What is Graphic Design? 

Do you ever look at a piece of art, and go “Dang! That’s awesome.” Well, looking at Van Gogh and Picasso can do that you, but we are talking about something else here. Look at that great book cover below. The Book, “After Moses” written by Michael F. Kane is all about the post-apocalyptic world, where our solar system becomes our tomb. Who would have thought that saturated shades of pink would make a great post-apocalyptic book cover? That is the power of graphic design. 

From the book covers to the road signs everything is graphic design. We are surrounded by it, and yet we don’t identify it.  So, in this post, we will dig deeper into the concept of graphic design – what it is, and what it can do. 

Origins of Graphic design 

When Man felt the need to communicate, he started using signs and symbols. It can be traced back to the time before Christ. 

Cave Paintings – Cave paintings can be found all around the world. Humans used symbols and pictures to convey messages to each other. Some historians believe that humans carved cave paintings as a way to communicate with higher beings. While it is a far stretch from bold letters and warm colors, cave paintings are where it all started. It dates back to 38,000 BCE. 

Sumerian Language – In between 3300 – 3000 BCE Sumerians developed a system of language. It wasn’t a language per se, as there was no alphabet, but Sumerians used symbols to convey entire objects. One word did not have different phonetic parts, but a symbol meant a whole part. You can well say the Sumerians were the ones, who first used graphic design. They used visual representation to communicate complex ideas. 

Chinese printing press – Rather than giving credit to Gutenberg who first invented the printing press, people should thank Bi Sheng, who in 1040 CE invented the first ever movable printing press out of porcelain. It was 400 years before Gutenberg!

Calligraphy – By this time, a language had taken shape. Artists and writers used ink, to portray their emotions. As most of the writings were done by hand, artists added more design to the text to make it attractive. That is how calligraphy was born. There are religious scripts from the time of Alfred the Great ( around 800 AD )that recorded the scriptures, and history.  Even Persian scholars used calligraphy in their texts after centuries, in the 16th century. 

Heraldry – You must have watched Game of Thrones, and how they use the house banners to identify themselves. It is also called the coat of arms, which is used as a symbol to represent family houses or territories. The coat of arms was used by houses in time of the crusade. You can say, it was the first type of logo. 

Storefront signage –During the 14th century, most of the water sources were polluted. So, it was hard to get hands-on drinking water. However, ale was a great alternative for water. In  1389 King Richard II of England ordered that stores with ale should use signage to identify them better. That’s how the tradition of storefront signage was born, and we use it to this date. 

Gutenberg Press- This was a major step towards change in European culture. Johannes Gutenberg brought a moveable type to Europe in 1439. Earlier people had to rely on handwritten texts, but now printing was easier and cheap. There was an increase in literacy, and the printing press paved the path of graphic design into the future. This also started a new tradition of printing logos in the texts. The better the logo quality, the more credible the press. 

Printed Advertisements – Soon after the printing press came to play, it became easy to print things. But all businesses weren’t well off to afford advertising until the 1600s. First print advertisements are recorded back to the 1620s. Below is an example of the early days print advert. 

Colored Prints – In 1837 it was possible to use colors in the printing press. The technique is called Chromolithography. Businesses started to use color schemes, to create appealing adverts for customers. It gave the advertisement a realistic touch. Marketing through graphics became fundamental to growing the business. 

First Graphic Design Agency – In 1903 the first every graphic design agency was born in Austria, it was called The Wiener Werkstätte. The name meant Vienna Workplace. Some artists and architects came together to form this agency, and gave birth to modern graphic design. Thanks to them cubism was first used in design. 

Coinage – It was a book designer who coined the term graphic design in 1922. In his paper “New Kind of Printing Calls for New Design” (printed in the Boston Evening Transcript, August 29, 1922), book designer William Addison Dwiggins first used the term “graphic design”. He used the term to describe his role in structuring and managing the visuals in book design. Most of the non-designers were confused about the job of designers, and Dwiggins gave them an idea. 

What is Graphic Design?

There are many official definitions for graphic design. The American Institute of Graphic Arts defined it as ” the  art and practice of planning and projecting ideas and experiences with visual and textual content.” Popular designer, Alexandros Clufetos defines – “Graphic design takes graphical and textual elements and implements them into multiple types of media,”.  

But to put it in simple, understandable words graphic design is using visual elements to convey an idea. The basis of graphic design is using images, texts, and designs to portray an idea and transfer the message to the viewer.

Over the years, graphic design has evolved. Thanks to the use of computers in the 1950s, that changed the way of graphic design. Mostly everyone owned a home computer by then. In 1900 Adobe Photoshop was released, which took designing to another level. And by the time internet came to the scene, the world had embraced graphic designing in every corner of life. 

What are the basic features of graphic design?

Graphic design focuses on three goals – beautification, usefulness, message/ meaning. While making design graphic designers have to pay attention to many design skills. Below we have mentioned the basic design skills/ features that are required to create an awesome design. 


When it comes to graphic designers, the most important design elements they emphasize is the typography. Typography is the stylization of text or fonts. The earliest form of typography was calligraphy. In this process designers work on the typefaces, point size, tracking kerning, and leading (line spacing). Tracking is the space between all characters used while kerning is the space between two specific characters. Typography carries a lot of weight in graphic design because it is one of the central elements of the design process. 


The layout of a graphic design depends on the borders, the text, the font, the images, and the ornamental designs added to the graphic for design. It is the arrangement of design elements on a page, such as image placement, text layout, and style. The layout isn’t always about the graphic design on paper, it can also mean web design and its symmetry and proportion. 

Ratio Rule

The ratio Rule is uncannily similar to the layout. It represents the unspoken rules of proportion followed by graphic designers while creating a design. The most famous rule is the Golden Ratio rule. In the image below a line is divided into two parts, a and b. The longer part (a) divided by the smaller part (b) is equal to the sum of (a) + (b) divided by (a), which both equal 1.618.  This special number is used by graphic designers to make shapes, logos, layouts, and more. 

Color palette

What makes a design more interesting is the types of colors used. Graphic designers often use various colors to evoke visual communication with the viewers. Red color may incite urgency, while green may encourage viewers to take action. Various colors inspire different responses from viewers. Graphic designers use it smartly to fit their creative goals. 

Audience culture

Graphic designers do not just create visual designs in air, out of nowhere. Every design is targeted on a certain sect of people. A make up brand’s advertisement is aimed at women who love makeup, while a fitness brand aims its design at health conscious people. Designers must pay attention to their audience before making graphic designs. Even in design industry user experience is paramount. 

What does a graphic designer do?

The simple role of a graphic designer is to create compelling graphic designs with the help of hand or computer software. In earlier day graphic designers used their hands to make creative visuals, now they have various tools like Photoshop to do it.  A graphic designer brings to life visual concepts to communicate certain ideas. The function of the graphic design may be to motivate, inform, and enchant customers.

Designers are known to create posters, packaging, logo, and marketing materials. It all depends on the type of business they are involved in. Graphic designers must do their work with the strategic placement of images and text. Most of the designers work in advertising or marketing companies. Anyone who is interested to pursue this line of work must have what it takes. 

What qualities should a graphic designer have?

Being in love with a great design, and creating great designs are two different things.   A graphic designer must have certain qualities to be able to create impressive designers. Here is what it takes to be a brilliant graphic designer – 


Creative does not mean just to create things, it means the ability to create one of a kind designs that will hook the viewers in. A graphic designer must have the ability to think outside of the box and take a robust approach in implementing those designs. 

Good Computer skills

Everyone in this day and age knows how to work on a computer, what we are talking about here is the graphic design software. Designers must be well versed in design software to create great visual work. Being creative is important, but without the knowledge of how to operate the software, one can’t be a successful designer. 

Ahead of the curve 

What makes a design unique? What makes a design popular? A design becomes unique when it is ahead of its time, and it becomes popular for the same reason. Designers who are brave to try new things, and have futuristic ideas, can create designs that will be loved by all. But the goal of graphic design is not only to be loved by users but to send across the intended message successfully in a creative way. 


There are many people who are extremely artistic and great at graphic design work, they have experience. Design however is more than that. You need to study and analyze what designs will work with the audience and what won’t. Being analytical will save you extra workload, and help you work smartly. So a designer must be creative as well as analytical. 

Time manager 

Successful designers do smart work. They manage their time wisely and do not spend longer than necessary time on design. Time management is the secret of the champs. Great designers know how to juggle multiple projects and deliver on time. They do not get carried away by one project. 


Graphic design has progressed into a wide arena. Designers are constantly trying out new approaches to appeal to the audience. Motion graphics is the new trend in the graphic design industry now. It combines animation to graphic design. Every art director/ designer know that motion graphic is the next big thing in graphic design. If you want to try graphic design and don’t know how to do it, don’t worry. OFFEO provides you with a great opportunity to create beautiful motion graphics within a few seconds.   

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