What is graphic design and everything you need to know about it

What is Graphic Design? Everything Aspiring Graphic Designers Need to Know

Table of Contents

Words are sometimes not enough to deliver your message. Visualisation is needed to illustrate the information better. For this reason, the creativity of a graphic designer is important because if the design is plain, it will not draw much attention.

Without realising it, many of us have been exposed to designs every day. The billboard you see on the streets, the cover of your favourite magazine, and the packaging of any supermarket snacks are examples of it. 

Although some of them might be lousily designed, many others have successfully impressed you. The impressive designs you see are why the graphic design industry is needed to create engaging designs.

What exactly is graphic design?

Graphic design, or visual communication design, combines typography, illustration, photography, and colour palettes to deliver a message through design. Designers ensure to create layouts that persuade, inform, direct, organize, entertain, and attract the audience’s attention.

Graphic design can be visual communication design, too, because it delivers messages and information to the audience with a robust visual approach –examples are the advertisements you come across on websites and social media.   

When you hear the word graphic design, you might be thinking of those advertisements you see everywhere. You have come across these in various ways, such as websites and social media. Even when you go outside, you can see designs at malls, schools, public transportations, and more!

Another thing is graphic design is also commercial art. If you notice when you go outside, there is a massive placement of designs you can see in various places like malls, schools, public transportations, and more! It tells us that graphic designs serve as a tool for businesses to raise brand awareness to their audiences.  

Although graphic design is still a unique artistic expression, the intention is still to persuade the audience by creating individual identities of companies and brands.  It can come out as logos, typography, and visual identity.

Since the growth of online technology, many businesses are opting to switch  their strategy online. You can look at some online shops and company’s social media as an example. 

The shift impacts the graphic design industry’s employment. Many companies and brands hire graphic designers to support their enterprise development.

Unfortunately, many people still underestimate the visual design field by thinking it is easy to work.. However, it’s not an easy job as there are efforts to make and obstacles to overcome to become a graphic designer.

What Do Graphic Designers Do?

what is graphic design?
Image source: Unsplash

As a visual communicator, a graphic designer will create the visual concepts. They do it either by hand or using computer software.

The visual concepts include various art forms, such as images, texts, and graphics. They aim to inform, inspire, or attract customers through delivering ideas on physical and digital platforms.

A graphic designer will focus their design on customers. That’s why they need to understand the target audience for the clients and companies they’re working for.

Target audience means potential buyers’ characteristics that match what product or service the brand is trying to sell.  As there could be many customer traits, a graphic designer will work in a team to adjust the strategy; thus, the client can accomplish the expected goal.

For example, a graphic designer will work with a writer—mostly a copywriter—to choose and decide the displayed wording in the design. A graphic designer may request adding more words from the writer to fill some spaces with relevant information. 

As mentioned above, a graphic designer will work in a team; here is the workflow list a typical graphic designer needs to follow during the pre-design until the delivery process:

  • Meet with clients or art directors to understand the scope of the project
  • Use photo-editing, layout, digital illustration, and graphics software to create designs
  • Choose colours, images, and typefaces to represent the brands and deliver the messages
  • Present the design concepts to clients or art directors
  • Revise the design concepts based on feedback from clients or art directors
  • Review the final designs to ensure that there are no errors before printing or publishing them

Types of graphic designs

If you aspire to be a graphic designer, it’s beneficial to know all kinds of graphic design. Although it won’t be mandatory to master all of these, it never hurts to learn!

Visual identity graphic design

Visual identity is the visual elements that make a company’s products or services unique and memorable. As the face of the brand, visual identity is a set of features, including:

  • Logo
  • Colours
  • Typography
  • Photography

Marketing and advertising graphic design

Marketing and advertising graphic design are created to attract the audience’s attention. The arrangements are made based on the customer’s mindset,and it aims to promote the brand. 

Examples of marketing and advertising graphic designs are:

  • Postcards and flyers
  • Magazines and newspaper ads
  • Posters, banners, and billboards
  • Infographics
  • Digital and printed brochures
  • Social media ads
  • Images for websites and blogs
  • Powerpoint presentations
  • Trade show displays
  • Banner and retargeting ads

User interface design

User interface (UI) design develops a user-friendly and navigable website layout for any visitor. UI designers aim to create a balance between aesthetics and the technical function of the interface.

Examples of user interface designs include: :

  • Web page designs
  • Theme design for online platforms, such as WordPress and Shopify
  • Applications design
  • Game interface

Product packaging graphic design

product packaging graphic design
Image source: Unsplash

Since most products need packaging to protect the contents; therefore, packaging graphic design exists. Packaging design is usually effective when it has an iconic logo or symbol representing the brand well. It can vary from colours, shapes, and other visual elements; it becomes an effective marketing strategy as it becomes more known to any customer. 

Publication graphic design

Publication graphic design is famous for its classical outputs, such as books, newspapers, and magazines. Although there’s been an increase in digital platform publishing. The goal is still to communicate with the audience through mass distribution.

Example of publication graphic design:

  • Books
  • Newspapers
  • Newsletters
  • Magazines
  • Catalogues
  • Annual reports

Motion graphic design

The name itself suggests that this design type is moving; thus, calling it a motion design. A motion designer will use visual effects, animations, and other techniques to bring life to their art.

Examples of motion graphic design:

  • Commercial videos
  • Movie trailers
  • Movie clips
  • Title sequences

Environmental graphic design

Environmental graphic design or EGD is a field of design that combines graphic design, architecture, art, lighting, landscape, and more. You may see EGD in offices, schools, hospitals, and public transportation stations, as this type of graphic aims to create an experience through the interior and exterior designs. 

Example of environmental graphic design:

  • Signage and wayfinding
  • Art installations
  • Interactive media
  • Wall graphics

Illustration for graphic design

Illustrations and graphic designs are two different industries. However, sometimes you need illustration to support graphic design outputs as commercial art.  

Example of illustration for graphic design:

  • Apparel designs
  • Motion graphics
  • Stock images
  • Book covers
  • Technical illustration
  • Concept art

Is It a Good Choice to Become a Graphic Designer?

Graphic design might be a good career option for creative thinkers who enjoy the combination of art, technology, and communication. If you’re one of the creative thinkers, you might find your opportunity and land a job in the graphic design industry. 

The employment rate in the graphic design industry has been increasing, which means many brands and companies demand graphic designers to fill the vacant positions.This is because the graphic design field offers a decent career prospect, especially if you enjoy creating art and expanding your art styles. When you’ve built your reputation after working with a few clients and companies, then you can be known and get promoted to the next level.

Most importantly, there’s been a rise in technology, so it’s also possible for you to expand your ability in the range of visual-related projects linked to the graphic design industry to gain more opportunities in this career path. So you can hone your skill in illustration, animation, and UI/UX design.  to gain more opportunities in this caeer path.

Benefits of being a graphic designer

Since you’re interested in starting a career in graphic design, you need to know the benefits of being a graphic designer. 

Although the benefits might vary, depending on the individuals, these are the available perks usually experienced by graphic designers.

Find employment in any industry.

As the number of businesses increases, many companies need graphic designers to develop their services or products by producing visual content that accurately represents the brand. Brands also require visual identities, such as logos, colour combinations, and typography. 

Work in multiple environments

Graphic designers can choose to work in any environment they desire. As a graphic designer, you have the chance to decide whether to work as an in-house employee and be exclusive with one client.

You can also join the agency and dedicate your effort to multiple clients and their different preferences, or choose to be a freelancer and have flexible working hours. 

Possible to choose to be a self-employed designer

After spending time in the graphic design industry, you might have a sense of entrepreneurship, thus wishing to build a graphic design company yourself. You can take your interest to the next level and be the leader. 

Wide range of specialisations.

The graphic design industry has a wide range of specialisations as there are many kinds of outputs. Whether digital or print designs, it’s possible for you to focus on one or a  few types of graphic designs. This way, you can expand what kind of outputs you can create and see how far your creativity goes. 

It’s a fast-changing industry.

It’s a no-brainer that the graphic design industry will always follow the latest trend. Even though you’ll need to stay up-to-date, the chance of you getting bored is low. There are always new challenges to accomplish.

Chance to express yourself

Since graphic design is a form of art, the creative workers in that field would have a chance to express themselves. Graphic designers can  show their style in the art they create, thus showcasing their talents and uniqueness.

Artsy surroundings

When you become a graphic designer, you will be a part of a group filled with creative professionals. Surrounding yourself with other artists can inspire you to try more techniques and gain more advice on executing different styles or ideas. 

Graphic Designers Salaries

Payscale informs that the average salary for a graphic designer in Singapore is S$30,791 per year. However, you can expect to receive more income as your expertise and experience grow.

The graphic design industry also opens career development opportunities. You can either get promoted as a senior graphic designer or an art director by the company you work for.

Steps to become a graphic designer

Study the principles of graphic design

To be a graphic designer, you need to understand the principles of this industry. Understanding lines, colour, shape, space, texture, and typography can help you think of the best visual concept to present. 

Moreover, good design isn’t exclusive to aesthetics. It needs to consider many aspects like careful planning and design theory application.  Reading books and being keen on learning will help you understand the pillar of graphic design.

Master the element graphic design tools

Mastering graphic design tools will be helpful for you. Graphic designers use three software – Adobe Photoshop, Adobe InDesign, and Adobe Illustrator – being proficient in any of these design software can give you alternate methods to creating a design although you have your software preferences. 

Build your portfolio

If you wish to be a graphic designer, you need to have a portfolio at hand. Crafting graphic design will show your competence and your taste in design.

Building a portfolio is possible even if you have never had worked as a graphic designer before. Making self-initiated arts or projects can be a great choice. However, you might want to find a real job in the graphic design industry to boost your skill and widen your network.

Enrol in graphic design courses

Joining a graphic design course might be a worthy option. Although it will cost you money, it will develop your skills further and give you more room for creativity. 

To find any courses available, you can browse the internet and check for any online services for you to learn. Another option would be searching for schools within your area that offer graphic design classes.

Enrol in graphic design schools

Enrolling in a school that specialises in graphic design would be another perfect choice for you. Although it will cost you a lot more money and time than joining the courses, it will give you a more comprehensive insight into your graphic design skill.

Self-initiated projects

Self-initiated projects would benefit you in improving your skill. It also shows how much you dedicate to your self-development. Furthermore, you could put your works created for passion projects to enhance your portfolio.

Get an internship job.

An internship job would benefit you in getting practical work experience as a graphic designer. If you started an internship job, focus on learning the process from professional graphic designers in the workplace rather than your salary. 

Graphic designers and illustrators: Are they the same?

Graphic design and illustration are two different industries; the former refers to communicating messages through visualisation. The latter focuses on the art itself. 

Illustrators are artists who express themselves onto a canvas;it’s open to interpretation. Illustrators are artists who express themselves onto a canvas; it’s open to interpretation. Various forms like drawing, sketches, paintings, and photographs are illustrations they use to create a graphic representation of their feelings or interests.

Sometimes clients or companies would confuse these industries into the same category although these two jobs have different responsibilities.  The misconception will negatively affect both illustrators and graphic designers.

The negative impacts could happen because companies or clients could expect graphic designers and illustrators to do both responsibilities. Although many creative workers could do both jobs, some graphic designers can’t create an illustration, and on some occasions, they would still get paid the same salary by doing two jobs.

To prevent this, you might want to discuss your job requirements before signing the contract to ensure that the position you are applying for has clear job descriptions. For example, you signed up as a graphic designer, assure you’re not creating illustrations. 

The difference between graphic designers and illustrators lies in the demands of their job specifications. Illustrators create animations of various things, such as humans, animals, or fictional characters. 

What Skills to Have as a graphic designer?

To be an excellent graphic designer, you need to have some critical skills related to this industry. Although it’s clear that you need to create designs that effectively deliver the messages, you still need to have other essential skills.

The related skills needed to thrive in this industry are primarily soft skills. It is due to graphic designers’ jobs that will require teamwork during the design until the delivery process. Here is a list of some skills that you’d benefit from by having:

  • Accuracy and attention to detail
  • Understanding the current trend, especially within the commercial field
  • Excellent creativity and innovation
  • Ability to efficiently manage time and meet deadlines

Gaining trust from clients, employers, and coworkers is possible if you have these soft skills. That’s where interpersonal communication skills act in your career development as a graphic designer. 

Prevent creativity block and get your inspiration

Have you ever experienced a creativity block? A creativity block means the inability to think of new ideas or execute concepts. This problem commonly occurs amongst creative workers; this doesn’t exempt graphic designers from this barrier. 

It’s OK to experience creative blocks as creativity doesn’t magically appear overnight. It would be best if you pushed yourself to be creative through practising. As the number of experiences grows, your creative skills will follow. 

However, you can prevent the creative block by effectively collecting and jotting down your ideas. You might want to follow your favourite artists on social media and check their art out for inspiration. 

Note that using another artist’s creations as inspiration is different from plagiarism. Never copy another artist’s work. Plagiarism is considered theft; this recklessness will give you a bad reputation.

Another benefit of looking up to your favourite artists is that you can understand the latest trend in the graphic design industry. As this field will require you to stay up-to-date with the current styles, knowing the shift in the audience’s preferences will benefit you. 

In addition, admiring other artists’ works can encourage you to try out a new style that might be suitable for you as an artist.


Finally, as you have learned the guide on becoming a graphic designer, it’s time for a review!

So, graphic designers are artists who deliver messages through visualisation that represent a brand or specific concept.  Graphic designers use various design elements -colour palettes, typography, and images – to support their creations. 

Businesses who wish to gain more awareness from the market audience need the graphic design industry.  Many companies and brands use graphic design as their marketing strategy because sometimes words are not enough. These businesses have to create more engaging content by using a visual approach. This way, the audience can understand information better.

As digital platforms enhance, the graphic design industry expands its scope to this field as well—the enhancement increases the graphic design industry’s outputs. For example, you might see many businesses opt to create aesthetically-driven websites and social media accounts. 

Moreover, it would be a good choice if you wish to be a graphic designer. You might have a wide range of working preferences, whether you want to work as an in-house employee or choose to be a freelance designer who handles many clients.

Honing your design skill might not always be easy. Still, a few learning steps are convenient for you to start your career in the graphic design industry. 

Here, at Orita Sinclair, we have graphic design course, consisting of specialisations in communication design and interaction design. Enrolling in this programme equips you with both the right knowledge and practical skills you need to become a professional graphic designer.

So, are you ready to embark your journey? Contact us today for more information.

About Orita Sinclair

Founded in 2002, Orita Sinclair is one of the oldest music and design schools in Singapore. We are committed to fostering a love of design and music in our students by encouraging them to be bold and imaginative in their endeavours.

Here at Orita Sinclair, we believe that theoretical and practical foundations are equally important with the music and graphic design courses that we offer. For that reason, we have put in place a forward-looking curriculum that grounds students in key principles before being guided by field practitioners in applying theory and technical craft in authentic, industry-oriented projects. One of our best programme is Diploma in Interaction Design.

Our supportive learning environment prepares students for the demands and challenges of the music and design industries. At the end of their graphic design courses or music courses, our students are ready to step out into successful careers or pursue degrees at renowned universities.

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