hat does a graphic designer do? Well, we drink coffee, make fun of bad kerning, and deal with unrealistic deadlines. Among other things.
In reality, graphic designers do those things, but most of our days are spent working on various forms of visual communication. Graphic designers create business card designs, produce logos, design magazine layouts, and about a hundred other tasks that involve making aesthetic, effective works of visual communication for print or digital media.
The type of work that graphic designers do varies. In general, it boils down to visual communication. Regardless of whether a designer works in an agency setting, is an in-house designer, or freelance designer, here’s a look at some of the things they do in their day-to-day.
The creation of a corporate logo in addition to a visual identity system for the brand.
This is a task where designers create a logo design that is versatile, appropriate, and memorable. It would, ideally, accompany a full branding package. To achieve this, designers will often work with brand specialists, copywriters, and other designers.
The full branding package will be used for establishing visual and messaging guidelines for a new or existing company. A brand package will outline how the logo is to be used and what the appropriate fonts and colours for all marketing materials is. It also includes an overview of the brand personality, how all marketing collateral should communicate to stay on brand, and much more.
The creation of promotional materials, either in print or digital format, designed to sell a specific product or service.
Weather it’s an ad in a magazine, a newspaper, or on this very site, a graphic designer did it. Designers will often work closely with copywriters and photographers to achieve unique visuals and craft an effective ad. Other times it will be entirely up to the designer to make an ad that looks great and stays on both message and brand.
Design of Marketing Collateral
Marketing collateral consists of business cards, letterheads, brochures, etc. Essentially, anything someone might give out at a trade show.
The design of marketing materials makes up a lot of the work designers do. It often means adhering to a strict set of brand guidelines or print requirements. Designers might create a brochure for an event with some promotional stickers and branded folders to accompany it. For everyday marketing collateral, designers would create things like business cards, company letterhead, or envelopes.
Basically, the layout & design of a document that will be used in a presentation.
Often it’s used for landing a new client, striking a deal, or even presenting a concept or design. Sometimes designers will be able to get really creative with presentation design. PowerPoint is, sadly, still used in many places for presentations. This drastically limits the polish of a presentation, but allows tweaks to text if handed off to a sales person.
Typically, publication design consists of the design and organization of publications with multiple pages.
This includes things like print/digital magazines, books/e-books, or anything else that might need to be made in publishing software. Publication design requires significant organizational skills. Designers will often need to work with a lot of text copy. This makes selecting the correct typefaces, font sizes, and content borders very important.
For a magazine publication, designers need to juggle the placement of articles and ads so they compliment each other. With publications that are primarily text, like a book, it’s important that designers focus on things like legibility, the table of contents, page numbers, chapter title pages, and making sure there are no widows or orphans.
Social Media Design
All the graphics you see on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.
This includes the cover images and profile pics, as well as any branded promotional content. Social graphics can be a lot of fun to create, but designers need to be aware of the requirements for each social site. For example, a vertical image might get cropped in a certain way and lose it’s effectiveness. This might require designers to create multiple versions of the same graphic for each social platform.
Header images for some sites also have rules, like YouTube. On YouTube, you need to be precise about the dimensions and placement of your channel header image or it won’t appear how you want it to.
The creation of original, hand drawn imagery
A lot of graphic designers are extremely talented illustrators, and this can be really useful in creating unique looking imagery. Illustrative graphic designers can create characters for promotional videos, for client projects, and some unique brand content. Some designers like to use their mouse to draw, while others prefer a Wacom tablet. Thanks to the iPad, the app Procreate is also a seriously powerful illustrative tool for designers.
Editing photos, colour grading, airbrushing, etc. Designers do that too.
Sometimes designers will spend most of their day editing a photo until it’s perfect. That photo could then be used for an ad or online article, or about a dozen other things. It might be as simple as removing a stray hair from a model’s photo or as difficult as swapping out one head for another. Editing photos is a major part of a designer’s job, thus a working knowledge of photo editing software is a must.
The design and organization of content and imagery for a website
Designers don’t need to know how to code if they’re working with a web developer. Sure, there are websites that let you create a website with zero coding knowledge, but they don’t let you make something totally custom. Graphic designers are often tasked with creating the design of an entire website; the home page, about page, contact, page, etc.
Occasionally, for a promotion, designers will be tasked with creating a temporary landing page. Regardless, it helps for designers to be somewhat familiar in user interface (UI) design to create effective website designs.
The process of making a user-friendly software/online content/app interfaces
User Interface Design is a relatively new area of design expertise. It covers anything that someone would need to digitally navigate online, on a phone, or in a computer program or video game. Designers are tasked with creating aesthetically pleasing interfaces that are intuitive and easy to use.
What Does A Graphic Designer Do? In Conclusion
In summary, what does a graphic designer do? We create hundreds of different types of designs that help a company to communicate an idea, promote products or services, or improve their brand image. Basically.
What does a graphic designer do aside from what’s on this list? What are you the most interested in? Let me know in the comments below!
If you want to learn more about being a graphic designer, check out Graphic Design: The New Basics by Ellen Lupton.
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