centuries, there is sometimes a blurring distinction and over-lapping of advertising art, graphic design and fine art. After all, they share many of the same elements, theories, principles, practices and languages, and sometimes the same benefactor or client. In advertising art the ultimate objective is the sale of goods and services. In graphic design, “the essence is to give order to information, form to ideas, expression and feeling to artifacts that document human experience.”