Learn how graphic design helps your business communicate visually, and understand the skills and processes behind it.
From your marketing and advertising efforts, all the way to complex projects such as web design, good graphic design requires skill and theoretical knowledge. It is used to build a brand identity, and help users interact with your company in a way you want to present it.
Here, at ManyPixels, we have many graphic designers working on all sorts of projects for clients throughout the globe every day. So, we like to think we know a thing or two about how visual design can help your business bloom.
Shillington Education defines graphic design as “effective visual communication of an idea or concept”. Although vague, this definition tells us two things:
- In order to be effective, design needs to be based on real knowledge and apply that knowledge to create visual creations that evoke a certain feeling;
- The idea or concept usually relays an emotion, so graphic design is mostly emotional design.
Or, to describe it through the words of our designated designer here at ManyPixels, Bojan Budzarovski, graphic design is “a tool for visual communication whose main goal is to transmit a specific message to a targeted group.”
“Also, it’s everywhere around you. Take a look at your keyboard font. Your smartphone logo. Your favorite coffee packaging. That’s it. The things that make you feel comfortable”.
So, you need to incorporate graphic design into your branding design, marketing strategy, collateral, website design, and any other front that might define how users interact with and perceive your company.
Basic graphic design principles
Now that we have established what graphic design is, let’s delve deeper into the skills and design software needed to create these visual concepts and materialize them.
Design skills can be split in two main categories: design theory and software skills.
By design theory, we mean knowledge of basic design principles, or as I like to call them, the 10 Design Commandments.
The principle of balance exists to ensure stability and structure to the design. Every design element has its own weight, so the designer has to balance them out. It’s important to know that weight doesn’t equal size. For example, a small red circle can have more weight than a big white circle.
Balance can be either symmetrical or asymmetrical. Symmetrical balance is when the weight of all the elements is evenly divided into both sides of the design (left and right, up and down, diagonally), whereas asymmetrical uses scale, color and contrast.
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With movement, a graphic designer instructs the eye of the viewer to a certain predetermined path in the composition. Designers use this principle to achieve an effect of visual illusion of external force that is moving the objects.
Rhythm suggests that certain objects in design need to be repeated with small changes applied to them.
The principle of proportion relates to adding visual weight and size of the elements in a design, conditioning how they interact with each other. Proportion is also called scale.
You can use elements of a different size to create a focal point or highlight the importance of each element to the overall composition. Using elements of different sizes creates a point of focus and visual proximity.
Contrast means a drastic difference between the two opposing design elements. It can be achieved with color (dark vs light), size (small vs big), style (contemporary vs old-fashioned), etc. It helps guide the eye of the viewer to some key elements.
The space that is left blank is called negative (or white) space. It is the area between or around the elements. If used creatively and effectively, it can create a shape around the elements or highlight an important aspect of a design. It is also needed to give some space to the design to breathe, and the eye of the viewer to know what to focus on.
Repetition is a fundamental design element, especially when it comes to branding. It creates a rhythm and strengthens the overall design by tying together consistent elements such as logo and color palette, making the brand or design instantly recognizable to viewers.
Hierarchy is a principle that means arranging elements in a certain structure so that the viewer can absorb the information in a simple and comprehensive manner.
Emphasis is achieved when we add extra visual weight to the most important element or message in a design. It can be achieved by using various techniques: larger or bolder fonts to highlight the title, putting the most important message higher or in front of the rest of the elements, adding a hot color in a generally colder design to the most important part of the text, etc.
Variety means adding different elements that jump out of the usual and/or are visually striking, to ensure a design isn’t monotonous and boring.
Graphic design software
Apart from the main knowledge and basic principles of design, a graphic designer must have a skill set of technical tools and software that can enable their job. At ManyPixels, all our designers know how to use tools like Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Sketch and InDesign.
Here are the reasons why there is no graphic design without these tools today:
1. Adobe Photoshop: One of the most widely used design programs. This raster graphics editor allows a designer to work on a range of design projects, from photo manipulation to digital painting.
While there are some great free options, a professional designer needs a professional program.
2. Adobe Illustrator: Another major brand name in the design industry, that you’ve probably heard of even if you haven’t used it yourself. This vector graphics editor and design program is used for a variety of digital and print production graphics. Illustrator is better suited for logo design and graphical illustrations, while Photoshop is mostly used for photo editing and photo-based graphics.
3. Sketch: One of the most popular programs used for web design, like user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) design.
UI and UX design are very specific types of graphic design, so don’t expect them listed in every designer’s resume. Luckily, we have them in the ManyPixels’ services!
4. Adobe InDesign: Desktop publishing and typesetting program.
Soft graphic design skills
Although technical prowess and artistic creativity are the most important skill set for a graphic designer, what makes difference between a good and a great designer is their skills for time management, communication with non-designers and their ability to follow trends in many tangential fields, such as art, photography, fashion, social media and marketing.
Bojan believes the key skill a graphic designer should have is communication.
“My motto is: Communication is key. Graphic designers have no ability to read minds and heavily depend on the communication process through receiving a nicely put brief and feedback.”
The graphic design process
When a professional with a skill set that includes technical, theoretical and soft design skills is tasked with a design request, there is a particular process that helps this visual creative turn their ideas into creations.
A full branding project is one of the hardest to create, and most invaluable for our clients’ success and satisfaction. That is why we asked Bojan to describe to us his process of designing a branding project.
“The design process of a branding project begins with getting to know the brand character. If the clients didn’t provide a description characterizing their company, it’s good to ask for it, and fill all of the brief’s gaps until it turns on the lightbulb in your brain!”
In his book, market research comes first. He usually digs out the information about the market and potential competitors, as well as the company’s competitors. That is followed by brainstorming in an open Adobe Illustrator artboard. This is the step where the artboard goes from being white to being a mess.
“I am very religious about typography, so I usually like to pick 5-10 fonts that would best suit the brief, and build things around it.”
Then, he works on drafting a logo, which is the base of every brand. After working on a particular logo idea and reaching a result he is content with, he goes on to develop other branding assets.
“After the logo is done, I usually test it out on different backgrounds, surfaces, mockups and see if the chosen color palette works well. When it is ready and finalized, I choose the color palette, prepare the other visual elements and it’s then time to unite them into harmonic corporate style and produce the brand guidelines.”
He reminds that this process happens with several revisions from the client, going step by step in order to match the client’s vision.
How can it help your business grow?
“As technological advancements open the graphic design industry up to change, design becomes even more prevalent. As a result, quality design is more important than ever, which makes it more competitive than ever, but regardless of its origin, good Graphic design will make customers stick around, as well as attract new faces.”
This is how Bojan sums up the importance of graphic design for a business, whether it is a small business, startup, or a big corporation that slowly scales up.
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But nonetheless, there are many benefits from good design. Here are the most prominent:
- Creating a brand image: From a unique logo design to a memorable web experience, the way your business looks will reflect what it is about. Just as it will help people discover your brand, good graphic design will help them remember it.
- Visuals make a stronger first impression: When people hear information, they’re likely to remember only 10% of said information three days later. Compared to that, if you pair that information with visuals, people will retain 65% of it.
- It helps with sales: 63% of consumers make purchase decisions based on packaging design. In the world of web and mobile app design, 75% of consumers say they judge the credibility of a company based on web design.
- It builds brand recognition and loyalty: 82% of adults in the US claim loyalty to a product brand.
- Good design can beat the competition: Taking all the previous points into account, it’s evident that good business doesn’t exist without good design. From branding to advertising, potential clients will judge you based on their looks.
Graphic design, whether you realize it or not, is everywhere around you. From the page layout on this article you’re reading, to the chair you are sitting on. And if employed well and thought out perfectly to suit your brand image, it will help with recognition, brand perception, sales, and the image you build externally and internally.
If you don’t know where to start from, take a look at the scope of work we can handle at ManyPixels. Customer success, good quality and quick turnaround are our main pillars when producing design. Or, as Bojan puts it:
“The main purpose is to create visuals that will strengthen the emotional connection of a business’s customers and their feelings towards the brand. I believe there is nothing stronger than a design that makes you feel something, even if it discomforts you.”