So you’ve decided that you want to take up graphic design as a career. You might be good at art, feel that you’re creative, or you might just be curious. In my case I started graphic design in school at the tender age of 15 (or was it 14?!), and you know what? It was entirely different to how I imagined it to be when I got older. In school I was mainly taught product design, isometric drawing, and some minor 3D modelling. It wasn’t until I reach college that I had a taster of what graphic design actually is, and even after graduating form university and running my own business I’m still learning to define it. So what is graphic design?

The simple definition

If you Google the term “what is graphic design?” it will come up with a whole range of definitions, but for the sake of simplicity I’ve chosen to quote from AIGA.org, the professional association for graphic design.

“Graphic design, also known as communication design, is the art and practice of planning and projecting ideas and experiences with visual and textual content. The form of the communication can be physical or virtual, and may include images, words, or graphic forms.” Juliette Cezzar, AIGA.org

So graphic design is essentially communication using words, shapes, and images? Simply put, yes, but there’s more.

A lot of people see graphic design as an art, and they aren’t wrong. There are some beautiful things created that fall under the banner of graphic design. However the visually enticing part is only the outcome, and quite frankly the tip of the iceberg. When I’m asked “what is graphic design?”, I like to break it down in the following way:

Graphic design is problem Solving

At a lecture in university we were once asked an open question, “What’s the difference between visual communication and graphic design?” A colleague then answered that problem solving is one of the main aspects of graphic design. When you speak to a graphic designer, you’re mostly speaking to a professional problem solver. You might have a specific problem that needs to be resolved, and this can be; environmental, social, digital etc. The job of a graphic designer is to look at different angles of the problem and come up with a solution for it, whether it be a new logo, website, advertising etc. Let’s look at an example of this:

Problem: When booking a cab, it’s often a long winded process that requires you to speak on the telephone. Assuming you get through, you also have to think about getting the cash out to give the cab driver. This isn’t very effective as not only does the journey become delayed when stopping off at a cash point, but it’s not very safe for cab drivers to carry large amounts of cash around with them.

Solution: Create an APP that lets the user book a cab from their phone. In just a few seconds, you can select your pick up point, choose your destination, and pay in advance using your card details. This not only saves time, but also eliminates the need to carry cash around with you. Solutions like this include applications such as Uber.

Coming from a problem solving angle is what makes graphic design so effective. It’s always interesting to take a problem apart from every angle possible and come up with a unique and effective solution for it. This is partly why I love what I do so much.

What is graphic design to you? Can you think of any more examples of problem solving like the above? I’d like to know your thoughts in the comments below.