Graphic design is a craft where professionals create visual content to communicate messages. By applying visual hierarchy and page layout techniques, designers use typography and pictures to meet users’ specific needs and focus on the logic of displaying elements in interactive designs, to optimize the user experience.
Graphic Design is about Molding the User Experience Visually
Graphic design is an ancient craft, dating back past Egyptian hieroglyphs to at least 17,000-year-old cave paintings. It’s a term that originated in the 1920s’ print industry. It continues to cover a range of activities including logo creation. Graphic design in this sense concerns aesthetic appeal and marketing. Graphic designers attract viewers using images, color and typography. However, graphic designers working in user experience (UX) design must justify stylistic choices regarding, say, image locations and font with a human-centered approach. That means you need to focus on—and seek to empathize the most with—your specific users while you create good-looking designs that maximize usability. Aesthetics must serve a purpose—in UX design we don’t create art for art’s sake. So, graphic designers must branch into visual design. When designing for UX, you should:
1.Consider the information architecture of your interactive designs, to ensure accessibility for users.
2.Leverage graphic design skills to create work that considers the entire user experience, including users’ visual processing abilities.
For instance, if an otherwise pleasing mobile app can’t offer users what they need in several thumb-clicks, its designer/s will have failed to marry graphic design to user experience. The scope of graphic design in UX covers the creation of beautiful designs that users find highly pleasurable, meaningful and usable.
“Design is a solution to a problem. Art is a question to a problem.”
— John Maeda, President of Rhode Island School of Design
Graphic Design is Emotional Design
Although to work in the digital age means you must design with interactive software, graphic design still revolves around age-old principles. It’s crucial that you strike the right chord with users from their first glance—hence graphic design’s correspondence with emotional design. As a graphic designer, then, you should have a firm understanding of color theory and how vital the right choice of color scheme is. Color choices must reflect not only the organization (e.g., blue suits banking) but also users’ expectations (e.g., red for alerts; green for notifications to proceed). You should design with an eye for how elements match the tone (e.g., sans-serif fonts for excitement or happiness). You also need to design for the overall effect, and note how you shape users’ emotions as you guide them from, for instance, a landing page to a call to action. Often, graphic designers are involved in motion design for smaller screens. They will carefully monitor how their works’ aesthetics match their users’ expectations. They can enhance their designs’ usability in a flowing, seamless experience by anticipating the users’ needs and mindsets. With user psychology in mind, it’s important to stay focused on some especially weighty graphic design considerations, namely these:
Symmetry and Balance (including symmetry types)
The Golden Ratio (i.e., proportions of 1:1.618)
The Rule of Thirds (i.e., how users’ eyes recognize good layout)
Typography (encompassing everything from font choice to heading weight)
Audience Culture (regarding color use—e.g., red as an alert or, in some Eastern cultures, a signal of good fortune—and reading pattern: e.g., left to right in Western cultures)
best graphic design software of 2021
Adobe Photoshop is easily the most recognizable of the graphic design software. From basic cropping that your grandmother could figure out to more complex raster designs, when it comes to image manipulation Photoshop can do it all. Photoshop is known for classic features like the pen tool, layers and masks, but the most recent version adds some cool tricks such as a Frame tool for easy masking and a new Content-Aware Fill workspace. With a potentially limitless skill ceiling, Photoshop is a great graphic design skill to start learning.
When it comes to image manipulation Photoshop can do it all.
Best used for: image editing
Cost: Adobe now offers a subscription service for its products with a 30-day trial available. The Photography plan for individuals (lightroom, lightroom classic, Photoshop, 20GB of cloud storage) comes in at $9.99/month, with the full Creative Cloud costing $52.99/month. However, there are different prices for students and teachers, businesses and teachers, and schools and universities.
Skill level required: beginner to advanced
Nearly limitless skill ceiling
Integrated stock library
Plenty of design tools for image editing
Interface can be tough to get used to
Can’t create true vector files
Sketch graphic design
A vector-based tool only available on Mac, Sketch is a program focused mainly on web, app and interface design. It’s recently put a dent in the graphic design competition, with some developers preferring Sketch files from designers rather than layered Photoshop files. Though Sketch isn’t meant for photo editing or print work, it’s great for designing icons and interfaces that you’ll see on websites and mobile apps. Designers can also create live comps that developers can preview by tapping or swiping through to see what they’ll look like once published.
Sketch is great for web, app and interface design.
Best used for: user interfaces
Cost: $99 per year per device
Skill level required: beginner
Low learning curve
Less expensive than other popular programs
Not suitable for print designs or illustrations
Photoshop and Illustrator share some similar tools and functions, but Adobe Illustrator is centered around vector design. Put together beautiful logos, typography, icons and sketches with Illustrator’s mesh tool, pen tool, swatches and colors, or Shape and Pathfinder tools. Though it’ll take some extra time to learn, the nearly limitless potential for creating vector designs is worth the effort.
I mainly use Photoshop and Illustrator. I did away completely with pen and paper, I do all my sketches in Photoshop and then I draw the design in Illustrator, where I also prepare it for animations, if that’s the project.
Best used for: vector images
Cost: Illustrator alone will come in at $20.99/month, with the full Creative Cloud costing $52.99/month.
Skill level required: Advanced
Helpful user interface
Wide variety of tools
Supports precise editing
Steep learning curve
In terms of function and style, Affinity Designer is an impressive, low-budget alternative to Adobe Illustrator. Affinity even gets praise for being easier to use and faster that Illustrator, especially when working with layers. It’s suitably simple for beginners to use as a learning tool but sufficiently powerful for freelance graphic artists on a budget.
Affinity also recently got a big upgrade with new features and performance improvements. This software a great option for anyone who doesn’t want to splurge on the Adobe offering, but needs something that performs on a high level.
"Affinity Designer is an impressive, low-budget alternative to Adobe Illustrator"
Best used for: Vector files
Skill level required: beginner to advanced
Easy to get started
Much less expensive than the big guys
A few tools that Illustrator offers aren’t available
A must-have for the publishing community, Adobe InDesign has been used for laying out magazines and newspapers since 1999. Put together stunning magazines, info sheets and brochures and easily export them to PDF or HTML. Though it’s kind of a one-trick pony, InDesign has a low learning curve and is great for newbies learning how to combine text and graphics.
"In Design is great for laying out magazines, postcards, flyers and print."
Best used for: publishing layouts
Cost: InDesign itself is $20.99/month and the full Creative Cloud costs $52.99/month.