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What Do Graphic Designers Do?

What does graphic design work entail? Here’s everything you need to know.

Graphic Design
Graphic Design
8
min

Table of Contents

What do graphic designers do? Spoiler alert: a lot more than you think. Graphic design is an integral part of branding and marketing, and so graphic designers play a vital role in the success of any business. Harness the power of graphic design by learning what graphic designers can create for you.

By definition, graphic design is the creation of visual assets that convey messages to a certain intended audience. As you might expect, there’s more than one way to do this.

So, what do graphic designers create? We’ll list some of the biggest graphic design categories and the design projects that belong in them. 

Brand design

When it comes to branding design, most of us think of a logo. But there’s more to it than that. Here are some key components of branding design that designers need to create:

  • Logo: A professionally designed logo is the cornerstone of a successful brand identity. It’s a single visual element that reflects a brand’s values, mission, and target audience.
  • Logo variations: Graphic designers can also create variations of a logo, such as a monochrome version, or a brand mark, which is a simplified version of a logo often used in app logo design, or with smaller spaces.
  • Typography: Not everyone needs custom typography, but it’s usually required if you want to use a relatively simple wordmark for a logo to ensure it’s unique and memorable.
  • Color palette: A brand’s color palette will be used in designs across the board, from simple advertising materials to a website.
  • Brand guide: Graphic designers tasked with creating a brand identity will always create brand guidelines that include details and instructions on how to design graphics for this brand - what colors, typography, images to use, how to use a logo, etc.
  • Business cards and stationery: Creating any type of print materials requires a lot of technical knowledge that an amateur designer usually lacks.
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Advertising design

Creating ads requires a lot of technical knowledge (e.g. the right size and format), as well as creativity. After all, only the most eye-catching ads can capture viewers’ attention nowadays.

Athough they’re not in charge of copywriting, graphic designers must understand how to incorporate textual messages into visual designs for maximum impact. 

So what do graphic designers create for advertising? Here are some of the most common projects:

  • Display ads (banner ads): Digital ads come in all shapes and sizes and sizes, so it’s wise to have a professional create graphics for your digital media.
  • Social media posts and ads: Social media can be an incredibly effective marketing tool, because of its refined targeting options. However, in a sea of visually striking content, you can only stand out with truly extraordinary graphic design. - Fliers, brochures, pamphlets: For some industries, print advertising is anything but dead! It’s the job of a graphic designer to ensure your print collateral is both visually appealing and informative to entice people to keep and, hopefully, act on your promotional materials.
  • Video ads: Motion graphics and animated videos are a popular way to create engaging videos without expensive recording equipment.
  • Billboards, car wraps: Offline advertising still plays a big part in some industries. Professional designers know how to create graphics for any context or purpose.
  • Merchandise: T-shirts, bags, stickers, cups, badges, and more - you can place stunning branded graphics on virtually anything, and boost your brand’s visibility.

Of course, great copywriting is one very effective way to create a successful ad campaign. But with a great concept and a talented graphic designer, your ads might need little to no text to send a very clear message.

Website design

Web design encompasses two key disciplines: user interface design (the look of your website) and user experience design (creating the context and rules for visitors to engage with the website). However, the graphic design career is usually called UX/UI designer and entails both of these. 

What software do graphic designers use for web design? It depends on the specific project at hand. They can use design tools like Illustrator or Photoshop to work on the details of specific graphics, specific web design software like Adobe XD or Sketch to create pages, or wireframing tools like Justinmind to create the rough draft and logic of a website.

So, what do graphic designers create for websites? Here are some examples:

  • Landing pages: Whether it’s for a new product or a limited-time offer, carefully crafted landing pages will provide information and entice visitors to take action.
  • Mobile-responsive design: Half of the world’s internet traffic comes from mobile devices. So, if you only have a desktop version of your website it’s high time you hired a designer to help you create a mobile responsive version.
  • CTA buttons: The color and design of a call-to-action button can significantly impact conversion rates. A skilled designer can also create several variations that can be tested to figure out what works best.
  • Icons: Although they can be used virtually anywhere, icons are an integral part of web design as they provide easy visual communication and cues for users.
  • Ecommerce pages: Shopping pages often require more careful mobile optimization and design elements to accommodate things like payment integrations.

Packaging

When thinking about the question “what do graphic designers do” many tend to forget about product packaging design. Even the simplest clingfilm package usually contains a label that was created by a professional graphic designer.

Creating visually appealing packaging is no small task. However, packaging designers also need to consider other factors, such as:

  • Materials: Liquids can’t be packed in the same type of materials as shoes. Packaging designers must consider how their graphics will be reproduced on an appropriate material.
  • Context: Products of mass consumption need to stand out on packed shelves, among dozens of competitors. That’s why more prestigious products often have simpler packaging that suggests exclusivity (e.g. the simple black design of Chanel makeup products).
  • Production: Although it’s not the designer’s job to worry about the costs of production, they should at least understand why and how different design choices (color, materials, etc.) will impact production costs.

Illustration

Illustrations can be found in an array of different styles, so finding the right illustrator can be tricky.

What types of illustrations can designers specialize in? Here are some popular types:

  • Line drawing: This type of illustration is created using simple lines to convey the shape, form, and texture of an object or scene.
  • Vector graphics: These illustrations are made up of points, lines, and curves that can be easily resized without losing quality. They are commonly used for logos, icons, and illustrations that require crisp, clean lines.
  • Digital painting: This type of digital illustration mimics traditional painting techniques such as watercolor or oil painting. Artists use a digital brush and palette to create realistic or stylized paintings.
  • 3D modeling: 3D illustrations are created using specialized software to build and manipulate 3D objects and environments. They are often used for product design, architecture, and animation.
  • Pixel art: Pixel art is a style of illustration that uses small, colored squares to create images with a retro, video game-inspired aesthetic.
  • Motion graphics: This type of digital illustration combines graphics and animation to create dynamic and engaging videos. It is often used for explainer videos, advertisements, and social media content.
  • Watercolor: Watercolor illustrations are created using water-based paints that produce soft, fluid lines and a translucent quality. This style is often used for children's books and greeting cards.
  • Cartoon: Cartoons are often used to tell a story or convey a message in a humorous or satirical way. They are typically characterized by exaggerated features and simplified shapes.
  • Technical: Technical illustrations are used to explain complex machinery, architecture, or scientific concepts. They are often highly detailed and precise, with a focus on accuracy and clarity.

Typography

Every single typeface we use in print and digital design was created by a graphic designer. Though a layperson might not see a huge difference between two similar fonts, creating a typeface requires meticulous attention to detail, and making all sorts of specifications to ensure that fonts have a consistent and unified appearance.

What are the roles and responsibilities of a graphic designer?

Now that you know what types of design there are, it’s time to look at some of the responsibilities a graphic design job entails.

Research

Whether they have a formal design degree, or years of hands-on experience, research is a necessary part of every graphic designer’s process.

They need to stay on top of popular design trends, and get to know a client’s brand and industry. Even if they’re lucky to get a great idea out of the blue, designers need to justify their design decisions and explain their choices.

Collaboration

Although they work alone, graphic designers must collaborate with different departments and people, including art directors, clients, design and marketing team members, etc.

So, in addition to their craft, essential graphic designer skills include good communication, teamwork, time and project management, and other soft skills required to bring a creative project to life and resovle any graphic design challenges that might arise. 

Problem solving

Graphic design is never purely decorative. Instead, it’s a way to communicate visually, or solve problems through design.

Certain types of graphic designers including UI/UX and product designers are problem solvers first, designers second. To create designs that look and perform well they need a creative problem-solving mindset

Design 

Last, but not least, graphic design scope of work includes actual design. We hope that the categories of graphic design mentioned above will help you decide what kind of designer is the best fit for your business. Or if this is a career path you wish to pursue, be sure to focus on one area of design first

Parting tips

We hope this gives you a detailed answer to the question “what does a graphic designer do” For more helpful advice, check out our list of the most important graphic design principles and this list of free graphic design courses to get your toes in the water.

What does graphic design work entail? Here’s everything you need to know.

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