What the hell is Graphic Design Anyways!?!

Discussion in 'Design and Graphics' started by KnaveMan, May 11, 2009.

  1. KnaveMan macrumors newbie

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    Apr 22, 2009
    #1
    Hello,

    I have been taking some Design classes at night. In one of our lectures, the teacher joked about how bad she could draw. That's why she went into design because designers don't need to draw. That really sent a chill down my spine. I asked her to explain and all she said was that design is commercial art.

    I don't agree with her.... to me commercial art simply refers to any art that was created with the intention to sell a product or idea. It doesn't matter if it were a painting, cartoon etc....

    So my question is, what exactly is the artform and skill (not the abstract idea) of graphic design? Is it simply taking other artist work (photographs, illustrations...) and laying them out?
     
  2. 63dot macrumors 603

    63dot

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    #2
    If you can draw, it can't hurt. Look at it that way.

    I am a musician, guitarist, and for many applications, I don't have to read music and most guitarists I know don't read music. However, if you do read music, it can't hurt.

    If you become a graphic designer, I am sure you can find ways where being able to draw and paint will come in handy some day. Let's say you do graphic design for a time and burn out, at least you can fall back on drawing/painting. And many a 3-D artist (sculpture, jewelry, textiles) find that drawing eventually got them into that. No, you don't need to draw to be a great graphic designer but smart money says along the way, many have learned something about traditional art.

    Many artists and academics may not consider graphic design real art, but that's their problem. Whether you create with a brush or a mouse, you have to have a set of creative skills people are willing to pay money for. If you have the time, take every graphic design class you can find your hands on as well as all traditional drawing, sculpting, and painting classes. Add a computer technician's course to know your computer inside and out, and an anatomy course to learn every aspect of the human body as that is a baseline in a lot of art. The more you know, the better you can integrate all those skills to help your fine or commercial art. For inspiration and creativity, take both literature classes, film classes, acting classes, and history classes as one can find a bigger picture of where art falls into society.

    I do know people who can just as easily build their own computer for graphics (PC side) from scratch one day, and on another day draw from nude models or do amazing work from raku pottery techniques. It's all related and unlike many fields of study, it's fun.
     
  3. KnaveMan thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Apr 22, 2009
    #3
    thanks for the great reply.

    Actually i'm already an illustrator. I do both fine art and commercial art. However i am a newbie at the whole 'designer' thing. I've even called myself a graphic designer in the past because of my commercial work.

    The classes i have been taking are teaching the basic elements of composition (flow, alignment, golden rule etc...) and then taking images and fonts from the internet to make logos, ads, editorials, websites etc.... It just seems like the real credit should go to the photographers who take the great pictures, that we just ad text to.

    I guess i always assumed that designers were responsible for creating the components (photo's, graphics, illustrations...) as well as putting it all together.
     
  4. Peace macrumors Core

    Peace

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    #4
    That's why most graphics design studios have photographers,artists and illustrators. Graphics design is a broad term and really can't be a specific form of art.
     
  5. LeviG macrumors 65816

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    #5
    I've always seen graphic design as the process of putting all the 'graphic' elements together into a cohesive design such as a brochure or poster etc.
     
  6. SwiftLives macrumors 65816

    SwiftLives

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    #6
    At its most fundamental level, design is nothing more than the placement of information. Kind of soul-sucking definition, I know.

    So no - drawing is certainly not a prerequisite for graphic design. But as the above poster stated, it doesn't hurt.

    I'm not a drawer. I can do it, but what takes a professional one hour might take me about 10. I try to play to my strengths. Drawing is not one of them.
     
  7. stainlessliquid macrumors 68000

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    #7
    Well Ive never drawn a damn thing professionally for graphic design, and illustration is one of my strongest skills since its what got me into graphic design. For school and portfolio Ive drawn stuff and made really artistic graphic design pieces that gets high praise from students/teachers/interviewers, but nobody wants to pay money for that, they want everything to look like something from Apple.
     
  8. snickelfritz macrumors 65816

    snickelfritz

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    #8
    "A picture is worth a thousand words."

    Graphic Design is the art of efficiently/effectively/quickly communicating products, services, ideas, concepts and emotions through the use of graphics, images and media.
    Whether or not the work is for commercial purposes is technically irrelevant.

    Logos, avatars, and icons are good examples of graphic design, since they must communicate a clear message through visual symbolism.
    :) <- this communicates "happy". it's good graphic design.
     
  9. KnaveMan thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Apr 22, 2009
    #9
    thanks for the replies.

    i know this may seem like a stupid topic but it has been lingering in my head since that class.

    So i guess everyone agrees that the 'basic' artform of graphic design consists of creating a Composition (layout) using Components (photos/illustrations/type). ?

    I understand that designers aren't necessarily responsible for creating the Components but being able to work with them. What about things like logo's / icons / characters (logo characters) etc....
     
  10. snickelfritz macrumors 65816

    snickelfritz

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    #10
    Figuratively speaking, skilled logo/symbol designers live at the top of the graphics design food chain.
    These designers can usually express their ideas effectively in drawings, and this is where most graphic design begins.
    ie: you're not going to be able show a client computer drawings during the design brief; most of the time you won;t have acomputer with you and the client is certainly not going to enjoy sitting there while you fiddle with your software.
    IMO good drawing skills are required for advanced graphic design work; it certianly doesn't hinder the process.

    I attended graphic design school back in the early 80's, and the classes were absolutely dominated by skilled artists.
    All layouts were comp'ed using Pantone markers, and were graded for quality and effectiveness for communicating concepts.
    The only class that did not draw on artistic/drawing skills was the "graphics technology" lab, which dealt primarily with the process camera, linescreens, galley markup, pasteup, etc...

    I used these methods commercially until 1997 when I got my first Mac.
     
  11. unid macrumors regular

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    #11
    I would hazard a speculation that the largest majority of great designers, start each work/project with pencil and paper. Perhaps the key is that great design (whether coming from an agency composed of specialists inº tyPography, illustration, photography, lighting, art direction etc. or coming from a single designer/artist/termulike) is successful communication... Maybe the difference between commercial and fine is not really useful, taking account of borderline shifts. Maybe the “artform and skill” is finding inspirational ways of using type and image together. Any definition is going to be deficient to more or lesser degrees as long as it exists it changes.
     
  12. stainlessliquid macrumors 68000

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    #12
    Its not a requirement or a "plus" to do that, its best to use whatever you are most comfortable with when trying to get an idea down. I hate it when people act like the only way to be a real designer is to draw everything with pencil first, its a load of ****, youre doing the same thing if you create concepts in Photoshop or Illustrator. Just choose whatever allows YOU to get out ideas easily since thats what really matters.
     
  13. LeviG macrumors 65816

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    #13
    Although I somewhat agree with the above, the above statement is also part of the reason we find so many people who think just because they own photoshop they can do design etc.

    I find myself working on paper first more than software these days. I also use paper to work out bits as I'm going along and to try out ideas before digitising them. They may not look 100% like the final digital version but they help me get an idea in my head down before I forget it.

    Also I use paper for 'brainstorming' where I just knock out quick ideas over a period of 5-10 mins and this just wouldn't be possible on a computer.

    Having said that I do have a multi disciplined background which included studies in fine art, graphics, photography and 3D work (my primary field these days) so this might be part of the reason why I work like I do.
     
  14. snickelfritz macrumors 65816

    snickelfritz

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    #14
    You can certainly get away from an initial design brief without sketching a few ideas on paper for your client.

    I've found that it reduces the number of mettings with the client, and if your drawing skills are good, it tends buy you some additional credibility and respect with new clients.
    ie: if I sketch an acceptable solution for a logo design on a cocktail napkin at the first meeting with a new client, it saves a lot of time and comps later.
    ie: I take the sketch home, scan it into the computer and outline it in Illustrator using the scan as a template.
    As long as it's reasonably close to the original sketch, the client will usually accept it.

    Drawing skills are a beneficial tool that expedites the process of arriving at design solutions.
    ie: I can draw a half dozen possible solutions to a logo design in 15 minutes while my client talks with me about his goals and provides guidance and critique on the drawings.

    As stated, some designers simply can't express their ideas well in drawings, and they are probably better off sticking with software to communicate their ideas.
    (I've never been able to avoid doing at least some rough sketches during a design brief, though)
    These methods can both be valid approaches, assuming both are executed equally well and in a timely fashion.
     
  15. stainlessliquid macrumors 68000

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    #15
    That doesnt make sense, you could say the same thing about people owning pencils thinking they can do comics.

    How you come up with ideas doesnt make you any better or worse, its as silly as the people who say you cant do creative writing by writing your rough draft with a computer since it HAS to be pen and paper (NOT pencil and paper). People are more creative when they are comfortable, so they should use whatever lets them focus rather than be distracted by their tools, and not everyone is comfortable with the same tools.
     
  16. Designer Dale macrumors 68040

    Designer Dale

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    #16
    Bringing up the rear, as usual...

    To me, fine art and graphic design are both forms of communication. In the former you are expressing your idea and in the latter you express the idea of a client. If your client likes a color scheme that is less appealing than what you present, then you go with that. You are creating something that will belong to someone else. That can be both rewarding and awkward.

    As for the instructors' statement, I agree that she is off base. You don't have to have good drawing skills to design, but if you have no artistic talent you are done for. I'm not the talented sketch artist, but I have art training and an extensive background in photography. I know what looks good in a frame and have been able to translate that into graphic design.

    I taught public school before going into design training. As far as I'm concerned it's the students responsibility to open a dialogue such as the one that has grown here in the classroom. Knowledge and opinions are meant to be shared.
     
  17. unid macrumors regular

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    #17
    I would never say that a designer has to start with drawing or that it is a requirement. I know good designers who work entirely with software. However drawing/sketching is the most immediate and powerful tool, the easiest to use and perhaps the hardest to master, a tool that is always available to fall back on, why would you shun it? I stand by my mild assertion that the majority of great designers, start each work/project with pencil and paper. As snickelfritz eloquently described
    I don't believe people are more creative when they are comfortable, on the contrary, I think the most stunning creative solutions often come out of difficulty and discomfort (The Five Obstructions - Lars Von Trier is a great example of this).
     
  18. Rt&Dzine macrumors 6502a

    Rt&Dzine

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    #18
    This is interesting. I've been a designer for 20+ years and I rarely use paper and pencil for conceptualizing my ideas since the computer has come in to play. I really don't see the difference. It's just a different medium.

    I do use drawing skills is for creating icons and occasionally for logos, and sometimes I incorporate my own artwork (paintings usually) into a design.

    I agree with your teacher to some degree. I know several excellent designers that can't draw. I also know some illustrators that suck as designers. Art and design aren't synonymous. And for that matter drawing and art aren't synonymous.
     
  19. KnaveMan thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Apr 22, 2009
    #19
    ------ When i said drawing, i should have elaborated / / / i don't necessarily mean drawing in comic book sense but in a 'graphics' sense.

    I asked my teacher "how then do you create complex logo's, character logo's (sport team logo's for example), icons etc. if you don't need to know how to draw" She said if they are complex you either use stock images or hire an illustrator.

    I agree 100%, if you need a professional quality illustration (whether it be a comic book style, fashion art style..whatever) or a pro quality photo, you need to work with illustrators and photographers. But i don't understand how she could say we as designers are not responsible for creating complex logos and other graphic elements that will be used in our layouts. In my opinion in order to create an icon or logo or background element that is more complex then a 'swoosh', drawing can become very beneficial.

    [​IMG]
     
  20. stainlessliquid macrumors 68000

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    #20
    If youre talking about dificulty in LIFE rather than dificulty with your tools then I dont see the relevance. Otherwise all the best designers in the world would be using an old virus filled Windows 98 machine that freezes every 10 minutes.
     
  21. Rt&Dzine macrumors 6502a

    Rt&Dzine

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    #21
    Nice image! :)

    I think what your teacher is saying is that someone can be a creative designer without being good at drawing. Not all designers are creating complex logos and as she said that can be farmed out if needed. And some people who can create complex logos can't create good overall design concepts.

    That isn't to say that illustration skills aren't a big plus, and in particular design jobs those skills are required.
     
  22. opeter macrumors 65816

    opeter

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    #22
    Well, actually, where I did go to school, we did get some strong drawing courses to... our teachers said, the good graphic designer must know, how to draw. I will not post my work, rather two of my collegues (M. Poka and T. Gyori from Budapest, Hungary):

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Both of these guys are fantastic professional illustrators/drawers and also great graphic designers.

    More on their website:
    http://www.poka3d.com/index.php?portal=design

    Hope, that explains, what I mean, why a graphic designer should know, how to draw.
     
  23. decksnap macrumors 68040

    decksnap

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    #23
    I know this has come up in many threads and I've probably repeated myself, but it always seems to be that the best designers are also very good at drawing. painting, etc. When I went to art school, the people who excelled the most in the foundation art courses were the very same, essentially in order, who excelled the most as we transitioned into design.

    There are so many fundamental concepts that overlap... which is why they teach foundation to begin with. You never know what you are going to be asked to design from day to day. The limited designer's solution will subconsciously (or consciously) shy away from a whole range of possible executions, because they can't put it to paper.
     
  24. stainlessliquid macrumors 68000

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    #24
    Likely because they have been exposed to art for most of their life. Most graphic designers arent artists, its just a job for them, they never did art for themselves before deciding to do graphic design so they have no experience in how to make something look good until they start school. Obviously the artists who do graphic design are going to have a significant edge in creativity and an eye for quality, theyll just pick up design so much quicker.

    The non-artist graphic designers can take drawing classes but its not going to give them what makes the artist graphic designers so good: experience/passion.
     
  25. decksnap macrumors 68040

    decksnap

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    #25
    Really? Not where I come from.
     

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