Like superheroes serving for good, graphic designers exist to support and champion the brands they design for.
Graphic design has never been more relevant than it is today. With every digital advertising channel constantly evolving and the space becoming ever more crowded, the importance of graphic design cannot be overstated for helping your business stand out from the sea of sameness and bland or ineffective graphic design.
But what exactly does “graphic design” cover? By itself, it can be vague if you don’t know the entire breadth of what it covers.
Nowadays, the term “graphic design” is primarily an umbrella term for the various disciplines that exist within its scope. For example, website design, logo design, motion design, UX design, product design, print design… Okay, you get the idea. And that’s just scratching the surface.
There are all kinds of design services that businesses need. And the professionals who can work with you to solve those problems in each discipline are broadly known as graphic designers.
Let’s talk a bit about what they can do for you.
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So, what does a graphic designer do?
If you’re not deeply familiar with graphic design, you may think the role of a graphic designer is akin to a traditional artist or perhaps someone who makes marketing assets and collateral look nice. And while that’s not exactly wrong — it’s more nuanced than that.
Traditional artists make beautiful things for the sake of self-expression and/or to pour their personal experiences and world views onto whatever canvas or medium they call their own. Art can take on many forms, but it doesn’t need to serve a particular purpose or have a function.
Seasoned graphic designers will follow the old maxim of “form follows function.” In other words, what’s being designed should first and foremost serve its intended purpose (function) — and the aesthetic qualities (form) should work together to support it.
This is because the essence of what graphic designers do boils down to communicating ideas and solving problems visually.
Graphic designers are obsessed with marrying the beautiful to the practical. A crude analogy would be if you were to assume all artists were entirely right-brained (purely creative) and all market analysts were left-brained (purely analytical), then all graphic designers would sit somewhere in the middle.
How designers communicate ideas visually (A bit of Graphic Design 101)
As we mentioned, graphic designers don’t just make things look pretty — the visuals adhere to an intended idea or purpose.
To accomplish that, graphic designers will ask themselves questions while creating. A lot of questions.
Here are a few examples:
- Does the design communicate the objective?
- Is it legible in its intended display format?
- Will the target audience resonate with these visual choices?
- Would there be a purpose for adding more visual elements? Would it distract from the primary objective, or will add to it?
And so on.
Designers have to ask themselves these questions to understand best how to translate a business’ values into a visual language that everyone can understand and trust.
To do so, every graphic designer employs four basic principles when creating anything under the spectrum of graphic design. Color theory, typography, imagery, and composition make up the building blocks of graphic design — from Branding to websites, animation, and beyond. Graphic designers apply these principles to create compelling designs based on the objectives of what they’re designing.
If you have some familiarity with nearly any form of visual arts, you’re probably already aware of color theory to some capacity. And much like other arts, color is one of the most powerful tools in a graphic designer’s arsenal.
Graphic designers will use color to evoke emotions strategically, guide the viewer’s eyes, or distinguish companies from their competitors — among many other uses.
You may have heard specific colors tend to convey certain emotions. For instance, In logo design, the color blue is typically associated with stability and trust, which is why many companies use it, like Facebook, American Express, Samsung… and so on. But it’s also essential for graphic designers to be aware that the context always matters. Depending on the intention, the meaning can change drastically. Not to mention, using multiple colors can even further change what feelings are evoked.
That said, choosing colors is an exciting process when designing for a brand. Essentially, you’ll want to create a palette that’s unique to you, one that will make you stand out from everyone else. You have to ask yourself, do the colors I choose align with my brand values/mission? You must consider how colors will shape the message you are putting out in the world. Is my brand serious, playful, or a little bit of both?
Designers also use color to take control of the viewer’s eyeballs. Don’t believe us? Take a look below.
Obviously, that’s a very straightforward application. But graphic designers can guide people’s attention to where it needs to go by using color in conjunction with other design principles such as scale, contrast, and spacing.
Using color is also an excellent way for designers to distinguish companies from their competition. Imagine walking down the soft drinks aisle of a grocery store — without a doubt, you’ll always immediately recognize Coca-Cola by that signature bold red and white. Color is an important consideration to make when branding or rebranding.
Words may not seem like the flashiest part of graphic design, but they are indeed one of the most important. The visual and strategic arrangement of words (also known as letterforms or type) is known as Typography.
Graphic designers use typography to make messages both readable and visually appealing. Since almost every field of graphic design uses words, it’s one of the most essential skills for any graphic designer to master. After all, design is about communicating ideas, and words are one of our primary means of communicating!
It cannot be overstated how essential good typographic skills are for graphic designers and advertising agencies.
The study of typography is a deep dive. Font choice will profoundly affect any design or marketing campaign. For example, the font you choose can entirely change the meaning of words.
Graphic designers use typography to ensure legibility, create hierarchy, and communicate the message’s mood or tone. And there are other choices to consider depending on the application. For example, how does your font choice look on a mobile device? Is the size big enough? Is there enough contrast between the font color and the background color to be legible? Have you created a clear hierarchy through the use of scale and color? And so on.
Whether it’s hand-made graphics, iconography, illustrations, photography, and beyond — graphic designers will use high-quality assets everywhere possible.
This is because imagery can express abstract ideas much faster than text. It takes about 13 milliseconds for your brain to process what it’s seeing — for context, that’s 30 times faster than the time it takes to blink.
For example, if you’ve ever bought furniture from Ikea, you’ve probably made use of their assembly manuals that include visual aids on how to piece the furniture together. But can you imagine if those manuals were purely text? Yikes, now that would take forever to build!
Composition is something many graphic designers struggle with initially. Composition refers to any design’s layout, structure, and arrangement. The issue that many novice designers have is that they tend to crowd the layouts with elements that are too close together. For example, you may remember some websites that looked like this in the early 2000s.
…Well, jeez, where do we even start with that?
Seasoned designers will make sure to let the composition “breathe” — meaning, there’s enough space between pieces of content on the page, formally referred to as negative space.
Sometimes less is more!
Why hire a graphic designer?
Business owners may think that they or someone in-house will be able to manage the creation of branded visual assets for their business. The results won’t have the same polish as a graphic designer, and there is the opportunity cost to consider. Most likely, their time would be better spent working elsewhere on the business, such as the internal structure, executive-level planning, etc.
Bad design can distract or confuse potential clients. It’s best to invest in skilled talent to ensure every impression is viewed in a positive light. We live in a hyper-competitive global market. Make sure your first impression is memorable. One that creates trust and empathy.
So while we do encourage everyone to explore a creative outlet for expressing themselves, it’s best to leave the business’ professional branding efforts in the hands of someone who works in a creative capacity professionally regularly. Doing so will maximize the value you get out of graphic design for your business.
Speaking of value, the value in hiring a graphic designer to represent your brand visually exists threefold — elevating brands, creating awareness, and shaping perceptions.
Sometimes, outstanding businesses have stellar reviews, great brand values, and loyal clients but don’t yet have the physical identity to take things to the next level. It’s normal — people do judge books by their covers, which is why graphic designers exist to champion your brand identity by helping your business look the part. So your clients, your employees, and you can feel pride in your business.
Designers will also help to set your brand apart. Of course, their technical ability to execute aesthetically pleasing designs is a part of how they can make that happen. But the other part is their ability to see the overarching creative vision to develop an identity that aligns with your long-term branding goals. And to tell your story in a way that resonates with your target audience.
What’s cool about this is that it doesn’t matter what field you’re in — whether your business deals in agriculture or cutting-edge tech, skilled designers approach every field similarly.
They do this by first gathering data about your business in the form of a design brief. This is essentially a questionnaire about your business to identify key points like who your competitors are, your target audience, and so on. Armed with that data, graphic designers can immerse themselves in your market, creating design systems that establish brand consistency in your advertising approach. This way, graphic designers can elevate your brand and build more brand equity for your business.
A graphic designer who can help you truly stand out from the crowd is crucial.
This is because people are visual learners. In fact, 65% of everyone is categorized as visual learners — meaning they need to see something to understand and retain information. And with our attention spans being shorter than ever (sitting under 9 seconds), you don’t have very long to convey your business offerings to people.
So whether in-person or on the web, first impressions are the crux of building positive brand awareness for your business.
Not to mention, the bar for design has become higher than ever. Fortune 500 companies spend billions annually on advertising and design while creating phenomenal high-quality visual assets and content for customers. And for small businesses, accessibility to cheap or free design software has enabled the average company to have more polish than in the past. What may have visually stood out ten or even five years ago will get you no more than a passing glance today.
So unless you have a one-in-a-million offering, having the right graphic designer can determine whether your business stands out or stays invisible.
Graphic designers are the great equalizers for businesses. A skilled graphic designer can tailor a business’s visual identity to compete at a national level, regardless of whether the business has less than ten employees or well over a hundred.
Because in advertising, first chances are all about perception. People’s perception of your business and its values have a lot to do with whether they will take a chance on you. As we mentioned before, people judge books by their covers. Let’s create a quick hypothetical.
You’re at the grocery store and your favorite brand of orange juice is out of stock. There are only two options left with identical price points and amount of juice. Which do you choose? Well, you can’t exactly sample the products… you’re only able to judge by appearance. So chances are, you’ll take a leap of faith on the one that looks nicer — even if there’s no guarantee it tastes better.
This also applies to rebranding efforts. The times and markets are ever-changing — eventually, antiquated strategies lose efficacy and stop working for a business. This is how graphic designers can help reinvent brands that are not doing well, giving them a breath of fresh air so they can bounce back.
Of course, graphic designers don’t only utilize rebrand to shape perception in doomsday scenarios. Other times, a company may outgrow its current audience and need a new strategy to take its growth to the next level. For example, Kia has been the staple of reliable, economy-friendly cars for a long time. However, Kia’s designers rebranded the company not too long ago, intending to evolve that perception to be bolder and inspire customers as they attempt to establish a leadership position in the industry. They have moved to change people’s perception from an economy car to a luxury brand.
Which kind of graphic designer should I hire?
Much like building a home, there are similar considerations you need to consider when hiring a graphic designer.
What’s within your budget? What’s the scope of work needed to execute your entire vision? How soon do you need it? And more.
Unless you have an unlimited budget, there’s typically no one-size-fits-all option for design for your business. Graphic designers exist in many capacities and spaces, so let’s look at the most common types you can hire.
Hiring in-house designers is an excellent solution for businesses with constant design needs who can become deeply familiar with their workflow for the long term. However, if your needs happen to change, it may become a difficult decision whether to keep them on board or risk spending the time and resources re-training someone new in the future if your needs change once more.
Freelancers are a good option for businesses operating on a strict budget. Since they typically work from their home or personal office, there is no overhead cost. Freelancers usually operate individually, which means they can have significant expertise in their designated discipline. However, the tradeoff is that’s usually all they can handle alone, so you may need to hire and manage more than one freelancer, depending on how involved your project is. You will also have to interface with them directly, which can be great if they understand your needs well — but can become a headache if they don’t, and you end up having to direct them more than necessary.
And finally, how accessible are they?
If a business needs a variety of skill sets and less time spent on project management, then hiring a professional design agency is your best option. Although the overhead costs are typically higher, businesses will have the peace of mind that they’ll be backed by a professional team who will deliver on time and have the resources to handle the full scope of what you’ll need. Agencies operate in a collaborative environment and have a more diverse perspective and a more profound graphic design knowledge.
Professional advertising and design agencies will also have a seasoned creative director overseeing every project to ensure brand continuity and quality output.
An agency will also keep all design systems in place so they don’t necessarily need to reinvent the wheel and can ensure brand consistency when a new project is requested. Design systems will also help to keep costs down.
Choose the right graphic designer for you
Meaningful design provides clarity in messaging for people looking at your product or service, making it more likely for them to take action. Graphic design is at the heart of everything we do here at Mighty Fine.
We create design systems for web development, motion graphics, digital advertising, and anything that requires a creative’s touch. Our creative team is well-versed in all aspects and styles of design, so we’ll know the best treatment for your next project.
Images tell a story, so make sure they’re telling yours and not everyone else’s. Having design systems in place will make your content unique to your brand. Compelling graphic design will communicate to your audience that you care about what they are seeing and that you have the means to create exciting content. The graphic designers at Mighty Fine are seasoned professionals at your beck and call whenever you need help with your next project.
It’s all yours for the asking — so let us know how Mighty Fine can help your business evolve.