Rediscovering graphic design

MAR 11

When you do something on a day to day basis, it’s very easy to forget what it is you love about doing it. External pressures of delivering to deadlines, pleasing customers and simply remembering to do everything, not to mention maintaining standards and personal quality levels in your work. It’s all too easy for the days, weeks or in my case, years to pass, before you stop and think about why you started doing it in the first place and what it means to you.

As I enter my 16th year as a graphic designer I thought it would be good to stop for a while, re-discover, and understand why I’m so passionate about, what in simple terms, is the arrangement of type and images on a flat two-dimensional surface.

When I began studying graphic design at art college it was a physical act of drawing, tracing, cutting, pasting, glue, scalpel’s and the application of ink on paper. To find typefaces I would scour letterest catalogues, photocopy and enlarge type, trace and re-draw on layout paper and eventually arrive at a finished design. Black and white and colour photocopiers were used over and over again, until a final finished design could be hung and critiqued.

As time moved on and I took my degree access to the Apple Macintosh’s, Aldus Pagemaker, Quark Xpress and Photoshop 2 allowed more creative freedom to be achieved and more polished finished designs could be printed rather than photocopied. From that point onwards, year on year, software and technological advances made creating good quality finished designs easier and easier. This process of making has always been something I’ve enjoyed and is central to the graphic designers job. Turning the needs of others into finished articles whether they’re posters, books or any other printed materials is a great feeling and why I love doing what I do.

This however is not what I want to rediscover about graphic design, the design process is something of a given for me, it’s just what a graphic designer does. What I want to rediscover is why I’m so interested in the relationship between type and image, why does choosing the right typeface make all the difference between a design working or not working? Why is an image right or wrong? What is it about a selection of thirty-odd images that only one of them will work in the context you need it too? As a degree student I was encouraged to engage in graphic design at an intellectual level. We were challenged to understand how our designs worked on a cognitive, psychological level. How would the viewer perceive what we were presenting? How would they understand the ideas we were trying to convey. The craft of producing designs was one thing. Knowing how the software and the technology worked was something you had to know to be employed at a later date, creating and authoring good ideas was what made the difference between being a good graphic designer and a great one.

So what will follow in the coming weeks and months, will be a re-discovery of why I’m a graphic designer, and why I do what I do.

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