What graphic design really is and why it is so important

A difficult concept to define

Have you ever stopped in front of a parking lot sign to find out if you could park there at the time and time you needed? In the time it takes to interpret all the signage, a large number of cars have probably formed, with drivers impatiently honking their horns.

This is where the power of design comes into play – for everyday problems and frustrations, there can be a design solution that simplifies the experience for the end user. By using identical parking signs throughout the city, or even in different cities, you can to interpret the indications more easily; correlating parking information with a calendar or other everyday tool can make the task less daunting.

Attention to the needs of all people (those who cannot read, those who speak another language, those who are color blind and those with dyslexia) ensures that the work done is accessible to all those who need the information. Often, a few tweaks to a design are enough to make a big difference for those who want to interact with the project.

Let me reveal a secret: Design is not magic and does not always require creativity to be executed correctly. The task of the design is to solve problems: the best projects we see and interact with are the result of brilliant solutions to problems that can affect small daily tasks.

If a design you see on your travels makes otherwise difficult tasks easy, it’s an ingenious design, made by people who have had to deal with the same activity, have encountered a usability problem, and have come up with a design that can suggest a better solution. The user only sees the final result, but it took several steps to reach that conclusion.

How the design of the parking rules was born

Development of parking sign design. Designer: Nikki Sylianteng. Designed after encountering some confusion in parking signs and wondering why it should be so complicated when the driver only had two questions: May I park here? How long?

In the figure above, you can see how this sign proposal has evolved to communicate the essentials clearly. First, the red and green bars showed parking times. A striped pattern was added first to make the sign legible for color-blind people and then symbols to reinforce the meaning of the striped pattern. Subsequently, the cause of color blindness faded, the times of the day were simplified, Monday was moved to the beginning of the week [gli americani sono abituati a contare i giorni della settimana a partire dalla domenica].

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How to distinguish one designer from another

Graphic design is becoming increasingly difficult to define precisely. A design legend, Saul Bass, said:

Design is thought to be transformed into vision.

This is the essence of graphic design, from which it develops in all its complexity: it is a tool, a field of application and a means of communication. There are many areas to explore and dedicate an entire career to; these sectors continue to grow and expand every day.

With the introduction of new technologies and the promotion of existing, the design transforms and expands. Product designer, user experience (UX) designer, user interface (UI) designer, motion graphic designer, interactive designer, web designer, immersive designer, editorial designer, art director, creative art director, digital designer, UX researcher, brand designer and visual designer are all tasks related to design. There are digital product designers and UI / UX designers who combine their skills to achieve superior status; titles such as Senior, Lead, Head and Director, on the other hand, indicate the degree of experience in the field with the various designers.

The high number of professional titles helps to understand how difficult it is to clearly define graphic design. The aspect that mainly characterizes these professions is the technology, as well as the final product for which the work is performed. The basis and principles of design are the same whether we create a printed postcard or a fully interactive experience; Of course, there are many more considerations to take when relying on more technical means, but the foundation of a successful project remains the same.

Graphic design is the art of using visual elements (such as fonts and images) to communicate information.

Mural at NDS High School

Mural at NDS High School. Designer: Timothy Goodman.

How can we determine if a design is good or successful? And who decides? As you can imagine, graphic design is very subjective: what strikes one person may not impress another.

However, it is important to understand that design and art are two different things: There are certainly some similarities, but their purpose is different. What you need to do is identify the main function of your projectFor example, communicate a message: this will be the yardstick for measuring success.

If the design does not fulfill the intended purpose, it is easy to understand that it has not succeeded. However, what happens when two different people see the same ad and one walks away laughing while the other looks confused? This is the moment when the audience comes into play.

Who decides good design

It is impossible to make a design that suits everyone because people are unique and different from each other: But if you manage to narrow down the recipients of the communication, you will have a better chance of choosing an image or a character that these people will respond correctly to. Basically, to determine if a design is successful, just ask yourself if it solves the problem it was meant to deal with: people opened the door properly, showed up to an event on time, bought a product, or parked Along the road. without getting a fine. So who decides if a design is valid? The users, the public, the recipients of the message.

There are many other aspects to introduce in the process to ensure that each project reaches its goal. It is not enough to keep trying and failing: Any decision made along the way will help you take a step closer to a successful design.

Do you need a computer to make designs? No. In fact, design was born centuries before computers. Computer programs are valuable tools for simplifying the process and making it more efficient, but the basis of design theories requires no hardware. Our hands are among the best design tools available.

Wall mural on Houston Street - designer Timothy Goodman

Mural on Houston Street. Designer: Timothy Goodman.

Why is design so important?

Today, everyone has the opportunity to make designs; Whether they succeed or make informed decisions is a whole other story. Each time you select a font for your smartphone or to write an email message, you make a design choice.

People are often asked to create something it is beyond their capabilities̀ (such as a poster or flyer), by providing them with a computer program: these people strive to find some clipart and a cute font in order to tick the company off their list.

When someone is asked to carry out a project without taking into account the design principles, the result is often exaggerated: people tend to compensate for the lack of knowledge by adding some fine elements to each page. They choose a sleek font, add drop shadow to it and top it all off with a fancy edge; if there is space left in a corner, they fill it with clipart.

The biggest problem is that there is no logic behind these decisions. Any questions that arise when creating a project (what font should I use? Is this size sufficient? What color should this item be? What image can I use?) Can only be answered once you have determined why you are creating this project . Choose one reason that explains why you are designing the item: every decision you make should aim for that goal.

Thinking Different - Boxed Water Is Better Photographer

Think differently. Photographer: Boxed Water Is Better at Unsplash.

When you make a successful design, you will understand its value because the project will be able to speak, feel, transform and strengthen. Even the simple redesign of a bottle or the use of a particular font can evoke a memory. The case where the design is not noticed but conveys all the necessary information is also a success: sometimes the purpose of the design is simply to guide, educate or clarify.

When we do not notice the design, but arrive at our destination without error, we can safely say that it is effective (taking into account the success parameters). Beatrice Warde, a 20th-century author and typographer, spoke about the importance of transparency in information transfer in her essay Crystal Goblet:

The text, if used well, is not seen as such: the perfect narrator is the tool for transmitting words and ideas that go unnoticed.

According to this concept, the best text is the one you are not even aware you are reading, because it does not interfere with communication, but promotes it. Although the quote refers to style, this idea also applies to many areas of graphic design. Some designs are designed to be bold and eye-catching, others speak softly and help in times of need. Just as we do not say everything we say out loud, we need to adjust the volume of our design to help the audience hear us.

The design is a process that helps to choose a path and a direction to arrive at an effective solution to the problem to be solved. The good news is, the answers are already there – just watch and listen.

This article is reminiscent of Chapter 1 of The Power of Design.

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