Graphic Design Types Explained (With Examples)
Discover all types of design, from advertising and branding to motion graphics and UI. Learn about their purpose, with visual examples and explanations.
Table of Contents
Every business nowadays needs graphic designers. But the first step to finding the right design partner is understanding what are the different types of graphic design and how they can help your business grow. Buckle up for a beginner-friendly lesson in the main types of graphic design!
By definition, graphic design is the art of creating and planning visual content that conveys a specific message to a particular audience.
In other words, graphic design is a very vast field that encompasses everything from creating the logo on a milk carton to the web page you're looking at right now. Therefore, it can be hard for business owners and newbie marketers to decide what are the different types of graphic design they need, to hire a graphic designer that will complete these tasks.
In this guide, you'll learn about the different types of graphic design that are most vital for any modern business.
Types of graphic design
Before you go to a hairstylist, it's good to find a reference photo online (yes, I'm talking from a painfully personal experience). Before you find the best design service for your business, you must know what are the different types of graphic design you'll need them to create.
How many types of graphic design are there? It’s a bit of a trick question. You’ll find that some lists include things like stationery design and business cards under the same umbrella (branding and/or print design), while others may distinguish between publication and print design.
We’ve tried to make it as simple as possible, and include the most important types of graphic design services that you can request from a professional designer.
Branding and visual identity
Brand designers are usually more senior designers who develop the brand's visual identity. This is one of the broadest types of graphic design, and includes several key visual elements such as a logo, color palette, typography, illustrations, and icons used in different brand assets such as business cards, websites, social media, marketing design deliverables, etc.
Logo design created for a ManyPixels client
It’s also predicted that by the end of 2022, video content will make up for 82% of all consumer internet traffic, which means that this type of content is essential for your commercial efforts.
Although you should be prepared to pay a little extra for this type of design work, it can be a worthwhile investment. Last year, over 54% of all display ads were animated, which shows that this could become the dominant format in the years to come.
GIF created for a ManyPixels client
From specific design programs such as Adobe InDesign or QuarkXPress to different printing techniques and considerations (bleed area, color mixing modes, etc.) - this is certainly an area of design that can be difficult to master even with all the possibilities of online DIY design we have today.
Print design comes with technical requirements that only professional designers are usually aware of.
Print designs created for ManyPixels clients
Display ads created for a ManyPixels client
Brand guides done for ManyPixels clients
This should undoubtedly be the first step if you're a small business and don't have a developed visual identity yet. Creating brand identity guidelines will make subsequent design processes much quicker, and it will also make it easier to switch designers or services should you want to.
What's the difference between marketing and advertising, again? While marketing is a broader term that means promoting a product or service in a specific target market (including branding), advertising refers to a particular type of promotion through paid channels (e.g., social media advertising, PPC, print advertising, etc.)
Advertising design, therefore, is the creation of specific types of ads. With the consistent evolution of online advertising, designers in this field must be in tune with all the relevant trends and specifications required to create ads for different channels.
It can also require skills in other areas of graphic design, such as motion design for GIFs or video ads. A basic understanding of copywriting also helps designers position the copy in the design for maximum effect.
Although often grouped under the same umbrella, user experience and user interface design are different.
User interface refers to the design of the look and feel of a product or service. On the other hand, user experience considers the entire journey of using a product or service, and is therefore also known as interaction design. For example, revolving doors are an example of good UX design that helps avoid congestion at the entrance/exit of a building.
But these terms are not limited to it, and these days, they are most commonly referred to in the field of web and application design. This type of design is especially relevant in the SaaS (software-as-a-service) industry, so it’s no surprise that it’s become quite common for these digital companies to find design partners online.
It's important to remember that a digital UX/UI designer is not the same as a web developer. Designers create the look and feel of a website or app, and developers create code that makes digital products work.
As was already mentioned, a web designer is essentially a UX/UI designer tasked with creating the look and feel of a website.
Good website design is both aesthetic and intuitive. It's important to keep websites on-brand since this is often the first point of contact a potential customer has with your business.
As we all know, websites are also places to look for information. That's why part of a website designer's job is also creating information architecture: the order in which information is grouped and presented to help users navigate easily and find what they're looking for.
Although most people read their papers online and digital marketing spending takes up the majority of marketing budgets, in some industries, print design is still very relevant.
Numerous media outlets still produce physical copies of their magazines and newspapers. And things like album cover design and book cover design also fall under this category.
Finally, print marketing materials such as brochures and flyers still have a variety of applications across some industries. Although printing materials technically include business cards, we usually consider them under the broader term of 'branding design.' So, you can see how the question “how many types of graphic design are there”, gets a little confusing in areas like branding, print, and advertising design.
Branding design encompasses many types of graphic design, and this is one of them. However, since it requires a particular skill set, it's worth discussing in a little more detail as a category of its own.
Print designers don't just create the look of the packaging. They have to ensure that packaging adequately protects products and, ideally, is made from sustainable materials that are cost-effective to produce.
Packaging also contains UX design elements since one of the main characteristics of good packages is intuitive design. A famous bad example is packaging for scissors that require scissors to be opened!
Another field closely related to UX/UI design is the design of physical (industrial design) and digital products. In a broader sense, product design is the process of designers merging the user's needs with business goals to create products. It encompasses different processes, including prototyping and testing.
There are three main types of product design:
- System design: such as the layout of a supermarket or store to help shoppers navigate easily.
- Process design: for example, the onboarding process for a digital product.
- Interface design: creating the look and feel of a product.
You can probably already see that this is a vast and complex field, so finding the right product designer will largely depend on your needs. Since product design is a long and complicated process, you might need to hire several designers for specific chunks of the work, depending on the stage you're at.
Motion graphics design
This is one of the most recent types of graphic design. However, it's already become increasingly popular with an array of examples for use.
In simple terms, motion graphics are moving pictures, from animated text in a PowerPoint presentation to feature-length animated films. As you might suspect, this type of design is often a lot more time-consuming than others and requires experience in the field, so getting it done is usually also a bit more costly.
Environmental design is a branch of design that makes spaces more beautiful or easier to navigate through. The designs created should be in harmony with their surroundings or serve a particular purpose in this context.
This type of design is often combined with architecture, landscaping, interior design, and urban planning. Some examples of environmental design include signage, office branding, the interior design of public places, and public transportation navigation.
It’s definitely not one of the most glamorous types of graphic design, and one non-designers easily overlook. However, all letters need to be designed as well, and they can make a much bigger impact than simply conveying the message of the text.
For example, if you’d like your logo to be a wordmark, you might consider hiring a type designer to create a completely customized typeface. You can even trademark the typeface so that other people can’t use it (e.g., McDonald’s logo font is trademarked and called McLawsuit).
Type designers create fonts, font families, and typefaces. Each variation of a typeface or font, whether it’s altering the height and width of the letters, or adjusting the kerning (spacing) between them, requires the work of a design professional.
Where to find the best graphic design services
Now that you know how many types of graphic design exist, and what they are, let’s get to another important topic. Where can you get the best graphic design services for your business?
Here are four of the most popular types of graphic design services providers.
Let’s start with the most obvious one: hiring someone on a full- or part-time basis to work with your business exclusively.
The most significant advantage of this option? A designer will get an in-depth understanding of your brand and market. This means they'll know about all the relevant trends without having to do thorough research before every project. You'll also spend less time providing briefs and possibly request fewer revisions.
A more senior graphic designer can also take on the role of art director in your company or agency and help you make executive decisions when it comes to design.
Depending on where you’re based, this can sometimes turn out to be cheaper than hiring a freelancer or design service. But in most cases, it won't work out that way. The median salary for graphic designers in the US is $50,000.
On top of that, you need to consider overhead costs and possible expenses for additional projects since one graphic designer usually won't have the skills and knowledge for each type of project you might have lined up.
Finally, an essential consideration for in-house designers is the amount of work you need. Hiring isn’t a sensible choice if you only require around 1-2 projects per week. Or, if you have seasonal needs (e.g., travel agencies probably advertise more heavily during the summer), then it's a waste of budget having someone all year-round.
Want a variety of options? Then, you’ll be pleased to know that 90% of graphic designers work as freelancers. If you want to find a specific person with a particular skill set and previous experience, this is the way to go.
One of the greatest advantages of working with freelance designers is flexibility. You can hire them for different kinds of graphic design, or even parts of projects, usually without substantial administrative costs. However, this can depend on the freelancing platform you want to use (some have relatively high commission fees).
The biggest drawback? Costs can accumulate very quickly. The average hourly rate of freelance designers is between $25 to $50 for those beginning their career in graphic design, and $65 to $150 for senior designers. That means you’ll be paying upwards of $100 for even the simplest design project.
Of course, you can agree to pay freelancers per completed project, even the slightest revision can add extra charges.
Still, even if everything goes smoothly, paying a few hundred dollars per single project every month adds up to a considerable amount. Meanwhile, you never have the assurance that your projects are a designer's priority or even that they'll be able to take them on or finish at the required time.
Graphic design agencies usually work with more established businesses or even marketing agencies without their own design team. They typically provide a comprehensive service, from conceptualization and art direction to executing an array of graphic design fields (think anything from product design to billboards!).
You usually won't work with a single designer but rather a whole team with impressive portfolios and expertise. This type of graphic design company will often provide additional market research and web development services.
As you might expect, this premium service comes at a premium price. Most graphic design agencies charge upwards of a few thousand dollars for a single project. Still, it's virtually impossible to give you an exact price range since this depends on several factors: location, type of projects, and size or experience of the agency.
Unlimited design services
Although it's becoming more popular by the day, many people are still unaware of what unlimited design entails. Basically, it means that one service covers all your design needs in different areas of graphic design.
The scope of service may include logo design, print design, web design, motion design, etc. The model is specific, because it allows you to make unlimited design requests, always paying the same flat monthly fee.
Do you actually get an unlimited number of design projects done for the same price? Of course not. You'll still be working with people, not robots. However, each service usually provides a rough estimate of the expected daily output, so you can calculate how many design projects you can get per week or month and see how that fits into your design budget.
Essentially, unlimited design service providers offer you the best of all graphic design solutions combined:
- Dependability: Like having a designer in-house, you don’t need to worry about your requests getting taken care of. With a team of designers on board, there’s always someone standing by in case of unexpected sick leave or holidays.
- Flexibility: Since there are usually dozens of designers to work with, you’ll be able to work with a professional with skills and experience suited to all types of graphics. If you find a designer whose style you like, you can usually ask to work with them or switch things up as needed.
- Professionalism: Most unlimited design services have a similar approach to graphic design agencies. There’s usually a project manager on board who performs quality checks before draft designs are sent to you. The same person will usually follow up with the designers about their ETA and observe deadlines.
You might think that at a fraction of the cost of a design agency (usually only around $300 to $1,000 per month), you can’t expect the same level of creativity and variety of skill. This will, of course, depend on the service you choose to work with, but many unlimited design services have a rigorous vetting process and hire top talents in the field.
At ManyPixels, for example, we tend to match clients with a graphic designer whose skills and previous experience match their needs, so it’s very likely that they get to work with a highly experienced design professional in a particular area. Because of this, work gets done faster, fewer revisions are needed, and you get high-quality work at an affordable price.
The reason why providers offering unlimited design services can do so at a lower cost than a design agency is simply due to the amount of work they do on a regular basis. With many more regular clients and a steady income, they can cut down costs for customers, rather than having to charge higher rates on a per-project basis.
The drawback, or rather characteristic of this model, to bear in mind is that it's not suited for one-off projects since you won't really get your money's worth this way. But keep in mind that more complex projects like logo design or branding design usually cost several hundreds of dollars, in which case even a short-term subscription can be worth your while!
If you want to know how to hire a graphic designer that’s best suited to your business, it’s critical to determine what are the different types of graphic design you need in the first place and how often you’ll need it done. This will ensure that you can choose between different types of graphic design services providers wisely, and find a suitable partner for your business.
If you’re hiring a designer yourself, don’t assume that if you like their style, they’ll necessarily make a good match for your business. Make sure they possess the skills and, preferably, previous experience that corresponds to the different types of graphic design you need done.
Finally, if you want to get all your designs done in one place, fast, affordable, and easy, consider trying out unlimited graphic design. Don’t forget that you can do it risk-free with ManyPixels!
Discover all types of design, from advertising and branding to motion graphics and UI. Learn about their purpose, with visual examples and explanations.