There are still many people who keep asking me: What does a graphic designer do? And there are still people who tend to think that a designer is limited exclusively to “making everything prettier”. Maybe this is because not many people know the amount of work involved in the whole process until the final result is achieved, or all the areas and notions that a graphic design professional must master in order to achieve that “beautiful result”.
So I’m going to use this article to go a little deeper into it.
What is a graphic designer and what is his or her task?
A graphic designer is a professional of visual communication. A graphic designer is in charge of giving life to certain messages and ideas that need to be transmitted to an audience. We translate the messages that need to be conveyed into images. It is a key figure in the marketing of any company, an ambassador of your brand, who can be on staff or outsourced thanks to a freelance designer.
Graphic design professionals need to be good at drawing, spatial vision, composition, typography, a lot of software, etc. We need to understand colours, shapes, harmony, etc. to generate a design that generates or evokes emotions. Basically we need to solve problems or challenges on a communication level.
The answer to the question “what does a graphic designer do?” is “many different tasks”, so many that there are many different positions he or she can occupy within a company. A graphic designer needs to develop a critical eye. Yes, also with himself, as we need to be very detailed in our work. But above all, a graphic designer must be excellent at generating ideas. Ideas to solve problems. Ideas to communicate visually and better our messages.
Career opportunities for graphic designers
You only have to look around you to realise the importance of graphic design in the online and offline world. Ask yourself this question: How many opportunities are there to make a good first impression?
The formats or channels through which a graphic designer works on a visual level nowadays are becoming increasingly wide and varied. From the traditional print or editorial format, to cinema, television or the Internet and all its digital formats.
Is a graphic designer the same as an illustrator?
To this day, many people still often confuse us with illustrators, but graphic designers and illustrators are not the same. Although the two disciplines can live very well together, graphic designers work to create solutions and messages to achieve a goal. Illustrators, on the other hand, work more artistically and, initially, less communicatively, as illustrators do not necessarily have to have communication skills.
Illustration on its own is the product of a creative process, whereas graphic design brings together several elements in a single work, these elements may include an illustration, typefaces, backgrounds, lines, figures, animations…
A good example of the coexistence of illustrator and graphic designer is this special edition collaboration by illustrator Carlos Arrojo for Cabreiroá.
In my creative process, perhaps because of my training as an architect, I always start with paper and pencil. For me, drawing is part of the creative process of the Graphic Designer and helps me to work with my mind while visualising an idea in an immediate and more natural way.
Are graphic design and marketing the same thing?
To understand the relationship between design and marketing, we must first talk about the definition of both concepts. Graphic design is, as we already know, a modality of design that consists of creating illustrations, images, colours, typographies, messages and logos among many other elements in order to communicate visually in an effective way.
On the other hand, marketing is a discipline or profession through which a brand or company designs a strategy to attract the attention of the public, as well as to attract and retain customers.
So, what is the relationship between graphic design and marketing? Marketing is a discipline that aims to analyse the market in order to know what products to sell to the public and, more importantly, how to sell and present them. In order to present a brand or product and attract the attention of the public, it will be necessary to have an attractive, effective and innovative design. The graphic designer is therefore one of the main tools in the design of a marketing strategy.
The difference is very big between each one, let’s start with some definitions. According to Philip Kotler:
Marketing: A set of practices and principles whose main objective is to increase trade, especially demand.
Graphic design: Creative and technical activity that consists of conveying ideas through images, especially in print and digital channels.
What does each one do?
The marketer does many things and can be many things.
- Planning the strategies of a company.
- Writing communication guidelines.
- Analyse the metrics of one or more campaigns.
- Manage communication channels: social networks, web, public relations…
- Research the market, key elements in the company internally and externally, support human resources and support brand advertising.
The graphic designer does different things and some of them are similar.
- Design artwork for physical and digital formats.
- Execute the graphic ideas.
- Create the brand manual and visual identity: brand colours, typographic style, logo, how to convey the values described in the briefing, icons and other possible graphic elements for the brand.
- Create presentations for investors, convert data into understandable graphic models.
- Making advertisements, animations, infographics, web design and their UI and UX or application design of the company.
So everyone has different roles in their own career, but they can work perfectly well together as a team with their respective disciplines.
There are some cases where you can “merge” the two discourses, for example: A creative director. He or she must know both professions, but will be supported by a team. Even advertisers should have knowledge of design in order to pass on a better defined idea to graphic designers.
Graphic designers are communicators
Graphic designers are, above all, communicators. We have to be able to create new concepts or solutions. A graphic designer always seeks to capture the viewer’s attention, and to do so, they must have a good knowledge of the target or public to whom the message is addressed.
A graphic designer should not limit himself to thinking only about how to find a solution that the client likes, among the infinite ones that exist, but how we can find the best solution for his problem. Everything the designer develops must always be based on its functionality.
Last but not least, the designer must have good taste. It is important that whenever we have the opportunity, we relate our work to art. We will help our client to find the best solution to his problem, but we must always work so that this solution also has an artistic value, without ever leaving aside our ability to communicate, of course.
In addition, a graphic designer always needs to be aware of the latest trends in software or design programmes and other tools or relevant aspects of our profession. Of course, always with a critical and creative point of view.
In short, to be a graphic designer you need much more than just knowing how to draw or make everything look pretty.
5 reasons to have a graphic designer in your project or company
Creativity and imagination are innate in all of us. As an entrepreneur or business owner, it is likely that your ingenuity has developed more towards where and how to come up with products or services that are in demand by your potential customers. Perhaps your ingenuity is focused on how to generate revenue or create growth strategies and not necessarily linked to graphic design and communication.
Therefore, hiring a graphic designer can be key to ensure the success of your company’s communication. A good graphic designer can save you a lot of time, contribute to improve the company’s image perceived by the client and even generate more income. Hiring a graphic designer will always be a good business decision, whether your business is just starting or if you have not been doing it for a long time.
Here are some reasons why a company should go for a professional graphic designer.
1. Unity and consistency
The first impression a company will have on its customers should never be overlooked and the visual identity of the brand will be the first thing they encounter. If that first impression looks poor and sloppy, sooner or later the business will suffer.
A graphic designer can help you achieve coherence by ensuring that all brand communications have the same aesthetics and identity. Precisely this coherence in the use and practice of the visual identity will give the brand professionalism and will facilitate the emergence of more confidence on the part of the clients.
2. Consistency is the key to success
As I have just mentioned, being persistent and consistent is key to generating trust and confidence in our clients. A graphic designer understands the importance of using consistency and can make sure that every marketing and design creative has the right impact. Hiring a graphic designer means having an ally. You will have someone to look after the image of your business and advise you in every case.
Consistency is more than just using the same fonts and colour palette. It also includes the tone, energy and communication that reflects your brand. A graphic designer can help the company to explore new ways of communication in line with the brand and its identity.
3. A graphic designer saves time
It is clear that you can use your free time, or your know-it-all brother-in-law, to create, for example, those pieces for the social networks of the week. However, a graphic designer can do the same amount of work, creating more original and effective pieces that are not based on templates used by other companies. In many occasions, he or she will be able to create these pieces in a much more agile and faster way.
Why spend your time creating graphic materials when you could use that same time to generate income? Don’t waste your time in areas where you are not an expert or don’t have the ingenuity or experience to do so. Surely you are already busy enough and have better things to do than put yourself in the shoes of a designer. You can’t take care of everything.
4. A graphic designer can save you money
A graphic designer can help your company not to lose money. On the one hand, it will prevent you from investing money and resources in design assets that don’t work or have a low response rate. On the other hand, good graphic designers can create assets that generate a higher return on investment. A skilled graphic designer creates designs that attract more customers and generate more revenue.
5. We are experts in creating new ideas
Generating new ideas for brand communication. Graphic designers are true professionals when it comes to coming up with ideas. When we need to find the best way to launch a new product or impact a specific audience, a graphic designer can always come up with a new approach. A graphic designer is constantly looking for new ideas to boost your brand.
It is important that we get in the habit of listening to our graphic designer when we need to talk about new ways to represent our company’s visual identity and how to communicate with our customers.
Designers can come up with new solutions because we are experts in visual communication and we know how designs can have an emotional impact.
If you design it yourself…
1. You save money
At least a priori. If you do the graphic design of your business yourself, you can save money and get by. However, you might not project the right image and that would translate into worse results. Also, if you make mistakes in design or production, it could cost you more money or time to fix them.
2. Alone in the face of danger
If any need, doubt or setback arises, you will have to solve it on your own. You will have to spend a lot of time researching, learning and finding a solution. By hiring a graphic designer you will always have a professional to turn to and it will save you headaches.
First impressions are very important and you must make sure that you make a good impression on any potential client so that they give you the opportunity to show what your work or product is worth. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter how good you are, as people tend to choose what catches their eye.
3. Your image reflects it
If you have decided to invest part of your time in designing the image of your brand, keep in mind that you must be well informed and do a thorough research on how to do it, since designing is not just about providing information and knowing how to use certain tools. Otherwise, that touch of inexperience will be reflected in the designs and this can cause rejection from your potential clients.
4. Your time
This is the fundamental disadvantage of jumping into the void. You need to invest time that could be spent on other essential parts of your business, working for the company where you are strongest and delegating other tasks. In addition to the time you will have to spend on learning, you must add the time invested in creating the graphic content. Are you willing to divert your time to this task? How much is your time worth?
Even if you are good at drawing, win the fight against design programmes and manage to do something decent, you probably won’t get that professional look you’d like and see in other companies. But that’s OK, it’s normal. To get there, you need practice, experience, skills and knowledge that designers get after years of training and work. To really decide what you need, you can try to objectively analyse how your audience sees you and how you would like to be seen.
If you value your company, you should equally value its image, as part of it.
Hi, I’m Roberto Vidiella.
I am the founder and Creative Director of VIDI. I am passionate about graphic design, and through this blog, I try to deepen my knowledge and share what I have learned during my career. If you leave me a comment, you help me to keep learning and improving, and I’m really excited about it!