The Art Of Graphic Design
Refrigerators are designed to accomplish a task. So are phones, interfaces, bridges, buildings, and the like. They address problems and fill gaps to make our lives easier, or better. For these products and structures, visuals are mostly decoration, where certainly form follows function, and even if you want a ‘frige with a Kurig and TV in it, you still need it to keep things cold.
These things exist primarily as solutions to a problem, and are designed to solve that problem practically.
But, graphic design addresses it’s problems more conceptually, often emotionally invoking, and communicates it’s solutions visually, most notably with shape and color. Aesthetics are important because as creators we send messages through them, and as viewers have evolved to judge things in our world by appearances. Graphic design represents something. It allows you to identify it, then receive a message from it.
“I just wished we talked about style more. Design is meaningful because design deals so much with the aesthetic, not in spite of it. So much of power relies on the realm of the visual but we’re so busy having conversations that tip-toe around what we’re equipped to tackle the most rather than taking ownership of it.” — Eric Hu
Graphic design is not math. There are no correct answers to creative problems, probably because it is so personal and, as much as I hate to use this word here, “human”. I believe its proper use is to communicate messages, or to be interesting so to attract attention and then tell you what it wants you to know. It’s all built through aesthetics, as graphic design is the visual vessel which carries a message to a destination — the intended audience.
I think the biggest fallacy of art is that it conveys a different message to everyone, but that’s only the abstract. . . maybe. Art connects with people of common interest and background as does graphic design, which can be just as esoteric because different cultures assign different meanings to things in the world and to aesthetics. In the western world, black is the color of mourning, but in China it’s red. Even with graphic design, there is subjectivity and the best it has to offer does not come from a robotic formula, it is done with an artistic flair and at risk of error. Graphic design without it is stale, dull, uninteresting, lifeless, trite, impersonal. It is the Chase Bank logo. Art can be more than graphic design, because there are fewer rules, but art that is meaningful does the same things. It communicates, connects, and impresses with visuals.
Design is one of the few disciplines that is a science as well as an art. Effective, meaningful design requires intellectual, rational rigor along with the ability to elicit emotions and beliefs. Thus, designers must balance both the logic and lyricism of humanity every time they design something.” — Debbie Millman
I’ve always felt art and graphic design have more commonalities than differences. Both forms are made up of the same elements, principles, and theories. Whatever you see in the composition of a painting, can be seen on a book cover.
As much as graphic designers often want, or feel the need to avoid a unique style, it is unavoidable. We’re told artists have style, illustrators have style, but never should a designer. Style is no more than a pattern developed out of habits, and everyone has them; they’re also made up as much as what you don’t do. Some can work in multiple styles like Picasso or various mediums like Banksy, the truly creative can create in flexible ways. Massimo Vignelli made anything from chairs, to cups, to book covers and logos — his work, creative voice, and sense of style always imbedded.
I’m always open to being wrong, and maybe I am, but I feel the only real difference between art and design is that art can be done for yourself, but design is always done for others. Style is just the route on which your visual vessel takes to the destination. Even if I am completely wrong on the matter, I know the kind of designer I want to be and am doing my best to make a career of it.
Good art is well designed; good design is artfully done.