The Evolution and Relevance of Graphic Design

Today, we can’t imagine a life without graphic design. From billboards to buttons on your mobile and laptop screen, we are surrounded by some or other elements of graphic design.

And like all the different forms of design, graphic design also has a vast, rich history that has framed the way we look at it now.

It wasn’t until 1992, when the term ‘graphic design,’ coined by William Dwiggins, was used to describe the art of designing using graphic elements. During the early days of graphic design, designers drew graphics and designs by hand. Whereas in the last about 60years, graphic design has evolved, and the credit goes to the evolution of science and technology.

Evolution of graphic design

To understand something, it is always important to look back at how it all started. Looking back helps designers understand graphic design better, as stylistic trends are cyclical, and studying the trends and what worked back then can inspire some fresh new ideas.

Like Mark Twain believed, that there was no such thing as an original thought or an original idea because every subject on Earth has been pored over, written about, and analyzed. So, if we go by this theory, now would be the right time to look at history and find innovative ways to express the ideas that have been long spoken about.

Before the 1960s

Before the 1900s, when the term wasn’t coined, many of them argued that cave paintings were also a form of graphic design. Even magazines, books, and newspapers before the 1900s included typography in their designs. And then came the era of posters in the 1900s.

Posters in the 1900s were considered to be a form of expression for many. Taking the trend of posters ahead, in the 1940s, you could find elements of graphic design in propaganda posters such as “We can do it” that featured Rosie the Riveter. After this, short slogans were added as elements of graphic design to set the tone and were to the point.

By this time, technological and scientific advancements were in full swing. The technology was now being more readily available to people than before, and this change pushed the graphic design industry to existence.

The 1960s

The influence of television advertising changed the way designs were seen. By the 1960s and early 1970s, television was a standard amenity that most people could afford and owned. Even the political scenario had a significant impact on the growth of graphic design.

The political protests that took place, such as the civil rights movement and protested against the Vietnam war, inspired the re-emergence of poster and flyer art. Even though computer-generated graphics were not available, if you look at the posters from those times, you will find the influence of a balance between the positive and negative spaces.

The 1970s

This was the time during which cultures from around the world began to influence graphic design significantly. Japan had just recovered from the after-effects of World War II and soon became one of the graphic design industry’s most prominent figures.

Some of its influence can still be found in modern-day graphic design. For instance, icons in the center, following the symmetry, and colors being meshed together. Even though psychedelic designs pushed forward to the 70s, the use of icons and people advertising various products through designing had started emerging during this time.

The 1980s

The 80s was a complete turnaround. The fate of computers was similar to that of televisions. With personal computers being affordable for everyone, design tools are very easily available and easy-to-use.

It was the decade known for the bold, bright colors and its blocky, big text. The type of typography could be easily described as a cartoon text that resembles a lot to graffiti art. With the launch of MacPaint for Macintosh, Apple offered an opportunity for all the designers to use computer graphics in an effortless and easy to understand way. Postscript language use allowed graphic designers to place text and graphics on the same page and send it to print.

The 1990s

This decade gave birth to software that changed the face of designing, Photoshop 1.0. It was the tool that gave graphic designers the liberty to experiment with new, different techniques such as fading elements, digital overlays, and overlapping text.

The texture that was born and dominated the graphic design industry was ‘grunge. From movie posters, album covers, to book covers, grunge was found in almost every graphic design. You could see it paired with simple color palettes such as white on black with maybe a pop of some bright color and dark looking images. Fight Club’s movie poster is the perfect example of the grunge effect of that period.

The 2000s

The 2000s began on a very different scale to the other decades with regard to graphic designing. During this period, technology had grown exponentially. Graphic designing tools had become even more popular and innovative. Designers were using smartphones and other portable devices to design from anywhere and everywhere. This also pushed designers to come up with graphic designs that looked good and appealing across various devices.

Graphic designers of the 2000s became more focused on movement. They were finding new ways to make static designs, and even logos look as if they were in motion.

In recent years

With the explosion and easy accessibility of the internet, graphic design has turned into a booming industry. Its importance can be seen across industries and professions. The one thing that is clear about the graphic design industry is that there is no one dominant method that rules the game. The graphic design game consists of ideal design techniques and styles.

The addition of videos and flat icons has become a trend that has been incorporated into various forms of graphic design. Even print advertising has been merged with mobile devices, ipads, etc. to bring a fresh, new experience to the world.

As for now, graphic design has turned out to be more personalized and interactive while focusing on user experience. Regardless of where graphic design goes next, you can expect to experience designs that are a cusp of technology, innovation, and creativity.

Now that you know how it all started, it’s time to take a closer look at the term, graphic design. To understand the rules of graphic design, you need to have a clear understanding of what the term itself means and what makes a person a graphic designer.

What is graphic design? Who is a graphic designer?

Graphic design is also known as communication design. It is a form of art where professionals create graphical content to communicate ideas, thoughts, and or messages. It is a process of problem-solving through the use of iconography, illustrations, typography, and photography.

And graphic designers are visual communicators that create visual concepts/ideas by using computer software and or sometimes even by hand. They use various elements to communicate a particular identity or idea to be used in promotion, branding, and or advertising. These elements include fonts, print design, logos, colors, animation, shapes, photographs, colors, and images.

Every graphic designer is a professional visual-thinking problem solver and communicator given the task of solving a specific communication problem and or achieving certain creative outcomes. In the creative arena, a graphic designer, according to the requirements and skills, plays different roles. For instance, a graphic designer could be:

1. Creative Director

In this position, you manage a creative team that creates visual content for branding, products, advertising, and marketing campaigns, etc.

2. Art Production Manager

As an art production manager, your role is to manage the production part of art creation and generation, focusing on lowering costs and improving efficiency.

3. Logo Designer

This job profile requires you to create the visual expression of the brand’s principal value or message. A logo is a crucial element of a brand’s identity, a part of identity design wherein you carry the logo and brand identity forward for all branding materials.

4. Content Developer

A content developer creates graphical, written, video, sound, or any other multimedia content depending on the brief.

5. Package Designer

In this position, as a package designer, you’re required to come up with creative and unique design packaging for products and or marketing with respect to both – the physical construction and design.

6. Broadcast Designer

For this job profile, you are asked to create graphical designs and electronic media that can be used for television productions.

7. Interface Designer

As an interface designer, you are responsible for developing graphical user interfaces. More often than not, web development companies/organizations, require an interface designer.

8. Visual Journalist

The graphics that you create as a visual journalist can be used for digital and print applications. This job profile requires you to create informational graphics, also known as infographics, to communicate complex information.

9. Web Designer

A web designer creates layouts, pages, and graphics for a company’s website.

10. Art Director

This job profile entails you coordinating between illustrators and production artists to make sure that the projects are satisfactory to the client and completed on time.

11. Visual Image Developer

A visual image developer creates designs and images through 3D modeling, image editing, and photography.

12. Multimedia Developer

As a multimedia developer, you apply your graphic design skills to motion and or sound.

13. Brand Identity Developer

For your job profile as a brand identity developer, you are responsible for building brand identities for various organizations.

Simply put, a graphic designer combines technology and art to come up with unique, engaging content to convey ideas, messages, and or concepts using a variety of design elements to give it an aesthetic appeal and artistic effect.

As a graphic designer, you must be able to think of new, unique designs while being up to date with technology, to keep your content relevant, easily accessible, and consistent with your audience.

One of the aspects of being a graphic designer that gives you an edge over the competition is the use of technology. Keeping yourself up to date with innovative technology and software that are available in the market for graphic design can inspire and expand your horizons of ideas and creativity.

Top 6 graphic designing tools

The development and advancement of hardware, software, and the internet have dramatically altered and influenced the graphic design industry. These advancements have simplified the processes that allow them to pay more attention to aligning creativity with output.

Listed below are top 6 modern-day tools that have revolutionized graphic designing:

1. Adobe Photoshop

This tool is one of the most popular tools among graphic designers. Used by students, advertisers, and graphic designers, Adobe Photoshop is the most widely used photo editing software available.

One of the best parts about using Photoshop is that it not only allows you to manipulate photorealistic computer art and digital photos but also is regularly updated, making it relevant and offering a variety of new in-tools to work with.

Adobe Photoshop offers the graphic designer an opportunity for:

  • Image analysis
  • 2D image manipulation
  • Video editing
  • 3D image manipulation
  • Composting

If you’re looking to make it big in the graphic design industry, then it is recommended that you get your hands on this software and learn it.

2. Canva

Canva is a great tool launched in 2012 that allows graphic designers to create elaborate art projects efficiently. It is the ideal tool that can be used for websites and advertisements alike by brands from any industry.

Canva has a host of great features, including the drag and drop features. This feature allows users to edit, drop, and drag layers with ease and can be seamlessly used even on tablets.

3. Adobe Illustrator

Graphic designers are drawn towards the ease with which they can adjust the artboards and layers. This vector graphic editing program offers graphic designers to generate all kinds of images, such as drawings, actual photos, logos, graphics, and even cartoons.

What makes Adobe Illustrator even more appealing is that it has an excellent user interface that will save you from getting stuck into a mire of complicated menus. It also allows in-panel editing, accessibility on other platforms, and high scalability.

4. Procreate

Procreate is an illustration app designed specifically for iPad users. It is a tool that simplifies a graphic designer’s steps while creating and illustrating any design. It responds well with the Apple Pencil and allows users to save their work as .psd or .pdf that can be easily integrated with Adobe.

Porcreates’ features allows graphic designers to:

  • Draw directly on the screen using the Apple Pencil
  • Record the entire drawing process
  • Draw on different layers making it easier to edit the work after

5. Pixlr

It is a versatile tool that can be used on both Android and iOS systems. Pixlr is a free tool that offers the designers an opportunity to edit photos, add filters, effects, overlays, etc. What makes it more accessible is that it supports almost every image format such as PSD, PXD, Jpeg, etc. and also lets you post your creatives directly to the social media platforms.

Pixlr is majorly used for clients who have simple, easy editing requirements for images as it holds various creative layers that makes the editing process quick and simple.

6. CorelDraw

CorelDraw is one of the oldest software that is currently in use today by modern-day graphic designers. It makes it easy and quick to develop and edit flexes, brochures, invitation cards, logos, and any other vector-based lining.

It is a widely used vector-based graphic designing tool that comes in handy when you’re looking to create and or edit two-dimensional images.

These and many more designing software have changed the way we design and create graphics and have changed the way we see graphics. These tools have helped make the lives of graphic designers easy in terms of creating designs, but just having the tools is not enough. You have to find the ideal blend of creativity and technology to create engaging content for your audiences.

11 Graphic design rules for non-designers

If you’re new to the graphic design industry and probably wondering where to start, don’t worry we’ve got you covered. Listed below are 11 graphic design rules that will help you to create a simple yet effective design that engages your audience:

1. Be careful of fonts

Go for easy-to-read fonts while selecting fonts for headers, body text, and subtitles for effective graphic design. This is important because eyes tend to find it harder to scan multiple typefaces at once.

2. Welcome the negative spaces

Negative spaces are also referred to as white spaces. Design a fluid creative by separating words and other elements with white spaces. Using space around images, text boxes, and graphic design elements make your design look cleaner and easy-to-comprehend.

3. Icons are of great help

Make your design stand out by using creative icons that visually communicate with your viewers. Don’t go for the plain, old cliched icons and symbols, instead search, sketch, and print your very own icons to give your design an edge.

4. Go with the font family

Give your design a sense of uniformity by selecting the same font family for all your texts in the design. Always, choose the font family that has a number of variants, like bold, condensed, italic, to keep your options open.

5. A great color palette paves the way

Try going for a palette that has 1-3 primary colors and an additional 1-3 secondary colors that blend in, complement, and contrast each other perfectly. You can even choose shades of the same color to provide consistency without making it seem repetitive.

Tip: Use stronger distinction for finer typefaces placed against colored background.

6. Aligning your objects is a must

Create an order with your alignments. Aligning your objects helps to keep your design elements in a presentable manner. Having a proper alignment through your design gives your creative a professional and aesthetic appeal.

7. Don’t shy away from using contrast

One of the aspects that shows legibility, mood, and makes a design stand out is contrast. Get creative with using contrasting color palettes for fonts, graphics, and backgrounds.

A good rule of thumb is to use photo filters that enhance the positive and or negative spaces of your design while applying black or white to the text to create the maximum contrast against a background image.

8. Keep it simple

Keeping your image simple means to make sure that all the elements that are used have a reason to be there and also keep the number of colors, frames, fonts, and shapes to a bare minimum. But while keeping it simple, don’t forget the basics, that is use contrasting tones of color combinations for texts to make them sharp and easy to read.

9. Ace the scales

Try a combination of colors to apply and enhance scale to compositional features, types, or shapes that need the required emphasis. Applying scale along with the appropriate colors ensures that the suitable fonts look good when increased in size.

10. Clear the clutter

Adjust the brightness of your background image to pump the contrast. Doing so will help offset the color of the text, making it easier to read and giving your design clarity. Use elements that are necessary and clear the rest. This will give your design room to breathe, making it more engaging and gripping.

11. Use Mood boards

Start using a grid for a simple, easy mood board. Comprise your mood board of color swatches, visual pieces, and a collection of images. Following this practice will help you in finding a common theme and or color palette that can be applied to a particular project of yours.

Now that you have all these tricks noted down, it is your turn to create appealing and aesthetic content. Just remember to push your design skills, break the rules, and be creative while coming up with new, innovative graphic design ideas.

But hold up! Before you go ahead and get started, there is just one more aspect of graphic designing that you should know. You understand the value of something when you are aware of its importance. Similarly, to unleash the full potential of graphic design, you need to know why it is important.

4 Reasons why graphic design is important

Graphic design is so much more than just aesthetics. It is a form of communication between your business and your potential customers. It is what every marketer without a doubt adds to his/her marketing strategy.

But have you ever wondered as to why that is the case? What does it exactly communicate other than your products/services and or brand identity? Why has it become so popular amongst not only startups but also amongst the well-established businesses?

Well, look no further. We have the answers to these questions that you might have caught yourself thinking. Here, are 4 reasons why graphic design is important for any business:

1. Creates an impression

For any brand/organization, creating a positive, lasting impression is a must. You want your audiences to like you when they come in touch with your brand for the first time and even after that. The first encounter between your potential customer and you will set the tone for the rest of your professional relationship.

And graphic design simplifies this for you. Creating designs that are engaging, interactive, and relatable with a warm, welcoming feel, will pull your audience closer and have a higher reach.

2. Builds credibility

One of the messages that graphic design communicates is credibility. A well researched graphic design showcases that you have knowledge about your industry and have an idea as to what your consumers want from you.

When you provide more content that relieves a pain point or helps solve a problem in the lives of your consumers, the more your consumers will trust you and take your advice when facing a similar problem. Consistency with your content will regard you as an expert in your field that will resonate well with your audience.

3. Showcases your creativity

With so many brands trying to ace their online game, there is more competition than before. And graphic design is a powerful tool if you’re trying to get an edge over your competition.

Creating original, unique content that is relatable will help you get ahead of your competition. Coming up with creative concepts/ideas to convey your message across will make you stand out from the crowd and even showcase your efficiency.

4. Spreads the message

Graphic design is all about communicating a message. It tells a story about your brand that speaks more volumes than words to your audience. Simple graphic design elements such as colors, fonts, etc. will evoke a particular emotion that will reflect upon your message.

Coming up with graphic elements and design concepts is crucial as it communicates beyond just your message. So, make sure that both of these aspects complement each other.

With these, you have an idea and knowledge about almost everything that you need to know about graphic design. So what are you waiting for, get your creative juices flowing and start experimenting!

Afterall graphic design is all about having fun and experimenting with different ideas.


November 10, 2020
10 min read
8 reads

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