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Graphic design is a creative process — most often involving a client and a designer and usually completed in conjunction with producers of form (i.e., printers, programmers, signmakers, etc.) — undertaken in order to convey a specific message (or messages) to a targeted audience. The term "graphic design" can also refer to a number of artistic and professional disciplines that focus on visual communication and presentation. The field as a whole is also often referred to as Visual Communication or Communication Design. Various methods are used to create and combine words, symbols, and images to create a visual representation of ideas and messages. A graphic designer may use typography, visual arts and page layout techniques to produce the final result. Graphic design often refers to both the process (designing) by which the communication is created and the products (designs) which are generated.

Common uses of graphic design include identity (logos and branding), web sites, publications (magazines, newspapers, and books), advertisements and product packaging. For example, a product package might include a logo or other artwork, organized text and pure design elements such as shapes and color which unify the piece. Composition is one of the most important features of graphic design, especially when using pre-existing materials or diverse elements.

But what about the early days of graphic design?

Graphic Design spans the history of humankind from the caves of Lascaux to the dazzling neons of Ginza . In both this lengthy history and in the relatively recent explosion of visual communication in the 20th and 21st centuries, there is sometimes a blurring distinction and over-lapping of advertising art, graphic design and fine art . After all, they share many of the same elements, theories, principles, practices and languages , and sometimes the same benefactor or client. In advertising art the ultimate objective is the sale of goods and services. In graphic design, "the essence is to give order to information, form to ideas, expression and feeling to artifacts that document human experience." [2]

The paintings in the caves of Lascaux around 14,000 BC and the birth of written language in the third or fourth millennium BC are both significant milestones in the history of graphic design and other fields which hold roots to graphic design.

The Book of Kells is an early example of graphic design. It is a lavishly decorated hand-written copy of the Gospels of the Christian Bible created by Celtic monks around 800AD.

From 1892 to 1896 William Morris ' Kelmscott Press published books that are some of the most significant of the graphic design products of the Arts and Crafts movement , and made a very lucrative business of creating books of great stylistic refinement and selling them to the wealthy for a premium. Morris proved that a market existed for works of graphic design in their own right and helped pioneer the separation of design from production and from fine art. The work of the Kelmscott Press is characterized by its obsession with historical styles. This historicism was, however, important as it amounted to the first significant reaction to the stale state of nineteenth-century graphic design. Morris' work, along with the rest of the Private Press movement, directly influenced Art Nouveau and is indirectly responsible for developments in early twentieth century graphic design in general.

The signage in the London Underground is a classic [ citation needed ] of the modern era and used a font designed by Edward Johnston in 1916 .

In the 1920s , Soviet constructivism applied 'intellectual production' in different spheres of production. The movement saw individualistic art as useless in revolutionary Russia and thus moved towards creating objects for utilitarian purposes. They designed buildings, theater sets, posters, fabrics, clothing, furniture, logos, menus, etc. [ citation needed ]

Jan Tschichold codified the principles of modern typography in his 1928 book, New Typography . He later repudiated the philosophy he espoused in this book as being fascistic, but it remained very influential. [ citation needed ] Tschichold, Bauhaus typographers such as Herbert Bayer and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy , and El Lissitzky are the fathers of graphic design [ citation needed ] as we know it today. They pioneered production techniques and stylistic devices used throughout the twentieth century. The following years saw graphic design in the modern style gain widespread acceptance and application. [ citation needed ] A booming post-World War II American economy established a greater need for graphic design, mainly advertising and packaging. The emigration of the German Bauhaus school of design to Chicago in 1937 brought a "mass-produced" minimalism to America; sparking a wild fire of "modern" architecture and design. Notable names in mid-century modern design include Adrian Frutiger , designer of the typefaces Univers and Frutiger ; Paul Rand , who, from the late 1930s until his death in 1996, took the principles of the Bauhaus and applied them to popular advertising and logo design, helping to create a uniquely American approach to European minimalism while becoming one of the principal pioneers of the subset of graphic design known as corporate identity ; and Josef Müller-Brockmann , who designed posters in a severe yet accessible manner typical of the 1950s and 1960s .

Graphic design is used whenever visual clarity and creativity are applied to the presentation of text and imagery . Contemporary design practice has been extended to the modern computer, for example in the use of WYSIWYG user interfaces, often referred to as interactive design , or multimedia design.

Anywhere there is a need to communicate visually, there is potential enhancement of communications through graphic design. Below are a few examples.

From road signs to technical schematics, from interoffice memorandums to reference manuals , graphic design enhances transfer of knowledge . Readability is enhanced by improving the visual presentation of text. Intricate and clever pictures are used when words cannot suffice.

Graphic designs have a unique ability to sell a product or idea through effective visual communications. It is applied to products as well as elements of company identity like logos , colors, and text, together defined as branding . See advertising . Branding has increasingly become important in the range of services offered by many graphic designers, alongside corporate identity and the terms are often used interchangeably.

Graphics are used in textbooks for subjects such as geography, science, and math to illustrate theories and diagrams . A common example of graphics in use to educate is diagrams of human anatomy . Graphic design is also applied to layout and formatting of educational material to make the information more accessible and more readily understandable.

From decoration, to scenery, to visual story telling, graphic design is applied to entertainment . From cover to cover in novels and comic books, from opening credits to closing credits in film, from programs to props on stage, graphic design helps set the theme and the intended mood.

From scientific journals to news reporting, the presentation of opinion and facts is often improved with graphics and thoughtful compositions of visual information - known as information design . Newspapers, magazines, blogs, television and film documentaries may use graphic design to inform and entertain. With the advent of the web, information designers with experience in interactive tools such as Adobe Flash are increasingly being used to illustrate the background to news stories.

Graphic designers are often involved in web design . Combining visual communication skills with the interactive communication skills of user interaction and online branding, graphic designers often work with web developers to create both the look and feel of a web site and enhance the online experience of web site visitors.

In the job field, many companies look for someone who can do both graphic design and the web application development involved in web design, including programming . There is a great deal of debate in the professional design community about whether this trend is positive, or if graphic designers are being over-tasked with unrelated skills and disciplines. A collaborative web-design team may split the tasks between graphic designers and software engineers .

The primary tool for graphic design is the creative mind. Critical, observational, quantitative and analytic thinking are required for designing page layout and rendering . If the executor is merely following a sketch, script or instructions (as may be supplied by an art director ) they are not usually considered the author. The eye and the hand are often augmented with the use of external traditional or digital image editing tools. The selection of the appropriate one to the communication problem at hand is also a key skill in graphic design work, and a defining factor of the rendering style .

In the mid 1980s , the arrival of desktop publishing and the introduction of graphic art software applications introduced a generation of designers to computer image manipulation and image creation that had previously been laborious. Computer graphic design enabled designers to instantly see the effects of layout or typographic changes without using any ink in the process, and to simulate the effects of traditional media without requiring a lot of space. Traditional tools such as pencils or markers are often used to develop graphic design ideas, even when computers are used for finalization.

Computers are generally considered to be an indispensable tool used in the graphic design industry. Computers and software applications are generally seen, by creative professionals , as more effective production tools than traditional methods. However, some designers continue to use manual and traditional tools for production, such as Milton Glaser .

There is some debate whether computers enhance the creative process of graphic design. [3] Rapid production from the computer allows many designers to explore multiple ideas quickly with more detail than what could be achieved by traditional hand-rendering or paste-up on paper, moving the designer through the creative process more quickly. [4] However, being faced with limitless choices does not help isolate the best design solution and can lead to designers endlessly iterating without a clear design outcome.

New ideas can come by way of experimenting with tools and methods, be they traditional or digital. Some designers explore ideas using pencil and paper to avoid creating within the limits of whatever computer fonts , clipart , stock photos , or rendering filters (e.g. Kai's Power Tools ) are available on any particular configuration. Others use many different mark-making tools and resources from computers to sticks and mud as a means of inspiring creativity. One of the key features of graphic design is that it makes a tool out of appropriate image selection in order to convey meaning. [5] Some graphic design ideas are created entirely in the mind, before approaching any external media.

A graphic designer may also use sketches to explore multiple or complex ideas quickly [6] without the potential distractions of technical difficulties from software malfunctions or software learning. [ citation needed ] Hand rendered comps are often used to get approval of a graphic design idea before investing time to produce finished visuals on a computer or in paste-up if rejected. The same thumbnail sketches or rough drafts on paper may be used to rapidly refine and produce the idea on the computer in a hybrid process. This hybrid process is especially useful in logo design [7] where a software learning curve may detract from a creative thought process. The traditional-design/computer-production hybrid process may be used for freeing ones creativity in page layout or image development as well. [ citation needed ] Traditional graphic designers may employ computer-savvy production artists to produce their ideas from sketches, without needing to learn the computer skills themselves. However, this practice is less utilized since the advent of desktop publishing and its integration with most graphic design courses.


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