What Is Graphic Design? (Definition, Types, and Skills)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published May 1, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Graphic design can range from logo design to product package design. There are a number of developing technologies, techniques, and online tools that may affect the role of graphic designers. Understanding more about graphic design can help you determine whether pursuing a role in the field aligns with your career goals and interests. In this article, we define what graphic design is, discuss its elements and types, review the types of graphic design, and highlight some graphic design skills.

What is graphic design?

If you're interested in web designing jobs or considering a career in the animation and multimedia sector, you may be wondering, "What is graphic design?". Graphic design is a process of planning, creating, and projecting specific ideas through visual and textual communication. It may be the final stage of the product development process.

Graphic designers are professionals with a strong understanding of visual language, typography, space, texture, and colour. They often design logos, packaging, books, magazines, advertisements, and websites. Graphic designers often use different tools and techniques to create and combine words, symbols, and images for printed and digital products. They can also work with animations, videos, and multimedia products like mobile applications. Graphic designers work to ensure their designs are clear and appeal to the target audience in terms of style, message, and format.

Related: How to Write a Graphic Designer Resume (Tips and Example)

Elements of graphic design

Here's a list of elements commonly involved in graphic design:

Line

A line is an element in graphic design that divides different areas. You can create a line when you join two dots. It's an abstract element that can help create a unique form and structure for visual designs. You can use a line to show direction, layout, and space. The line may be straight, curved, thin, or bold. Lines can also help a graphic designer to create shapes.

Shape

A shape can define an area or volume on a two-dimensional surface, like paper or a screen. You can use shapes to form letters and words. Letters comprise merging basic shapes and lines to create new ones. Most designs combine circles, squares, and triangles to form figures. Shapes can also have a symbolic meaning in design. For example, a triangle may represent strength, while a circle may represent eternity. Shapes can take different forms to give more detail and dimension to designs.

Colour

Colour is a dominant element in graphic design. Using colour in visual designs can help graphic designers communicate more effectively. It can represent a mood, illustrate an idea, and evoke emotion. Coloured shapes or elements of a figure, such as a line style, can make a design more noticeable. Colour harmony and colour schemes are essential concepts in graphic design.

Texture

Texture is an element in graphic design you can use to show how a surface feels when touched. It can create a 3D effect, especially for a small design. Depending on the material that creates the texture, it can show character and personality. It can also make a design interesting by transforming its shape.

Space

Space is an essential element in graphic design. It can represent volume, colour, and clarity in visual designs. It can also help you understand the message the graphic designer is trying to convey. You can use space to balance the design. Space is a powerful tool because it allows the viewer to look and understand what's on the page.

Image

An image is any still or moving picture. Images in a graphic design show feeling, mood, and character. They often help create a connection with text. Images can also be effective when creating a visual impact on readers.

Layering

Layering combines the two-dimensional or three-dimensional objects you see in graphic design. You can use layering to organize design elements and give structure to the design. Layering can help graphic designers create new ideas, and use their creativity to communicate a message visually. For example, you can layer shapes to add volume, weight, value, or give depth to your design by adding shadows and highlights. Layers can also make a complex image look simple.

Value

Value is the lightness or darkness of a colour. It can give graphic designs more depth and volume. Value can be the amount of colour you see in a letter, character, shape, or image. It also shows how strong or weak a specific design element can be in terms of colour depth.

Types of graphic design

Here are the categories of graphic design:

Product design

Product design refers to developing products used by the public and other designers. Graphic designers can specialize in product design in the early stages of product development. These early stages may include market research, concept testing, creating prototypes, and designing rough drafts for manufacturers to use in production. Product designers may work on new products or modify existing items. They may work with a team through the product development cycle. These designers may focus on customer needs and technical constraints, then create and design products that meet these requirements.

Branding and identity design

A graphic designer may create brand identities for a company, product line, or product itself. Branding and identity design refers to creating a brand and the associated visual appearance. The designer creates the visuals and applies them to the company logo, website design, packaging materials, and product advertisements.

Some designers work with companies to track how well their brands are performing. Branding may involve creating a logo for a product, making custom typefaces for software, or developing an identity for an organization such as a political party. It can also involve creating logos and slogans in advertising campaigns such as television commercials.

Website design

A graphic designer may work on the layout and design of a website. The designer can create and organize content to communicate a message while maintaining a clean and attractive design. Web design focuses more on colour and graphic images to make the brand unique. Graphic artists can create a basic template for the website and then adjust it to suit the needs of the product and brand it's representing.

Related: Web Developer Skills: Definitions and Examples

Logo design

A graphic designer can help create a logo for a company, product, or service to give it a visual identity. Creating a logo for a product typically reflects the nature and culture of the brand. Businesses can also use their logos as a trademark. A trademark is an official, recognizable symbol that identifies a product or service as belonging to a particular business.

Packaging design

A graphic designer may specialize in designing packaging for products, including the interior and exterior of the package. They can also help make marketing material, such as shelf displays or catalogues. Packaging design can be functional, durable, and informative. It can help a company present its products' uniqueness and attract clients.

Illustration

An illustration is a drawing that represents or communicates a message. A graphic designer may create illustrations for books, magazines, newspapers, or posters. They may design them as a stand-alone piece or as part of an ad campaign.

Related: 21 Examples of Jobs in Illustration

Publishing design

Publishing design includes printed material, such as newspapers, magazines, advertisements, and books. Designers in this field may specialize in one or a variety of these areas while collaborating with other designers. They help determine a publication's overall appeal and identity. Publishing can include creating designs for the cover, determining the layout of advertisements, and designing new features or pages.

Skills of a graphic designer

Here's a list of skills required in graphic design:

Creativity

In graphic design, creativity involves suggesting ideas, solving problems, and finding unique ways of visualizing concepts. Creativity can help designers use their imagination to generate different work. This skill usually allows graphic designers to convey a message from a new perspective.

Related: Why Critical Thinking Is Important in the Workplace

Organizational skills

Graphic design may involve using organizational skills. These skills can help you give direction to your team, outline your goals and objectives, and determine how and when to complete each stage of graphic design work. Organizational skills can also help graphic designers organize their time to manage multiple projects and meet deadlines.

Critical thinking skills

Graphic designers may think critically to analyze a question or problem. They may assess their strengths and weaknesses to influence their decisions about their designs. Critical thinking is a skill you can apply in many aspects of graphic design. For instance, you can use it when brainstorming ideas, selecting a design style, or choosing a colour palette.

Communication skills

Graphic designers may require excellent communication skills, both verbal and written, to create designs and communicate ideas. They may rely on clear and efficient communication to understand customer needs. Communication can also help graphic designers work well with their team members.

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